It is true what people say about the South Island: it is beautiful.
The drive into Kaikoura from Picton was immense: towering cliffs, blue, blue water and an array of seals sprawled here, there and everywhere. Literally EVERYWHERE.
The town is quaint with local pubs, cute cafés and boutique shops, the locals friendly. We travelled to Kaikoura to go dolphin and whale watching and it was wonderful: we saw hundreds of dusky dolphins and also humpback whales.
Personally, I was on the lookout for orcas…a huge passion of mine and it is my dream to see them in the wild. This dream did not happen in New Zealand but fortunately it happened in San Juan Islands, Washington in the summer of this year- that blog will follow…it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Back to Kaikoura…other than dolphin and whale watching, we did a variety of things from a lone sunrise walk on the rustic beach to silly sunset jumping:
We continued our adventure as we headed towards Franz Josef Glacier. It was a long drive but boy was it worth it. Naturally, we broke up the drive with some more ridiculous jumping shots:
We managed to grab food in a pub next to our accommodation, this took some begging as they were about to close…I think it was the first time I’ve had a roast at 10pm!
The next day we prayed for good weather and we were lucky enough to get some and so our helicopter and trek on Franz Josef continued. If you don’t have this on your bucket list then I suggest you do: the helicopter ride was such a thrill and the views were wonderful. The glacier is retreating so it is even more important to see this natural phenomenon before it disappears.
My school Geography lessons came flooding back to me: scree, crevasse, fissure, moraine, blue ice and so on…oh the blue ice!
They say that there’s no rest for the wicked so we must be very wicked as it was on to Wanaka we drove that afternoon. We slept well that night and explored Wanaka the next day. This exploration involved obligatory lake jumping shots and a free wine tasting session in Rippon vineyard.
The designated driver then drove us to maginificent Queenstown where we met up with a good friend of mine from home who had recently moved to New Zealand. We stayed in her home overlooking Lake Hayes. Everywhere you look in New Zealand is breathtaking.
That night we had delicious tapas in a lovely Spanish restaurant in Arrowtown and then went into Queenstown for a few drinks. Queenstown has lots of cute bars and intricate streets. It is quiet, well to me anyway, but that’s coming from Bangkok, it was a refreshing change. We even drank cocktails from teapots!
The next day is something I like to call “The Best Day of my Life!” Well, one of them anyway. I turn thirty in December and I am following my friend’s great idea of making a ‘Thirty Before 30’ list. The biggest- and one of the most challenging- things on my list was to JUMP OUT OF A PLANE! I say challenging because I’m afraid of heights so what better way to overcome this fear and expand my consciousness than by jumping from a plane 15’000 feet in the air?
I became invincible: I donned my brightest pink lipstick and Batman pants and I was more than ready to take on this challenge. For the sake of not boring you with all of the details (as I’m aware this blog may be dragging on) I’ll sum my experience up in one picture:
And the experience in one word? Exhilarating.
That evening was spent chilling in, well you know, the HOT TUB! Our wonderful friend and hostess popped some bubbly and we relaxed and laughed and reminisced in the hot tub under the vast, vast sky of bright, bright stars. Pure bliss.
Milford Sound was the plan for the next day and the drive down there was the best part about this trip- the sound itself was a little underwhelming but we had a great day nonetheless. We watched “Whale Rider” on the long journey back and I recommend you give it a watch if you get a chance.
Queenstown was ended by reliving our youth with the Skyline Luge: think go-carts and zooming down a hill to this amazing view!
Leaving behind the amazing time that was Queenstown was eased by the breathtaking drive to Akaroa. I have never seen such blue lakes, the azure of the water is unforgettable.
Not to mention seeing Mount Cook in all its glory:
Akaroa itself is a beautiful seaside town with cute shops and restaurants, with some wonderful sunsets:
It is also home to the smallest species of dolphin in the world: Hector dolphins. The calves are the size of a rugby ball and we managed to see one on our dolphin tour. The tour guide was very informative and the experience was amazing. The boat allows the dolphins to approach and play with it before the guests can get in the water with the dolphins (with many rules as to when and how we can get in.) We were given explicit instructions so as not to disturb the dolphins in the water. We had a dip with Hector dolphins rather than a swim as they are a lot more timid than the dusky dolphins of Kaikoura but still it was an amazing experience…even in the freezing waters!
Oh, and I mustn’t forget our alpaca watching:
After another amazing experience in another amazing place, we headed to our final stop: Christchurch. Christchurch is still obviously hugely affected from the 2011 earthquake, you can see restoration and building work everywhere you look. However, it still has so much character.
The next- and final day- of our adventure was spent exploring the street art of Christchurch and, like the restoration works, it is around every corner, literally.
That, my friends, is South Island and it sums up my experiences in New Zealand: azure lakes, snowcapped mountains, huge whales, tiny dolphins, naughty alpacas, lazy seals, breathtaking sunsets, towering glaciers, wild white water rafting, geyser exploring, hobbit hunting, plane jumping, helicopter riding, bar hopping, street art finding, hot tub dipping, burger eating New Zealand.