Wanaka

I chose to leave Te Anau at 7am as I’d Googled the route up to Wanaka and had a section of the highway named “Devils Staircase” to get through. It was perhaps for the best to do that with less traffic on the road. Most people would’ve stopped off at and stayed in Queenstown for a couple of nights or so, but I don’t really fancy sharing space with people who have done activities such as skydiving and the Nevis Swing. Nothing against people who do those things; I just don’t want to be around several high-energy people.

My first stop was the Lavender Farm, around ten minutes from the hostel. They have farm animals including Donkeys (one I named after Bill the donkey from Lord of the Rings), Alpacas (should’ve named one Tina, after the one in Napoleon Dynamite), Sheep (can’t remember what I named them), and chickens (I’d run out of names by then.)

The thought of being on a farm since my farm work in Australia did make my skin crawl a bit, but I went with high expectations which were met. I spent maybe 45 minutes or so walking around until the lavender got the better of me, popped inside and had some lavender and manuka honey ice cream, then drove into Wanaka. I went into town to see the Wanaka Tree (#thatwanakatree on social media), which really is just a tree, and back to the hostel to do not a lot, as I was planning what is a pretty big hike for me.

I left the hostel at around 6.15am to drive to the starting point of Roy’s Peak, the most popular track in and around the area. When I did the ski season in France, one of the runs was known as the ‘extreme vertical’ because it was extremely vertical, and this hiking track could’ve qualified for that name. There were only a few flat areas, and took around three hours to climb up, then an hour and a half on the way down. There is infamously a social media line half hour from the top which I may have joined. By this point, I could feel my knees and hips hurting, and some of the knock on effects from the drama with my back last year, so I didn’t make it right to the top, but I was happy making it up to the lookout point.

Panoramic from the lookout point

This afternoon, after being extremely horizontal for a few hours I went to a farmers market. My plans are to let my legs relax and put my Netflix subscription to use. I’m off to Fox Glacier in the morning, and there’s a couple of places I want to stop off at on the way. One is a short walking track so hopefully my legs won’t be too sore.

Te Anau and Doubtful Sound

The drive from Dunedin to Te Anau turned out to be around four hours in the car. There’s nowhere really worth stopping at besides designated rest stops, though I did stop off at the bird sanctuary on the way to the hostel.

Here, it usually rains so was stuck inside on Sunday – I have clothes for rain but it wasn’t worth me going out in. Yesterday, I had the hostel organise for me to go to Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland. The more famous, and therefore more popular fiords here are Milford Sound so with me being me, I went for the one with less people.

After being picked up by the bus, it was a drive to the lake, a boat ride across the lake, then back in a bus for half hour, then onto another boat to go around Doubtful Sound. The scenery was awesome, with temporary waterfalls from the recent rain – when it stops raining, most of the waterfalls stop. I’d been expecting a bit more wildlife than seeing just one seal, having heard that there’s penguins and seals in the area.

This morning I set off early to drive some of the road up to Milford Sound. I wanted to go hiking, but also there’s the Mirror Lakes on the way to the Key Summit, which is a 3 hour long hike. The Mirror Lakes are best viewed on a clear, sunny day which it usually isn’t, but were still nice nonetheless.

NZ traffic
Mirror Lakes

Along the Key Summit

View from the Key Summit

 

Arriving in New Zealand, Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular

Before coming to New Zealand I went to Melbourne mainly for a catch up, but also to enjoy the hot weather. I very much felt I deserved it after enduring around a months worth of winter since July. We saw some of the Australian Open, went out for wine and cheese, adulted, and stayed in because it was 36 degrees outside.

The journey to Australia had a layover in China. 22 hours in the air in total, and I was looking to have a proper Chinese meal in China to get me through it. By now, I’ve had my fair share of airport layovers and normally you just simply transfer. But no. Landing in Chongqing, the 40 or so of us continuing to Australia were directed to a desk to check in, then we spent around four hours waiting, sat on the floor of the arrivals corridor, for someone to come into a security booth and check our passports, stamp them, then go through security again. With an hour to spare and no real choice of food, the Chinese I was rather looking forward to ended up being a small portion of Starbucks cashew nuts.

Arriving in Christchurch, I’d had about an hour and a halfs worth of sleep and was allowed to check in straight away. My intentions were to do a little more research on the first half of the next month of travel, to nap, and to get a phone to replace the one I smashed then smashed even more. As I arrived early I did try to go out and see the city, but I’ll be back soon anyway – thought I’d save it for a day where I’m a bit less pooped.

My intention was to start the trip properly in Dunedin – six hours on a bus. I’d caught an early one so didn’t really want to book anything for the afternoon as I have no first hand experience of what New Zealand traffic is like. Google Maps stated that my journey from the bus stop to hostel would be 15 minutes walking, and it looked more like 10. Uber wouldn’t work so I thought I’d walk. It turns out Dunedin is extremely vertical, and I’m glad I have a hire car now which I picked up yesterday morning.

Never in my life have I been refused to purchase alcohol (my first drink, anyway) and whilst in the supermarket I put a beer in my basket. I know New Zealand are strict about ID’ing people and they ID you if you look under 25. My driving license was refused as ID and was not allowed to buy the beer. In Australia you just argue a little with the person behind the till and they let you buy it on the condition that you “bring your passport next time.” The farmers market was over the road so I just bought one there instead.

Yesterday the weather was pretty poor. Here, there are plenty of murals to help prevent the city from being so badly vandalised. As I didn’t really fancy being out in the rain all day, I went past the ones I’d seen, but didn’t majorly go out of my way to see any of them.

During the afternoon I went with Elm Wildlife Tours to see some animals, some are very endangered. I’d seen a lot of great things online about them. I knew that the tour was on private property but didn’t know that the property was privately owned by the tour company. They’re building the landscape as it would be in a native, untouched by humans, environment to help the penguins thrive, with small additions such as nest cameras and safe lookout spots.

First stop was to see some seals on rocks, where there were smaller ones learning how to swim, which was super cute. We then went to the beach where there’s yellow eyed penguins and sea lions, and on the way down we bumped into a couple of them, causing us to go back and through to the beach a different way. We sat in a few lookout spots on the beach just watching the animals. I took a few pictures, but ultimately I just wanted to watch them. The penguins share the beach with sea lions who eat them; no one can really do anything to “save the penguins” as the sea lions are also endangered.

Afterwards, we went to an albatross centre for a bit of bird watching, which isn’t really my thing, but still a nice area nonetheless. We were only there for a short period of time, and then back to Dunedin.

When I went to Africa, it was great to see the animals, but the animals have adapted to being near roads. Some lions have learnt that giraffes can’t run on tarmac roads, so they chase the giraffes onto the roads so they fall over. We also did a night tour where we shined lights onto the animals, which seemed very unfair. Whilst it was great seeing the animals in the safari environment, I probably at that time should’ve looked into how what I was paying for was helping to conserve the wildlife. Yesterday on this tour I could see how some of the £60 or so I paid was helping the wildlife in the area, which I’m super happy about.

This morning the weathers nice for now, and I’m off to drive to the west.