Takaka & Golden Bay

The drive to Takaka took most of the day – a good 8 hours, with stops. I ended up stopping at a waterfall that I can’t remember the name of, Nelson Lakes National Park for a quick walk, and Te Waikoropupu springs.

To get to the springs I had to drive through Takaka. I figured that it was the time of day where least people would be there, so it’d be easier to get a park. Google Maps did throw me off guard, as the springs are shortened to ‘Pupu Springs. When I heard “Head left onto poo poo springs…” I did laugh more than I probably should have.

Te Waikoropupu is the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. It contains some of the clearest water recorded in the world, and is a place of great significance to the Maori people. The picture doesn’t do justice as to how clear the water actually is.

For my first whole day in Takaka I drove up to Cape Farewell. You can’t walk past 4km onto the spit, unless you are with an organised tour. I had a bit of a walk on there, then drove up to Wharaiki Beach.

There’s been very few times where I’ve gone for a walk in flip flops and been really glad that I did. This was one of those walks. It’s a bit of a walk onto the beach, and then it got really, really windy once on the beach. It’s one of the featured wallpapers on Windows 10 computers and the most northern point of the South Island.

Afterwards, I went back to Takaka, stopping off at the Labrinth Rocks. It’s a bit of a hard one to explain – it’s a maze of rocks, with toys scattered around it. I had the Pikachu toy that I won on a claw machine in Tokyo on me, so it made some new friends.

On the final day there I headed off to Wainui Falls – the walking track was quite short, around 20 minutes. After, I went to Rawhiti caves. The road there only allowed one car to go in either direction, so it did put my reversing skills to the test.

The walk to the top certainly was not the easiest, but I was really surprised by the caves – I was expecting a small area, but these were huge. I didn’t take my camera camera with me, just my phone camera, but better pictures can be found with a google search :).

I left Takaka early in the morning to go to Nelson, via kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Hanmer Springs

After Kaikoura I went to Hanmer Springs. It only took a couple of hours to drive there – I was expecting a good few hours at least.

As I arrived around midday, I was expecting the thermal pools to be busy as. Instead, I went for a coffee, passing the springs, which confirmed my assumptions. I checked into the hostel and then walked up Conical Hill – the view from the top was pretty sweet.

Afterwards I went for a cheeky beer, and then to the pools – a great spot to chill for a couple of days. I very quickly found the pools that children were not allowed in which was great.

For New Years, there was literally nothing on apart from a couple of pubs being open for the countdown. There were people in the hostel going to bed at 10, so not really anything worth doing. I had a quiet night in, and went to bed at 12.10.

I started the new year at a petting farm. I was trying to find a waterfall, but the GPS was giving me directions after I had passed the turnings. I’ve been to numerous waterfalls including Victoria Falls and Niagara, so I thought I could live without seeing it.

Instead, I petted some llamas – amongst elephants and sloths, they’re some of my favourite animals. One of the llamas was a shit and spat at me whilst I was feeding them. At least the year can only go up from there. I’ve been asked if I spat back at it by quite a few people, but I was a bit too startled to think of that.

Besides going to the springs and petting cute animals, I didn’t do much in Hanmer Springs. Afterwards, I moved on to Takaka, Golden Bay.

Kaikoura

During the end of autumn and winter I didn’t really get up to much. I’ve stayed in Wellington, and haven’t done much apart from work, yoga, and going to the pub. The highlights have been doing the Paekakariki Escarpment Tracks – one of the most reputable walking tracks near the city. I finished a 40 day yoga challenge – did something like 28 classes in that time – it’s nice to finish something that isn’t a packet of biscuits every now and then.

I had some time off over Christmas – supposed to be two weeks off, but I managed to score almost three. The last place I visited in the South Island was Kaikoura for just a day which was not enough. So I took the ferry over, drove for a couple of hours and had dinner on the beach.

Whilst on the ferry, I had to make a phone call to the car rental company and confirm that I was making my way over. The response was “we don’t have a booking for you,” so spent a good hour or so sorting that out. I was hoping that due to the faffing around, I would get a nice car (preferably a ferrari) but instead got a Mazda that had definitely seen better days.

I wanted to come down to Kaikoura most to go whale watching. Last summer I’d booked up to go, but the trip was cancelled. This one went ahead with a high sea-sickness warning, and I’m so glad I bought some tablets. The boat was kind of like being at work the day after a staff party – no one felt particularly great, and a few people were ill.

The whale watching was great – we saw three sperm whales, quite a few albatross and a shark. You can’t really see a huge amount of the whales from the boat; you can see when they’re at the surface, and their tail when they go back down under.

After getting off the boat I went for a bite to eat, then decided to go to the seal colony. The area is so nice with a couple of different walks – nothing is fenced off, so you can walk in the same area as the seals. It’s recommended that you keep 10 metres away from seals (I used the zoom on my camera), but there were quite a few people who didn’t adhere to that advice.

The following day I got up early and drove to Mt Fyffe, with the intent to go hiking. I got about 20 minutes in and was just not feeling it. A further five minutes later I thought sod it, and went back to the hostel.

I was in the car deciding what to do with my day. With a quick Google search, I saw that I could go watch some dolphins and got the last spot on the trip. It was so much better than hiking would’ve been, and ended up seeing heaps of dolphins.

Overall, Kaikoura was great. I feel as though I’ve done pretty much everything there that I would like to do. Moving on, I drove to Hanmer Springs.

Six Weeks in Wellington

It’s been around six weeks since I’ve moved into an actual house. There was little thought as to why I should move to Wellington; I had my mind made up before I even got to New Zealand, and it’s worked out pretty well. Now I’m out of hostels, it’s so, so nice not sharing a room with anyone, to chill out in a blanket burrito with Netflix on, and to sleep without much disturbance.

Trying to balance waking up for work is a bit tricky – I snooze until 5.25 and leave at 5.40am, and finishing at 2.30 gives me the rest of the day to myself, but I’m also sleepy by that point. I also feel as though I’m catching up on around 8 months worth of sleep so I’m taking things easy. My job is going well; it’s probably the easiest job I’ve had to date.

Since my second year in Australia, I’ve learnt that I should try to look after myself and have learnt that my body(/liver) is not a machine. I’m not turning up to work in questionable states as a result of the previous nights shenanigans, working less than ten hours a day and I’ve been taking good care of my back. I’ve even Googled dehumidifiers for my bedroom, so I guess I’m a grown up now.

Outside of work and the house, I’ve completed the beginners yoga course which I’d signed up to – it’s been a while since I’ve completed something that isn’t a packet of party mix or a book, and have moved onto taking classes without having to trek into the city. Been out for drinks a few times, but nothing really of much interest. The other week I experienced my first earthquake and a bit of sideways rain, which I guess adds to the list of expanding weather conditions I’ve experienced.

This past weekend was the first where I’ve left the house to do something somewhat touristy, and I returned to Zealandia which is an eco-reserve for birds. By the time I’d woken up and taken the 20 minute bus ride there it was 2pm, but only really spent a couple of hours there. There was more wildlife when it was hot outside a couple of months ago, but now winter is about to start, there were less birds around. There’s also night tours that run there and thinking of going within the next few weeks.

Kaka

Takahe

Over the Easter Weekend I’m off work so I’m going to be going away, maybe hiking but haven’t really looked too far into it besides car hire and booking accommodation.

The North Island

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks travelling the North Island with a friend from Australia. She’s returned home and I’ve come down to Wellington.

Exhibition in the Te Papa Museum, figures of the soldiers made by Weta Workshop

Toasted marshmallows at Haikai

We started off in Wellington; visiting the Weta Studios, the Te Papa Museum and Zealandia Ecosanctuary. We also found a Wellington Craft Beer map in the first pub we headed to, which kept us busy. There’s the show ‘The Final Table’ on Netflix, showcasing chefs from around the world. One of the contestants runs the restaurant Haikai, focusing more on indigenous ingredients. We had the ten course menu there which was amongst the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Following Wellington, we stopped off at Napier for a night. It wasn’t really anywhere too exciting, just a nice little town, then off to Taupo. The main stop was the 19.4km Tongariro Crossing, where the scenes for Mt. Doom were filmed in Lord of the Rings.

It’s actually quite possibly a really dangerous walk, starting with what’s called ‘the Devil’s Staircase.’ Living up to both the Names ‘Devil’s Staircase,’ and ‘Mt. Doom.’ I suggested the rule for first person to fall over had to buy the first beer afterwards, and I fell over. Three times. By the time we thought we had ten or so minutes or so left, we saw a sign saying that we in fact had 45. It’s by far the hardest hike I’ve done, and apparently in the world’s top five most challenging day hikes – according to the fitbit, it was the equivalent of 330-odd flights of stairs at 25,000 steps. I can’t find any trustworthy information ranking it, but I’m hoping it’s more like #2 or #3, rather than #5.

Looks like I’m looking out into the distance. Actually looking for the next lot of toilets on the map.

Fall #2

Following Taupo was Rotorua, where we went to the Glowworm caves. We chose a package that included two tours; the first was excellent with a really enthusiastic guide, but the second wasn’t too great. It was a boatride with a kind of tour through a cave, but you couldn’t hear the guide as there were too many people and children. Hiking Mt. Doom left us both sore for days, but conveniently the area is well known for having geothermal mineral springs.

From Rouorua we also went to Hobbiton, the filmset of the Shire in Lord of the Rings which was brilliant. We could see the layout to make the hobbits appear a lot smaller than Gandalf in the movies, and had the location of parts of the movies pointed out to us. They also provided a beer at the end, which was needed as it was so hot. The only downside is that we didn’t see the resident cat.

At Bag End, Bilbo’s house

Our last stop was Auckland. We took the ferry to Waiheke Island for a wine tasting which was great, though a bit pissed by the end of it. We stopped off at three different vineyards and an olive oil tasting place.

On Sunday I returned to Wellington and have a busy week with interviews, trials and flat viewings, as well as all the fun stuff like setting up a bank account, filing for a tax number etc.

Kaikoura

Most of the previous couple of weeks I’d booked and planned whilst back in the UK in December. It left me with a few days in the Christchurch area before either flying or getting the bus up to the North Island, probably via a detour.

When I first landed and spent the day there I didn’t think much of Christchurch in terms of things to do. It’s still quite clearly recovering from the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. Nothing really appealed to me in the area apart from going to the Antarctic Center next to the airport. I wanted a day off my feet so I caffeinated myself up and watched Mary Queen of Scots at the cinema.

The hostel I was staying at was affected by the Earthquake, but was hoping to be fully refurbished by 2016. The ceiling was starting to fall apart and the room was branded as a “Flashpacker Dorm” – the only thing flash about it was the speed I would expect someone to fall through the ceiling at.

The main reason I went to Kaikoura was to go kayaking around the seal colonies; there’s also the option to go swimming there. For me I’d rather give the seals an option of whether or not to approach, plus I can’t swim. Originally I’d booked for a sunset tour though it was cancelled due to weather – the company, Levi’s Seal Kayaking, were kind enough to re-arrange around the bus timetable to allow me to join.

The tour was great, probably the highlight of the South Island. We had a blue penguin chill next to us on the water and some dolphins jumped up from under one of the kayaks which was great to see. Our guides didn’t think the penguin was injured, but they took pictures to send to a blue penguin research center. We also saw seals getting in/out of the water and chilling on the rocks. The kayaks we were travelling on were controlled by pedals, which was a lot easier on the body.

Yesterday morning I managed to book a ticket to go whale watching during the evening. I wasn’t expecting to go on the tour as the evening kayaking was cancelled, but Kaikoura is supposedly the best place in the country to do so. The morning tour managed to see Orcas, but the evening tour did get cancelled. I could’ve gone first thing this morning but it would be cutting it fine with being able to get up to Wellington tonight. With that said, I think Kaikoura is a place that I would like to spend a few more days in. In a few weeks time I’ll have to commit to grown up responsibilities by getting a job, but it’s easy to get in and out of.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with a friend to travel the North Island with for a couple of weeks. I probably won’t post that much. We’re starting in Wellington for a few nights and will end up in Auckland. I’ll be spending tonight finding some food and either binge-watching the Peep Show on Netflix or reading Lord of the Rings.

Hokitika

After the heli hike on Fox Glacier was cancelled I drove up to Hokitika, stopping off at the Gorge. For most of the drive it had rained, but stopped whilst at the Gorge. There’ a lot of hype around it, but I think it’s just a nice Instagram photo.

Moving on, I checked into my own private room in the hostel. It’s so great to close the door, press the lock and not deal with people. Even better with a double bed. The sunset in Hokitika is supposed to be great, but you couldn’t see down the road, yet alone a sunset, so I starfished on the double bed.

Yesterday morning I drove to the Pancake Rocks. The weather was still terrible, but I hadn’t gone to the other side of the world and paid for a hire car to lay in bed. I could’ve gone there from Greymouth, my next stop, but I had a mix up of the dates for the car. It stopped raining whilst I was there and started again after my coffee before leaving. During the evening I made it to the beach for the sunset.

There isn’t much to do in Hokitika. It’s an area where you can find the Jade stone washed up on the beach. It has connections to the Indigenous culture and a lot of shops aimed at the tourists.  I went for a walk along the beach, then off to the animal sanctuary. There were tuataras which are reptiles, snake neck turtles, fish and kiwis. On the internet I’ve seen a video of a chicken running around wearing trousers, which the kiwis reminded me of hopping around their enclosure.

I left Hokitika this morning early to give the rental car back, and haven’t done a lot. I’m soon off to Christchurch, then up towards the North Island, arriving there on Saturday.

Fox Glacier

On the way to Fox Glacier I stopped off at the Blue Pools walk and a waterfall that I forgot the name of, but looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.

It was late afternoon by the time I arrived in Fox Glacier so I went for a walk as I’d been sat down driving for a few hours, but did nothing special. There was a glowworm forest nearby that lights up when it’s dark outside. When getting to the forest and realising that it’s next to the highway filled with people and no lighting allowed, it does feel pretty sketchy, so I went back to the hostel. In a couple of weeks I’ll be visiting glowworm caves so I don’t feel as though I missed out.

Bunk graffiti

I’d booked up to go for a heli hike on the glaciers yesterday which ended up getting cancelled because of the weather. Obviously safety is the main priority so I walked there instead, taking about an hour through the forest to get to the start of the trail, then 45 minutes to the glacier.

More graffiti

The tour of the glaciers that I rebooked for this morning was cancelled too, so I continued the journey going north.

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