SOUTH ISLAND PART 1
28.10.2014 - 03.11.2014 25 °C
The ferry trip south brings you into the port of Picton via Queen Charlotte Sound. New Zealand's fjords are tipped to be spectacular whichever guide book you favour, and we thought so too; serene is probably the best way to describe the still waters and lush forest-covered mountains you sail through as you pass through the QC Sounds. It makes for a very relaxed arrival on the South Island!!
Straight off the ferry and on the road to our first stop on the South, the Abel Tasman national park. It's a beautiful drive through the Nelson wine region to get there and as luck would have it we passed the Giesen vineyard, maker of the Riesling we've been enjoying so brakes on we stopped and picked up a case from their cellar door shop, what a total result!
Our day in the Abel Tasman was brilliant, thoroughly recommended. We boarded a little boat from Kaiteriteri beach an hour north to a secluded beach where we watched the tide fill the lagoon before tackling a short hike to Bark Bay. At the risk of repeating ourselves to describe this place, we'd have to say beautiful beaches, easy to navigate walks, gorgeous untouched/ un-inhabited landscape! On the boat to and from the park we also saw some sea lions, so much more beautiful in their natural habitat, and got a commentary on the park history and some of its features from our lovely skipper Adam. Split apple rock was pretty impressive, photo attached.
Lots to cover on the South Island so we moved on next to Cape Foulwind, tipped off by friends about this place to see more sealions. Aptly named it is beautiful, but raw, with sheer cliffs and powerful winds, so much so we saw a base jumper in flightsuit on our walk to the sealion colony!! The walk itself was brilliant, hilly and bracing, a bit like a cliff walk in Dover or Devon. The seal colony was awesome, if a bit tricky to photograph as you're on a viewing platform on the cliff with the sealions way below on the rocks, which they look like when still. Then a 'rock' starts moving and you realise it's a sealion having a stretch! We've attached some photos which if you zoom in reveal a super cute baby sealion finding its feet (or flippers?!). The views of the ocean here at Cape Foulwind demand over 180 degrees of your vision, you really can see the curvature of the earth - truly stunning.
After two nights in the cape, we drove south along the west coast highway to the glacier region. This was a pretty long drive where Ollie deserves a mention for being very patient. It's all about the stop offs it seems so first one was at pancake rocks or Punakaiki. When we were told about these by friends, we'd imagined some low level round flat rocks on the beach, the sort you can scramble over. Erm, wrong! More pancake mountains than short stacks, these are geological monsters rising maybe 10-20 metres vertically from the sea, creating blast gorges where the waves crash and roar as they break inside the spaces between the rocks. There's a great decked walkway above the rocks so you can walk over the tops and between them, which was incredibly windy. At this point Ollie decided he'd like to have a run, i.e. sprint, round the whole decked track, scaling the viewing turrets then racing off again. Oh and he'd like to do this in character, as Spider-man (Ollie), Firestar (Anna), and Iceman (Scott). Go with it is often our approach with Ollie so we duly raced around the track much to the amusement and confusion of our fellow tourists, part at the safety risk of his pace on the high decking, part at us shouting superhero names and commands to each other. Still, between ice bolts Scott managed to get some good photos so you can see what we mean. Carrying on down the west coast highway the drive is spectacular, with the Tasman sea on your right, and the southern alps on your left. New Zealand is awesome.
We stayed at the rainforest retreat to see the Franz Josepf and Fox glaciers. It's aptly named as it rained almost constantly for our first night and day there! Queue an impromptu laundry and sort out day, plus films and hot tub, possibly more fun when raining. Sadly though, the rain meant the path to the glacier base station was 90% closed due to flooding the following day when we attempted the walk. It's a common occurrence here in rainy season apparently and a reality of a trip with a schedule, which meant we didn't have days spare to wait for better weather. So, seeing as much as possible from a distance of this and neighbouring Fox glacier (photos attached, beautiful alpine mountain scenery!) we rolled on further south towards Queenstown, home of bungee jumping. So far the South Island has been a complete delight, and we're only one week in!