A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring New Zealands Deep South & Milford Sound

From Scotland to Jurassic Park

Forgetting my worries about money for a while, I got on the bus which would take us around the most southern parts of New Zealand - called Deep South. This 3-day trip took us over Dunedin, Catlins , Invercargill, and through Milford Sound back to Queenstown. Leaving Queenstown helped to forget the monetary issues which I should be thinking of, but wasn't so I could enjoy my three days.
First, we drove back the way to Lake Wanaka, only to turn in Cromwell following the Clutha River. It's slowed down by the massive Clyde Dam. Massive at least for New Zealand. We stopped in Clyde for some food, meat pie as usual.

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Our next stop before we got to our hostel was Baldwin Street. With a slope of almost 35%, it's the world's steepest street according to the Guinness Book off World Records. As we climbed up the street more than walked, a truck tried to back up backwards up into a driveway. We watched how he miserably failed multiple times before he finally gave up while almost killing the engine. So yeah, Baldwin Street is pretty steep.

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In Dunedin where we spent one night, we spent the day checking out some of the famous sights in town. The name Dunedin comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Dunedin is also known as the most Scottish city outside Scotland. Walking around town, we saw the influence of the Scots and checked out central station, the First Church of Otago and the Dunedin Town Hall. On a weekend and if we had more time, we would also have gone out and experienced the fine pubs we heard off so much before. But we had a great night at the hostel anyways.

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We had numerous stops on our way around the Deep South and to Invercargill where we wanted to be at the end of the day.
The rugged mountain ranges made place for lush native forests and spectacular coastlines. One of them we got to see near the township of Kaka Point. The Nugget Point Lighthouse sits resolutely at the end of a long stretch of coastline. Nearby, elevated enough so the waves don't do too much damage, is a small pool of water which serves as a kindergarten for seals. The view was spectacular and we enjoyed the stiff breeze around our noses. Hard to believe that Antarctica is closer than 4800 kilometers from there.

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As we traveled along, we stopped at Tautuku Bay for a beach walk. At that time, a sea lion colony was relaxing on the beach. They are still wild animals and our driver ensured that we do not get to close to them. Especially the males were kind of huge and can be quite aggressive when feeling threatened. On our way back to the bus, all of the sudden two sea lions cut off a few members of our group and caused some turmoil.

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Continuing our way to Invercargill, the next stop was a bush walk in the Catlins Forest Park. Situated off the beaten track, the McLean Falls Walk led along the Tautuku River. It passes through a variety of forest and shrub types and huge tree fuchsia. We arrived at the lower section of McLean Falls after a pleasant twenty minute walk through the scenic rainforest. Everything here from large boulders to tree branches was covered in moss. A little bit further into the forest, the upper falls were giving a spectacular view with its 22 meters.

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For our last quick stop before Invercargill, we paused at Curio Bay. There, we could have seen a nesting site for New Zealand’s unique Yellow Eyed Penguin, unfortunately we weren't that lucky though. However, from the viewpoint on top of the cliffs, we had a spectacular view on wild waves crashing onto the cliffs. Our driver said that we also might get the chance of seeing seals and sea lions enjoying a well deserved rest. And that time, we actually had luck. Right in front of us in the middle of the Curio Bay campground there was a seal enjoying the little bit of sun that we had that day. Walking down from the cliffs a bit further, a remarkable natural phenomenon was located. A fossil forest is exposed on the tidal platform and in the sea cliffs at Curio Bay and dates back to the Jurassic Period. The fossilized trees we saw there were alive around 180 million years ago, when New Zealand was part of the Gondwanaland super continent. We were told that silica has replaced the entire woody structure of the trees and rendered them extremely resistant to erosion. Thus they withstand the action of the sea much longer than the surrounding rocks and are exposed in relief by the erosion. It was pretty cool to walk among a 180 million old forest. Beyond the safety parameter, there was even a TV crew shooting some New Zealand outdoor adventure show with an apparently famous host which I can't remember though.

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Leaving the fossil forest and Curio Bay behind us, we were finally directly heading to Invercargill. The city is one of the southernmost cities in the world and with around 50,000 people it's also the capital of Murihiku (the tail end of the land). Invercargill shares Dunedin's origin as a mainly Scottish city and many streets in the city, especially in the center and main shopping district, are named after rivers from mainly Scotland. As things turned out, we hadn't had much of a chance to experience much of the city as it was raining buckets - almost like we were in Scotland. So, we stayed in the kitchen/lounge and just had a great time as a group.

We headed out of Invercargill nice and early so we could meet up with the Milford Explorer which would take us around Milford Sound later that day. The way there was truly scenic! A quick stop at Mirror Lakes, along Eglington Valley and through Homer Tunnel.

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While driving through Homer Tunnel, our guide made the bus ride a bit more interesting by playing the Mission Impossible song, since the tunnel had no lights so we drove through entire darkness. Everyone was thrilled by this. Upon exiting the tunnel, the music switched to another famous theme song - Jurassic Park. And looking out of the window surely was like entering Isla Nublar. The rugged, steep mountain sides surrounding us and the forest right next to the street made us all feel like we were just put back in time. On top of that, our driver said that when it rains heaps and heaps of waterfalls come down the slopes and turns this valley into the valley of 1000 waterfalls. We even spotted the rare Kea bird on a nearby parking spot. Unfortunately, the closest we got to see any kind of animal let alone dinosaur.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Homer_Tunnel.jpg

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Homer_Tunnel.jpg


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Milford Sound is the most northerly of the fjords in Fiordland National Park. It occupies the trunk portion of a formerly glaciated valley system cut deeply below the surrounding mountains. The mountains rise to heights of 1800m above sea level and it offered such a spectacular fjord scenery.
The boat took us too various waterfalls and approached so close we got sprinkled by the spray. The ride was relaxing and offered heaps of amazing views. Once we got out of the sound and into the Tasmanian Sea we slowed down for a chance to spot dolphins, but we couldn't see any. The majesty and wilderness of Fiordland was definitely priceless.

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We then continued back to Queenstown. All in all, the Deep South and Milford Sound trip had been an incredible adventure with heaps of scenic locations and hours of good times with the small group we were.

Posted by jan.wegener 13:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains animals landscape adventure coastline scenic dunedin nz nationalpark milfordsound southisland deepsouth invergargill Comments (0)

Queenstown

The Adrenaline Capital

We left Wanaka behind us and head to Queenstown. Making our way around Lake Dunstan, we grabbed some lunch and bound for the Kawarau Gorge. There, the scenery transformed into rugged rocky terrain. Early in the days, this posed a problem for many travelers and gold miners. It wasn't until 1863 that the gorge provided access to Queenstown.

Queenstown isn't called the Adrenaline Capital for no reason. It is there, that you can experience whitewater rafting, river surfing, canyon swinging, jet boat rides and of course what I was most pumped for, bungy jumping. Driving along the Kawarau River, we stopped at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge. Built in 1880, it assisted miners trying to reach Queenstown. Now, it is used as the first commercially operated bungy site in the world. Operated by AJ Hackett, with which I already jumped six times in Australia only a couple of weeks before. Some of us couldn't wait to jump and booked their 43m dive into the river straight away.

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- source: http://queenstown-nz.co.nz/

I on the other side was among the other part of the group that waited for something a bit bigger. The Nevis Bungy Jump with 134m, the highest bungy jump in the country. But that to wait for later. We made our way into downtown Queenstown and experienced a more dynamic and bustling town compared to the laid-back, more relaxed towns we have seen over the last weeks. First stop, the hostel. After the check-in and unpacking, we made some plans of how we want to spend our two days in the town. To our all disappointment, we saw that our amazing group would split up after the two days. Some decided they wanted to stay, some kept following the bus route and I was drawn between staying or going. On one hand, I was running out of money and had to look for a job sooner or later. So why not there, I thought. On the other hand, I was booked on a bus to explore the Deep South, the most southern part of New Zealand. That bus would leave in two days and after that I had to make a decision whether I'd stay and look for a job or go on the next bus which would drive northbound again. The decision wasn't easy and therefore I had to think about it for a while. And the best spot to do so was the in-house sauna of the hostel. Yes, I couldn't believe it at first either, but the hostel really has its own sauna in one of the floors. After my sauna session, I came to the conclusion that I should start handing out my CVs to stores and wherever I could possibly get a job. Shortly after I found myself walking around town on a job hunt while at the same time explore Queenstown. I gave my CV to clothing stores, grocery stores, travel agencies, restaurants, bars and all kinds of stores and shops. I even tried at a casino. But all I heard as a first response is: "We'll notify you when we need someone". How motivating. I didn't get my hopes up too much and met up again with my group which was still in town and we relaxed at the Marine Parade, looking over Lake Wakatipu.

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All around the town are scenic mountain ranges and there are action-packed activities all around the year. For money savers as I was one that time, there were some opportunities too. Luckily I wasn't the only one who had to cut back a bit.^^ Several trails offer great walking and hiking options. We wanted to see the area around Queenstown better and decided to hike up to the Skyline Gondola. The trail went partly through the Queenstown Bike Park and we saw mountain biker racing downhill, jumping over ramps and doing stunts all the time. Half-way up, we reached an open field which already gave us a picturesque view over the mountains facing Queenstown and the lake.

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We continued the hike and reached the Skyline Gondola. From there, we had an amazing view over the area. Time for a picnic.

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There were quite some activities up there like para sailing, mountain biking and more hiking. Inside the Skyline Building, we came upon a JellyBelly store which had a promotion going on. You had to spin a wheel and on whatever field it stopped, that flavor you could try. Downside of the whole thing, the flavors were such like spoiled milk, stinky socks, booger or rotten egg. We did realize that after we had one of these flavors in our mouth. Yuk!
Another activity up there is the Skyline Luge, a downhill racing course. The group of guys we were couldn't stop discussing about whether we should do it or not. In the end, the argument that we could act like we play Mario Kart won and we bought tickets for two rounds. And we could all agree that it was tons of fun!!!! Check out the video to it. Sorry, it's a bit shaky, but that's how real racers drive ;)

The second day in Queenstown was all about one thing for me: doing the highest bungy jump in New Zealand!
The night before, I met some of my old friends from Kaiteriteri again. It was great to catch up and laugh again. Among them was Tom. He said he would be jumping on that day too and so we both headed to the AJ Hackett store where we would get picked up. While on the way, the adrenaline kicked in. I was pumped and couldn't wait to throw myself off the edge again. But this time it wasn't as "shallow" as in Australia. No, this time we were talking about jumping off a platform between two mountains and a fall of 134 meters! The drive to the platform was rather silent. Most of the other crazy jumpers looked like they were't sure whether they made the right decisions. After talking to some, it was clear that for most it was the first jump. That explained their silent stare out of the window. For the few in the bus who have already jumped before it was more of a "when are we finally there"-gaze out of the window. Tom was also a first timer. It should definitely be something out of this world. When we reached the top of the mountain which was connected to the platform, we couldn't actually see it yet. It was only after we stepped out of the preparation room and outside that we saw what we agreed to. One last picture of me and Tom and we were off with the little metal shuttle that would bring us to the platform. Talking of which, that little metal cage that transported us to the platform, was scarier as everything else!!

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In the platform, it wasn't our turn yet. Tom was happy, but I found the waiting unbearable and finally wanted to get the thrill again. Each time the jumpers jumped down off the platform, the whole thing started to shake a bit as all ropes were connected to it. Tom was so kind to let me jump first and when it was finally my turn I was filled with adrenaline and had the biggest smile on my face. But it is hard to explain it all and describe the whole situation. Just look for yourself and check out the videos.

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Back in Queenstown, reality hit me again. Not much money left, no answer from any of the stores and I hadn't made a decision yet on whether I'd stay after my trip around the Deep South or whether I'd keep traveling. I decided I'd wait for any responses until I got back from the Deep South trip and then would go from there. But the though about running out of money remained constantly in the back of my head.

Posted by jan.wegener 05:53 Archived in New Zealand Tagged queenstown adventure bungy hike jump nz action southisland Comments (0)

Lake Wanaka

From the coast to the mountains - in the land of Middle Earth

The morning started early in order to catch the so-called golden light. We left Franz Josef village and looked back and at a picturesque scene, snow-capped mountain ranges with the highest mountain of NZ, Mount Cook, crowning in the midst of them. We went on a short morning walk for one last opportunity to take more pictures of the glacier area. My Korean friend Brian took this cool shot of me trying to get good shots myself.

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The morning drive took us further south along the West Coast without much of a scenery change. To the right the endless ocean with Australia somewhere behind the horizon and to the left the never-ending mountain ranges of the Southern Alpes. After we passed the township of Haast, we headed into the mountains and said farewell to the coast. The scenery instantly changed although we had been driven along the mountain ranges all along. But we were promised even more scenic changes during the course of the day.

We followed Haast River into the mountains and I started to feel more and more placed into one of my favorite series of books - The Lord of The Rings. I couldn't start but seeing more and more of the places I saw in the movies. I knew they had filmed the movies in New Zealand but it hasn't hit me until then that I realized I drove straight into Middle Earth. This made me enjoy looking out of the window even more and I really soaked in the landscape that would surround as from then on.

We crossed the bridge at the Gates of Haast (for me they were also the Gates of Middle Earth^^) and kept following the Haast River which winds itself through the mountains gracefully. We were now in the Mount Aspiring National Park. It felt surreal to drive between gigantic mountainsides to the left and right. This pass was used by the Maori to trade Pounamu (remember, the Nephrite Jade?) and food. It is the lowest pass over the main divide, only 563 meters above sea level.

Unfortunately, I couldn't catch the breathtaking view from inside the bus, but here are two incredible pictures from the website http://sites.psu.edu/explorenewzealand

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Further down the Haast River which changed now into Makarora River, the mountains opened up a little and we could see a flat, shiny surface in the far horizon; Lake Wanaka, our destination for that day. Until we would get there, we still had to drive quite a while. The more open land was used by farmers and the famous New Zealand sheep.

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Along the Makarora River where the forest surrounded us again, we did two stops. The first one was at a spectacular waterfall only a five minute walk through the forest. The obligatory "drinking-waterfall" picture couldn't be missed.

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The second stop was a bit longer. It was at the Blue Pools Walk point. Our guide told us to grab our trunks and towels for whoever feels brave that day. I took mine. Obviously. He then guided us through lush forests until we got out in the open again. We then crossed a bridge which we later saw is only meant for 14 people at the same time. Funny, we were on it with at least 30 at one point. Well. Then we continued to another bridge. That one looked more stable. Underneath it, so it seemed, flowed a crystal clear river. A side stream from Makarora River. Then our guide said: jump!
And we did. And it was out of this world cold but awesome!

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Continuing on through Mount Aspiring National Park, along Makarora River and the numerous farms next to us, we reached the top of Lake Wanaka. We were now in the Otago region which is known for its stunning lakes and imposing mountain ranges.

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Crossing between the two mountains Mount Burke and Pt.2175m, also called The Neck, we drove towards Lake Hawea. Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka's neighbor and both were formed after glaciers retreated around 10,000 years ago. We stopped for some photos of Lake Hawea and the 45 parallel which is located alongside the lake. Everybody came running to the bus when we called for a group picture.

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Who has the longest?

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After countless pictures and some good laughs with the group, we passed Hawea township and finished our trip for today as we arrived in the town of Wanaka.
It is the place for people to come when they want to explore the Mount Aspiring National Park. Heaps of outdoor adventures can be started right from there. So it happened that Ollie and I, both swimmers, had decided we both haven't raced or actually swum in such a long time that we must do a race that day. More people from the group followed us to Lake Wanaka where we spotted a small, floating pier maybe a dozen meters out in the lake. A good starting point. We agreed on the turning point and gave the others specific roles like time taker or the guy who makes sure that we both touch the buoy (our turning point). It was a close race! In the end, I barely won with only small lead. But it was heaps of fun.

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Later that day, some of us went to see Puzzling World while the rest went up the Iron Mountain Trail right across the street of it. Puzzling World gave us backpackers a nice discount since otherwise I wouldn't have spent the money on it.
First, we weren't too sure about that place, but after many of us already gave up on the small puzzles in the entrance area, ambition spurred us to figure out all the riddles that they had. The highlight was the huge outdoor labyrinth. In order to win, you had to make it to all four towers, one in each corner and then finish by finding the exit which was right in the center. Most of us started slowly, but in no time we were jogging and sprinting through the individual paths in order to become the fastest group to conquer the labyrinth.

Wanaka surely was a great place and while I was having dinner on the balcony of our hoste, I thought about the picturesque landscape I have gotten myself into and I was excited for more of it to come. The mountains made me feel like I was in the movie of Lord of the Rings and the times with this awesome group I was traveling with would hardly ever be forgotten.

Posted by jan.wegener 06:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains bridges landscape jump nz picturesque nationalpark southisland lordoftherings lakewanaka Comments (0)

Franz Josef

Glaciers, hot tube and free pizza

After the awesome costume party at the Lake Mahinapua hostel, our group went to the next destination on the West Coast. Before we arrived at Franz Josef village which is located in Westland National Park though, we went to Okarito. Okarito Lagoon is the largest unmodified wetland in New Zealand. In the midst of 3000 hectares of shallow open water and tidal flats we went on a 1 hour hike. Stunning views of the Southern Alps, native birds and trees, kettle lakes which are created when glaciers retreat and heaps of tranquil spots. It still fascinates me how close such diverse zones like glaciers and rainforests can coexist even when they are just a stone's throw away from each other.

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Fox Glacier

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Peak of Mount Cook

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Upon arrival into Franz Josef village, we stopped at the Franz Josef Glacier Guide's office for all the travelers among us who bought a trip up on the glacier the next day.

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This was the point during my travels I realized I'm slowly running out of money... shit... but that shouldn't mean I couldn't make the best out of the rest of my trip. I just had to watch my budget and perhaps say no to the one or other activity.
There was so much to do and see at this place and luckily there were also some low-budget options. Great for me! That's also the reason why we stayed two nights at this stop and not just one like at most of the other ones.

That first day we stocked up on food and drinks, checked out the close surrounding area, enjoyed the free(!) hot tube and took advantage of the all-you-can eat pizza dinner. The main houses of our hostel looked like a log cabin which fit really well into the surrounding area. Inside, we had a large open fire place. Just a good atmosphere overall. Once the all-you-can-eat pizzas were out, it was like heaven. It has to be said I actually didn't plan on joining that feast since I wanted to save money. A self-cooked meal was cheaper by a lot. But I just sat down with my friends and the waiters didn't check or anything and just started to serve me pizza as well. Hey, free dinner. ^^

The night faded away slowly with the a few of us enjoying the hot tube, looking up into the clear sky and being surrounded by the high mountainsides of the Southern Alpes.

The next day was tightly packed with plans. First, we slept in (none of us had the joy to experience that for a long time). Second, we geared up to do a 5 hour hike. So much can be said, we didn't actually hike 5 hours due to bad weather in the end. However, it ended up being solid 3 hours of hiking nevertheless. Anyway, since some of us didn't want to spend the hundreds of dollars for a helicopter ride on top of the glacier (or simply couldn't), we wanted to at least hike as close to Franz Josef as we could get. The Maori call the glacier Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere (the tears of Hinehukatere) by the way. The name comes from a local legend.

Hinehukatere loved mountain climbing and talked her man Tawe into coming for a hike with her. Unfortunately, Tawe wasn't much of a climber and as they climbed, an avalanche took him out. Hinehukatere was devastated and remained in the mountains sobbing, her tears freezing creating the glacier.

It's one of the only three glaciers which descends amidst a temperate rainforest. Again, isn't New Zealand nature is truly stunning?

So, we had our gear packed, ready for any weather that might come upon us and left the hostel. The first part of the hike was rather dull as it only goes along the street that leads to the last parking lot before you can only continue by foot. Despite just walking along the street though, we still got to see the first impressions of the glacier bed where Franz Josef glacier once must have been.

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The parking lot came in sight shortly after and the next part of the hike made us walk through lush rainforests and we forgot for a moment that we were actually heading to see a glacier. Once out of the rainforest we stood in the riverbed again. Here we saw these two signs which show us how rapid the glacier has been retreating in only so little time. It made us appreciate the hike even more, because perhaps one day the glacier might be gone once for all. If you look closely, you can see that only 7 years ago, the glacier was where I was standing that day...

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The third part of the hike led us through the riverbed which had a clearly marked walkway to follow. Warning signs showed the danger when leaving the paths as stones are loose there and can easily trap you or crush you. The beauty of this place was incredible though. The mountain sides which the glacier left behind when it retreated were traversed by numerous waterfalls and the riverbed presented itself with amazing rocks. Yet, we could not see the glacier clearly.

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We followed the riverbed and the hiking path further down the glacier valley to finally see the glacier. After a good amount of time, we finally made out what could be the glacier. Having the picture from 2012 in our head we didn't expect the glacier to have shrunk so much further. But there it was, the Franz Josef Glacier. Or what is left of it. It makes you sad to see how quickly such an enormous piece of nature can disappear. I'm glad to have seen it before it might be gone one day.

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Posted by jan.wegener 07:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rainforest glacier hike nz southisland franzjosef theunit hottube Comments (0)

Lake Mahinapua

Coastal Walks and Costume Party

The next day we headed off to Lake Mahinapua. Before, other travelers who have already been there told us that it has some crazy parties going on and each has its own theme. So we were pretty pumped for it! To get there, we drove along the Highway 6 that stretches along the shoreline and offered a diverse series of landscapes to amaze us. We passed farmlands, sparsely populated towns, deserted goldfields, lush green rainforests and the snow-capped Southern Alps.
Just a short drive out of Westport, we reached Cape Foulwind. Our guide said, it is there where we can sniff kangaroos, as we were at New Zealand's closest point to Australia. And if we would have looked really closely into the distance... we had absolutely no chance of seeing it^^
We stopped for a coastal walk. Not many people got off as the sky was already pretty close to tearing up, but some of went and did not regret it. Maybe a bit. 5 minutes after we left it started to rain buckets and we were all soaked. The walk became a fast-past race and as soon as we got back to the bus who waited for us down the track, we changed in dry clothes and stored our wet stuff in plastic bags. Nevertheless, we got to see some good views again.

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Around lunch time, we stopped at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes. The Pancake Rocks are a series of stratified limestone stacks which, over thousands of years, have been eroded to resemble giant piles of neatly stacked pancakes. The blowholes are rock formations which at high tide or heavy weather explode with a spectacular spray. The cafe at that place offered us, what else than, pancakes.

We had one more stop before we reached Lake Mahinapua and its famous themed parties - Greymouth. There, people who took the TranzAlpine train across the South Island joined us. With only 12,000 people Greymouth is the chief commercial center of the West Coast. It was founded on gold, continued on coal and now relies on industries such as timber, sheep, diary and greenstone. This region is also known for its Pounamu - Nephrite Jade. It has a large significance to Maori.

Off to Lake Mahinapua we were then. The rain that joined us on our coastal walk this morning and had followed us since finally started to wear off. We packed our trunks and bikinis and checked out the actual lake of the town Lake Mahinapua. Only my friend Coco was crazy enough to actually jump in the freezing water and swim for a bit. The rest of The Unit laid on the jetty and enjoyed the sun.

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The news spread around that dinner would be served soon and within minutes everyone had their stuff packed and was on the way back to the hostel. Speaking of, the hostel was family owned and the overnight stay included a large dinner. For a backpacker that was pretty much the highlight!!! And they didn't promise too much - a delicious, thanksgiving-sized dinner was served until all stomachs were filled plentiful. With all of us being fed to the limit, the hostel owner started to explain the theme for that night - childhood heroes. But obviously no one had any kind of costume with them. No problem. The hostel had a room full of clothes and other extras for any kind of theme. The big dressing-up started. Everyone who wanted to win the prize for the best costume dove into the piles of clothes, checked out the competition and tried to come up with a great idea for a costume. Among the group of us was a good mix of everything; Robin Hood, police man, elephant... Based on what I found in the costume room, I decided to go as Captain Jack Sparrow. Not too bad in my opinion haha Even our bus guides dressed up and not too little. The driver of my bus, he came as a poor prostitute and the woman who drove the other bus looked like Kim Kardashian, leopard dress included.
No one cared that we had to get up early tomorrow and still pack our bags. All of us enjoyed the unity we had as a group and celebrated the diverse nationalities who were partying at the end of the world. "YO HO AND A BOTTLE OF RUM!"
The long-awaited costume party finally started.

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Posted by jan.wegener 04:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lake party costumes nz southisland lakemahinapua theunit coastalwalk Comments (0)

Westport

Growing closer together as a group - The Unit

With a late departure on that morning (which is rather unusual), we continued our trip around the south island and headed toward Westport - located on the north western tip of the south island.
We were excited to see what's in store for us on this leg of the trip and were even more thrilled about the new group we joined on the bus. It didn't take long to realize we all vibe with each other.

We left Kaiteriteri and our first break was to be at Nelson Lakes. This place is iconic in many different ways I find. It is among other things an absolutely stunning scenery as you can see a little down on the pictures and it is also the most northern part of the Southern Alps which stretch almost all the way across the south island of New Zealand and gave the country the name "Long White Cloud".
As the bus pulled up to a wharf of Lake Rotoiti (one of the Nelson Lakes) which was just made to jump off into the lake, we all got our togs (swim gear) ready. All the excitement we had on the bus changed once we actually felt how warm or to be more accurate, how freezing the water was... But no one wanted to miss this opportunity and driven by one part boldness and one part group pressure we all eventually dared to jump off the wharf; once, twice or even some really bold ones ten times. We all had a blast!! Suddenly, all the fun was interrupted though when one girl looked like she was drowning. Some of us jumped in, pulled her out of the water and she explained she couldn't actually swim, but it looked like so much fun and she had to try it... really???^^

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Heading further towards our destination of the day, we traveled alongside the mighty Buller River, which rises from Lake Rotoiti where we just came from and flows into the Tasman Sea at Westport. The Maori's call the Buller River "Kawatiri", meaning deep and thrift. And that's actually a good description for a river which has the greatest flood discharge of all of NZ's rivers. It wasn't uncommon to hear a loud "AAAHhhh" or "SHHIIIIT" when the bus drove on roads which were maybe barely wide enough for the bus so that we had a shocking view deep down the Buller Gorge.

Somehow we did make it though and arrived at our hostel in Westport by early evening. First task: grocery shopping! I was almost out of food and I was hoping to make something good that night. I wasn't the only one thinking that so a big group of our crew called now "The Unit" headed to the local store.
By the way: our room was more like a small house for us and it was just appropriate to party that fact accordingly.

The Unit

The Unit

Some history for who is interested: Westport was first settled by people who were lured to the area by the promise of gold, but when it became scarce attention was shifted to the northern hills of Westport to black gold - bituminous coal. From the 1870's on the town embarked on its long history of coal mining.

Later that day, we had the brilliant idea to make a huge campfire on the beach. So we all gathered in front of the hostel and hiked to a nice spot on of the many rugged beaches. Everyone grabbed some timber or whatever they wanted to burn and threw it on the pile. Campfires are always a good way to end such a great day such as that one...

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Kiwie Ex Group

Posted by jan.wegener 00:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beach bridge jump nz campfire westport nelson_lakes theunit Comments (0)

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