A Travellerspoint blog


Through vineyards and the Abel Tasman National Park

Heading further north, we had the chance to take in more of the dramatic coastline from Kaikoura. It was quite the scenic drive. Once we reached Picton though, we had to say goodbye to most of the other travellers who crossed the Cook Strait which splits the north and the south island of New Zealand.
Here you can see the harbor of Picton and the ferry that was bringing some of us to the North island:


I, however, and many new travelers who soon became my new favorite group continued on towards our next stop for the night - Kaiteriteri. But before we should arrive, we stopped in the scenic Marlborough Valley. Everywhere we looked vineyards were to be seen along the steep hillsides. This region is especially famous for its delicious Sauvignon Blanc varieties of wines. At one stop, we all joined a wine tasting and some of us purchased the one or other bottle to a special price for later on. One more brief stop in Nelson and then we were at the doorstep of the Abel Tasman National Park and in Kaiteriteri, our destination for today.


Kaiteriteri is surrounded by golden beaches and blue water (it was freezing cold!!!) and has some of the best year-round weather of NZ. Our lodge was only a minute walk from the beach; given the fact that Kaiteriteri is tiny it's not surprising though.^^ First thing we did once we dropped our stuff off at the rooms was going to the beach. Despite the water being freezing, the warm sun on our skin was awesome. Felt almost like I was back in Australia again. We cooked some good food all together in the small lodge kitchen and enjoyed a nice dinner among with new friends and travel companions.

The next day was bringing some clouds with it, but we sticked to our plan we made the day before and headed out to a kayak trip along the coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. We had two options: kayak south and see the famous Apple Split Rock...


... or head north and have the chance to kayak right next to seals. With Adele and Fisherman island being our point of interest, we hired kayaks and set out to our adventure. The islands are highly protected and in earlier days all animals that endangered the bird population, like cats, were taken off the island to ensure that the native birds can live on the those island safely.


After about two hours kayaking, we stopped on Adele Island for a small picnic. So far we haven't seen any seals yet but the pristine coastline and the scenery made up for it.


We continued on kayaking around Adele island and reached the northern tip of it. There, we experienced what you'd call a little breeze when on a motor boat, but with not even a foot above the water, the "small" waves gave us all heaps of trouble and we had to fight not to hit any rocks sticking out of the water. But there they were - seals. A group of about 6-10 seals were sitting on the northern cliff of Adele island; some couldn't have been any older than a couple of months. The waves made it impossible to go any further around the island though and so we had to turn around... To our luck, the weather tipped halfway back to our starting point. In less than a minute, it started raining out of buckets and we were soaked in no time. Luckily the rain was kind of mild warm and didn't bother too much and actually made the whole adventure even more fun. Back at the starting point we were welcomed back by the kayak hire company which put our kayaks on a trailer behind a tractor that drove right into the knee-high water. Hot tea and cocoa was handed to us at the kayak hire company.

For some reason, the bus that departed the next day was overbooked... A small group of some new friends of mine and I, did not get on the bus therefore. Kaiteriteri was not a bad place to stay an extra day though. Located in the middle of the Abel Tasman National Park, it also offers thrilling mountain bike trails.
In the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park (MBP), you can ride on 180ha and on tracks with different difficulty levels.


The park is mostly situated in dense native bush and the majority of the newly-benched trails are wide, easy to intermediate-grade tracks, complemented by narrower hand-benched single-track. All tracks can be ridden both ways, besides the ones that go steeply uphill! The intermediate tracks were almost too easy for me so I went on riding downhill on hard tracks and ended up carrying my bike - they were too steep and so far I haven't had to spend a day in hospital and I didn't want to change this that day.

The group of us missed the rest of the group that did make it on the bus. We thought we might be able to hitchhike to the next stop of the bus and then catch up to them. The idea turned into action and in not even an hour and we found ourselves walking along the winding street out of the Abel Tasman National Park. Equipped with our bags and quickly improvised travel signs we left Kaiteriteri.


After walking from noon to evening, we decided we wouldn't be too lucky in that area. Not many cars were passing us and we didn't really think the whole plan through. No one of us had a tent or a mattress. So, we ended up back at the Kaiteriteri lodge that evening. We called KiwiExperience and complained about the overbooked bus and et voilà, on the next day we were on the bus and off to our next stop: Westport.

Posted by jan.wegener 04:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged kayak nz southisland hitchhike kaiteriteri Comments (0)


My first stop and how I got around here

Early rise for me that day... The bus which would take me along the east coast to the small town Kaikoura really had to leave at 720am... Awesome! Not really... So I had to get up super early since I wanted to save money and walked from Japp's place in the suburbs to the YMCA downtown. There, I met a bunch of other travelers who wanted to take the bus as well.

Before I talk more about my travel experience, I want to explain my way of transportation for New Zealand:

Before I arrived, I purchased a "Full Pass" - which allows me to travel with the KiwiExperience bus as much as I want. KiwiExperience is a company that provides travelers with a good option when they don't want to buy or rent a car. They operate multiple hop-on hop-off buses and backpackers can decide at each stop whether they would like to stay for a couple of days/weeks or whether they stick with the current group and keep driving to the next stop. Each bus has its own unique driver and that person is also the group leader, entertainer, guide or pretty much anything that is asked for :D

This was my route:
Each green stop was one overnight stay and the white ones are stops for during the day. Sometimes you stay even two night with the same group at one stop when the activities require more time or when the surrounding landscape is just too amazing. The_Whole_Kit.jpeg

This is how the KiwiExperience buses look like. With the neon green they are hard to miss.


Back to my first stop: Kaikoura. We left Christchurch early in the morning, but even though most of the backpackers were pretty tired it didn't take long until the whole bus was talking to each other about they have experienced so far and what was yet to come.
The conversations were accompanied by beautiful landscapes along the road and after only a little bit over two hours we arrived in Kaikoura.

View out of the Window

View out of the Window

Beautiful View over the Mountains behind Kaikoura

Beautiful View over the Mountains behind Kaikoura

In Maori, Kaikoura means to eat crayfish (kai - to eat, koura - crayfish). However, its full name is Te-Ahi-kai-koura-a-Tama-ki-te-rangi, meaning this great traveler stayed here and lit a fire to cook a meal of crayfish. These days crayfish can still be bought at any corner, but it is the whales, dolphins, seals and the fish and chips that Kaikoura is so popular for. Dusky dolphins average about 300 per pod in the waters of Kaikoura. But they have been known to have 1,000 at one time!

In Kaikoura, we happend to be lucky: a small bustling local market was going on. After checking out some local foods and crafts, we walked up the hill to our stay for the night. The hostel was small but cozy. Lots of greens in the outside area, a nice kitchen and even a comfy tv room for those rainy days. But we only dropped off our bags and headed down to the water front. We were told that you could see seals up close and also get some great views of the scenery.
And we were not disappointed. Right in front of a parking lot near the ocean was a seal colony. To our surprise, they came up closer and even waddled between the campers and cars and along the paths.


On our way to the seals colony we spotted a food truck with local fish dishes. When we headed back to the hostel it was clear what we would have for dinner. With full bellies we walked the rest of the way to the hostel and spend some time on the porch talking about the day. Not too long though as the bus left early again - just great.

Next stop: Kaiteriteri

Posted by jan.wegener 11:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged island south kaikoura nz Comments (0)

Kia ora!!!

Welcome to Aotearoa - the long white cloud

Hi everyone, I finally managed to get back working on my blog again!!! Don't ask what took me so long; to make it short: university and work.^^

After some incredible and unforgettable months in Australia, I made my way to New Zealand. Looking back, I don't regret my choice to see so many countries at once, but for any future travelers out there, here is one piece of advice: stick to one country and make the most out of it!
In my upcoming blog entries you'll see that I also fell in love with the land of the long white cloud - Aotearoa, as the native Maoris call it. Yet, leaving behind many friends in Australia wasn't easy. But time was short so I wanted to see as much and as many countries as possible.

New Zealand was first discovered by the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe in 950 AD. But according to the history, it wasn't until 1350 AD that seven waka (canoes) from the mythical land, Hawaiki, migrated to this land. The name "Long white cloud" came from Kupe who mistakenly thought the snow-covered Southern Alps looked like a long white cloud - snow was apparently not that common on Hawaiki.

The first European arrived in 1642 when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman charted the coastline but not actually set foot on New Zealand. Some of his crew who did so, were killed by local Maori. Today, New Zealand has a population of about 4.5 Million people and approx. 31 Million sheep. Ethnic diversity is strong within the entire country and Kiwis are crazy about their land, especially their coastline and their sports.

Enough with the history though, I want to show you my adventure in a country which didn't need much time to fascinate me.

Nau mai ki Aotearoa!!
(Welcome to New Zealand)


I arrived in Christchurch late. The first surprise I had to get used to were the high prices compared to what I was used to in Australia. So I had to think for quite a while before I decide against walking from the airport to town and took the 30NZD shuttle instead. For me as a traveler that was half a fortune for transportation! Luckily, I had the chance to stay with a local - Japp. He did not have his own house, but was kind enough to share his room with me.

On my first full day, Japp took the time to show me around and we walked from the suburbs to central Christchurch. On our walk, we walked through the beautiful Hagley Park. It's the world's third largest city park behind Central Park, NYC and Stanley Park, Vancouver. The change of sight amazed me - a few days before I was sitting between palm trees and tropical rain forest and all of the sudden I found myself in between shady alleys of oak and maple trees.


For reasons I couldn't explain I felt really drawn to this place and kind of got a feeling of home. Yes, Hagley park reminded me a bit of Europe. There was even a gondolier transporting tourist on the Avon river. We checked out the Botanic Garden and headed toward the Canterbury museum which showed an exhibition of New Zealand's history. In front of it is the Peacock Fountain which made many tourist stop to take pictures, including me. I liked the building's Neo-gothic style of architecture a lot.

Fountain in front of Canterbury Museum

Fountain in front of Canterbury Museum

In 2011, the city suffered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake which it still has to recover from. The closer we got to downtown, the more the damage was visible... So is e.g. the iconic Christchurch Cathedral completely destroyed on one side.


But the people of Christchurch started to rebuild quickly and soon after the quake many pop-up shops, bars and restaurants sprung up around the city. Like the funky Re:Start mall, made entirely out of shipping containers.


I was told beforehand that there wasn't much to do and see in Christchurch and that New Zealand's treasures are in its landscape and outdoors, not in the cities. Therefore, I did not plan to stay for long, even though I loved walking through Hagley Park and seeing how devastating an earthquake can be and on the other hand how people managed to live with it.

Next stop: Kaikoura

Posted by jan.wegener 03:34 Archived in New Zealand Tagged christchurch nz southisland firstdays Comments (0)

Bungy Jump in Cairns

Whats Better Than One Bungy Jump? - Six Bungy Jumps!


After my sailing trip around the Whitsundays, Lena and I drove a bit further north to Cairns. It was going to be the end of my time in Down Under and therefore I wanted to make the best out of it. The first nights we stayed on a campground sleeping in tents next to my Toyota. Cairns is quite far up north in Queensland and even though summer was going to end soon, it was still very humid and hot. Cairns is also home to thousands of Flying Foxes. These species is also called a megabat and lives in Australia's north-eastern regions of Queensland. At day they were hanging in trees all over the city. At night, you could see them flying towards the surrounding mountains. It darkened the evening sky like a big shadow.

Flying_Fox_in_Cairns.jpgFlying_Fox_at_Night.jpg -source: googleimages

A couple of days after we arrived in Cairns, we were just cooking lunch at the campgrounds kitchen, I was totally surprised when three old friends from the Coffs Family showed up - Philip, David and Julia. They told me they would come up to Cairns, but I didnt expect them at all that day. It was great to catch up again and have some days together on the campground.

Alright, now to the Bungy. I chose one day to do my "Big Day Out" at AJ Hackett's bungy tower in Cairns and got picked up in the morning to get there. It would be my first bungy and I was pretty stoked. Upon arrival at the tower, all of us crazy jumpers were quite impressed by the 'only' 50m bungy tower.


For the first jump every bungy jumper has to do a swan dive.


After that, there are more than 15 different possible jumps I could choose from. My second jump was backwards, the third an forward elevator, the fourth a bar drop, the fifth a handstand jump and the sixth was a flip... Yes, I jumped six times in one day. I wished I could have jumped more often, because once you complete the first jump where you're still questioning why you'd jump off a tower, it is one of the best adrenaline rushes you can get.

Make sure to check out the montage video from the six jumps:


Posted by jan.wegener 16:31 Archived in Australia Tagged australia bungy lastdays Comments (0)

Great Barrier Reef Diving Trip

Under the sea...

Looking back to my time in Coffs Harbour where I dove for the first time, I knew I would soon go diving again. In Cairns, I combined getting more diving experience and improving my license. It wasnt cheap I must admit, but it was worth every penny.

All divers and snorkelers who were joining the 3-days and 2-nights tour met early morning at the ProDive shop in Cairns. We got our gear ready which took quite a while, as we were about 20 people going aboard. Some of us collected their course books which we needed to study during the trip. I wasnt sure when I would have time for that, as we had to squeeze in 11 dives in 3 days plus meals. And no kidding, it was really like diving, eating, diving, eating, diving, eating, sleeping and again... I enjoyed it heaps though.

Before every dive, we went to the upper deck to listen to one of the instructors rules and tips for the certain dive site. Over the duration of the whole trip, we dove at about 7 different reefs.


Then, we went on to put on our gear, checked air pressure and did our buddy check (Sebastian from Germany and I were dive buddies for the trip). The instructors wrote down what time we left the boat and told us when to be back. After a small jump from the lower rear deck, we were on our own...


In between dives, all divers who were doing a course assembled with one of the instructors and studies for their license or did a test. I was studying for my advanced license which allows me to dive down to 30 meters. In addition, I decided to add a NitroX class as well. NitroX is enriched air which can contain up to 38% oxygen instead of 21%. With the extra amount of oxygen in the tank, a diver can stay longer underwater and also decreases the risk of decompression illnesses.

Our days started early with the first dive of the day and ended late with a night dive.


Especially last one was really exciting for me. During the day, you dive a new reef which you were diving again later at night. All of us who were doing a night dive had a torch. The light beam of the torch was literally the only thing you could see. Turn it off and it was pitch black around you...

I had a great time on board and enjoyed the many dives as well as chatting to the other more experienced divers who gave me valuable tips and recommendations. Every reef was special and showed us the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef to its fullest. I am now an licensed advanced diver who is allowed to dive with NitroX.

Check out my video of the whole dive trip, but remember that with depth, the corals and fish lose their colors. Red disappears first and lets the magical underwater world appear a bit dull. However, still take a look of what kind of amazing coral formations and fish bustle around in the water.

This will definitely not be my last diving adventure and I can wait to visit the underwater world again.
Coming up, some of the photos I took during my dives.


Posted by jan.wegener 20:41 Archived in Australia Tagged diving australia underwater greatbarrierreef Comments (0)


Red or Dead

With 74 Islands and over 1500 types of fish the Whitsunday Islands offer one of the most beautiful spots in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
And that was where the catamaran 'Tongarra' was taken us for the upcoming two days. I was really looking forward to the sailing trip.

tongarra-1024x769.jpg -copyright:Remco Janssen

The two crew members picked us up from Airlie Beach and we then sailed out to the Whitsunday Islands and enjoyed a breathtaking sunset cruise while we sipped a few drinks (maybe some more than just a few :D). Before we set sail, they made sure all passengers had more than enough alcohol. I enjoyed the small group as you quickly knew most of the others. OnceTongarra had reached its destination we enjoyed a freshly on-board prepared dinner, then some crazy ‘get to know you’ games before we all looked for a sleeping place on deck.

We woke up at Tongue Bay, close to stunning Whitehaven Beach and enjoyed an early morning breakfast while we took in the scenery. The skipper told us that turtles love this spot and as he spoke, we saw the occasional turtle head popping out of the water. With a dinghy, we went to the beach and made our way up through a rainforest to get to Hill Inlet lookout. From there we had a spectacular view over Whitehaven Beach and the beautiful rest of the Whitsunday Island.
hill-inlet.jpgWhitehavenBeach2.jpg - source: googleimages
Whitehaven Beach is known for its white sands which consists of 98% pure silica and gives it a bright white color. Local rocks dont contain silica so it has been suggested that the sand was brought to the beach via prevailing sea currents over millions of years. The sand was also used for making the glass for the Hubble telescope as it is so clear. Like the sand from Lake McKenzie on K'Gari, the sand is very good for your hair. Again, many people could be seen putting sand in their hair. That day, it was burning hot and we were all more than happy to finally go in the water. Unlike regular sand, the sand on Whitehaven Beach doesnt save heat making it comfortable to walk barefoot on even that day. Before, we took a couple of group pictures.

Lunch was prepared on our return to Tongarra and we then sailed north to go for a snorkel and swim. The shallow, clear blue waters of the Whitsundays were perfect to witness some spectacular underwater scenery. We went to different locations to see as many different species of fish as possible. We were also quite lucky to cross paths with a few turtles. A fish feed was also included. The big. local Humphead Geroge was especially happy about that.

At one of the reefs, we brought Tongarro to anchor and shared more drinks. Tongarra might be one of the smaller boats sailing around the Whitsundays, but still has some of the biggest parties.

On the morning of the last day, we went for one last snorkel and then headed back to Airlie Beach.
Tongarra - Red or Dead. The sailing trip around the Whitsundays

Posted by jan.wegener 03:57 Archived in Australia Tagged whitsundays tongarra Comments (0)

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