The Mixed Bag
Wow, what a first week on the South Island! We have experienced both glorious sunshine and lightning storms, and have had our first run-ins with the dreaded sandfly. There's a lot to catch up on.
Our first stop was Nelson Lakes National Park. The entire South Island seems to be made up of National Parks, one after another, so there's so much to explore. We started the week with a hike up to Mt. Robert's via the Punchgut track and back via the Paddy Track. We had great views over Lake Rotoiti the entire way up. The sunshine made the water look especially blue and we could see snowy peaks for miles.
Gavin watching the 100 year old eels underneath the jetty at Lake Rotoiti.
The view of Lake Rotoiti from Mt. Robert.
With the hottest day of the week expected on Sunday we drove to Abel Tasman National Park and rented a double sea kayak for the day with R&R Rentals (https://www.rrkayaks.co.nz/). This was unbelievable! We paddled around Fishermans Island and Adele Island, saw a colony of seals lazing on the rocks and even got up close to one seal as it was catching a fish. The beaches all along the coast were so perfectly yellow and the water so blue! This was the best way to explore.
Chilling out on a beach during the sea kayaking in Abel Tasman.
Enjoying one of the rare days of sun we've had along the way!
The next couple of days we spent mostly driving along the west coast making some quick stops along the way. We stopped at Cape Foulwind Lighthouse, the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park. From here we drove up to Arthur's Pass Village. Here we walked up to see the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall and had our first encounter with Kea. These are the world's only alpine parrot and are protected in New Zealand. They are very intelligent and can try to steal your belongings so we have to remember to watch our stuff around them!
Punchbowl Falls. Tis pretty tall!
The weather then turned to rain and more rain on the West Coast. We just managed to see Franz Josef Glacier before the worst of the rain hit. The trail lead us to within 750 metres of the glacier and despite the clouds almost blocking our view, we were still able to make out the blue colour of the glacier, though we could not see all the way to the top of it. 300mm of rain was expected over the next 2 days so we decided to get the hell out of there and start our journey over to Wanaka. On the drive over Haast Pass we stopped at Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls and the Blue Pools (beware the sandfly!!) We stopped to look out over Lake Wanaka and drove on to see Lake Hawea. The weather was so much nicer this side of the mountains!
Thunder Creek Falls. Another tall one! Stand still for 5 second and your skin will be covered in sandfly.
Again with good weather promised for Thursday we decided to hike up to Isthmus Peak. From here you get clear views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The colours of the lakes are unreal! Both are surrounded by snowy mountains that go on for miles. Though the walk was tough to the peak, it was well worth it for the treat at the top. That evening we went to #ThatWanakaTree for sunset. Gavin got set up early and was very glad he did. This is a huge tourist attraction and there were crowds of people along the shore of the lake (you don't see them in the photos!) Needless to say it's a very pretty spot and one that you kind of have to go see when in Wanaka.
One of the many incredible views on the hike up Isthmus Peak.
The infamous Wanaka Tree.
The next morning, we headed straight for Queenstown. We had one day in Queenstown (we will be back) so decided to do something a little more touristy. There is a Gondola that takes you up to Skyline Queenstown with views across the city and lake. Up here we did 6 rides on the Luge (https://www.skyline.co.nz/en/queenstown/). This was a great way to spend the afternoon! Around Queenstown they are very strict about campervan parking and freedom camping so we headed out towards Glenorchy to find a nice spot to camp by the lake.
What followed for the next 40 hours was torrential rain with thunder and lightning. Great to look for a while but gets pretty tiring when you can't even step outside the van. We managed to fit in a trip to the pier in Glenorchy and attempted to drive around to Kinloch but had to make a quick turnaround on a narrow dirt road to avoid getting stranded by the rising rivers. To help cheer us up we headed for Fergburger back in Queenstown. This was so yummy! We may have had our burgers at 11am - no regrets!
The next week will be our busiest week since arriving in New Zealand. We are heading into Fjordland National Park where we have some multi day trips planned. Watch this space!