So fast is a month gone like nothing. We´ve seen a lot in NZ and up to now we don´t feel like that we have missed something on our tour. Of course, here and there more time for hiking or for Sightseeing would have been great, but we really made the most out of the time we had. Now we are looking forward to Oz. The 5070km we drove during this month in NZ are nothing compared to the distances that are awaiting us.
In Auckland we did only a minimum of sightseeing. We tried more to get our stuff sorted out – like washing clothes, planning and booking for Oz, getting rid of some of the Camping gear and of course working on the blog.
Here we had two major targets that we wanted to see – the Hot Water Beach and the Cathedral Cove. The two spots are quite near to each other located and we were lucky with the low Tide. Both attractions are mainly interesting at low tide because the hot water wells on the beach are under water at high tide and the cathedral cove – how should I say it – just see the pictures 😉 The weather was so great that we only had a short look at thermal spot of the Hot Water Beach and spent the rest of the time there at the normal beach. For the Cathedral Cove we were really just at the right time – half an hour later and we couldn´t have gone through the whole cove to the other side.
We decided to drive up the whole peninsula to Port Jackson – there is nothing except a camping site of the DOC next to the beach and 2 farms. It was such a nice place and such good weather that we extended our stay for one night. We went swimming and also a bit hiking. A Highlight for myself was also to try out to cook something with this BBQ places that ere so common here around. The result was very tasty 🙂
Before we left this place we spotted a big ship in the distance that seemed to be huge. I made a Picture and later on I seached the Internet for this ship. It is simply called “A” and belongs up to now to the Top 20 super yachts of the world. The cost for this thingy is estimated to be around 300 Million US Dollar…..
After “Mordor” we paid a visit to “The Shire” as a contrast. “The Shire” is the place where the Hobbits of Lord of the Rings are living. The movie set, where the “Hobbit holes” were built, is located near the city of Matamata. At this place only the outside shots were taken – all the scenes inside the Hobbit holes were filmed at studios elsewhere. Only the “Green Dragon Pub” is furnished at the inside, but the interior was not part of the movies.
In Matamata we had a great place to stay. We met some Kiwis (here: People from Newzealand) during our hike on Steward Island. They invited us to stay a few days at their place. We graciously accepted their Invitation. Our hosts were very forthcoming and we had a lot to talk about travelling and the differences between NZ and Austria – and also other countries. I hope we will meet again – perhaps when they visit Austria in the future.
We kept ourselves busy – right after the canoeing we drove for about an hour to find a proper accommodation to do the Tongaririo crossing on the next day. The weather forecast was reasonable, so we prepared ourselves for this 7+ hour tour. The bus dropped us at the start at 8:30 and the weather looked not very promising. But also the pickup at the end of the track was booked and paid, so there was no return. After about 2h it cleared a bit up, but areas like the one of “Mt. Doom” never were completely free of clouds. But the weather was good enough to make this tour one of the best we did during our time in NZ. Specially we were in very good shape to do the detour to the peak of Mt. Tongariro. There on the peak some young people from the Netherlands asked us if we had taken the 6:30 or the 7:30 bus to the start. It made my day when we could honestly answer “We took the 8.30 bus”. As it can be seen on the pictures, the scenery was perfect to do some of the reality shots for Mordor at this place.
Wellington, the capital of NZ, isn´t a really big city. You can compare it with Graz concerning area occupation and number of inhabitants. Overall it is a nice town, but there are not so many special things to see.
For us there were three things that are worth to mention:
First, the Te Papa Museum, that can be described as a national museum. It is for free and absolutely state of the art. We spent there at least 3 hours and there were still a lot that we haven´t seen. But it was so a nice sunny day that we couldn´t spent the whole day inside a museum.
Second – the Weta Cave. This is the name of the movie production facility in Wellington. There costumes, movie settings and digital effects are made. Working on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy made them famous. With a short tour they give a tiny insight into the great things they are doing. Working there must be amazing. After the visit we were absolutely in the mood to spend time in a cinema to watch some of the movies where Weta Cave has participated.
Third, Zelandia – formerly known as Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Background: NZ was a land of birds until the humans arrived. First victim of the humans, that conquered this untouched Islands, were the Moas. Later on more and more creatures were brought to NZ by the humans. Like the possum from Australia for the fur industry or rats as blind passengers on the ships. Both kind of animals are a big and constant threat to the diverse bird life in NZ. So the government of NZ and also a lot of NGO´s are putting a lot of effort into the creation of bird sanctuaries. To clear islands of animal pests is comparable easy, but for Zealandia they try to do something big. In 1999 they erected a fence around a former water reservoir valley and then started to eliminated all mammals that aren´t belonging there. Hunters killed alone in this small area 700 possums – the rest, together with the rats, were poisoned. After clearing the Zone of Zealandia endangered birds (like the Takahē – only a bit more than 260 birds of these species exist right now) and plants were brought to this sanctuary. The vision is that by the year 2500 this area will be a jungle full of indigenous life, like it was before humans came – of course without all the animals that were already extinct.
Afer approx. 3 weeks on the South Island of New Zealand it was time to have a look at the other Island. Between the 2 Islands is a regular ferry service by several companies provided. The ships need three and a half hours to travel from Picton to Wellington – when good weather conditions are given. We had very good weather conditions, and thats not so normal for this passage. As soon as we arrived in the Wellington Bay the wind strenghten up and it became more and more cloudy.
…but still a very nice place with a great campsite of the DOC (Department of Conservation). This area around the Pelorus Bridge was used for the reality shots for the in the headline indicated scene of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”.
Der Abel-Tasman Nationalpark ist ein bekanntes und im Sommer gut besuchtes Schutzgebiet an der Nordküste der Südinsel Neuseelands, mit vielen einsamen weißen Sandständen, kleinen Buchten und Felsformationen aus Granit. Wir haben 2 Nächte auf einem Campingplatz am südlichen Rand des Nationalparks verbracht (auf der “Old McDonald’s Farm”) und waren für 1 Tag mit einem Seekajak am Meer unterwegs, was wohl die beste Art und Weise ist, den Nationalpark zu erkunden. Nach einer etwa 1 stündigen Einführung durch einen Mitarbeiter des Kajakverleihs sind wir dann auf eigene Faust in See gestochen. Am Anfang wars schon ziemlich spannend, weil wir noch wenig Kajak-Erfahrung hatten. Wir haben zwei Stopps an schönen, einsamen Sandständen gemacht und sind ganz nahe an einer Insel vorbeigefahren, die als Vogelschutzgebiet ausgewiesen ist. Dementsprechend laut gings dort zu. Natürlich darf man diese Insel nicht betreten. Auch wenn wir jetzt leider doch nicht in die Südsee nach Französisch Polynesien kommen, waren wir beim Kajaken im türkisen Wasser des Abel-Tasman Nationalparks zwischen der Küste und den vorgelagerten Inseln richtig in Südseestimmung. Und wir haben beschlossen: schöner und tropischer kanns in der Südsee auch nicht sein…
Passing through Queenstown and Wanaka with nice and hot weather we took the Haast-pass during strong rainfalls to the west coast. The Haast pass and the following town Haast was named by Julius Haast, a german explorer and mountaineer that also named one of the glaciers after the long ruling emperor Franz-Josef. The other glacier is the Fox glacier – I didn´t check where this name came from.
To both glaciers lead walkways to see them from a closer distance. In fact there is not so much to see from this walkways. Even with the nice weather we were a bit disappointed by these poor views we got. I guess to get a really decent view a ride with a plane or a helicopter is needed. A much nicer stop was in Okarito – sun and a very nice, long sandy beach invited to a beachwalk. For a swim it was much too windy. It was so nice there that we stayed in this village overnight at the campground.
Next day was again nice, but the weather forecast was really bad. The leftovers from a typhoon were heading from the northern Island to the South Island and so we had to look for a more waterproof accommodation than a tent. So the next two days we stayed in Motels overnight and did a lot of driving during the day to pass the bad weather as fast as possible.
After Steward Island we had of course to go north again. We planned a one night stay in a hut a bit outside of Manapouri, but Eva caught a bit of a cold and finally we stayed 3 days in this hut. The hut was one of several huts that shared the toilet and shower facilities located in one center building. Every hut had a double bed, a couch, a table with chairs, a cold water supply, a stove to heat with wood and a gas stove with two spots to cook. And, besides that all there is a nice veranda with a coach that granted a nice view down to the valley and the opposite mountains. So, overall a perfect place to cure a cold – either lying in bed or sitting in the sun on the veranda. Even without the cold to cure it was already time to have a short rest from sleeping somewhere else every night for the last weeks. I enjoyed it a lot to sit on the veranda in the sun, drinking a cold beer or a cider and just watching the landscape and appreciate the silence.
After this break we had quite a long drive up to the Milford Sound. We left early in the morning to catch one of the early cruises in the sound (=fjord) and it was a bit more than a 2 hour drive. Weather conditions weren´t good from the start, but the sounds have quite special weather conditions so we hoped to be lucky. When we arrived we faced low hanging clouds that made a cruise in the sound worthless. We decided to wait until it is clearing up – until we decided to go for a cruise we waited 5h, but it was worth it.
Since it was the last cruise of the day we weren´t eager to drive all the way back on the same day. We just drove about 45 min back and found a nice, but very simple accommodation at Gunn´s Camp. Our hut was just big enough to have enough space for the bed. The public facilities served its purpose – but what can be expected in the middle of nowhere. After dusk we did a short hike to a nearby spot with glowworms.
Next day was cloudy again, but again we hoped to be lucky. We drove a bit into the direction of the Milford sound to do a hike we got suggested. And we were lucky – at the starting point of the hike it was sunny. The hike to the Gertrude saddle was quite exhausting but very nice, but the saddle was in the clouds and so we missed a good view down to the sound. Nevertheless it was a great and more sophisticated track (many of the tracks here in NZ can be labelled as nearly wheelchair-accessible, and that’s boring)
NZ promotes a series of walks as “Great Walks”. Theses walks are usually at least 3 day hikes and they are rarely in a circuit and often overcrowded. We looked for one that is a circuit and not so busy. We found that the Rakiura track suits best to our demands. A 3 day walk on the quite lonely Steward Island. All the huts on this or other tracks are self-contained, so nothing to buy there (no “Hüttenwirt”). Only bunk beds, a public room with a wood stove, toilets and water from a rainwater tank are available at these huts. So, everything that will be needed in three days has to be carried, except water. Dried food and something to heat up water are the first choices for such trips. We bought some oatmeal sachets and tea bags for breakfast, fruits and cereal bars for lunch and powder soup and chinese noodles for dinner. Overall we did fine with our supplies, but there was room for improvement. The track itself was easier than we expected – we could have done it in 2 days, but we had already pre-booked out place in both huts. Sleeping was not easy – if 10 people are sleeping in one room there is an incredible high chance to have at least one snorer (only if you are lucky – we had always at least 2). Hardest part was the path between the 2 huts because there you got a “green out” (referring a bit to whiteout) – for nearly 5 hours only jungle with no idea how far you still have to go. Sadly we didn´t manage to see a Kiwi – the chances to do so are much higher when you buy yourself a seat in a professional Kiwi spotting tour or when you do the 12-day track on Stewart Island. Overall Steward Island can be recommended for people who don´t want to be reached – no cell phone reception (even not at the village at the wharf) and the GPS of the cell phones needed also much longer to get a signal. I don´t think we will visit a more remote place here in NZ – in Australia it may be very well possible.
New Zealand’s highest mountain is the Mt. Cook. We decided to go from Christchurch, after a short visit of the Banks peninsula, to the Mt. Cook National Park and do some hikes and stay overnight at the camping site. We were lucky and had at least one very nice day there. The glaciers on this side of the New Zealand southern alps are not very big because the most of the rain- & snowfall is on the west side (we will visit the Franz-Josef and the Fox Glacier on the west coast later on). The night in the tent was the coldest we had so far – we should have used our tremendous small lightweight trekking tent instead of the newly bought three persons tent. We bought the new tent because sometimes the trekking tent is simply too small, but the smallness secures a warmer climate inside the tent. Nevertheless it was a great stay because we could hear during the night sounds of falling off parts of the glacier – like a thunder in the distance.
The morning was not so welcoming – the wind strengthen up and nearly destroyed our new tent. We decided to have breakfast in the public shelter of the camping site – good decision, because shortly after we settled down there spray rain made the outside even more uncomfortable. So no further hike in this region.
Before I forget it: Here is my NZ mobile number +64 2108204616. Please keep the 12 hours time difference in mind if you are calling. Thanks!
In Sydney it had around 26 °C – without some wind and sitting or walking direct in the sun it felt like 30 at least.
Our flight to New Zealand was planned to be at 9:30 with Virgin Australia, but carried out by Air New Zealand. So we left the loft were we stayed quite early, but still it was no very cold outside. Specially Walking with our luggage kept us very warm.
At the airport at the check-in we figured out that with our booking through the opodo website was something wrong. We paid Opodo extra Money to book the luggage for us but they didn´t. The room temperature dropped a bit while the bloodpressure rose a bit.
At the service desk they asked us for the flight ticket out of New Zealand. We were wondering why because we were still in the negotiation Phase with the travel agency for Tahiti and the travel Information site of the Austrian ministry for foreign relations aka. “Außenministerium” didn´t say something about that. The woman at the service desk stated clearly, when we don´t have a ticket out of NZ then they are not taking us on this flight. She gave us 45 min and the direction to a travel agency. Room temperature equal to Zero; bloodpressure to the maximum.
We booked hastily a flight from Auckland to Sydney for a more or less suitable time. So, no Tahiti anymore 🙁
At least we could join this flight – temperatures at the plane: too low as always
At least Christchurch welcomed us with sunshine and about 22 °C.
So, what did we learn:
– First of all: do the booking yourself and don´t wait ages until a travel agency is doing something, even if they seem professional.
– Second – check and cross-check info even when it comes from a source that seems reliable