Tuesday, April 15, 2008

South Island, New Zealand

Saturday November 24th, 2007 (Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass)

We arrived in Christchurch (CHC) around 2pm. We decided to change our reservations and not stay here; we instead looked around downtown for about an hour, and then headed to Arthur’s Pass to stay for the night (originally, we had pre-booked our first and last night in New Zealand only). The drive was nice; there were many nice scenic views and they were covered with interesting rock formations. This was also Kacey’s first time driving on the left, which went pretty well as I had been telling her points here and there throughout the trip thus far. We arrived at the Arthur’s Pass Alpine Motel around 7pm and got checked in to our little cottage. We drove in to "town" for dinner at the Wobbly Kea. It was pretty good, actually, and priced pretty well too, considering there is nothing in any directions for miles (or kilometers). The town consists of a DOC (Department of Conservation), a train station, a small general store, a couple places to eat, and a couple small motels. We got back to our cottage and surfed the web a bit to figure out where to stay the next night.

Pictures from Saturday can be found here.

Sunday November 25th, 2007 (Arthur’s Pass to Fox Glacier to Hari Hari)

Today we got up and hiked a trail in Arthur’s Pass National Park. We hiked to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It was fairly steep, but a well maintained and mostly graveled trail. We headed back to the car and got on the road toward the west coast. Again, the drive was pretty fun as these mountain pass roads are twisty and steep with great views. Even though the weather was light rain and overcast we still stopped for pictures along the way. We also got to experience the Kea bird for the first time. We stopped by the side of the road and we noticed a few of these birds that look like a distant cousin of a parakeet. After we got out to take in the view, the birds started jumping on top of the car like they wanted in. Then we a bird on a nearby rock eating a gasket, which seemed very strange. Then, we read the sign at the overlook which informed us that these birds have taken to eating rubber! This means that the birds were not trying to get into our car, they were eating the rubber from it! Once we reached the coast, we started the drive south along Highway 6. We stopped in Hokitika (map) for some quick lunch, petrol, cash (as there were possibly no ATMs south of town), and a view of the sea. It was a gray sand beach and the crashing of the waves put a mist in the air. We made it to Hari Hari and stopped to see if we could check in early at the Hari Hari Motor Inn and leave our suitcases. Sure enough we could and we did. Kacey also ran in the wool store in town and bought some beautifully dyed combed wool for her grandma to spin. We then headed toward Franz Josef Glacier for our first glacier experience.

We arrived in town and stopped for a few maps. These told us which hike to hit to really see the glacier. We took the Franz Josef Valley Walk which takes you as close as they will currently let you get unguided. With the overcast skies, you could not see all the way up the mountain, which made the glacier look like it was infinite. The walk was through the river beds that fill up during the summer when lots of ice starts melting. There was plenty of little water falls throughout the valley and the walls were very high up. After this walk, we headed south to Fox Glacier. We first went to the lookout for the glacier which was a walk through the rainforest for a not-so-big view of the glacier. We then drove over to the carpark for the hike up to Fox. It was trying to rain just a little so we were attempting to keep the cameras covered up. This walk also had plenty of signage to keep people away from the glacier but as we were very close to the glacier and the melting water river was far away, many people were going up to it anyway. We followed suit as we really wanted to touch it. We took some nice pictures and got going as the rain started to come down a little heavier. We looked funny with our little purple umbrella, but our heads and cameras were dry. We ate dinner in Fox Glacier at Café Neve which for the area was probably ok. We then drove back north to Franz Josef to try to find some dessert. There were more options, but the dessert was disappointing for the cost. We started the trek back to our hotel to get some rest.

Pictures from Sunday can be found here.

Monday November 26th, 2007 (Hari Hari to Nelson via 6)

We woke up and got on the road toward Greymouth. This is where we would stop for lunch and gas. We ate at Café 124, which was not too bad, just small portions. We searched for free wireless internet, but no luck. We then headed to Paparoa National Park. Along the way, we thought we spotted a whale off of the coast, but upon review of the pictures on the computer, it looks like it was probably a rock formation. We stopped at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. This was pretty neat and we took lots of pictures of water splashing and a few videos to hear the blowholes. We then drove straight through to Nelson and found a place to stay downtown. We ate at Stefano’s, an Italian place, which was not too bad, spent a couple minutes on the internet looking at places in Picton, then went back for some rest.

Pictures from Monday can be found here.

Tuesday November 27th, 2007 (Nelson to Motueka to Picton)

We woke up and got going to the northwest toward Motueka and Abel Tasman National Park. We drove over the mountain to arrive inside Abel Tasman NP and stopped to hike for a bit. We then realized that the main entrance and Visitor’s Center was north near Takaka and would have taken another hour and a half to reach it. We decided to just walk out to one lookout and then head out. It was a little disappointing to not get to hike more, but the views of the water were pretty nice. Abel Tasman is mostly known for ocean kayaking and boating, so there probably was not much more hiking had we headed north. We stopped in Mapua for some lunch at Café One (or something like that). Their salads were pretty good. We got on the road for the long haul towards Picton. Highway 6 between Picton and Havelock had some pretty nice views, along with several logging trucks. It is very noticeable as you view the mountain sides that logging is very heavy here. Many of the hills were bare and areas not bare were lined with “rows” of trees from replanting. We had noticed on the maps a side road from Havelock to Picton, but had not found much information on it. We saw what we thought to be that road, but without much information and wanting to stop in Blenheim for wine/olive oil/chocolate, we stayed on 6.

We arrived outside of Blenheim and started looking for signs. We searched for the information center in town, but could not find it. As it was getting late, we knew shops would start closing soon, so we hurried on in hopes to see some north of town. We found Annie’s Wine Room and Café and stopped in. We got there about 10 minutes before closing. We tasted a few local wines and one olive oil. I did not really care for their particular Rieslings, but Kacey found one red she liked. So, we picked up a bottle of red and a bottle of Omaka Springs Olive Oil and headed out. The woman there told us how to reach one other winery so we headed that way. We arrived there about 10 minutes before closing but unfortunately they had very little wine to try. There was only one that Kacey wanted to try, but she didn’t care for it and we moved on. On our way to the car, we saw down the road a chocolate shop, so we rushed over. To our luck, it was the one store we had read about to stop in; Makana Confections. We got there about 30 minutes before closing and had a look around. We bought some chocolate for us, parents, family, and a few friends and got moving once north once again on Highway 1 toward Picton. We arrived in town and it was somewhat smaller than we had imagined. We first stopped at our first choice of hotels, the Jasmine Court. They had a vacancy sign out front, so we knew we had a place to stay for the night. This place was pretty nice and we quickly did a load of laundry and headed to the Yacht Club for dinner. Do not eat at this place, it was quite disappointing. There was really no one else there and we waited 30 minutes for a poorly prepared dinner, part of which involved a microwave that we could see from where we were sitting. We headed back to the hotel, did a little web browsing and trip planning and went to bed.

Pictures from Tuesday can be found here.

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