If the journey on the ferry was anything to go by then my God are we in for a treat on the South Island. Parts felt as if I was sailing in the Caribbean somewhere and at other times like travelling through the incredible Lake District.. all in one journey.. New Zealand you really are incredible!
Already the scenery was drastically different. Rugged rolling mountains masked the horizon beautifully, what a wonderful change!
Our first stop on this new paradise island was a place called Kaiteriteri, a beautiful seaside resort that apparently boasts some of the best year round weather New Zealand has to offer. It felt as if we had the place to ourselves, I’m sure that had something to do with the time of year but we weren’t complaining. The peace and tranquility of this place was just what the doctor ordered half way through this crazy exhausting Kiwi Bus Experience! We spent the day and the evening chilling by the crystal clear water, exploring some of the hidden beaches and just taking in the the sheer beauty of the place. What a perfect start to the South Island.
We left Kaiteriteri around midday the following day and headed to Nelson Lakes. A very famous lake for the incredible photos that can be taken here. Its enchanting from the moment you see it, surrounded by rugged peaks, forest and glacial lakes, its the beginning of the awe aspiring Southern Alps. A dock allows you to walk a little way out onto the lake and its here where the incredible photos begin. But for once its not actually just photos of the landscape, its time for the jumping pose to feature in the New Zealand posts. I’ll let the photos do the talking..
It was freezing, but we got that shot 🙂
The town of Westport is a bit of a strange place.. its the regions oldest town and boy is it!! Theres really not anything going on here, the town itself is tiny and full of people with mullet hair cuts. I guess that might be a bit harsh from me but I think people would agree! We gave the town a try in the evening but I think I entered the strangest bar I have ever been into in my life. We swiftly left the bar, and then the town..
This is one of the original stops from the first Kiwi Experience circuits, however unfortunately for us the weather was against us all and it didn’t stop raining for our entire visit here. Because of this I saw very little of the place but apparently the sunsets from the beach, which is a two minute walk away from where we stay, are one of the main reasons Kiwi have travelled to this exact spot over all these years. Maybe ill experience that beach and see that sunset one day!
But for now all was not lost as Lake Mahinapua hosts the biggest Kiwi Experience party of the tour. Always fancy dress, always big, always messy and always prizes – that really was something to look forward to. Our day leading up to our arrival in Lake Mahi was dedicated to fancy dress shopping. Our theme was to dress up as anything using the first letter of your first name. Not easy, Jesus, Joker, Jasmine.. the all went through my head, I finally decided on jellyfish and headed to the shop to find my outfit. Pretty happy with my hand made effort, you can decide when you see it..
The rain was still falling, our next stop Franz Josef had to evacuate people the night before we arrived due to serious flooding. Thankfully where we were staying was unaffected by the rain, even if it was called the Rainforest Retreat, so our journey continued with no hiccups. Franz Josef is named after the huge Glacier just outside the town. There are many expensive tours to see the glacier, from helicopter flights over the top of it to guided walks right on the ice. Jenny and i opted for the free option which was to walk from town to the bottom of the glacier. We got so much closer than I expected, we even came across a chunk of glacial ice, by which I mean easily the size of a 4 bedroom house that we right up to.. who needs to walk on the ice anyway!!
Its quite incredible finding out about the dramatic environmental changes the glacier has gone through.. our Kiwi bus driver told us that it was predicted that the Glacier would not exist within 300 years, this has now changed and its a possibility that the glacier will be gone within my life time. How crazy is that, doesn’t that make you realise that global warming is real!!
The drive to Wanaka is stunning, one moment your driving through the rainforest and the next you are enclosed by the imposing Southern Alps – its seriously impressive! New Zealand will never stop blowing my mind. We arrived early at a spot called Lake Matheson, famous for the outstanding reflections of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. It was so early in the day that the clouds were still eerily lying on the ground, this made for amazing pictures away from the lake but any reflections were unfortunately masked. Annoyingly we had to use our imaginations (and other peoples pictures) to see the amazing view.. Maybe we can revisit on our way back up North.
What I took definitely isn’t ugly however the second one is what we were meant to see!!
We arrived into Wanaka in the afternoon and the weather was scorching.. we donned our summer clothes and headed down to Lake Wanaka, for a short walk around the water and then a relaxing few hours soaking up the sunshine! Perfectly wonderful!
The following day we had a couple of options before heading to our next destination. Some opted for ‘Puzzling World’, with optical illusion rooms and crazy mazes.. however Jen and I, who had recently made friends with two girls super into fitness talked us into doing a trek up Iron Mountain, dammit! It ended up actually being a nice walk, got the legs burning in places, but the views at the top made it all completely worth it..
Before we drive into Queenstown the Kiwi Bus stops at the famous Nevis Bungy for any crazy people that want to book to throw themselves of a ledge.. I was not one of these people..then I met Bella.. Lovely Bella wanted someone to do the Big Nevis Bungy with, she apparently caught me on a good day because I turned into one of those crazy people and agreed to do it with her. I always said Id rather jump out of a plane than do a bungy, well apparently I’m paying up and signing my name on the dotted line.
We arrive into Queenstown and its absolutely beautiful. The small town sits right on the shore of the stunning Lake Wakatipu, in the back drop stands the Remarkables mountain range, which in a few months will be one of the ski slopes near town. The roads in town are lined with shops, restaurants, bars and adventure stores, plenty to keep us occupied..
So its here where we catch up with our whole Kiwi squad.. this is the location of the big reunion! It was so good to see everyone, we’ve become so close over this past month, to hang out with everyone again for the next few days will be amazing.. There will be a lot of going out, a lot of brunches and a lot of laughing.. its going to be wonderful!
Our first evening in this beautiful place was spent having a huge family dinner at a pub called Red Rock. This is a Kiwi bus tradition and will do this for every new bus that comes into town.. It felt like a great welcome. Our drivers who we came to love and have such a laugh with then set us up with a huge treasure hunt around town. We had to get pictures with specific things, in specific places and with specific things off. These pictures will honestly tell a thousand words..
Right in the heart of Queenstown is the Skyline gondala that takes you up to the top of Bobs Peak where an abundance of activities lay in wait. Anything from off road mountain biking, to paragliding off the top, to a quiet drink in the restaurant. As a group we opted for the exciting luge ride.. The views from up there are incredible, the weather was perfect and then the race was ON!! It was so much fun, charging around the bends in our own little go carts.. Ending with no calamities (well all accept for myself, I managed to whack myself under my eye with my go pro.. They did tell me not to film – I’ll never learn) we rewarded ourselves with a beer in the impressive bar overlooking the town beneath us!
We amused ourselves for half a day in an indoor laser tag.. We all turned into kids, maybe even brothers and sisters the way we were fighting… I loved every second of it.. The laughter never ended.. Well it did when Megan ‘the calamity’ Knibbs fell over and put a hole in her knee.. Who knew she would end up needing surgery, maybe we wouldn’t of laughed quite so much 😉 love ya megs!!
Another evening was a spent on a pub crawl organised by our hostel. A huge crawl around all main bars in town.. Still being new to the place and not being able to say no to a pub crawl the whole crew signed up! One of the most memorable parts of the night was the ice bar, I’ve never been to one before so it was a pretty cool (excuse the pun) experience. We donned our warm gear and headed into the ice for a drink and a thousand photographs..
There were some we just weren’t ready to say goodbye to yet so decided to continue of the Kiwi bus with them for two more stops before heading back to Queenstown and settling for the next couple of months.
Heading back up north now were on our way to Lake Tekapo with a completely different bus group, a very strange feeling.. But with a handful of our favourites we were looking forward to what was to come.
So I thought that Queenstown was small, then we pulled into the village of Tekapo, which is honestly just one road with very little going on.. We stayed in a lodge which sat on the shore of the lake. I think this may be one of the most beautiful locations I have ever been to. With incredible views out over the still water and huge mountains as a backdrop it was like a dream destination.
A short walk away from where we were staying is the most photographed spot in the country – The Church Of The Good Shepard. I don’t think my words will do this place justice.. Ill let the pictures do the talking!
We spent the day chilling by the water, playing cards and chatting away the hours.. There’s me above, pondering my thoughts 😉 what a place!
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and the second largest in New Zealand, but in 2011 it suffered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that devastated the city. 5 years later the affects of the earthquake are still hugely evident and apparently some residents now call it the ‘Donut city’ due to its empty core! I really felt that from the moment we were there. There is no love, no atmosphere or anything going on, I couldnt believe it was actually a city! Its a bizarre feeling walking around and hardly seeing another person. One beautiful area is Hagley park, the worlds thirds largest city park. A beautiful river borders the edge of the park, while stunning gardens are dotted around with incredible flowers and trees growing. We took a walk around here both days as honestly there is not much else on offer. Its very sad to see how bad the earthquake affected the city and everyone around it, but its a real puzzle to me why more hasn’t been done about getting it back to how it once was! I can imagine, back in the day, it was a very cool place to live!!
Before we knew it it was time to say goodbye to the final few of our Kiwi Squad and for us to head back down South to what was going to be our new home, Queenstown. What better way to say goodbye to everyone than a final supper!!
What an incredible journey, with incredible people, in an incredible place.. New Zealand you have absolutely blown us all away.. We’ve all come away with one quote and I feel there’s no better way to end this than ..
“WERE HAVING THE BEST TIME” – Kiwi Crew 2016