zaterdag 8 januari 2011

Fox to Queenstown

Ok, back on a high- the blog's title may start to be making sense now, eh?

We woke up the day after the last entry to sweet sunshine, and even though we had a few showers, by the time we got up to Fox glacier it was dry and sunny, but with enough clouds to keep most of the glacier's surroundings blanketed in mystery. It made for spectacular views and a great walk up to the glacier, and some pretty dramatic scenery once on the glacier. Our guide was a Nepalese man who spoke with the heaviest Kiwi accent you can imagine (with some Nepalese left in some pronunciation, which made some of his anecdotes hard to follow, resulting in the smile-and-nod tactic on our -and most of the group's- part), but he was the life and soul of the arctic and very popular amongst colleagues, he got an offer for after work beers every time we ran into another group- we gather he was also a god drinking buddy :)He offered Daniel 10 beers if he took a dip in one of the glacier pools (an electric blue crevice that had no bottom as far as I could tell), which was declined much to the group's disappointment.

After the glacier we jumped in our van and shot over to Lake Matheson, which has incredible views of Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and the mountains surrounding them. It was a great walk- an ethereal forest, which we caught at the most beautiful time- just when the light was low and golden.

The next morning we started out for Queenstown, passing through Mt Aspiring National Park and then the Haast Pass, both of which were just one breathtaking view after another. There is no country like this one- it HAS to be the most beautiful place on earth. Neither of us can imagine there is anywhere that is this diverse, this spectacular... Watch out, we might just emigrate :)
We're now in Queenstown, which is the epicentere of any sport that is life-threatening and nervewrecking. If you can come up with an outdoor activity that involves putting your life on the line and getting your adrenaline PUMPING, you can make it big here... SO we're off to try something of the sort. We'll check into the blog again once we have our feet safely back on the ground!

woensdag 5 januari 2011

Abel Tasman National Park

We spent a few days in Wellington recharging in the new year before heading back out on the road. It's a great city, it reminded me a lot of San Francisco so nothing wrong there :) The weather was fine (apparently quite unusual for 'Windy Welly' where it rains quite a bit), and it was extremely quiet everywhere as it was the weekend of New Years and then the aftermath. We pretty much had the city to ourselves (that is, compared to Japanese standards... NZ has an entirely different defintion of 'busy'), and the shops were closed so it was great for budgeting. We ended up spending almost 2 full days in Te Papa, NZ's national museum (roughly translated as Our Place), which was absolutely fantastic. It is the biggest museum either of us have ever been to, and we spent time learning about everything from NZ's bush animals to a giant squid to Maori lore to NZ's finest in photography. Every time we turned a corner there was another wing, it was pretty incredible...

We left on the ferry at night and crossed over to Picton on the South Island, where the next day we headed out towards ABel Tasman National Park, on the southern tip of the South Island. We'd already done our walking trail, so we decided we would opt for a different mode of transport- sea kayaking! Neither of us had ever done it before, and after my own experiences being mainly in rivers that had little water (and thus resulting in less kayaking and more running after kayak), I was ready to find out what kayaking in real water was like. We were briefed for an hour, learning all sorts of safety manouveres which had us all floudering about on the grass beside our kayak on dry ground, pretending to have capsized (I'm imagining this must have looked pretty funny, but the teacher kept telling us we looked really cool. Yeah.) before we were taken out to sea and left to our own devices. We found out we are pretty good at tandem kayaking- we didn't fight once, and we both had a map so there was no way we could go wrong there. It was wonderful. We were given the run of a few miles of coastline, including two islands. The difference between tides is so huge (up to 6 km) that the whole bay looked completely different on our way back as numerous beaches had appeared all over the place. The water was extremely clear and full of really pretty (and non-stinging, I found out after sitting on one- phew) jellyfish. We saw all sorts of birds swooping in and out of the dense bush on the coast and the water, and eventually we ran into a seal colony which was FANTASTIC. I've never been up close (like, 10 meters close) to a seal in it's natural habitat- it was amazing! One even followed us for a little while, diving under our kayak and coming up on the other side. Magic!

From there we made a long stretch to Fox Glacier, down on the western coastline. We had planned a guided tour up the galcier (with cramp-ons and pickaxes and everything!!) for today, but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and we have been looking at grey, steady, horizontal rain all day. Bummer. We have rebooked our trip tomorrow, so we hope that by the next time we hit the blog we will have lots of hair-raising icy adventures to tell you... But until then, adieu. We shall retire back into our hobbit van.

Tongariro National Park

So, here it is- our stunning walk over Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of NZ's many and most beautiful walks. Also, it is the backdrop to many a scene in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Mt Doom is the mountain covered in snow. We started at 7:30am, and it took us a full day. But enough jabber, let's let the photos do the talking already....