Go to Stewart Island they said, see a kiwi they said

So here I am on Stewart Island too bloody tired to do anything never mind hunt a Kiwi! A long day stuck on the bus has ensured that I have no energy to appreciate my awesome surroundings. I took the Stray bus from Gunn’s Camp at 8am & now it’s late evening post an 8 hour bus journey, wait around in Invercargill (which isn’t as bad as people say) & 1 hour boat trip.
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As soon as I set foot on Stewart Island I knew instantly I would like it. I am convinced there are places that instantly make your heart beat more contently. The water was clear, the sun was shining & the air was fresh & cool. There was even a blue tinge to the bright beaming white sky, but that may have just been the rain preparing to come. The rain came before I even collected my bag from the collection point.
I will force myself to go for a quick explore while I can still keep my eyes open! I’m looking forward to my amazing nights sleep & maybe a cold beer if I can convince myself that I won’t fall asleep during it!
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The Incredible Milford Sound

Bright & early the Stray bus et al bid a fond farewell to Queenstown & ventured to the deep south bound for Milford Sound! I have looked in awe at the pictures I have seen of Milford Sound. It looks unbelievable & I can’t my luck that I’m going. Milford Sound was discovered by Captain John Grono in c.1812 after years of being overlooked from the sea as nothing significant. See folks, you can’t judge a book & all that!

Enter dark clouds & rain.

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As we approached the fiordlands the rain was getting heavier. Our driver kept pointing out the waterfalls, trying to lift the mood by saying on the bluebird day he went he didn’t see any waterfalls – how disappointing for him….

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Although what did I expect, it is one of the wettest places in the world, & the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. I thought I had my quota of crap weather days throughout my trip, I wanted the luck of the Irish to help me with this one. Unfortunately the odds were against me, even in the height of the summer, it rains around 180 days per year here.

I took a boat tour around the fiords but was it wasn’t especially good. I felt like cattle herded on to the boat, certainly not an authentic experience. I got really fed up being pushed around by other people trying to get the best picture of a fog covered mountain & waterfalls. The rainfall certainly ensured there were plenty of waterfalls for people to take pictures of & never look at again. Bitter?? ME???!

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I was genuinely disappointed with the weather. This was one of the sights I was most eager to see & fully expecting to be awestruck. I felt cheated. I know I’m being dramatic, but I had taken the previous cancellations of activities & poor weather in my stride. Now this dark cloud felt like a taunting joke. I was upbeat with my friends but upset with the weather, which I know is silly because I can’t control it, but I so badly wanted it to be perfect.

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There are numerous boat tours you can take around Milford Sound. The one I did was average & nothing special. If you know your dates & can book in advance I would recommend booking via the Book Me* website for a considerable discount. There are several tour companies operating in Milford Sound, I expect the tours to be much the same. Please google pictures of Milford Sound so you can appreciate it in all its splendour – don’t use my pictures as a reference point to decide whether to visit. I hope you get better weather!

*Book Me

http://www.bookme.nz

An afternoon in Queenstown

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Incredible views of The Remarkables over Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown is stunningly beautiful. I fell in love with it instantly. With a seemingly endless amount of activities & enough bars, shops, restaurants & ice cream parlours to keep you entertained – all while basking in incredible scenery.

There is a great social atmosphere around Queenstown. I kept bumping into friends from Wellington, my Stray bus & random people I met along the way.

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Mirror Lake at Queenstown Gardens

The Lake Wakatipu shoreline walk around the Queenstown Gardens* is beautiful. You can also play frisbee golf here, it’s a laugh. Afterwards we got a great Thai takeaway, a few ciders & chilled out in a park enjoying the good weather & company. Bliss.

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*Queenstown Gardens

http://www.qldc.govt.nz/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-walkways/queenstown-lakes-district-parks-and-reserves/queenstown-gardens/

 

 

Wanaka

The next stop after Franz Josef was Wanaka! My friends have spoken to me about Wanaka before & you can tell from their facial expressions that they just adore it. The bus drive was 8 hours of nothing much as it rained for the duration.

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I hear it’s beautiful when you can see the mountains….

Wanaka is a picturesque resort town with a relaxed, cool atmosphere. It has plenty of cute shops, bars & restaurants. My friends are planning to move here in the Winter to do a ski season & I know they’ll have a great life here. I’m tempted to join them….

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Beautiful Lake Wanaka on a drizzly, cloudy day

We stayed at Base Backpackers* in Wanaka. Our room had about 4 plugs for 8 people & no floorspace once us & our bags were crammed in. The kitchen for the whole hostel was also quite small & difficult to cook in because there were so many people. My room was above the bar/club & the music was pumping out of it when we were getting ready for bed, even with the window shut. I would not stay here again.

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Hitching again

The next day there wasn’t enough room on the Stray bus so myself & another girl hitch hiked to Queenstown. We got picked up within 15 minutes by two fun & friendly kiwi girls. They were a laugh & the drive took around an hour. They were showing us their new tattoos they got the day before – this girl REALLY likes avocados!

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Meet Arthur the Avocado!

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The road from Wanaka to Queenstown

*Base Backpackers Wanaka

http://stayatbase.com/hostels/new-zealand-hostels/base-wanaka

Pancakes Rock!!!

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

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After an uneventful night in Westport, this is our first stop on the Stray bus on our way to Franz Josef. There is an easy & scenic (who am I kidding, all of New Zealand is scenic) 15 minute loop walk around the Pancake Rocks.

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These rocks were formed on the seabed 30 million years ago & raised to the surface as a result of seismic activity. The layering effect is due to sediments of rock, clay, mud, marine creatures, plants, limestone & incredibly high pressure. To be honest I still have no idea how they were created & the information boards along the walkway didn’t help in explaining (for me anyway!). The walkway winds around these ancient structures giving you great views & details of the unique formations.

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Apparently when it’s high tide the waves crash into the rock formations & water blasts through the ‘blowholes’ making the whole thing look damn awesome! We didn’t get the weather for this & resorted to viewing the postcards in the gift shop to see the full effect.

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Yes, I obviously did crave pancakes after this stop. I can’t tell whether it was because the rock formations looked like pancakes or the amount of times I heard the word ‘pancake’ during this stop. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) I only noticed the sign for pancakes at the cafe once the bus was ready to leave. No pancakes for me. That evening I did create the amazing combination of Nutella on crumpets in homage to the pancakes I wished for yet never attained. I highly recommend this almighty pairing & taste sensation!

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Too late, I’m already on the bus

*Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/places/paparoa-national-park/punakaiki-pancake-rocks-and-blowholes/

Cape Foulwind

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I’m back on a Stray bus & clearly buzzing from my skydive! My new travel companions seem lovely & friendly. We are driving toward Westport on the West Coast of the South Island overlooking the Tasman Sea. We stopped off at Cape Foulwind* & did the short 30 minute walk along the coast. Very picturesque but actually it was smelling rather disgusting by the seal colony. I didn’t last long admiring the seals, I couldn’t endure the stench! Stinky!

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I have since spoke to other friends who visited Cape Foulwind & they thought it didn’t smell too bad – Maybe it varies day to day? Maybe I caught the seals on a bad day? Maybe they had a massive night the night before & hadn’t pulled themselves together yet?? Either way, it is a pleasant stop when driving along the coastline & a nice chance to stretch your legs – you can even treat yourself to an ice cream at the car park!

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*Cape Foulwind Walkway

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/west-coast/places/cape-foulwind-area/things-to-do/tracks/cape-foulwind-walkway/

Hitch hiking in New Zealand

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I hitchhiked from Takaka to Motueka a little late in the evening. It was a quiet road yet I got collected within 30 minutes by 2 middle aged couples who passed me then returned a minute later to collect me due to an increasing waive of pity for me. They were lovely people with fantastic insider tips for me & always appreciated book recommendations. We were quite a mix with an American, a Swiss, a German, a French & an Irish.
I love how welcoming & open people are here. Hitch hiking is a great way to meet interesting people who you might not normally speak with. It also gives you faith in humanity as people go out of their way to help you.
I debated amongst friends as to hitch hike or not. The outcome was for me to search all the horrific stories & make an educated decision after knowing the harrowing facts. In New Zealand there are known cases of people being murdered whilst hitch hiking. It is predominately safe, but there is always a risk. I decided to go with my gut instinct & if I didn’t get a good impression of someone I would decline the ride.
I got to Motueka & quickly settled in & set my alarm for 6am. I was so busy all day I didn’t have time to contemplate the sky dive I booked for tomorrow morning. I was so excited but exhausted from my fun packed day & fell asleep quickly looking forward to being picked up at 6.45am for the experience of a lifetime!!!

A fragment of paradise

Next stop: Wharakiki beach* – the most idyllic paradisiac hideaway.
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We parked up at Wharariki Beach Holiday Park** palpably excited for our next expedition. We meandered over grassy hills following a quaint winding path & passing over cute styes for 10 minutes before a sandy climb to paradise.
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It was a stunning & cruel winy afternoon with the sand blasting our bare legs, but this added to the ambience. The beach was almost empty & the scenery was breathtaking. We all knew we were in a very special place & instantly valued & fully appreciated how lucky we were to be in the presence of New Zealand.
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I grew up on the stunning Irish Coastline, I am very fortunate & have been to many beaches around the world. I’m not saying I’m the beach connoisseur, I can be difficult to impress. Notably special are the beaches at home, in Thailand, Ecuador, & this beauty.
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I’m falling a little deeper in love with you, New Zealand.
*Wharariki Beach
**Wharariki Beach Holiday Park

The top of North of the South of New Zealand

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After Aorere goldfields we made our way up to Farewell Spit*. This is on the tip of Golden Bay. We went for a hike up Cape Farewell to take in the incredible views. I really wish I had more time to explore & do every hike in the area. It is astounding. I felt like I was on top of the world. Which was odd as I’m pretty much at the bottom of the world according to most maps. Although I guess perspective is dependent on the eye of the globe holder!
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Took me back to the Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare, Ireland

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Farewell Spit

 

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Pride rock?

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Old Man Range

The views were spectacular & my pictures do not do them justice – by a long shot!
I urge you to go!!!
*Farewell Spit

Roadtrippin with the guys

Today I bid my Stray bus & new pals farewell. I packed my bags & walked to the info point where my new wheels & pals turned up at precisely the same time as me. I hopped in, we put the tunes up, kicked back & cruised into the sunny day & basked in the views.
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We have no real plans, just cruising. This is the life.
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