So to be there amongst the vineyards of wines we have drunk with friends and family was amazing. We decided to hire a tandem bike to sample some of the delights on offer. At first we were quite unsteady but as the glasses of wine were sipped we became more stable, or so we thought.
It was a long drive up but well worth it, with the landscape being considerably more lush. The first thing we did was to head up to a mountain to get a perspective of the landscape. We chose Roberts Peak, which was great fun and an awesome climb.
The next few days were fairly strange as I had booked myself up for a skydive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I’ll never forget the feeling of the plane door sliding open at 13,000ft, my first thought being ‘this isn’t normal’. Before I had time to process it, I was out the plane and accelerating towards the ground. Was it fear, was it excitement that I experienced? I’m still not sure, but after the first 10 seconds or so of screaming I relaxed and the feeling was like no other.
We hadn’t quite realised that the drive to get there would be so intense. It’s a 240 km round trip with no petrol stations in between.
The road was so steep and twisty and there was no one else around. We questioned ourselves if we should be here. Whilst driving amongst mammoth mountains we realised that there was loads of snow around, but upon closer inspection and with the break of dawn we realised they were in fact hundreds of waterfalls!
As if this wasn’t scary enough we arrived at Homer Tunnel a 1km long tunnel through a mountain only wide enough for one lane of traffic. As we sat at the traffic lights waiting a sign popped up giving us a countdown and told us to ensure our lights were on.
Then we were off into what I can only describe as a steep downhill rollercoaster. There was water dripping from the ceiling and the tunnel looked like it was literally chipped out the rock. I was thankful when we got through to the other side.
Unfortunately due to the high volume of rain, that had seen people being evacuated from the mountains, our kayak trip was cancelled after a quick paddle out. Some things just aren’t meant to be and we definitely felt like Milford Sound did not want anyone there that day.
Next up was the highest peak in New Zealand, Mount Cook. He was definitely playing games on the drive there, hiding behind the clouds, but we did catch a few glimpses of the giant.
The next day we went out on the Hooker Valley walk, winding our way amongst the mountains and across swing bridges. Every so often you would hear a huge rumble of an avalanche in the distance – a stark reminder of nature.
The view at Hooker Lake was amazing, there before us was the a huge Glacier and icebergs, yes icebergs floating in the lake. It was breathtaking and so mesmerising, at times it felt like a polar bear or penguin might appear alongside the bergs.
One thing that we always hoped to do before visiting New Zealand was to walk to one of the huts and stay a night. Once our bags were packed with food supplies and warm clothes we started the 3 hour walk to Meg’s Hut.
The walk was challenging at times but I think that’s because our legs were still aching from Roy’s Peak two days earlier. Finally in the distance the little hut appeared and our pace picked up speed as we got closer.
We opened the door to find that we were the only ones there for the night, it was exciting. Unfortunately however we had forgotten to pack matches to light a fire and realised that we were in for a cold one.
Then suddenly whilst lay in the bunk beds getting used to our new surroundings we both heard a few crackles. We rushed to the fire place and saw that there were embers still glowing from the previous night. Edd managed to get the fire roaring and we frantically spent the last hour of daylight collecting wood to keep us warm as darkness descended.
It was quite an eerie but amazing experience being totally alone in the middle of the wilderness. I can’t say it was the best nights sleep but it was definitely an experience I am glad that we did together.
We couldn’t wait to get to Arrowtown to see the autumn colours and for a shower, Edd said we stunk after a night in the Hut, not being able to smell sometimes has its advantages. It was so lovely to walk around the little town with the colourful leaves crunching beneath our feet.
The road to Glenorchy was windy and had amazing views, we were in Lord of the Rings country now. The drive is quiet, punctuated only by the odd near death experience as apparent maniacs fly by on the other side of the road.
Later that day we had our first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier, which was unreal. It was amazing to walk towards the face of the glacier and look at this mass of ice.
That evening feeling pretty blown away by the days events we headed to Gillespies Beach to camp. We finally saw the magnificent Mount Cook looming over the skyline, a sight that we won’t forget anytime soon.
We started out on the hike up to Roys peak early the next morning before dawn. It was quite a climb taking us 6 hours return. The views of the lake were just breathtaking in the early morning orange light, but I was getting alarmed at how much my fingers were starting to swell with every step we climbed.
We were so satisfied to reach the top, but I was also really happy to get back down,take my walking boots off and watch my fingers return to their normal size.
It was quite a shock for both of us landing into Auckland, the 36 degree days had been replaced with 16 degree days! Once we landed and found our hostel we headed for an explore of Auckland for the night.
The next day we took a four hour bus journey to visit some friends who live in Mount Maunganui. This was our first real insight into the landscape, which is extremely reminiscent of Wales, quite freaky at first.
Mount Maunganui was great fun, strolling on the beach and soaking in the hot pools, whilst catching up with friends. The next day we headed to a Gorge for a walk. But the weather had a different idea deciding that it was time we experienced a cyclone. We had a quick walk around the Gorge but our clothes were soaked through to our skin.
The next day we sat and patiently waited for the cyclone to hit, it was very wet and windy. We took a look at the beach and the waves were huge and messy and to our surprise there were people out surfing!
On our final morning the sun was out and we headed for a stroll up the ‘Mount’ before getting the bus back to Auckland, ready for our flight to Christchurch.
It was interesting walking around Christchurch, in places it was so evident that the devastating 2011 earthquake had taken place, there were buildings just empty and lots of brand new ones that were appearing in their place.
We used the couple of days here to get things in place ready for picking up our campervan. Trying to think of where to head first, where to stay and easy meals that could be cooked on a camping stove.
It finally felt like we could now explore and start our road trip!
So here it goes:
> We have gone through over 2 litres of factor 50 suncream
> Seen 7 snakes between us
> Spent endless hours sunbaking on beaches
> Drank a ridiculous amount of coffee – Australia knows how to make a good cup!
> Taken 14 bus journeys some over 12 hours in length!
> Found our new favourite beer
> Realised the importance of surrounding yourself with people that make you feel good
> Surfed countless right hand point breaks
> Encountered a thunderstorm that shook the whole house and defeaned us
> Travelled over 7000km
> Broken or lost 3 pairs of sunglasses
> Seen Red Back and White Tail spiders.
> Drove our first Landcruiser
> Learnt some Aussie slang – far out!
> Fed cockatoos
> Narrowly avoided a tropical cyclone
> Met and made friends with people from all over the world.
The list could go on and on, words simpler can’t describe our feelings and love towards this place. Our time down under has been filled with exploring new places, meeting new people and heaps of laughter – it’s been amazing.
We leave Australia with a different outlook on life. The vastness of the landscape and attitude of the people has offered us a new perspective. Our appreciation for the small things that make us happy is stronger than ever and we will never be scared to chase our dreams.
We will definitely be back soon.