NZ Week 7: Volcanoes, Snow and Surf

Our first true impression back in the north island – after a quick visit to Wellington – was the snow capped volcanoes! 

Driving towards these beasts was like nothing else we’ve experienced, quite bizarre knowing that one could go off at any moment too. 

There had been a fresh dump of snow the night before we arrived. Walking out into it was pretty strange in May, knowing that back home it was summertime and everyone was probably out barbequeing. 

After a crazy drive on the ‘Forgetten Highway’, with our fuel running eye-wateringly low, we arrived into Taranaki. 

This volcano was the most striking for us as the surrounding landscape is so low lying. Sleeping on the side of it felt truly weird. 

The next day it was time for a walk and we climbed up one of the surrounding mountains for a closer view of the volcano, it was awesome and huge! 

Next on our route was Raglan, a place I have wanted to visit ever since watching the Endless Summer. It turned out to be one of our favourite places in NZ, reminding us very much of Byron Bay, proper chilled. 

One of the crazy things about this area of the country is the black sand, it certainly gives the beaches a different feel. 

It was a super fulfilling week back on the North Island that’s for sure. 


NZ Week 6: Sipping Wine and Marlbourgh Sounds 

One of my favourite pleasures is enjoying a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc made in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. 

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 amazing cycling through the vines, sitting in the sun enjoying the wine and eating cheese with my favourite person, what more could a girl want.

The next morning our heads were surprisingly okay and we headed into the breathtaking area of the Marlborough Sounds.

Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We camped right next to Sound which was beautiful, watching the fan tails fly around, dancing with each other.

Finally the weather changed and we walked to a local bay, after all the rain there were slips everywhere and the water had taken on a brown murky tinge.

It was a lovely final setting to round off our time on the South Island, all that faced us now was a ferry crossing of the Cook Strait, which was rocky to say the least. 

NZ Week 5: Nelson Lakes and Skydiving 

We’d spent several weeks down South and it was a welcome change of scenery to arrive into Nelson Lakes National Park.

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. 

It has now been several weeks since I’ve done the skydive, and I still don’t know how to describe it or put it into words. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

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. 

Someone asked me in Australia what was one thing you have done that you would recommend everybody else to do. My answer now would be a skydive! 

NZ Week 4: Milford Sound – Catlins – Mount Cook

Whenever you look at pictures of New Zealand, usually Milford Sound springs up. This was an area we had earmarked as a must do. 

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. 

It was an early start to get to our 8am kayak  tour and it had rained heavily all night. Feeling groggy and with the rain still bucketing it down it was a slow drive in the dark. 

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.

The Catlins was a much more relaxing affair I am pleased to say. It was relieving to see the beach again and go for long strolls along the windswept coast collecting seashells.

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.

It was another great week in NZ with some highs and lows but it was memorable and a great experience.

NZ Week 3: Meg’s Hut – Arrowtown – Glenorchy 

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.

We passed through Queenstown quickly it was so busy and trying to find a parking space to explore was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

 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.

We camped for two nights along Lake Wakatipu waking to fresh snow on the top of the mountains, quite a sight and a reminder that winter was on the way.

Excited by the fresh powder we went for a three hour walk amongst the mountains to a day hut to take a closer look at the snowy peaks.

It had been an amazing week and one which fulfilled some of our pre-travel wanderlust.