Weeks 44 to 46 of our trip
09.01.2010 - 29.01.2010 25 °C
After our relaxing week in Byron Bay we have launched ourselves into New Zealand, spending the first few weeks on South Island, the land of hills, hikes and hobbits. The Fiordland offered some fantastic hiking and stunning glaciers, whilst the Marlborough region is full of beautiful beaches and a ready supply of excellent wine. We have been travelling around in a wee campervan which has quickly become our home, allowing us to unpack, settle in and never be more than 2 feet from our teabags or chili sauce. It's definitely the way to travel!
View from the Routeburn Track
The campervan on the West Coast
A camping feast on the Abel Tasman trail
The great New Zealand wilderness
Hiking - or tramping as it is called here - is easily accessible thanks to the wonderful work of the Department of Conservation (DOC) and arguably some of the best in the world. The DOC maintain a very popular network of Great Walks, with basic huts and campsites en route. We walked three of these in South Island, thoroughly enjoying the chance to be outdoors in such special places and being blessed with good weather. South Island includes the third wettest place in the world, so to not use your raincoat for four days in a row is nothing short of a miracle!
We started with the Kepler Track, which starts near Te Anau and circles through Alpine scenery. We stayed in huts on this trip, meeting some lovely people and getting to compare camping cooking recipes each night as we made our pasta feasts. The views as we snaked along a high alpine crossing were spectacular and could only be topped by the feeling of diving into the beautiful lake we stayed beside on the last night and getting to wash away three days of hard work!
Morning reflections on the lakes
Our second walk was a combination of the Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks, a rather more remote route offering one of the best views of the trip so far. We had several long days on this trek, but the views definitely made up for the hard work. Sandflies made a few appearances on the trail; these are pesky little creatures that can spot an inch of bare flesh from miles off and zoom in on the victim.
Our final trek on South Island was through Abel Tasman National Park and was quite different walking along a gentle coastal track, with views across deserted golden beaches edged by rainforest. Camping on the shore was a delight – and included a night time encounter with a possum trying to eat his way into our tent! Its a one-way hike so we took a water-taxi back to the start and got a chance to survey all that we had walked.
A sea dip after a day's walking
Driving around South Island
Between these treks we have toured some of the highlights of South Island, following a well-worn path of many other campervans. Every second car here is a camper! Whilst in the Fiordland National Park, we visited Milford Sound, where the sharp mountainsides descend straight into the sea. On the West Coast we spent a day around the Fox and Frans Joseph Glaciers, where glaciers descend into the subtropical zone so ice is beside the jungle. Set against a misty day, these looked very atmospheric.
From beautiful ice shapes to the weird pillars of Pueneraki Rocks (stacks of rocks that look like pancakes) and the Moueraki Boulders (perfectly round boulders littered on the beach) both of which are unexplained geological marvels – its reassuring to know that there are still things out there that we can't explain.
Balancing on a Moueraki Boulder
We have also encountered some of the local wildlife, hearing the call of the shy kiwi, watching rare yellow-eyed penguins and spotting seals. I was spell-bound watching the antics of the baby seals – trying to convince Rowan that one could fit in my rucksack!
Yellow-eyed penguins on the Caitlins Coast
Life in our campervan
We have hired a small campervan for our time here which has quickly become home. Perfectly compact, with everything in its allocated space, its a real pleasure to live in. We are eating and drinking exceptionally well here, and our wee two burner gas stove has seen some culinary masterpieces accompanied by a lengthy wine list. Life is definitely good.
Our van and kitchen area
Three weeks on South Island has given us a chance to taste some of the highlights that are on offer here, but we could spend months discovering the many trails and huts that take you into the stunning wilderness. The landscape continues to amaze me, with such variety between the different habitats, and the work of the Department of Conservation is inspiring. We have also had the chance to catch up with friends from when I was here previously. Its been a really special few weeks.
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