From Doubtful Sound to a tearful farewell...
Hi again everyone and hope you're all ready for a bumper update this month as we're flying to Fiji on Sunday and don't know when we'll be online again!!
As previously mentioned, we'd booked an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, part of one of the most beautiful Fjordland areas in the world. We were lucky to get this trip, as it was only scheduled due to the boat which runs on the nearby Milford Sound breaking down!
As we crossed Lake Manapouri on our way to Doubtful Sound, the weather was extremely cold with sleet and snow (not unusual for this area - the 2nd wettest in the world by all accounts, getting around 9 metres of rainfall per year!!) and we wondered just how much of the Fjord we would actually get to see! Luckily, the weather improved as we went over the pass towards the Fjord and by the time we alighted our boat, the Fjordland Navigator, it was a calm and moody evening amongst the imposing mountains and deep waters of this ancient area. After exploring the fjord on the tendercraft, we settled in for the night as it began to snow outside.
We were both up and out on the deck by 6am, keen to see the sun rise over mountains as we headed out to the Tasman Sea. The snow had stopped and it was a beautifully clear morning, meaning that the scenery was even more stunning as snow-capped mountains came into view as night turned into day with the rising sun.
We stopped next to some huge rocks on the edge of the ocean to view a seal colony before sailing back along the length of the fjord. Rather than try to describe the scenery, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
Having been extremely lucky to get such great weather on this trip, we then headed back up to the Fox Glacier in the hope that we would be equally as lucky 2nd time around here, having had our first attempt to walk the glacier rained off.
Stopping overnight at Arrowtown, we continued north over a somewhat icey and treachurous Haast Pass to arrive in Fox, where we promptly booked the glacier walk for the following morning, having received a favourable weather report.
As predicted, it was a lovely sunny (and very cold) morning as we set off on a half-frozen bus to the base of the Fox Glacier, which was to be reached by foot. The conditions were very icy and we had to tackle some interesting terrain in order to reach our goal, including 800 steps, a steel ladder up a boulder and some extremely narrow paths around cliff-faces (don't let go of the chain or look down!).
It was well worth the effort and potential broken bones once we set foot on the glacier though. Amazing aqua-blue ice surrounded us which was shiny, smooth and had formed into the most wonderful shapes imaginable. A team of diggers had been on the ice at 6am to maintain the steps in the ice which helped us negotiate ridges and visit the center of the glacier where ice caves, tunnels and other amazing sights awaited.
After these two rather expensive excursions, we decided to once again base ourselves in Arrowtown for a week in order to get our finances back in order. Arrowtown is a lovely little place and good for local walks with some great views of The Remarkables mountain range and Lake Hayes.
Speaking of Lake Hayes, we got lucky when we left the lights on the car and went for a 3 hour walk, returning to find poor Sharona's battery as flat as a pancake. No, that's not the lucky bit! 10 mins after making this discovery and a spectacularly unsuccessful push-start, along came a lovely Kiwi couple in a big 4x4 with a tow bar and rope which were used to great effect to give Sharona a 'pull-start'! We said 'thank you very much' with Roses by leaving a box under their windscreen wipers as they walked the lake!
We then decided to cross the south island to visit Dunedin, a town with heavy Scottish influence in the south-east of the island.
The number one attraction here was, of course, the Cadbury Factory Tour, where we gained an interesting insight into the processes involved in making our favourite brands, as well as a few local specialities, in addition to lots of free goodies which always goes down well!
With no time to waste, we then drove further north along the east coast in order to get to Christchurch for the weekend, where we had tickets to watch the famous All Blacks play Italy, courtesy of Natasha for Richard's birthday!
Along the way, we stopped at the Moeraki Boulders - huge spherical rocks formed on the beach by time, pressure and local geology. They were once part of the cliff face which has now eroded some distance from these impressive stones.
Arriving in Christchurch on an extremely cold but mercifully dry evening, we walked from our hostel down to the Westpac Stadium in excited anticipation of seeing the All Blacks and their famous 'haka'.
We had some great seats behind the posts for the game as our thermals and hot coffee kept us warm inside and out!
The Italians looked a little concerned after watching the 'haka' (their anxious faces illuminated on the giant video screen for the gloating Kiwis to mock) and as soon as the All Blacks scored a try, they never looked like they believed they could get into the game.
New Zealand ran out comfortable 27-6 victors, much to the delight of the majority of the crowd.
After this great experience, we headed north again - this time to the small town of Kaikoura, well-known in these parts for whale, seal and dolphin watching.
We explored the area on foot for a few days before getting a top tip from the manager of the hostel about a lesser-known waterfall and pool which serve as a nursery for baby seals when the ocean gets too rough.
This really was a special place, rarely do you see so many baby seals together in one place and they're extremely interested in people without being aggressive or territorial like their adult counterparts.
Take a look at this photo to see what we mean!
Look closely at the photo above, how many baby seals can you spot in the water?! It was packed!
Also while in Kaikoura, we had a New Zealand mid-winter Christmas Day (hey why not?!) and also sold the mighty Sharona the Corona!
Having been given a top tip about a website to advertise the car on, we had around 10 people lined up in Christchurch to view here. As luck would have it, a family drove to Kaikoura and offered us $1000 which we gladly accepted, having paid $1400 for her 3 months ago.
We were however sad to see Sharona drive off with her new owner, as she was a great little car to share our adventures with!
With the Fiji fund now looking healthy, we caught the trans-coastal express train down to Christchurch, passing some lovely scenery without having to keep an eye out for those crazy Kiwi drivers!
Which brings us up to present day. We've been relaxing in Christchurch for the last week or so, taking in the local sights. It's a lovely city - the cathedral, arts centre, art gallery, botanical gardens and Rivon Avon are all lovely.
We caught an excellent improvised comedy night at the Court Theatre called 'Scared Scriptless', which was loosely based on the TV show 'Whose Line is it Anyway'. It was so good that we plan to go again this weekend!
All we need to do now is fit everything back into our rucksacks and we're ready for the sun, sea and sand of Fiji!
We're missing you all and hope to hear from you soon. Keep in touch!