It’s been awhile! A mix of last-minute essays, packing, and the South Island itself have kept me from you, and I’m sorry. But now, I’m back!
As was to be expected, the South Island trip was fantastic. We traveled for two weeks straight, and covered almost the entire island (minus the northern tip – for another adventure!), starting and finishing in Christchurch. I took nearly 900 photos, so please bear with me as I attempt to post the ones that best describe our adventures.
You’d be surprised how much day-to-day journaling helps! Although everything we did was memorable, I found that if I didn’t write things down, even after a few days, everything began to melt together. Here’s my best attempt!
We began our journey in Christchurch, and wove our way through the hills to Banks Peninsula where we stopped off at a local cheese maker and went to the beach. After a bit of working our way along the east coast, we reached Akaroa, a beautiful town on the coast.
I’ve never seen the Pacific ocean from anything but an airplane (a bit sad for someone studying oceanography, I’d say), so as soon as we pulled over, I ran into the Pacific. Keep in mind, it’s winter down here! Don’t worry, my adrenaline kept me warm!
Over the next few days, we made our way south along the coast, hitting towns such as Ashburton, Timaru, Waimate, and Oamaru. In Oamaru, we saw blue penguins, the smallest species of penguin, and is only found in this area of the world. A bit farther south, we ventured along the beach to see the Moeraki boulders, perfectly round geological anomalies, approximately 5 feet in diameter.
As we made our way west towards Queenstown, we ice curled at an indoor rink in Naseby. I think we all gained a bit more respect for professional curlers! Onwards to Queenstown, where we went up the Gondola (more or less a cable car up the side of a mountain) and went luging at the top. Queenstown, affectionately named The Adventure Capital of the World, has so much to offer – from skydiving to paragliding to luging to skiing to rafting to helicopter rides to speedboating to bungee jumping to base jumping. Neither ourselves nor our pocketbooks were adventurous enough to try everything, although skydiving is definitely still on my bucket list!
We drove down to Te Anau, a sleepy little down on a lovely lake. From here, a kayaking company picked us up and drove us three hours through a mountain pass to reach Milford Sound, arguably the most beautiful location on the planet. Although it is technically the ocean, it is so far inland that the waves have dissipated, making for a completely smooth and calm kayaking experience. An expanse of crystal clear blue water, surrounded by waterfalls and snow-peaked mountains – it really doesn’t get much better than that. It made me feel so dwarfed and insignificant among those mountains, but in a very calming way. We kayaked within the sound for nearly five hours, surrounded by seals and penguins, and whatever unseen creatures swam beneath us (there are dolphins and sharks and whales there, too!).
Next was Invercargill, one of the southern-most cities in the world. The entire community down there was very relaxed and kind, and the beach in the town of Bluff below was scattered with hulls of old ships, which was beautiful. We went to parks and a sheep’s milk cheese factory and a local brewery before we began to make our way back up to Te Anau and eventually Queenstown again.
We went north along the west coast (Tasman Sea), and stopped at Coronet Peak to ski, and eventually reached Wanaka, which is the home of Puzzling World, a fun museum that contains all sorts of mind-bending displays. Next were the glaciers! Fox and Franz Josef, to be precise. Close in location, but nestled in very different landscapes, and each very beautiful in their own respect. The experience of seeing the glaciers, as well as the Pacific, was similar to experiencing my first earthquake- I’ve read so much and learned so much about them, so to finally see one and jump in it and feel one (respectively) really puts a lot of things into perspective.
Seeing as it was one of our last nights together, we gathered on a secluded beach somewhere near Greymouth to watch the sunset. An appropriate [almost] ending to the perfect trip. We decided that Arthur’s Pass would have been too dangerous to take, seeing as we were getting snow and bad weather even at lower elevations. Going through it would have been too treacherous, especially with our gigantic RVs. We took Route 7 instead, which (rather conveniently), brought us to Hanmer Springs, a collection of natural hot springs and sulfur pools that are utterly delightful to bask in. Before we knew it, we were back in Christchurch, and our trip was drawing to a close.
I’ve decided that I want to start collecting sea water from around the world. As of now, I have the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. When I get home, I will get the Atlantic, and hopefully my lovely friends from Europe can send me some North Sea water (it counts, because I’ve been there, but hadn’t yet started collecting!)
About half of the time we parked on the side of the road to camp, and the other half was spent in RV parks, which were great for stocking up on water, taking showers, and defrosting ourselves!
I learned something about myself on this trip- I am very motherly. Not that I hadn’t noticed it before, but it came out full-force on this trip. Kayaking began with me sunscreen-sticking everyone’s face, ranging from age 19-27. One of the guys on the trip spends every second of everyday either climbing, or planning what to climb next- which is a scary thing to witness, especially when we were constantly surrounded by rock cliffs and glaciers and chasms (gorges). I ended up devoting the rest of my trip to ensuring that he came home safe and unscathed, which I was successful in doing, aside from the occasional bandage and antibiotic cream. By the end of the trip, everyone referred to me as “Mum”. Be proud, Momma, be proud 🙂
Our two RVs became our homes-away-from home for the duration of the trip, whether we were sleeping, cooking, telling ghost stories, or playing gin in them. As happy as we were to be headed back to our warm, comfy beds in Palmerston North, we couldn’t help but feel a twang of sadness as we handed over the keys and gave one last tap to the hood.
I learned so much about New Zealand, the friends I went with, and ultimately, myself. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
South Island, until we meet again-