We travelled to South Island of New Zealand for 11 days. It was a short but wonderful holiday for us. We had a great time and saw some spectacular sights.
- Day-1: We commenced our journey at
. We spent our first day getting organised in Christchurch . We hired a car there. Christchurch
- Day-2: Drove south to Twizel and
- Day-3: We continued southward via
to Cromwell and then on to Te Anau. Lindis Pass
- Day-4: Drove to Milford Sound and did an overnight cruise on the Sound.
- Day-5: Drove back via Te Anau to Queenstown, the thrill-seekers capital of
- Day-6: Drove to Wanaka, just a short drive from Queenstown.
- Day-7: Headed west and had a long drive to the Franz Josef Glacier town via Haast and Fox Glacier.
- Day-8: Undertook the all-day glacier-walk on the Franz Josef glacier.
- Day-9: Drove via Hokitika and Greymouth to Punakaiki.
- Day-10: Drove back to Greymouth, dropped off our rental car and caught the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurh.
- Day-11: Headed back to
The intention of this travelogue is to share some of our views on
At the outset we agree with the commonly held belief that God made
Aristotle once said, “Nature does nothing uselessly.” It seemed most apt after we saw
In general, we found the Kiwis to be extremely friendly genial and hospitable. They are extremely helpful people. They are also totally geared for tourism. Although there is ample evidence of tourism it is seldom “in your face”. Although the country is modern in every sense of the word, there is no rat race here. The Kiwis love their land and respect it. They appreciate that visitors respect it too.
The following is a travelogue. Please let us know what you thought of it…
Twizel Christchurch -
We landed in
The landscape was more rocky strewn scrubland. From then we were in the pleasant and dramatic company of the 420 Km natural barrier that forms the
Now we were in the heart of Alpine country. We passed this small and pretty
So also here at Tekapo which is close to
Tekapo is just past Burke's Pass. The
Deep in the Mackenzie Country is a town where the tussock plains reach the horizon, the rivers run slowly, and the mountains touch the sky. From Tekapo the road twisted south to our first night’s stay at a town called Twizel. Twizel is in dam country. Twizel nestles among peaceful lakes, where the broad plain meets the foothills of the
We checked in to our motel in Twizel and departed almost immediately to Mt Cook (Aoraki). The drive from Twizel to Mt Cook is spectacular – why do I have a feeling that this word is going to be the most often-used word in this travelogue?
The lake is renowned for its water purity, and for its distinctive glaciated landforms, such as ice-melt depressions and lateral terraces. The backdrop of snow-capped mountains inspires awe.
We drove along the southers shores of the long Lake Pukaki before heading off towards Omarama and into Lindis Pass.
Lindis Pass is another spectacular sight that lies between the St Bathan and the Ben Ohau ranges. Landscapes chanted yet again. Quite dramatically and quite soon. Gone were the craggy, rough and angry peaks of Mt Cook. What we saw was more orange-brown scrub-grassland type setting. The change was perceptible.
Trees are rare here and the wind constantly buffets your car as it funnels down between the ranges. The 100km stretch from Omarama to Tarras over the Lindis pass is just incredible. You will not see too many houses in this section and it almost looks bereft of humans too! You may see a stray tourist car wandering along the road at a sluggish pace towards some unknown destination. Or you may see an odd couple on a bicycle peddling away through these peaceful surrounds. And peaceful, it certainly is. We stopped our car several times on this 100km stretch to just step out and see the dramatically different landscape and to smell the fresh air.
Cromwell is surrounded by broad tussock hills. Entering the town you know immediately what its speciality is, as a giant fibreglass sculpture of delicious ripe fruit towers above the highway. Cromwell is fruit-growing country! We did not stop here, but did catch some of the sights – including the lovely
Cromwell is actually close to Queenstown which is a town made for adrenalin addicts; with mountain biking on tortuous trails, water-skiing on Lake Dunstan, jet-boat skiing, white-water rafting, (tandem) skydiving, speed-boat canyoning, river surfing, mountain climbing or bungy jumping off the Kawarau Bridge or the colossal Nevis High Wire. Bungy jumping was invented in Queenstown by the A.J.Hackett & Co. However, we did not head directly to Queenstown from Cromwell. We dug further south before heading west towards Te Anau.
Te Anau & Manapouri
The quiet township of Te Ana-au is situated on the tranquil lakeshore. More often than not, the surface of the lake looks like a glass. The peace, the quiet and silence in near-wilderness is so awe inspiring that one will simply want to sit and stare into the many different scenery options! Apart from all of this, a major attraction is the Te Anau Caves, a honeycomb of waterfalls and luminous caverns lit by millions of glow-worms. The name Te Anau is derived from these glow-worm caves, for, in Maori Te Anau means 'cave of the rushing water'. We absorbed the sights and sounds of Te Anau before heading off on a cruise on the lake to see the glow-worm caves.
Te Anau is also a walkers paradise. Several great (2-4 day) walks either start here or start close to here. The Kepler Track begins here. The Routeburn, Caples, Greenstone and Hollyford Tracks are accessed from the
There is no better way to experience Milford Sound than a boat cruise. In fact, I am not aware of too many other ways to explore the Sound. It is such a calm and serene place. The waters are still and clear. One almost fears touching the still waters, lest it breaks! The rock faces are steep and virtual. There are few compromises! It is as if the cliffs rise out of the water with anger! Some of cliffs are 1700 metres high and plummet into the black depths of the fiord. Apparently Rudyard Kipling has described Milford Sound as the eight wonder of the world. It truly is magnificent.
As one cruises across the fiord, one can see a thousand natural waterfalls that are automatically created by the sheer cliffs.
Our cruise took us past
We would love to go back and do the 55 km Milford Track, which is reputed to be one of the finest walks in the world. The Milford Track (need to book in advance for this) takes 3 days and links up Lake Te Anau with Milford Sound.
I have talked to many of my friends who have been on the three major fiord systems in
Queenstown is busy and hectic in winter months because of the excellent access it provides to ski slopes. Summer months are busy with a plethora of fun things that
Queenstown is not my kind of city. It is horribly touristy and there are plenty of things that you can blow your cash on. However, I must say that even in this terribly touristy environment, my view is that
Another attraction is the Skyline complex that towers high above town. It can only be accessed by a chair-car (gondola) or by a helicopter ride. The Skyline Gondola, Restaurant and the Luge are things that we managed to do as well. The Luge is quite nice. One can, of course, indulge in paragliding, skydiving and several other activities too including Bungy jumping into the
We spent much of our time at Stuart Landsborough’s unique “Puzzling World”. It is interesting. It is unique and it is eccentric too. One of the attractions is the Great Maze. It is a 3D maze in the sense that it is two storeys high and has more than a kilometre of confusing passages constructed from wooden barriers.
The place has several “Illusion Rooms”. At the “Hologram Hall” we saw some absolutely amazing holograms. The “Hall of Following Faces” is an illusion room where 168
Haast to Franz Josef Glacier
The Haast area is also host to extensive wetlands. So, there are plenty of birds here and it is supposed to be a bird watchers’ paradise.
Enroute to Haast, I pulled to the roadside to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls that were being created on the opposite side of the road. The ground, however, was so wet and soft that I lost traction on the road. The car was slowly, but surely, dragged sidewards onto a creek by the side of the road. I managed to jump off the road and hailed a 4-wheel-drive headed the opposite way. The driver and a passenger, both Kiwis, seemed to know exactly what had happened. Although it was raining hard, they u-turned, got their ropes out and winched us out of the soft creek with much aplomb and no fanfare.
I narrate this incident to talk about the Kiwi spirit. We found them to be (mostly) very helpful. They seem to want to help and seem to also love tourists as much as they love their own country. They seem to have a lot of pride in their own country and the beauty that abounds in it (and why not?). At the same time, they are very welcoming of tourists and are generally, very helpful.
We drove past Fox Glacier and into Franz Josef. Fox and FJ are two temperate climate glaciers in the West. We had to decide which of the two we’d go to and after much reading and talking to others, we decided we’d do FJ. This turned out to be an excellent and an inspired choice.
Franz Josef Glacier walk
Maori called Franz Josef (named by Haast, its ‘discoverer’ after the Austrian King) Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere or “The Tears of the Avalanche Girl Hinehukatere”. It is said that Hinehukatere loved climbing the mountains and persuaded her lover, Tawe, to climb the mountain along with her. It is said that Tawe got caught up in a mighty gust of wind and fell to his death. Hinehukatere was devastated and her tears froze to form the glacier!
We set off by bus to the foot of the glacier from where we walked. It took us nearly an hour to get to the mouth of the glacier. We strapped on our talonz (for additional/required gripping), got our safety and use training and set off on a 7-hour adventure that was truly memorable. I’d certainly go again, and again, and again! Our coach (Kate) was extremely helpful and supportive. She made sure that the entire pack travelled together and guided us really well. She stopped to provide both information as well as quirky anecdotes. And this made the trip all the more enjoyable. Given that there are no signs or marks anywhere (it is ice and more ice and more ice everywhere you see), she did get lost once or twice. However, she never lost her composure or her wits. Indeed, this made our walk all that more interesting!
I managed to fall more times that I could remember (and most people in the group fell at least once)! But who was complaining.
The bruises and the scars made the walk all the more satisfying! One fall was memorable. I sat on my haunches, ready to negotiate a tricky 10m long ice tunnel that inclined downwards. I perhaps hadn’t gripped the ice properly enough and my ice-axe wasn’t supporting me against the side wall. My legs went from under me! The next thing I knew was that I was sliding down the ice tunnel at the rate of knots! Luckily, there was no one else in the tunnel. Moreover, everyone at the other end of the tunnel was perched atop a slight incline. Or else, I may have taken them with me!! My backside was sore for at least a day after that but boy, was that fun or what!!
It is also the place where a platform collapse killed quite a few people! In April 1995, a viewing platform at Cave Creek collapsed and the occupants (mostly students from a nearby college) fell 30 metres into the waters and rocks below. Fourteen people lost their lives and 4 others were injured badly.
Since then, it seemed to me at least, that the place has been developed with greater care and attention to safety. It is really quite a spectacular place with ample spots for viewing many of the wonderful natural delights that the place has to offer.
Punakaiki is the gateway to the dramatic limestone country of the
But the main attraction are the “Pancake Rocks” and the blowholes. These are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago. Lime rich deposits and dead marine creatures were continually deposited on the rich seabed and overlaid with more and more weaker layers of soft mud and clay. Repeated deposits have created thin plates that seem like layers of pancakes; very spectacular.
While you are here, indulge yourself in sumptuous breakfast at one of the cafes. What’s the specialty, you ask? Pancakes! But, of course!
Greymouth to Christchurh
And so we were back in
Eddie Cantor once said, “Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” This seems to fit the