16.05.2017 - 23.05.2017
After an early start in Melbourne and super quick flight, we had landed in New Zealand (Christchurch). Once again we didn't get a stamp in our passports . We had been building quite a collection!! Anyway, the security was a little more hands on there. Melissa was asked to hide some packaged celery in her rucksack, as they were training a sniffer dog in the customs area. We slowly walked through customs and surely enough, the sweet little Labrador pup came straight up to her She was happy to help . So next, we needed to make our way to stop numero uno. Leaving the airport, we were greeted by really cold weather, so we picked up our hire car and blasted the heating on.
Next, we headed on to a family (who we had never met), whom were hosting us for a couple of nights. We had made this arrangement through 'Couchsurfing' a popular travelers website, which you can use to arrange a short stay in a series of other people's homes, typically making use of improvised sleeping arrangements. We thought that it would be a pretty cool idea to meet new people and also save some pennies. We were a little dubious at first as this was our first time using Couchsurfing, but when we arrived we met the kindest people, a Christian family of four who couldn't of made us feel more comfortable.
We spent the first night getting to know the family which was great, there was Rebekah, Craig, their daughter Jennifer(17) and son Joel(15). We discussed our plans and Rebekah was amazing, giving us great tips where to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. Craig gave us a detailed weather pattern of the days to come as snow fall was expected half way through our journey, which could affect our plans from driving from place to place, as certain roads could be potentially closed.
So as the night went on, Rebekah showed us her insanely extended family tree, which had taken her ages to do. She had literally gone as far as she was able to find. To my amazement, her family roots went all the way back to the UK and even Nottingham! (This huge world is such a small world :s)
The next day we woke up at 09:00am and the family had all gone to work, university and school. Due to the time difference from Australia it seems as though we had a lie in, well anyway we got straight up and headed into Christchurch to view what the city had to offer. On the way, we decided to stop off to pick up some food bits for our trip. It was at that point that we realized how differently Rebekah and her family pronounced certain words. They had recommended a cheap super market for us to go to (PAK n SAVE). Well, we were looking for a PEK n SAVE. :P
lol. Anyway, after we drove into Christchurch city center and noticed that there were lots of road works going on and buildings which were half collapsed or not standing at all and in a heap of rubble. This being due to the horrific earth quake they had in February 2011 which caused over 2000 casualties and measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale. We came across Canterbury Cathedral and couldn't believe our eyes. The earthquake had left the cathedral badly damaged. The spire was completely destroyed, leaving only the lower half of the tower standing. While the walls and roof remained mostly intact. Several surrounding buildings were also left in ruins and had still yet to be repaired.
There was some ongoing decisions to be made on whether it would be knocked down and completely rebuilt, or just corrected. At this point we were feeling very cold, so we headed into some local shops and bought ourselves matching woolly hat's to keep the heat in! :-) We are so cool!
The shops were very interesting. We visited the Container Mall. Literally, containers turned in to shops. They were opened back in 2011 and were a temporary solution post-quake. They became an internationally famous icon. We caught the last of them I believe, as Christchurch is rebuilding it's city.
After taking a long walk around Christchurch City Center we felt a little peckish, so we went for some food near the Avon River, which ran through the middle of Christchurch. After lunch we headed to Canterbury Museum and spent a couple of hours learning about the history of New Zealand. It was a fairly good museum considering it didn't even cost anything (just a donation). Sadly, we had used up all of our phone batteries walking around the town and trying to find a car park which wasn't easy, so we don't have any pictures from the museum.
After walking around the museum we headed back to the house as we had offered to cook Rebekah and family a meal, as a thanks for their kindness in letting us stay with them.
Mel had a plan to cook one of her specialties but couldn't find much of the ingredients which she needed, so I decided to cook a steak and vegetable pie with mash, with maybe a little help from Melissa. Well obviously, it turned out well and everyone cleared their plates. After dinner Rebekah dished up ice cream with a feijoa (a local fruit) pastry dish which she whipped up using leftover pastry from the pie. It was lovely. We then got talking about card games and ended up playing a game called spoons which was pretty fast and brutal. After that, we played the board game 'The Settlers of Catan'. We played for an hour and Melissa and I were learning as we went along so weren't totally hands on. It was a pretty good game though. No doubt that Melissa will be hunting that down once we return from our travels. Anyway, Rebekah beat Joel rite at the end of the game. We then all went to bed around 22.00pm as the following day we had a 5-hour drive in the direction of Franz Josef, with a few stops on the way.
The next day, we both woke up at 7 am and got ready. Rebekah had kindly let us borrow some water proof trousers as it was heavy rain outside. We planned to drive towards Franz Josef, making a few stops on the way. We also booked a hostel that day located in the Franz Josef area.
So, first, we headed towards the west coast of the South Island with our first stop being Devils Punch Bowl Waterfall at Arthur's Pass. We arrived there around 10:30 and could see the waterfall from the distance, which looked really impressive, however the trekking paths were all closed for maintenance of some kind, so sadly we didn't get to experience the waterfall up close.
Another stop after that was somewhere Rebekah and her family had shown us, known as devils corner, once a very dangerous road along the West Coast, which was now closed and rerouted. It was known to have many of the Kea bird's around. This bird is an extremely clever, cheeky little fellow, the worlds only alpine parrot! Sadly, we didn't find any at this stop. We think that we may have seen a few flying around though. Anyway, it wasn't completely wasted. The view was pretty cool.
We got back into the car and decided to continue to Hokitika Gorge. This place was truly great with a viewpoint overlooking a magnificent granite gorge with blue pools, backed by cliffs and forest and a swing bridge on the edge of the Gorge itself. We managed to get some great picture.
After that our drive to our accommodation was just over 2 hours, so we set off and eventually arrived at our hostel in Franz Josef, check-in was really easy and we headed out straight away for some food as we were both pretty peckish. We went to a restaurant called Blue Ice, Melissa had a typical English, Fish and Chips and I decided to have NZ BBQ Ribs which were awesome! lol.
The next morning, we woke up at 08:00 am after a pretty awful sleep, due to one of the people sharing our dorm room being drunk and leaving a huge window open all night, meaning that we were freezing. It wasn't until the morning that we even realized the window was open. Anyway, we had breakfast before heading towards Queenstown (just over 5-hour drive).
It was a much colder today, so on went the layers and we headed off after defrosting our hire car.
We headed on towards Haast Blue Pools which was a further 2 hours away. The time absolutely flew whilst driving as the scenery of the mountains was breath taking. The mountains all had a sprinkle of snow on the top and were surrounded by all different colored trees. We couldn't help our self's but to keep on stopping every 20 minutes or more, to take pictures of this beautiful country. We drove the famous Haast Pass route on the west coast, which is a mountain pass in the Southern Alps. It was so picturesque. Neither of us had ever seen so many beautiful mountain views and we had picked a great day for it. The tops of the mountains were covered in snow, adding to the beauty. We drove over the Haast Pass bridge and got a few more pictures of the rapids passing through the mountains.
Our first stop on this route was absolutely amazing, Lake Matheson, we walked 1.4k to the beautiful still brown lake which reflected the trees and surrounding mountains on the surface of the lake which made the lake look like one huge mirror. It was truly stunning and we got loads of pictures of the reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. It was great as we were the only two people there and we were both mesmerized for 15 - 20 minutes just taking in the breath taking view. It was raining for a little while which made the reflection not so pristine. Luckily the rain stopped for five minutes, so that we could take some really good pictures. We then headed back to the car to continue our road trip.
Our next stop was another waterfall formed from melted glaciers, we parked up at the side of a road near a car park and took an easy walk along a track that passes through hundreds of trees until we came to the 28 meter high, Thunder Creek Falls. The water was roaring when it crashed to the bottom of the lake. Once again out came the cameras and many pictures were once again being taken.
We then headed to our final stop, before heading to Queenstown where we would be spending the night, the amazing Blue Pools at Haast Pass. Well, the walk to reach the pools from the carpark was another easy walk and leads through a forest covered in moss, then to a huge swing bridge (20 people capacity) overlooking the pools at the mouth of Blue River. The water was truly breath taking and especially for another tourist who decided to go for a 'quick' swim in this glacier water (11 degrees) he was in and out with moments. haha. Melissa and I made a tower of stones as it seemed that many people who visited, left a stone tower which added to the surrounding shore areas beauty.
We then continued our road trip towards Queenstown. Although it was such a long trip, we had some good fun chatting away, playing silly games and singing along to the radio (when we had signal). We made quite a few little stops in some random little qwerky towns, for food, petrol, toilets and just generally to stretch our legs. It was crazy how we would stop in some random places and find places of sheer beauty. A great example, Lake Ianthe. We just literally stumbled upon this beauty whilst making a toilet stop.
Finally, on to Queenstown which sits just on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, with a view of the Southern Alps. Very well known for its extreme bungee jumping, which Melissa at this point was not looking forward to! She had one booked for the following day and it seems as though the nerves were starting to settle in. Anyway, we finally arrived at 'Nomads Hostel', centrally located in Queenstown and made ourselves at home (for 2 nights, so not too at home). At check-in, we were told that there was a free meal in the evening at some random bar (Loco), so we went along. The meal that evening was Spaghetti and meatballs and was fairly decent. After, we decided to just head back to the hostel as the following day Melissa was booked into do her Bungee jump at 10.30am, plus it was freezing, so we didn't fancy staying out much.
That following morning, we both woke up bright and early as we wanted to get to Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, (the world's first commercial Bungee Jump site). So, upon getting up I looked out of the window to check on the weather and to my amazement it was snowing!! Not just a little, but...LOTS!!! Melissa's instant reaction was that it might be cancelled, which at the time I think gave her a sense of relief, lol. Well anyway, we had breakfast and headed straight to the bungee site, driving super carefully in the snow.
This next paragraph is written by Paul (Brackets are Millie's comments)
When we arrived, we both walked out to the viewpoint and looked down at the impressive (terrifying) 43 meter drop. At this point, the snow was ( a blizzard) sweeping past. For any of you wondering, Melissa was as cool as a cucumber at this point! (I WAS NOT cool as a cucumber at all! I was about to have a heart attack! :o) and anyone wondering why I wasn't doing the bungee jump, well this was due to medical reasons, being I am sane!! haha (Wimp ;P). So anyway, we decided to go to the reception area to let them know that we were here a little early. Upon checking in, the receptionist said to Melissa 'ohhh your jumps at 10.30am, would you like me to bring it forward... to now?' A little squeak came from her mouth (That was the sound of my heart falling out of my mouth) - 'Yeh....okay' and at this very moment I could see her nerves kicking in (I started to shake like j-Lo's A#$%) . I then walked her up to the platform (cheers, yeah, good of ya :s) where she (not so) bravely got strapped in. It seemed like forever (It was super fast and that they couldn't of got me standing on the ledge any faster :o). I gave her a few last words of encouragement (I do not remember these words even a little bit) I then left her so I could go to the viewpoint to watch and film her hop to the edge of the bridge. (At this point I was being asked simple questions which I could not even answer correctly, for example, "Which part of England are you from?" My reply "the UK" lol. Melissa was strapped in and all ready to go (Not ready at all) She then gave me the most awkward wave and suddenly I could hear the guys supervising the jumps, counting down "Three - Two - One" and boom, without hesitation, she threw herself off the bridge (It was now or never) into the blizzard with one extremely loud squeak!
After the jump, Melissa seemed to take ages to get back to the top of the canyon as there were hundreds of steps to climb, the first thing she said to me when she did arrive at the top was 'I would do another one from higher but next time in warmer conditions, I couldn’t see anything' haha!!! We both then watched her bungee jump video which was a really proud moment for her, as this bungee jump had been at the top of her bucket list for a very long time and now was crossed out. She was absolutely in her element.
After, we slowly drove back to Queenstown, due to the ongoing snow. When we got back we headed straight out and had a walk around the beautiful town Center.
We stopped off at an Irish pub for a well-deserved drink or two. After, we headed back to the hostel for a little bit to warm up again before we headed back out. We did go for a free meal later with the hostel, but it was some chicken and mushroom slush and we couldn't stomach it. We found ourselves a nice little Indian restaurant and then just generally wondered around for a bit, before ending up at a Starbucks cafe. We connected to the wifi there and decided to speak with our families. We chilled out there for quite a while before heading back to the hostel.
The following day we drove back up the coast and stopped off in a few destinations to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. As Melissa was yet to drive on the trip due to the car being an automatic she had a go and drove 100 kilometers before we swapped back over. Again, we saw some great views and passed by some interesting looking towns.
The houses in New Zealand are generally very different to the ones which we are used to back in the UK. You only really find detached houses in New Zealand, with plenty of land surrounding it. Even in the city, the houses stand alone.
That evening, We went for a meal which was really nice. It was some burger place which I really do not remember the name of but was good. We also decided to hit the cinema pretty late. We watched King Arthur. It was okay, nothing to rave about. It was a really nice evening though.
The next day we headed back to Rebekah's house where we had a shower and a quick nap until they got home. Rebekah cooked a beautiful meal for us all and we played a few games which were good fun. We were really pleased that we chose to stay with this family as they helped to make our trip as good as it was. That evening, Mel also decided that cutting my hair would be a good idea. First, she gave me a Mohawk :P Then she fixed it.
The following morning, we were up at 4 am to drop the hire car off and head to the airport. Everything went smoothly and we were on our way to North New Zealand.
All in all, we had an absolutely fantastic time on the South Island on New Zealand and we both wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world, with so much to see and do. It really boasts sensational views and we met some great people. We would both recommend going there. It really has something for everybody. We haven't seen anywhere else like it. We leave with great memories and maybe one day, we will be back.