Glaciers, rainforests, turquoise rivers and the best hostel in the world
I decided to have a wee break from the Internet these past couple of weeks. I think I perhaps should have told some people before doing this tho, especially after my last Instagram post was about me me driving up the west coast. New Zealand’s winding roads are notoriously dangerous so this was a bit of a stupid update to leave people on. I was greeted by a few emails of ‘are you alive?’ after finally logging back on to the cyber world so my sincerest apologies to those who thought that something bad might have happened. All is well I promise.
There are lots of reasons I switched off the Internet but I’ll chat about that another time. Right now I want to dazzle you with photos so you can bump New Zealand right up on your list.
I now write this as I sit on the ferry back to the North Island wondering if all the other returning travelers fully realise that we have just witnessed paradise.
After Vix left I found myself in the familiar position of being slightly stuck as my lack of planning once again got me in a spot of bother here in NZ!
The bus up to the west coast was booked up for a further 5 days and once again I couldn’t find anywhere to stay in Queenstown.
I decided to hire the cheapest and consequently the smallest car I could find and gave myself 4 days to get up to the city of Nelson in the North of the South Island.
Having my own car allowed me to stop everywhere I wanted to and what should have taken 4 hours to drive from Queenstown to Franz Joseph ended up taking almost 9 hours! Yikes! I may have stopped a few more times than I thought. Everywhere I looked was just filled with breathtaking scenery. Rainforests, lakes and the Southern Alps on my right and the Tasman sea on my left. I only wished I had enough money to hire a car for the duration of my trip here although I fear it might have ended up taking months to get anywhere!
Franz Joseph is famous for its epic glaciers and massive eroded valley where waterfalls cascade down the valley sides. These glaciers are one of the few in the world that exist in temperate climates and stretch down from the mountains into the lush rainforest below. Sadly the glaciers are retreating pretty rapidly due to global warming and it was amazing to see the enormous valleys they have carved out over the past few 1000 years.
It was so beautiful and because I had my own car I even got the chance to visit Fox glacier which was down the road. I even picked up my first ever hitch hikers. I have never done his before but they looked like nice (non axe murdering) travellers so I stopped and gave them a ride. They had been waiting for almost two hours so I’m glad I could take them to their destination in my pimped up ride!:)
At the hostel I also met a great group of Asian travellers who invited to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. They told me how they got their western names. Apparently Tyler had heard that ‘Tyler’ was just a cool name and ‘Rico’ had chosen his name after hearing it on a cartoon! Love it!
Hiking on the Franz Joseph glacier was also on my list but after hiking on the amazing Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia I couldn’t really justify the cost of doing something similar so decided not to do it. By having the car I also missed out on doing the transalpine train ride so all in all I actually saved money by having the car. There is nothing on my list that I would regret missing now after everything I’ve experienced so far. Whatever I do from now on is just a bonus. I now find myself wanting to add things to my list like ‘get a dog’ and ‘learn the piano’. It seems my adventurer lifestyle is being gradually overtaken by dreams of returning home and back to the little things in life. Who’d have thunk it!;)
From Franz Joseph I headed north to a place called Punakaiki and to what turned out to be the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in!
Before leaving Franz Joseph I looked at the map and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw I was going to drive through places called ‘Greigs’ and ‘Barrytown’ which were right next to each other. My brothers name is Barry and you don’t often see the name Greig spelt with an ‘i’ in it so I took this as a sign that this change of plan was clearly meant to be.
Punakaiki turned out to be one of my most favourite spots so far. The sound of the ocean echoes of the adjacent cliffs so you can hear the ocean on both sides as you walk down the street. Amazing! It’s also famous for its ‘Pancake’ shaped rocks which were beautiful but it was the hostel and the people I met that made my two nights here special.
The Punakaiki Beach Hostel is located right by the beach with the perfect view of the amazing ocean sunsets, fresh bread in the morning and some great people as well. I’m not much of a party person these days so I love chilled out places like these. I could have stayed here for a lot longer.
I spent my days sitting on the rocks reading my book, my evenings on the beach watching the sun go down and even attempted a swim in a freezing cold river. I didn’t last long.
It was here I met the amazing Clare. Clare was cycling all the way from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island to raise money and awareness about depression.
Having just broken up from a long term marriage Clare had returned to New Zealand after living in England for the past 17 years. She was doing this epic challenge for both herself and to raise money for mental health charity. We had a lot in common and chatted into the wee hours. It was really inspiring hearing Clare’s story and how she was helping herself and others through this difficult time. Upon hearing my story she quickly apologised and said that her problems were minuscule to mine but as I say to everyone I meet, these experiences are all relative. A break up from a relationship is can be just as traumatic as being diagnosed with cancer. If an experience effects your mental well being then it doesn’t matter what has caused it.
You can find Clare’s blog here:- http://travelblogs.mapquest.com/78899/42159
And with that I arrived in the lovely town of Nelson where I prepared for a tough 5 day hike around the breathtaking Abel Tasman National Park. This turned out to not only be a new addition to my list but was also a very enlightening experience as well.
Lots of photos and stories to share from that experience so I’ll keep that for another time.
I hope you like these pictures gang and I hope they give some inspiration for a future trip. I promise that you would not be disappointed if you visited here. It is just wonderful in every way and there is something for everyone here whether it be relaxation or adventure. I’ll even come with you!;)