After being dropped of by Kerry and saying good bye to his crew I started to explore Wellington (Te Whanganui-a-Tara or Poneke as the Mauri call )
the capital of New Zealand. The city ranks as one of my favorite city now, it truly got soul and a unique “feel” with some very interesting sights. While I had to deal with snow just the day before, upon my arrival in Wellington the sky cleared up and I was able to walk around in T-shirt and explore the magnificent Botanical Gardens. I also walked all the way from the parliament to the Embassy Theater, where the world premiere of Lord of the Rings was held. At night I attended a CD-launch party of a band called Odessa with fellow backpackers.
9th of October: Te-Papa museum Wellington
With another full day to explore Wellington and not having to rush down to the South Island, I choose to visit the Te-Papa museum (translates to “Our Place), the national museum of New Zealand. It has a wide collection of the history of Maori and white settlers. Debby Rothenberg, one of my fellow travel-companions is a stand up comedian and gave us an insight of her experience while traveling around the Northern Island. Having “a session” with someone dose not necessarily mean to end up in Bed in New Zealand, but if you ever meet Debby herself, just ask her and she will explain it to you!
After almost two weeks exploring the North Island it was time to set sails (or get on a huge ferry) and conquer the South Island. This time with a new driver, nicknamed “Taxi” who we met in Picton, the port for ferries from Wellington. One of my fellow female backpackers was so mad at him for making out with another girl, she constantly complained about him and just had to get down and dirty with him to punish him – or something like that I guess… Poor guy! Rumor has it that he slept with half of the bus while on tour, but that might be and overestimation!
New Zealand might be famous for its Kiwis, but sure they have some excellent wine too. Shortly after we arrived on the South Island we had the opportunity fro a wine tasting at one of the famous Marlborough wine making area’s vineyards. A few sips later we made our way to the Able Tasman National Park, named after a dutch explorer where we stayed for the night at a campground.
I’d say sailing around a wonderful bay is hard to describe with words, so I recommend you just take a look at the pictures. We spent about half of the day on the boat, exploring a little bite of the Tasman BAy, visiting the Split Apple Rock and going for a walk through the national park before we drove all the way to Berrytown, with a short stop at the infamous Pancake rocks.
At night we meet up with Kerry, our former Bus driver in the All Nations Hostel and most of my group decided to skip the free day in Barrytown and continue the tour with Kerry.
New Zealand is a dream-come-true for male backpackers, actually about 70 % of backpackers are female, somewhere between 20 and 30 – and most of them are single. I want to point a few ladies, Laura, Stefanie, Carlo, Emma and Jana, whom I spend some great days with in New Zealand and if one of you ever stumble upon those lines – thank you for a great time! As for the trip from Barrytown to Franz Josef – we stopped at a abonded gold-digger town, where I and some others discovered the area while others “enjoyed” shooting each other in a paintball-area or searched for gold in the river – probably to afford more Adrenalin thrills.
Back in the old days, Marketing campaigns and TV-commercials where not invented and people where seeking alternative ways to advertise themselves and be remembered. The Austrian emperor “Franz Josef” like other royals in Europe at that time, had a very interesting way on making sure that his name made it into history books. He funded a guy named Julius von Haast to explore New Zealand, and when Mr. Haast found a glacier that reminded him of the beard of his King, he just named it after him.
But beside that funny story about how the glacier got its name it is one of the most remarkable sights New Zealand has to offer. I did a ¾ day hike around the Franz Josef glacier, with sometimes scary views into dangerous crevasses. The tour was very well organized and all the equipment was provided. Me – always trying to have it “may way” hiked up the glacier wearing a yellow jacket resulting in sticking out on every image that was taken with the whole group.
After the hike we drove all the way to Haast, where I had a lovely evening by the bonfire at the beach with 80 % pure Austrian Rum (and a German girl).
The road between Haast and Queenstown was one of my favorite parts of New Zealand. The beautiful Hawea lakes with crystal clear water and high mountains right next to it created a real Middle Earth feeling. Our lunch break took place in Wanaka and I was almost tempted to stay there for a while. No wonder Shania Twain bought some property down here.
Kiwis (not the birds – the people) – tend to do crazy things like stopping at a random place, removing your bra and leaving it behind on a fence. And once a Kiwi (again – not the birds!!) – has a crazy idea there sure are some who will follow. So just a couple of miles away from Queenstown a fence can be found with hundreds and hundreds of bras – just like that. No deeper sense or anything. And thats all that I can say about “Bra Valley”!
Before we finally arrived in Queenstown we stopped at the Kawarau gorge, where some of the group started their “Thrilogy-Adventure with a bungee jump from the infamous Kawarau Bridge, where the commercial Bungee was born in 1988. I stayed right in the center of the city at a place called Discovery Loge.
My personal recommendation for hungry people that arrive in Queenstown: The Fergburger, a fast-food restaurant that serves burgers as big as – well, can’t think of anything that big! – No kidding!
The day started out slow as I hiked up the mountain that I conquered with the skyline gondola the day before. On top of the mountain I met some fellow backpackers again who where doing “the luge”, a 800 meter downhill concrete track. Unfortunately it is possible to “race” down the luge. Boys tend to be competitive, as everyone knows and one of the girls that joined the race was injured and had to stay in Queenstown for a about two weeks with a broken ankle. So if you do the luge, consider not doing a race with competitive boys!
After the hike I spent some time at a fea market in the center of Queenstown. Surprisingly, even there they accept credit cards! I also decided to attend a palm reader to get some information’s regarding my future, which was fun and interesting. Fortunately he told me that I was going to reach a high age at good health, which meant I would survive the Canyon Swing that was going to happen that very same day.
After the flea market I met up with Laura, a Danish girl and and a guy from Stockholm – somehow I always only remember girls names that I travel with – to do the Canyon swing. We were take to the Shotover canyon by bus and given the equipment and instructions to survive the 60 meter freefall.
I was placed into a full body harness and then attached onto a twin rope swinging system. I started with jumping backwards in the unknown. I had my camera attached to my hand so when I would jump it would film the whole scene. I wonder if my insurance company would have covered the loss in case it would have fallen of my hand…. But luckily it went right and I got a great sequence of my screaming and making funny faces. My second jump was called ‘Gimp Boy Goes To Hollywood’, where I was put face first looking into the abyss . It was really fantastic to experience the 60 meter freefall and the 200 meter arc.
The feeling afterwards is unbelievable, its like flying and one hell of an adrenalin rush.
17th of October,
Queenstown, right next to the scenic Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables is not only the place where many key-scenes of Lord of the Rings where shot, but also the adrenalin capital of New Zealand and the place to spend a little fortune for a few seconds of fun. Also, according to Kerry “The Possum” : If you don’t get laid in Queenstown, you are a fag…
I spend the day together with Emma, Carol and Amy, we took the Skyline Gondola to get a better view from Queenstown and watch Emma do her second bungee – called “The Ledge”.
One of the bars I visited at night was called “The World Bar”. They serve cocktails in tea-pots, very creative. I have to admit that three to four Teapots are a good way to celebrate. And there is always an opportunity to celebrate in New Zealand.
18th of October, Te Anau and Milford Sound
After some days in Queenstown, recovering from my cold and jumping into canyons it was time to move on to Milford Sound. Just getting there was a very scenically drive including Lake Wakatipu, some more waterfalls and the descent from the Homer Tunnel to the Milford Sound. The Maori name for the sound, Piopiotahi, means first native thrush.
The magnificent Fjord is a “Must see” and one of the major sights of New Zealand. Fortunately it was one of the 60 days every year they get down there that did not include rain. I even got to see yellow eyed penguins, which are very rare – according to the captain of the boat that took us out to the Fjord.
18th of October, Invercargill & Stewart Island
In the morning we went to Bluff to catch a ferry to visit New Zealand’s third major island ‘Stewart Island’. Unfortunately our Bus driver got confused over the timetable and we missed the first ferry and had to hang around in Invercargill for a couple of hours. We went to a local museum and watched some Tuataras. Tuataras are little reptiles, which hang around most the time, doing nothing at all, not even blinking. But would you believe it – those little cuties get pretty old, some of the inhabitants in the museum where around 150 years old… Maybe I should start sitting on my butt take it a little bit easier!
Finally we able to get a express ferry, which was a hefty $90 Kiwi-Dollar for a return trip to the island. On the island one group went fishing, while I did a walk on the cheap around the island to some beaches with the rest of the group. The fishing team was very successful and managed to feed the entire bus group with a very delicious fish called Blue Cod.
Overall, Stewart Island is very remote and very quiet. The best part was the local pub, rumor has it that it is the most southern pub in the world, but New Zealanders tend to show off a little bit. (Well, it is very very south for sure..). If you are ever sipping a drink – or like me – two double tequila, in that pub, go to the men’s toilet to take a look at the condom vending machine, it has something very funny written on it. Unfortunately I did not get to see much of the island and spent less then 24 hours on the island itself. If you have only that much time, safe the 90 Bucks for the boat-ride for something else! But I do have to admit when I woke up the next morning and went outside, discovering the island covered in mist and hearing all different kinds bird sounds it indeed felt like being at a mysteries island out in the middle of nowhere.
October 19, Invercargill to Dunedin
Just after a little bit less then 24 hours it was already time to leave Steward island with the express ferry. The highlight on the way from the very south of New Zealand towards Dunedin was the Petrified Forest and a stop at the beach to watch some sea lions. Dunedin has Scottish roots and is home of the Speight’s brewery and a Cadbury chocolate factory. For me it was also movies night and I decided to watch “40 year old virgin” at the local theater.
We had to get up pretty early in the morning to visit one last sight before leaving Dunedin. The steepest road of the world – Baldwin street . Our bus driver made us hike up that steep hill by promising that on top of it would be a nice cafeteria offering hot chocolate. Of course when we reached the peak, there was nothing but some old houses and an odd looking camper van.
On the way to Christchurch we stopped for a walk at the Moeraki boulders. There are huge boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach, some of these boulders are broken and you can sit in them like in a chair, or jump from one to another. Very stupid idea when the mist has made them slippery and you try to jump from one boulder to the other – like I did…
The drive from Canterbury Plains to Christchurch also meant the last time I would travel with a most of the group that had stayed on the bus with me for almost three weeks. Of course we celebrated that one last evening at the pub in Christchurch, had a few dinks and danced till early in the morning.
21st of Oktober,
A sunny and warm day is best spent outside in the nature, so I took a bus to the Christchurch Gondola to get a better view of the area. Up at the restaurant I met a German girl and we decided to hike down the mountain together to get some nice views of the Canterbury Plains and take a bus back from Lyttelton Harbour rather then just taking the cable way down again.
22nd of October: Botanical Gardens and Art center
A nice way to explore the inner city is the tram, which follows a 2.5 kilometer loop around central Christchurch. It’s a nice way to hop on and off at the major sights like the Botanical Gardends – with its rather disturbing little pond. The pond has statue of a blindfolded woman in the water like she is looking for something. Imagine a foggy day in fall when you walk around the park and it’s about to get dark!