Posts Tagged ‘Otago’

November 29th – December 1st: Routeburn

December 2, 2008
Lake Wakatipu, on the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy.

Lake Wakatipu, on the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy and the Routeburn track.

We did a day-hike on the northern end of the famed Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. It was along the Routeburn River through an ancient beech forest, and as you’d expect on a hike of such distinction, it was beautiful.

On the trail.

On the trail.

The foot of Bride's Veil Falls, which we could see cascading over the mountains above us from quite a distance.

The foot of Bride's Veil Falls, which we could see cascading over the mountains above us from quite a distance.

The track had several swing bridges, which made us feel like Indiana Jones all over again.

The track had several swing bridges, which made us feel like Indiana Jones all over again.

One thing we’ve really loved about the West Coast is the speed with which the terrain changes from mountains to lakes to coastline, from untouched tangly wilderness to green grazing hills. One gorgeous spot is practically on top of the next, the landscape ever-changing.

In the shadow of the Southern Alps, these sheep have one of the best views in New Zealand.

In the shadow of the Southern Alps, these sheep have one of the best views in New Zealand.

Heading north toward the glaciers and ocean of the West Coast, we passed through Wanaka, stopping for a bit by yet another alpine lake.

Wildflowers and peaks on the shores of Lake Hawea.

Wildflowers and peaks on the shores of Lake Hawea.

We tried to do a glacier hike at Franz Josef Glacier, but it and Fox Glacier both had their heads in the clouds, literally, and were inaccessible due to rain and wind. We’re continuing to the upper regions of the West Coast, then on to Marlborough area for more national parks and wine!

November 26th – 28th: Adventures in Arrowtown

November 29, 2008

We spent a little time in Manapouri after our boat trip, before heading up to the Queenstown area.

Becky on the edge of Lake Manapouri.

Becky on the edge of Lake Manapouri.

On the way north, we discovered a niche market in rural New Zealand.

Well, that's one way to make a living.

Well, that's one way to make a living.

We stayed in Arrowtown, a cute little former gold-mining town just north of the Queenstown sprawl. We explored the area and found the old homestead of one of the first settlers around here — not too many ruins to speak of in a country with such limited history!

The Tobin home, which has probably seen better days.

The Tobin home, which has probably seen better days.

Our hostel owner used to run tandem paragliding full-time; it was a gorgeous day, so he offered to take us out for a flight from nearby Coronet Peak, a winter ski mountain. We were both hooked, and we may try pursuing it more at home.

Paragliding over the Arrow River valley with the Remarkables mountain range in the distance.

Paragliding over the Arrow River valley with the Remarkables mountain range in the distance.

Becky and our guide/hostelier Adin, tandem paragliding.

Becky and our guide/hostelier Adin, tandem paragliding.

Adrenaline rushes are what Queenstown is known for, and we hadn’t had our fill yet — so we signed ourselves up for the biggest canyon swing in New Zealand. As if our bungee jumping in Taupo hadn’t been enough, this time we freefell for 200 feet before arcing into the swing over the Shotover River, and we could launch from a variety of ridiculous positions. We both loved it (even though Becky felt like the rush was akin to getting in a car wreck) and we each even did a second jump.

"Not your average backyard variety swing," they say.

"Not your average backyard variety swing," they say.

November 18th – 21st: Southern Charm

November 24, 2008

We continued to travel down the east coast, catching this beautiful rainbow amidst the mist near Oamaru.

The pretty side of drizzle.

The pretty side of drizzle.

Dunedin is a university town, but with the students all gone for summer break (in November, can you imagine!) we had much of the town to ourselves. The trains stopped running years ago at their railway station, but it’s still maintained by the resident artists’ group and beautifully ornate.

Becky had to sit on Jonathan's shoulders to get this picture with the shrubbery.

Becky had to sit on Jonathan's shoulders to get this picture with the shrubbery.

We made yet another detour along a cute coastal road, checking out some little art galleries in towns that didn’t warrant mention on our map.

A double bay near Karitane.

A double bay near Karitane.

We stayed a couple days in the Catlins, in a hostel on a working farm. (Farm eggs for breakfast!) It was a quick hike to the Purakaunui Falls, surrounded by lush woods. Nearby was NZ’s version of Niagara Falls, but at just a couple inches tall it wasn’t quite impressive enough to live up to its name.

A morning hike down the falls.

A morning hike down the falls.

New Zealand's iconic koru plant, growing in the woods.

New Zealand's iconic koru plant, growing in the woods.

November 15th – 17th: Onward and Southward

November 20, 2008

We first caught sight of the South Island from the deck of the MV Santa Regina, our ferry from Wellington to Picton via Cook Strait and the Marlborough sounds, with our car stored safely below deck.

Sailing into Marlborough Sound, our first glimpse of the South Island.

Sailing into Marlborough Sound, our first glimpse of the South Island.

From Picton we headed down the east (Pacific) coast, anxious to see the furthest points south and then work our way back up, camping and snapping pictures along the way.

The gorgeous ocean views along State Highway 1.

The gorgeous ocean views along State Highway 1.

A bee gettin' busy with some New Zealand flora.

A bee gettin' busy with some New Zealand flora.

The South Island is full of spectacular scenery, much of it not even listed in guide books. This sight, for example, was in a poorly-marked viewpoint off a side road that was recommended to us by a local woman selling hand-knitted goods at a roadside craft fair.

A sandstone formation called the Cathedral, near Kaikoura.

A sandstone formation called the Cathedral, near Kaikoura.

Most of New Zealand’s wines come from the South Island, so of course we felt obligated to try a few. The vineyards offer almost as much in the way of sights as tastes.

The self-proclaimed "most scenic vineyard in New Zealand" - and it's hard to disagree.

The self-proclaimed "most scenic vineyard in New Zealand" - and it's hard to disagree.

On Tuesday we made it as far as the 45th parallel, which was commemorated by a roadside plaque, and by somewhat perplexing adjacent distance markers. (Anyone have any explanations?)

Becky enjoys the tropical climes at 44.99999°S while Jonathan freezes his butt off in Antarctic 45.000001°S.

Becky enjoys the tropical climes at 44.99999°S while Jonathan freezes his butt off in Antarctic 45.000001°S.

And you know what happens once you start nearing the South Pole… penguins! And not in any zoo either – we watched a few Yellow-Eyed penguins land on the beach after a day’s fishing and climb up a cliff to their nests, passing right by our platform. There was also one confused (and lonely?) penguin perched on a hillside amongst a couple wooden replicas placed by the Department of Conservation to cultivate the area for settlement. He’d apparently been there for a couple of hours, and the volunteer ranger thought he might be smitten.

A yellow-eyed penguin waddles suspiciously past our viewpoint.

A Yellow-Eyed penguin waddles suspiciously past our viewpoint.

We also saw some Little Blue penguins, which are only a foot tall. Pocket-size, Becky thinks. They return to land at dusk in groups of a dozen up to thirty, and after frolicking and scouting around (for good reason — there was a seal napping on their beach when the first ones arrived) they scamper off like crazed little wind-up toys. (No photography allowed where we saw them though, because the clicks and flashes scare them.)