Or looking down
This post is part of the Travel Themes.
Or looking down
This post is part of the Travel Themes.
God it’s cold! Cold and wet. The worst! Today, we are leaving the Westlands to get to the Fjordlands… I was going to talk to you about Queenstown, as it is in the chronology of the trip, but I can’t get to it yet. I think it deserves a couple of posts for being such an amazing little city! We’ll see about that later.
One of the things we really wanted to do while in Queenstown was to see the Milford sounds, more commonly called THE Milford. We were so lucky the first time, the day we picked was a wonderful sunny winter day, with the first snow in the mountains. When I took my mom, we weren’t that lucky… The road was cut by some kinda storm, the Milford was therefore out of reach.
We had booked a Jucy day trip, they came to pick us up at 7:30 AM. All bundled up with as many layers of clothes as possible we bravely made it out in the cold so early! The bus stopped a few times so we could take some photos and have fun with the snow. It is a far drive for just one day but what a sight! Breathtaking really! I remember at some point we went under a tunnel, and I thought ‘ this is the shittiest tunnel in the history of tunnels’. It was like they had dug a tunnel into a mountain and left it at that. No concrete on the walls, and just a few dim lights. Weird!! The road became so narrow and winding after we had passed Te Anau I don’t know how the bus drivers did it!
We also had a stop at Mirror Lake, all Lonely Planet users will remember it as being the front page of the book! As for the Milford, I could only describe it as coming straight from Avatar! Remember that scene where they are flying the weird beasts with the rocks flying in the sky? Well somehow that’s what the Milford seemed to me. We took a cruise, and raced with the dolphins, had a tiny crush for an english cute guy that surely was a rugby player, we froze our ass outside but did not mind for a second. I am happy I’ve seen the Milford, to me, it is one of the things to see before you die!
I also appreciated that the captain of the boat took us as close as possible to the waterfalls. So close you’re drenched and fieel the vibrations of the water falling coming all the way from your feet to your heart.
I hope you enjoy the photos!
I always knew working full time on a 9 to 5 job would be the death of me. One month and a half only and I can already feel it. The uuuurge to break this stupid routine, I mean why do I have to stay quietly sitting on my seat, getting this endless paperwork in order? Money it seems. I thought I would never settle for a job I hated just for money. And so little money on top of it. How did I got so far from what I dreamt of? It seems all I ever wanted, all I ever worked for has vanished in this one little month.
The time of travelling is not only over, it seems like it never happened. What’s left of it nowadays can be sum up to this: an endless rambling about NZ and Oz and a few photos. So here you have it, the rambling and the photos:
Let me tell you about a very very special place in New Zealand, a little town by a lake, surrounded by moutains and crazy skies, with funny trees growing inside the lake: Wanaka. Seeing the photos, I got reminded of how Wanaka first appeared to me, a haven of beauty and peace. It was the place we had heard of from day one by every single traveller that we met. We decided to have a go at it because we felt like we had to, but we totally expected to be disappointed as we had heard so much about it. The truth is you can’t describe Wanaka and saying ‘you MUST go there’ will not even start to give it any justice. If you have the chance, take my word for it, spend a day or two there. Just to admire the view. Remember that one day, it will all be gone, no more lakes and no more mountains, just your memories and the leftover feelings.
We stayed at Wanaka Backpacka. The best view on the lake for sure, walking distance from the bus stop and the city, cosy lounge rooms and private bathrooms in the dorms, muffins and internet, what more to say? We rented a bike for the afternoon and went for a bike ride around the lake.
I went twice to Wanaka and both times the weather was horrid. Nonetheless, the sun appeared here and there, just enough to get the most amazing photos and memories. I hope you enjoy it, I sure did.
France-NZ is on tonight, no matter my unboundable love for NZ, I will follow my French rugby team till the end! First time we meet since that notorious World Cup final, we don’t stand a chance but who knows, miracles have happened in the past!
I have been quiet for a couple of weeks, not for a lack of will, but a lack of time. Who would have thought working full time could be so exhausting? I’m happy though to come back to my NZ trip story, on that rainy Saturday.
Last time I left you in Franz Josef and today we reach Fox Glacier, about 30 minutes from Franz Josef. Exactly like Franz Josef I’ve seen that glacier twice, with reasonably good weather both times! I would advise you to do both glaciers, they are very different and you can get really close to Fox. Lake Matheson is also a must see of the Glaciers region, it’s about 6k from Fox. They have shuttles to get you there, however that day we waited and waited for it to come, it never came so we ended up walking there… We were so tired by the time we arrived, and knowing we had to do the same way back to the village, we actually only reached sight of the lake before turning back… They say on a clear day you can see Mount Cook in the back, the reflection on the lake being THE attraction, however, both times we were far from being able to see anything reflecting on the lake.
We stayed at the Ivory Towers Backpackers, a really really nice place, and we regretted we only had one night booked… I remember the theater room downstairs, of course we watched a Lord of the Rings, the reading room with a fireplace, and the kitchen with a lot of tables with table cloth just like a restaurant. I actually doubt having said that that they had table cloth but for some reason in my memory they did! Whatever, it is a very nice place and I would advice anyone to go there.
These are the photos from our visit in May:
Photos from our visit in December:
On this rainy Sunday, let’s talk about another wet land: the glaciers of New Zealand! Franz Joseph was on top of our Must See list as we started in NZ. My brother had contacted me a few days prior to our arrival in the glaciers zone to say happy birthday of course but also to tell me he wanted to offer me a sky dive experience… What better place to do it than in the glaciers?? Don’t get too exited, it did not happen… First, my mad foot needed to be cured ASAP. 15 days of antibiotics and a traumatizing egg bursting later, all that was left of the poisonous spider was an enormous scar, still visible as of today. Second, the impossible weather. Foggy, raining and windy, what was the point?? Third, probably my lack of confidence in my ability to jump from a plane…
Both time I went to Franz Joseph I first had a stop in Hokitika. It is only after wandering in the ‘city’ the second time around that I had to admit I had already been there, once, when the Intercity bus took a two hours break… Lonely Planet says it is a nice place, worth to spend one or two nights, and that’s about the only thing I’ve been mad at them about. Because Hokitika may have plenty to offer, I absolutly hated it. Can’t get anymore boring, wondering in the city on a Monday with everything closed. Sunset viewpoint yes, but not enough to make it a stop! We were staying at a lovely hostel though,Birdsong Backpacker. We had one of the private rooms, that actually consisted of two rooms and a bathroom. The common area is fully opened on the coast with a very nice kitchen, there is a balcony bif enough to have a meal or read a book in the sun.
So as I’ve mentionned before, the first morning we woke up in the glaciers it was raining a bit… To say the least… Very foggy on top of it. We only had one day and two nights planned in Franz Joseph so we had no choice but to go for it anyway… The man from the hostel told us ‘when it rains, the glaciers is blue’, so why not? We were with that French girl then, that we met back in Punakaiki, Laurence, that had the same itinerary as us up to that point. We took all our strength to get in the shuttle that was to take us to the glacier site, armed with the huge umbrellas the hostel had landed us. Downpours of rain by the time we arrived, so much fog we couldn’t see anything. Did not matter, we did the hike as far as it is allowed, and yet, we did not see the glaciers… However, we met a group of 3 guys, the only ones on the trail. One English man that had been travelling for 8 years in a row, one crazy german guy, Oscar, who had spent the past 6 months in a tent , the only human being that I’ve met that claims to actually have seen a wild kiwi one night he was camping in the woods, and A., the cutest English man I had the opportunity to meet! They stayed at our hostel then and it is one of the best nights we had on the trip! That’s when I started to understand how amazing it is to meet people on the road, people you are going to share your entire life story and all your dreams with for just one night, wake up the next day and leave without a word of goodbye and later realize you don’t even know there names. These nameless people are the ones I remember the best. And Oscar and his rainbow world of course…
We were staying at the Chateau Backpackers, hostel that we only picked because of its name. Very cheap, free soup, what more could we ask for? The dorms were very basics, although we did have a girls only dorm, but it is one of those hostels were you just feel at home. Very homelike kitchen where they serve free soup everynight, they also have a ounge room with a huge flat TV screen and tons of DVD to borrow for free. Of course we watched the Lord of the Rings, with some free pop corn offered by the hostel for those who want to spend some time watching movies. There is a room downstairs that I called the Fire Room, with obsviously a fire and stuff to hang your wet clothes, and sofas to have a read while warming up. By the time we arrived that night after the hike in the rain, this room was unapprochable because of the horrendous smell of wet dirty socks… The manager is lovely, there is a hot tub, there is nothing wrong I can really say about that place. Just go and try it for yourself!
But, I took a detour by the glaciers once again when my mom came to visit, I would have hated to stay on a failure like that… The glaciers are, I find, a very unusual sight in the rest of New Zealand. I still don’t really understand what they are doing there, but what I know is that they are slowly disappearing. They say slowly but I was astouned by it actually, I think the glaciers decrease by something like 20 meters each year.
One more thing about Franz Josef: Picnics Bakery.
I think from now on I will do the NZ posts on Saturday instead of Friday, I just don’t have the time and the energy after a week of work to do it. Sharing my experience in this country is important to me, so I feel more comfortable doing it that way, taking the time to do it properly.
After the Abel Tasman National Park, we took a bus to Punakaiki, best known as the Pancake Rocks (due to their funny shape FYI), in order to have some fresh pancakes! And pancakes we had, 16 dollars for a plate of two pancakes no less, but the fattest pancakes in the planet for sure…
We had booked a room at the YHA, which is apparently the second best hostel in town. The other one looks very fun from the outside and is located right in front of the beach. However, we chose the Te Nikeau Retreat because it was ‘in the middle of the rainforest”. It is a very different type of hostel, they have (our dreeeeeam if we win the lottery) a bungalow with a glass ceiling to see the stars as you fall asleep, and we loved it. We had a little bungalow that we shared with another 8 people I think. Their was a kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs, an upstair living room and the dorm in sort of a mezzanine, with the mattresses on a half circle on the floor, to create sort of a sleepover party! We met a crazy English guy, we had already ran into him in the Old Macdonald’s farm a couple days before and had a fun night of board games and scrabble. He told us the craziest stories of the lamas of the old Macdonald being Shamels and miniature poneys for blind people.
They were having some road work in Punakaiki the day we arrived and apparently they had cut open a pipe by mistake, so the entire hostel was out of running water… No showers but thank god, the toilets were working! I woke up in the middle of the night with a strange feeling, something weird on my ankle, it starting itching, then burning and aching, then my head starting going nuts, I started to sweat and when I woke up the next morning I had sort of an egg that had grown on my ankle. Of course, the nearest doctor was out of walking distance. I did not want us to get away from our schedule, so I chose to leave to Franz Josef Glacier as planned with my fucked up foot, hoping I’d find a doctor there…
But back to the story: Punakaiki! There is nothing more than the rocks in this place, and they are worth seeing I’d say. We took a stroll back to the hostel, which was a few kilometers from the rocks, and we found a huge cave on the way. We got in as far as we could even though we had no lights, it’s only as we were walking out of it that we noticed the sign telling us of all the disgusting gigantic insects hanging on the ceiling…
Someone in the Abel Tasman had advised us to take the Truman track, a little track that takes you to a beach with an amazing rock, where we watched one of the most beautiful sunset I have got to see in NZ.
I’d say Punakaiki is a nice stop on the way to the Glaciers if you are coming from Picton for instance but I wouldn’t spend more than a day really. Check it by yourself:
Just realized the meaning of TGIF… I am so happy that I finally have the opportunity to talk to you about Picton! Yes, because I have chosen to do a weekly post about NZ, starting from the top travelling all the way to the south – if you haven’t noticed – but really, what I wanted was to start with my beloved Picton.
E. and I loved it at first sight, the village feel, the people and of course, the beauty like we’d never seen before thrown to our face on the sunniest day of the trip so far.
What made our stay even better, and I will start with it, because really, if just for three nights, it became our true home, the best stay we had in NZ by far: Tombstone Backpackers. Lonely Planet recommend it because being accross the street from the village graveyard, they chose to play along and made the whole place on a ‘grave’ theme. But it is far more than that! Gordon and Lynne will become your grandpas, will take care of you, drive you around and Lynne will bake you some fresh cheese scone every morning, for free! The house is lovely, the dorms are cosy (hotel quality), there is a hot tub with a view on the harbour, a giant flat screen TV with the cosiest couches ever imagined. They have a lounge room with books, some colorful parrots and last time I went, they also added some free wifi!! Make sure to book ahead because they get busy all year round.
I also want to mention the Picton Village Bakkery: have a muffin, or a pizza, or a cookie, or anything you’d like it’s delish!
When I went there in May, it was so sunny, we first went on a stroll from the village, towards Bob’s Bay. It was an easy walk among the bushes, till you reach a little beach. You have to climb up then, but the view is definitly going to make you forget your burning thighs.
As it was very sunny, we booked a cruise, which was expensive but it was a fairly long one so we did not regret it! We were hoping we’d see dolphins as they come very often in the Sounds but we did not… The cruise we took was with BeachCombers, who also take care of the mails of the few people living the Sounds. Just a few houses scattered here and there, that can only be reached with boats. People come down to their piers when they see the boat arriving, usually they have their dogs with them so the driver makes sure to have enough treats for each of them. As soon as they hear the boat you can see the dogs running to the pier and get over exited for what they know will come.
When my mom came over, in December we weren’t as lucky and the weather was really bad. Grey and rainy, yet we decided to go on a hike in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. We took a water taxi to Ship Cove, same water taxi that came to pick us up from the next point. I can’t remember exactly how long was the hike, it was more than 10K but it is fairly easy because we really aren’t hikers.
So what did you think of Picton? I know it was a lot of pictures… I tried my hardest to get it down to the smallest amount of it but it was just impossible to pick for so many of them bring back so many good memories. It hurts a tiny bit now, to look at these pictures. To think that one day not so long ago I was there, I was seeing Picton for the first time and still had the belief that soon I would be able to stay a few months in that place. Now I know it was just a hopeless dream but some mornings, as I’m driving to work with the grey sky and the rain, I like to remember Picton, the sunny sky and the pure air.
I’ve enjoyed my first day of freedom today, as I’m done working at the shop. I will be moving on to a new job on Tuesday, job that is just about everything I’ve never wanted for myself… But it is a job and that is all that matters, a new beggining sort of, and that will give me some time to think about how I really want to play my life from now on…
So I left you last week with Tangariro National Park, and I hope you enjoyed the post because really, I can’t say it enough, it is one of those places you want to see at least once before you die.
From National Park, we took a bus to Turangi, then another one to reach Wellington. It is quite a long way, it goes up and down the moutains, most times it is winding, some others it’s plain boring. Tipical New Zealand landscapes, I remember I was looking through the windows at the green hills covered with whites dots (aka sheeps) and I told myself ‘here it is, New Zealand, I want to remember that very bus ride, because it is everything I love about that country’.
I went twice to Wellington, both times only for the sake of taking the InterIslander to the other side… In December with Mom, we chose the very night of the World Premiere of the Hobbit to stay for the night, and I mention that because we had the biggest troubles finding a room… We finally found one at Nomad’s, the first and only time I stayed in a Nomad’s hostel, and they very nicely agreed to give us the very last double room for $115 (FYI, a double room at Nomad’s will never exceed $70). In the end, it was a very nice room, we had a lovely sleep but I would advise you never to approach the kitchen! I also tried Rosemere Backpackers, which was among Lonely Planet’s best hostels, but I wasn’t too impressed with it. First, it’s on top of a hill, try to get there carrying your backpack. Second, it is right outside of the free wifi zone (Wellington is a free wifi zone – don’t laugh, those who have traveled NZ will know how to cherish that info). Third, it was very noisy. What I liked was that it used to be a brothel, and that they painted everything purple and green inside. Oh, and free breakfast.
I found Wellington so amazing I regretted not to have had enough time to settle therefor a few months, take one more waitressing job and just enjoy myself for some time… The city is full of surprises, lots of shops and amazing cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops. My favorite part was the wharf, where we had the most amazing ice cream in NZ, at Kaffe Eis.
I really haven’t spent enough time in Wellington to say anymore about it, but here are some photos that will I hope make you want to take the trouble to stay a little longer than I did.