Archive of posts from March 2004
Queenstown and Te Anau
From Lake Tekapo we backtracked south through the Mackenzie Basin, over the Lindis Pass and then on to Queenstown on the shores on Lake Wakatipu. This is one of New Zealand’s most famous resort towns and as a major base for adventure sports, sight-seeing and winter sports it’s popular both in the summer and winter and almost permanently busy. The approaching roads are clogged with coaches, crowds of people stop only for a few hours and an awful lot of construction lends the place the half-finished air that many expanding resorts seem to have. Consequently, Queenstown isn’t as beautiful as the stunning mountain-lined lake that forms its backdrop.
Over the Lindis Pass to Lake Tekapo
Our initial plan had been to head to Mount Cook from Wanaka - we’d had such bad luck with the weather in Franz Josef we thought we might try the mountains once more. As it happened, all the accommodation within our price range was booked, so we decided to visit Lake Tekapo instead.
From Franz Josef, we headed directly for Wanaka. This entailed a long bus journey south down the west coast and then across the Southern Alps over the Haast Pass. The journey itself is worth a few notes as we passed through some spectacular country on the way. We got a brief glimpse of the Fox Glacier and saw some beautiful coastline before turing inland at Haast up the river valley to the pass.
Franz Josef - utter washout
Of the two larger and most famous of New Zealand’s glaciers we decided to stop at Franz Josef rather than Fox for no particular reason. It is said that there are differences between the two, but that neither is intrinsically better or more interesting than the other. Some travellers we encountered seem to rate Fox over Franz Josef, but I suspect that this is more down to backpacker snobbery as the former is less visited and thus no doubt mysteriously purer or something due to the lower number of coach parties. I even met one person who enthusiastically argued for the merits of Fox entirely on this basis, having never actually visited either. But I digress.
Punakaiki is a tiny place sandwiched between the rugged west coast and the Paparoa National Park. Most passers by only stop for a few minutes to take a look at the Pancake Rocks and the blowholes - eroded rock formations where the spray from the breakers is forced up through holes in the rocks and emerges in spectacular spouts.
Christchurch and the TranzAlpine
It was nice to be back in a city again, even if it was only for a day or two. Although New Zealand is a lovely place, it can sometimes be difficult to find a lot of goods and services as the population is spread so thin. Once you get away from the major urban areas, everything from bread to bandwidth swiftly becomes scarce and expensive.
Kaikoura is famous for one thing - Whales. There’s a deep trench just offshore here which is a feeding ground for male Sperm Whales (particularly during the summer months) and as a bonus the coast is on the migratory routes of various other species, notably the Humpback and the Orca. Dolphins are also frequent visitors to the area and just to add icing to the cake, there are several seal colonies nearby - plenty to keep the visitors happy should the Whales proove to be shy.
Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park
We’ve really enjoyed our months in Wellington, it’s a pleasant and friendly place to live. Here are some final pictures: