‘There are parts of New Zealand that I absolutely fell in love with
that I will miss going back to,
but I kind of think that is the part that can continue and will continue on.
I don’t imagine I’ll stop going back to New Zealand,
because I feel part of the fabric there, really’ – Andy Serkis
Kaiteriteri is a common destination due to its close proximity to the Abel Tasman National Park. In fact, it’s probably the main/only reason people would go there.
After leaving Wellington and North Island behind via a ferry, we were driven directly to Kaiteriteri, with a brief stop in Nelson. To then get to the Abel Tasman National Park, you usually have to take a water taxi – this is the case whether you are just going to walk around the park or if you are going to kayak.
There are several kayaking tours available – including an overnight stay – as well as a variety of walking tours. I decided to go for the latter option, although I don’t know why because, after Tongariro, I had really fallen out with the concept of long walks. However, it was fortunate that this was the option I picked because we saw some fantastic sights, watch fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks, and bumped into a sunfish and a trio of wild bottlenose dolphins!
Seeing the dolphins absolutely blew me away, because they were the first wild ones I had ever seen. Moreover, they came so close to our little water taxi! The captain was saying that they wanted to play so he revved the engine and sped off… the dolphins kept up with him, jumping in and out of the waves that the engine motor was creating. It was absolutely amazing.
I had also heard brilliant things about the sunrise at Kaiteriteri and Abel Tasman. Unfortunately the weather was pretty poor when I decided to go watch it, meaning that the sunrise was less than impressive – I guess it will just have to wait for another time!
Westport: 30.11.16 – 01.12.16
On the way to Wesport, we stopped off at Lake Rotoiti, which is the home of a classic ‘jumping into a freezing cold lake off of a jetty’ picture. You know, like the one below:
I’ll be honest, I don’t have much to say in regards to Westport. The reason most people come here is to go surfing, something that didn’t really take my fancy this time around.
Saying that, the hostel we were put up in was awesome. Although sharing a 14 bedroom dormitory may not sound ideal, we had a lot of fun, and were even provided with our own kitchen! The coolest part about the hostel was that the management offer to trade free accommodation or surf lessons to anyone staying there that will create a piece of art on the hostel walls. As a result, the hostel has different types and styles of pieces in the ‘street art’ style everywhere. Pretty rad if you ask me.
Lake Mahinapua: 02.12.16
A Kiwi Experience special, stopping off by Lake Mahinapua is basically provided so that everyone on the bus can party as a group, but with one condition: fancy dress!
What most excited me about this stop, was that you were also given the opportunity to carve your own basic greenstone necklace for just $20. For those who don’t know what greenstone is, it is known commercially around the world as Jade. Greenstone is also considered to be special by the Maori, who would travel all the way down from North Island just to harvest it for their tribes. The greenstone would then be carved into weapons, charms and pendants, with each design carrying a different meaning.
With my piece of greenstone, I shaped it into a common Maori symbol, the tear drop. Unfortunately, the necklace broke whilst I was playing paintball in Franz Josef and the entire thing was lost.
Still, whilst in Queenstown I was speaking to a girl of Maori descent and she claimed that if a piece breaks or is lost, then it was just not meant for you. Now, whether this is true or if she was just saying it to make me feel better I do not know however, if it is the latter then it certainly worked!
Franz Josef: 03.12.16 – 04.12.16
Franz Josef is a quite wonderful place. Set – basically – at the foot of the Franz Josef Glacier, it is quiet and peaceful with an array of different attractions. It is also home to what is often described as one of the most scenic skydives ever.
It was here where, thanks to alcohol, I ended up (very badly) singing a variety of different karaoke songs, from Guns n Roses to Billy Joel to Avril Lavigne. I didn’t particularly want too, but the microphone kept on being given to me. To be honest, I was surprised. You’d think after the first song that the people I was travelling with would have tried to keep as far away from the microphone as possible!
The next day was one that I had been anticipating for months – the opportunity to go walking on an actual glacier! There was some trepidation and worrying in the build-up however, because you can only get up to the glacier by helicopter and, if the weather is poor, the helicopter can’t fly. As a result, only 7 days in the month of November had planned tours go ahead.
Fortunately, the weather was clear and sure enough we were soon up the glacier, which we would carefully walk around for the next 4 hours, learning about it along the way. For example, it is currently around 10.5km and is retreating. It also moves about 1m a day on the area that you walk on, whilst it can move up to 7m a day at the top. There is also a really cool Maori legend/love story attached to the glacier. Strangely enough, about 20mins after being told the story I came across the below and just had to catch it on camera:
After returning from the glacier, it was off to paintball where – as I mentioned earlier – my beautiful greenstone necklace was lost. Blood was drawn on my knuckle and I learnt that paintballs are bloody painful when they hit you. Thankfully, I escaped relatively unscathed – something that I can’t quite say for many of the others.
After that, we all wound down with a bit of R&R in the hot tub. A lovely way to bring the day to a close.
Lake Matheson, Wanaka, and #thatWanakaTree: 05.12.16 – 06.12.16
An early morning start got us into Lake Matheson – also known as ‘Mirror Lake’ for around 10am. The reason why it is known as the Mirror Lake is because, on a clear day, you can see a perfect reflection of the landscape behind it. Now, there is a scientific reason for why this happens, but trying to explain it when I don’t 100% remember it myself is a bit of a no go situation.
Wanaka is pretty cool, which is surprising because it is not very big. It is right on the lakefront and seems to be a place that it both energetic and lethargic at exactly the same time! It was also the place where I decided I would do my skydive, something I have been looking forward to doing again every since jumping out over the Whitsunday’s the previous year.
The reason I picked Wanaka to skydive over is because it provides you with views of the mountain range, as well as Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. I had seen an image on google of what it could look like, and I was not disappointed.
Wanaka is situated about 1 1/2 hours from Queenstown, which makes it a pretty ideal place for a backpacker to live. You can earn and save there, whilst also still travel to the ‘adventure capital’ for some amazing weekends. There is another great reason to be in Wanaka though, and that is the Wanaka tree.
It is, without doubt, one of the most pathetic, lonely looking trees that you will ever see in your life and yet, it has this odd charm about it. It is permanently held captive within the lakes water, arching over beautifully. In fact, what started out as a ‘jokingly taken photo’ turned that tree into a phenomenon and, as such, visitors have come from far and wide to take just the right picture of it.
I was unfortunate with the weather overhead, which meant I couldn’t quite get the ideal shot I wanted, but I still gave it my best. I will definitely be going back there one day to play around a little more – fingers crossed the weather is kinder to me next time!