Well, we were ready to start our transition to the South Island this week after an awesome end to our time in the North Island. We headed out for a final breakfast in Wellington and then we went back to Zealandia because Jon wanted to see the sanctuary during the day. I worked at their really nice cafe, had tea and fruit (and got to talk to my sister for a bit!) while Jon explored some more. After that, we went to get a quick lunch at a place nearby and then headed to the ferry we’d be taking to the South Island. The process of going on the boat involved getting there early (‘first one on, first one off,’ we were told) and waiting in a queue until it was time to drive into the bottom of the ferry. It was quite an interesting thing to drive onto a boat but everyone made it on and we walked up to the main part of the ship. We found a comfy seat to settle into, got some tea and coffee and read. It was really neat! (And the views were amazing…) Once we docked in Picton, we got off of the ferry and drove to Nelson, a cute coastal town that was central to getting to our next destination! Our hotel was really comfy, we had a quick dinner and went to bed. (Only 1.8 miles walked today but lots covered on sea, so…) 😉
The next day, we packed up and walked to their Saturday market in the town square. Unlike our last attempt at a Saturday market outside of Auckland, it was only drizzling that day. Yahoo! This market was great – so many cool crafts, food products, food stalls and drinks available! It was a great look into a regular Saturday for people here. We then drove to Marahau to park our car and take a water taxi into Abel Tasman, New Zealand’s smallest (but one of its most famous) national parks. We got there a little early so we went to have lunch at the Hooked Cafe, a nice (and the only) place right by the dock we’d be setting out from. We then got loaded onto the boat and took the very rocky ride to the lodge w’d be staying at, stopping at different bays and beaches along the way. There were really cute seals along one of the beaches and, apparently, there are dolphins. (We didn’t see any, unfortunately.) The hotel was really nice and we got to our room, got settled and then walked to the property’s wetlands to see the eels. We got back to the lodge’s library, played a game and had a yummy dinner. There was a very loud, drunk group there that was singing and making a lot of noise, which was super-duper fun. (Erm…) We went back to the library, worked on booking things for the next part of the trip and went to sleep. (We walked 4.6 miles that day!)
The next morning, we had a snack in the room and got ready for our kayaking trip! We were the only ones going (most likely due to the bad weather), which was really nice, and our guide was super friendly. We basically stuck to the first few little bays nearby and saw seals, birds and even spotted a rare blue penguin (the smallest type of penguin)! The water was pretty choppy and I started feeling pretty bad, so the guide gave me a sea sickness pill, which made me feel slightly better. It also started getting cold so when our guide suggested stopping for tea, we decided to just head back since we were already close to the lodge. We went to our room, showered and went to have lunch at the lodge. We then got some tea and coffee and read/worked for a few hours. We decided to stretch our legs and headed out for a walk down to the beach before dinner, to take in the (super rare for us!) sunshine, which was lovely. (And so needed…) We went to have dinner at the lodge, again (no other options!), and it was much nicer without the super loud group that was there the night before. We finished with a cheese plate (clearly) and played a game before bed. (A shocking 0.44 miles today…)
The next morning, we had tea and coffee at the cafe and packed up our bags to be put on the water taxi back to town. It was a relatively-smooth ride this time, much better (sea-sickness-wise) than the way there, and we even saw more of the awesome seals! We got back to our car and ate lunch at Hooked again, since we didn’t know what we’d find in the little towns along the way (and we had a 6.5 hour drive ahead of us). The drive was smooth – Jon drove the whole way and we didn’t have much rain or shenanigans – and we just listened to some podcasts. We arrived in Franz Josef, a cute little town named after its nearby glacier, and checked in to our motel. We walked right to dinner at Alice May, a nice place down the street from where we were staying. The room was super basic but cheap! We read some and went to sleep. 2.4 miles walked that day!
Jon had a work call in the middle of the night and because I was having a hard time sleeping, it was a pretty crap night’s sleep for both of us. We woke up to go to the glacier but it was pouring rain. 😦 So, like the rest of the luck we’ve had on our trip, our tour was canceled. We tried to reschedule for the next day but they only had one spot, so Jon signed up and they put me on the waitlist. So, we went to the motel to get our laptops and went to a coffee shop to have breakfast. The sun came out for about an hour so we did a small hike to get a good view of the glacier. (It literally started raining again shortly after we returned… [eye roll]) I went ahead and scheduled a massage at the glacier place (they have a spa and glacier hot pools, which are included in the glacier hike – or, in my case, my massage), since it was going to rain all day. Jon and I went into the hot pools together and then Jon stayed in the pools while I had my treatment. It was delightful. We went to have lunch, then to a cafe for tea and coffee (and to play a game). We also went to the little shops in the main part of town and they were really nice! We had dinner at SnakeBite Brewery (obviously, the name!) and enjoyed some Asian food before going back to the room, packing and playing a board game before bed. We walked 3.2 miles that day!
The next morning, we checked the weather, first-thing, and it was looking super clear! Yay! So, we packed up and checked out. We were worried because it was still supposed to rain at some point that day but we went back to the heli-hike center and they said the tours were going ahead as planned! (And I’d gotten in to Jon’s tour! Yahoo!) So, we got our gear, signed our life away on the indemnity waiver and waited for the helicopter!! They gave us waterproof pants, a waterproof jacket, snow boots and a little pack that contained a hat, gloves and our cramp-ons. They also discussed the process for getting on the helicopter and what we’d do on the glacier. We walked to the helipad, received a safety briefing and loaded on for the 4.5-minute flight. (Yep, you read that correctly. You used to be able to hike up to the glacier but it’s receded so much you can only fly in. Sad…) It was gorgeous up there and we landed right on the glacier! As in, on a teeny spot on the glacier. (Wasn’t terrified, at all…) We disembarked, put our cramp-ons on and got a pole to walk with. The glacier was super neat – lots of bright blue ice – and we climbed up and down, stomping into the ice and stopping to take pictures in the little tunnels, etc. We hiked around for a few hours and then got back on the helicopter to go back to the office. We changed out of their gear and went to get a quick lunch in town before heading out of Franz Josef. What an experience! We started the four-hour drive to Wanaka and stopped at a beach-side cafe along the way to get tea, coffee and fruit ice cream. (YUM.) We chose this lake town in the center of the South Island because it is a smaller, less-populated version of Queenstown and we found an awesome AirBnB to stay in. We arrived, walked to the main part of town for dinner and chilled out after before going to bed. (2.2 miles today…)
The next day, we walked around the corner to a bakery called Adam & Eve’s for a small breakfast before going back to do laundry. We then walked to town to stroll around the ‘beach,’ see the shops and have lunch. Then, we went to get coffee and tea and walked to Mount Iron to get a nice view of Wanaka. It was a pretty steep climb and really hot in the sun, but the view at the top was amazing. We then went back to our place, got the car and hustled back into town to see “A Star is Born” at a super cute theater with couches, food, drinks and warm cookies at intermission. (Warm cookies?? Yes, please!) We got dinner at a food truck after and then packed up some before going to bed. (Today was 6 miles!)
The next morning, we checked out of our AirBnB and started the short drive south to Queenstown. We stopped in Arrowtown – a super interesting place that was founded in the gold rush of the 1800’s – to take in the charm and have breakfast. We went to a nice cafe set in an old miner’s cottage before walking to the Chinese miners’ area, where they lived when they came from China to try to get rich from gold but were basically forced into slave labor. (Super sad.) We then drove to Queenstown, parked at our hotel, got a snack at Sushi Box (and a s’mores cookie sandwich from Cookie Time, of course) and met the bus for our Skippers Canyon jet boat tour. We took the Skippers Canyon Road to get down to the river, which is considered the 3rd-most dangerous road in the world! It doesn’t have railings and is super narrow, despite being a 2-way road. Apparently, rental cars aren’t covered by insurance on this road so it stays pretty quiet, despite being a public road. There were a few risky moments on the trip down but we made it into the canyon and got on the jet boat. We careened through the river, getting really close to jagged rock edges and tunnels, and seeing areas where they filmed scenes from “The Lord of the Rings”! It was super fun! Our guide also liked to do 360° spins, which resulted in quite a splash for us! Yahoo! We took the road back up – didn’t die that time, either! – and got dropped off back in town. We then went to get tea and coffee and walked around town for a bit before it was time to go to our hike company for a pre-hike briefing. See, Jon and I don’t have any gear (remember that failed shipment to South Africa that never came??), so we used a company that provides food, housing and hiking packs for the Milford Track. We were very excited (and maybe slightly terrified on my end?) for this trip and at the briefing, they ran through each day (it was a five-day trip with three days of hiking), gave us our packs, gave us a bag for clothes to be sent ahead for the last night, etc. It was super helpful! We then went to check in to our hotel and walked to dinner. After, we got ice cream and walked it off in a park around the lake before going back to the hotel. We got our packs ready for the hike, trying to put in the least amount possible, and went to bed. (That day, we walked 3.5 miles…)
Stay tuned for my final post on our trip: our remaining time in New Zealand, including the Milford Track hike. Will I survive ‘Day 3,’ the ascent of 800 meters and descent of 900 meters in the same day?? (The same day??) We’ll see!!
– By Naama
**We walked 24.1 miles this week!**