Stuff to Write Home About: Volume 9 Issue 1 New Zealand South Island

Ten years ago, I took a trip to Australia and New Zealand. In honour of this anniversary, I am re-publishing articles I wrote which were originally posted elsewhere. New Zealand was awesome! Enjoy.

It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about New Zealand. So, I’ll start by mentioning the first city I stopped in. Christchurch is a medium sized city that feels very English. In fact, according to a most knowledgeable Contiki Tour Guide, the English did this on purpose. They even named the river that runs through the city the “Avon”, complete with punts (types of boats). I had a few days on my own in Christchurch before I joined the Contiki Tour I had signed up for. I got to know the city rather well, since, as always, I walked everywhere. Walking is a great way to explore Christchurch because it is quite pretty…actually, a bicycle is a great way to go as well especially for what’s not within walking distance). There is a nice big park on the edge of the city called Hagley Park. I hired a bike one day and explored the park on bicycle. I’ll be honest, I actually only rode the bike for half the day because the seat made my bum sore. Not even the hard seats on the budget airlines could prepare me for that rock-hard bicycle seat. I had a great day riding around though, and don’t worry I didn’t run over any pedestrians taking a stroll on the “shared path”. While I was in Christchurch, there was also a busker festival going on, so I checked that out. I think I might have been bored otherwise. The hostel I stayed in was really nice. It felt more like a bed and breakfast than a typical hostel. For a start, there were no bunk beds and the kitchen was rather clean. The hostel was also right next to the park, which was a plus. Now that the relaxation had begun, it was time to join the big Contiki Adventure.

Contiki Tour, South Island

We started in Christchurch, but our first overnight stop was in Lake Ohau. On the way, we stopped at a place called Geraldine and saw the world’s largest knitted sweater (or Jersey as they called it in NZ). THAT was spectacular. I honestly thought it was going to be bigger. So, we continued on to Lake Ohau. This is an absolutely beautiful spot. The lodge that we stayed at is and will be the only development on Lake Ohau, which means that the place isn’t overrun with people and the beauty of the area is preserved. The lake is surrounded by mountains and there is a ski run close by. Since it was summer, I had to imagine what the mountains would look like covered with snow.

From Lake Ohau the following day, we travelled to Milford Sound. There was of course more awesome scenery. We had great sunny weather as well. At Milford Sound (which is actually a Fjord and not a Sound, “Sound” just sounds better) we hopped on a boat and went for a cruise out through the fjord and out to the Tasman Sea. We stopped in the bay and some of us went kayaking. The sand flies were out in full force and did their best to distract me from paddling and looking at the cliff faces and waterfalls, but I won in the end. A few sand flies died by my hand, and I don’t mind admitting it. That night we slept on the boat. That was cool. I’ve never slept on a boat before. We were in a really calm spot though, so it wasn’t like the boat was rocking all night.

The next stop was Queenstown. What a place Queenstown is with all the crazy stuff to do day and night. There were rides on gondolas, huge buffet dinners (awesome), people jumped off perfectly good bridges and out of perfectly good planes, and danced on solidly built bars. I rode in a decent raft down a river with not much water in it (this is apparently dangerous due to all the rocks and old mining equipment lying around). At one point I took some perfectly good running shoes and hiked 20 Km with a 600m vertical ascent. I was tired after that. They gave us a picnic lunch halfway through, and I devoured it. There was also some swimming in mountain streams. I only went in up to my knees because the water was freezing. I won’t try to describe the scenery; you’ll just have to see for yourselves in my pictures. For those of you who have visited the South Island of NZ and Queenstown, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Next up was Franz Josef Glacier. I did the optional hike on the Fox Glacier. There are these cool things we used to walk on the ice, which I might get for my next winter in Canada: Crampons. They grip the ice so you don’t fall down. Genius. People have died on this glacier before, but I felt totally safe. As long as you don’t go where they say “don’t go there it’s dangerous” you’re fine.

The South Island trip was wrapped up in Christchurch. For me, that town was already done, so I looked forward to the next part when we would go to the North Island. The trip is going at such a pace at this stage that it is a bit of a blur, but looking back through the pictures I think “Oh yeah, I remember that…good times, good times.”

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