The stunning South Island of New Zealand in March, two weeks of picture postcard locations, mouthwatering lamb, local pinot noir and an abundance of fresh clean mountain air.
Flying into Queenstown the stunning Mountains rugged, stark, sharp, breathtaking, reminding me just how young the human race is.
The weather in New Zealand can be unpredictable, it is a narrow mountainous island in the middle of the pacific close to Antarctica, why would it be otherwise? you really need to prepare for 4 seasons in a given day and if the sun is shining get yourself to those vantage points to take in the amazing views.
We started in historic Arrowtown, the trees had a suggestion of the autumn colours soon to arrive. The main street peppered with historic buildings and remnants from the gold rush period that put the town on the map back in 1862. These days Arrowtown is more about fine dining, quaint shops and sampling the local pinot.
NZ has some amazing hikes and walks from serious day hikes to gentler walks. Most of the popular Lakes offer easy terrain, Lake Hayes, Moke Lake, Bobs Cove, Lake Matheson to name a few. Almost every town we stayed in had a local hike that was the perfect pre-breakfast workout with breathtaking views.
Kiwis are a friendly bunch our. brisk morning hikes were met with countless “Hello, Good mornings” from the very hospitable locals out doing the same, I even noticed the dogs being walked had a happier swagger on!
Some of the longer walks will require you to take a day pack with some lunch and plenty of water. Roy’s Peak near Wanaka is one of them. It’s summit 1578 m, that’s 3hrs straight up , It’s was tough on the calves. The view however is stunning, sweeping views across Lake Wanaka, the surrounding peaks and Mount Aspiring/Tititea, it truly is breathtaking. Just be mindful of the new queue of Instagrammers wanting “that” selfie shot, a 3hr slog for a selfie, that’s commitment.
Next stop a road trip up the west coast to Franz Josef Glacier, this was my 1st encounter with real NZ rain. With the wipers on full speed the entire time, a 3.5hr drive turned into 5. I was assured by my better half (who happens to be a Kiwi) that it rain like this all the time on the west coast. The rain that evening that woke me from my sleep felt like a fire hose was blasting our roof. The following morning the town was in a state of emergency. Turns out the rain wasn’t normal and it’s the worst storm they’d seen in 50yrs. The Waitara river burst its banks flooded the hotel next door and 180 people had to be evacuated. We went into town to assess the damage ended up doing a TV interview and a couple of radio interviews , the NZ adventure just took another turn, I had momentary celebrity status.
The very next morning , the cloud line across Franz Josef lit up with the morning light and set off a spectacular light show of pinks and oranges, the sun shone brightly the storm had left as quickly as it arrived, Mother Nature in all of her splendour.
The west coast of NZ’s south island is simply stunning, breathtaking waterfalls the wide river beds with aqua blue water, majestic mountains, lush green forests, the scenery is unlike anywhere in the world.
Then came the call I had been waiting for, access via helicopter into Breaksea Sounds, a remote location in Fiordland (located somewhere between Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound). The deal was simple help paint an old trawler, then go fishing. I had no intention to fish, I wanted in the water. I came prepared, underwater camera housing and a serious wetsuit to keep myself warm. The water was 13 C, the sun was shining and we were still close to the mainland when we came across some New Zealand fur seals.
I got ready in record time and quietly slid into the brackish, brown water, trying to make my arrival as stealth as possible. The visibility isn’t great in shallow brackish waters, so unless you freedive past the 5m mark you really need to be up close with your subjects. For all intents and purposes I looked like a seal, full wetsuit, hoodie, big fins, gloves all black. The seals, I think had another image in mind, at this point they darted away.
I waited a ½ hour or so before they eventually returned did a few inquizitive laps and then came in close enough for a picture. I’m not sure how many people have ever swam here, but I felt completely at ease with the seals and being in the open ocean by myself. It was a life changing moment.
A change of weather was forecast to come through the next day so we had to depart a day earlier than expected, I said my silent goodbyes as the helicopter took us the 100km journey back to Te Anau up and over the Fiords. The flight itself was surreal, It truly felt like a scene from the movie Jurassic park, I was half expecting to see Pterodactyls fly past us or hear the roar of a tyrannosaurus rex. It was mesmerizing.
Our two week holiday was at an end, we experienced just a fraction of what NZ has to offer and are now planning the next chapter in NZ adventure book.
We had so much fun and everyone from the moment we boarded the air new zealand flight was genuinely happy and helpful.
I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.