IT'S LYNNY KANSAS
DON'T LET THE RUBY SLIPPERS,
OR THE DOROTHY INSPIRED NICKNAME
FOOL YOU., THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,
BUT TRAVELING IS FUN.
Trying to decide which scenic picture (from the well over a 1000 that I took), to use as the lead picture of this post, was extremely hard. Not hard at all, was the fantastic road trip of the beautiful South Island of New Zealand that I did with my wonderful husband. A total of 3,400km in all (2,112 miles) over 17 days.
We had an amazing time and it is a vacation I will not soon forget. Most definitely, New Zealand is a place I would love to return to. If you stick with me, you will understand why.
For this 17 day trip, we chose to concentrate solely on the South Island, wanting to do it justice, rather than trying to cram in both Islands (also giving us a good excuse to return in the future to explore the North Island too!). Late October is Spring time in NZ so we expected mixed weather which is exactly what we got. We also expected that things would be a little quiet as it is the start of the season, December and January being the busiest summer months. For us though that was a plus, we avoided crowds and accommodation was easier to find and less expensive. (If we went again, we would probably aim for late March or early April when the weather is a bit more stable, still warm, and the Autumn colors would be a sight to see.)
Some views from the plane as we come in to land at Christchurch Airport
It is a 10 hour flight from Singapore into Christchurch. We flew direct with Singapore Airlines making good use of our air miles. After flying over night and landed mid morning, we picked up our rental car and immediately started driving North, up the East Coast via Route 1 towards the Township of Kaikoura approx. 2.5 hours drive. This would be our first stopover point, staying at The Anchor Inn Motel.
Our first glimpse of the coastline on our way to Kaikoura was at Cathedral Gulley, what a treat. It just kept getting better and better.
From our base in Blenheim, we explored the Township of Picton, a quick 20 minutes drive away. Picton is the ferry point for those crossing over to Wellington on the North Island. After a couple of days in Blenheim we drove on, this time heading for Nelson and the Abel Tasman Region. We elected to drive via the beautifully scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, before picking up Route 6 at the Township of Havelock. This lovely drive took us around 3 hours as we stopped many times to enjoy the views.
Time to move on again. From Richmond, we set off around 9am to drive down The famous "West Coast", via the Towns of Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika - our aim, to reach the township of Fox Glacier for an overnight stop. This was our first rainy day of the trip. Up to this point the weather had been mostly sunny, if a little on the chilly side.
We followed Route 6, heading South West, towards the coastal Township of Westport. A greater part of this route took us along The Buller River, which, with the rain, became a very dramatic drive. Waterfalls tumbling down towards the road, it seemed; at almost every turn. The river itself running fast and furious.
We drove through Westport but did not stop as it was pouring with rain and we really wanted to push on to get to the Punakaiki Rocks, also known as The Pancake Rocks, so called because the rocks formations look like a stack of pancakes. There were also some incredible blow holes here. One, dubbed The Chimney Pot, because the spray from the surf hitting the rocks would shoot up like smoke up a chimney.
After leaving the pancake rocks, we carried on driving down Route 6 towards the Township of Greymouth. Again, we didn't stop, preferring instead to push on until we reached the Township of Hokitika, where we made a pit stop for lunch.
After lunch at The Stella Cafe and a quick stroll around town to stretch the legs, we left this very small and quiet Township behind. Back in our trusty Toyota Rav 4, we carried on down Route 6, sometimes skirting the shore line, sometimes taking us inland through mountains. We meandered past Lake Ianthe, crossed the Wanganui River, the Poerua River and the Whataroa River before skirting Lake Mapourika (if you haven't guessed already - there are a lot of lakes and rivers down the West Coast). By now we were skirting the Westland National Park with views of the mighty Mount Cook. There are two glaciers that come down from the Mountain and at the base of each, is a Township. Franz Josef is the larger of the two and the first one you reach via Route 6. We elected to carry on a further 20 minutes and stay in Fox Glacier. Our reasons were threefold. Fox Glacier had an easier access point to the bottom of the glacier, it was smaller and not as crowded with tourists and hikers, and lastly, it was super close to Lake Matheson, the reflection lake that I particularly wanted to see.
Next up, the most wonderful experience of the whole trip. Thanks to the lovely lady who ran The Lake Matheson Hotel, we decided that the next day we would take a helicopter ride up to the Mountain and over the Glacier. The weather was the main criteria here, after a very rainy, misty day when we arrived, we were hoping the weather would be clear enough for the helicopters to fly. We awoke to a beautiful, crisp sunny day with Mount Cook clearly visible. YAY!
So here we are, lunchtime of Day 7 and we hit the road again, destination Queenstown. At this point I am humming "On The Road Again" and imagining Willie Nelson at every turn! In reality, our road is Route 6, the Haast Highway through hills and mountains, over the Karangarua River, until we hit Bruce Bay and the coastline again.
From Bruce Bay, Route 6 heads inland and crosses the Paringa River. We drove past Lake Paringa and Lake Moeraki and hit the coastline again before once more heading inland towards the dreaded Haast Pass. The Haast Pass was something that was talked about a lot whilst we were in Fox Glacier, would it be open or closed?! This road, the only way to carry on our journey towards Queenstown, runs along the Haast River, sandwiched between the river and the mountains. In some places it is quite narrow and can be closed depending on weather conditions at any time. The heavy rain that week had caused rocks falls along the edge of the road at one particularly narrow point, requiring work crews to do repairs. The road had therefore been closed overnight and our fear was that there would be a line of traffic waiting to get through. No worries, as they say in New Zealand! It was single file but not many cars (surprise, surprise), so we were back "on the road again"!
It took us around 4 hours to drive from Fox Glacier to the Township of Wanaka, where we made a stop for a late lunch. Carrying on our journey to Queenstown, via the Crown Range Road, through Cordrona, was just about an hours drive and very scenic. The last section of road with its hairpin bends was particularly fun, and as we descended down we had a clear view of Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
In Queenstown, we stayed for 8 days at the beautiful Commonage Villas. These Town homes, situated high up the hill overlooking the Township and the lake were breathtaking! Every comfort of home provided for and only a short 2 minute car ride down to town - a 20 minute walk back up - if you were brave enough to take on the hill! Our friends own Villa 1, which we were fortunate enough to use as our base whilst in Queenstown. Could not have been more perfect or comfortable.
From Queenstown, we were able to explore the surrounding areas. We visited quaint Arrowtown with it's cute streets and gold mining history. We took drives along the lake, visited vineyards and strolled around town which has some great shops, restaurants and gardens. We took the cable car ride up the side of Ben Lomand, right there in Queenstown, great views over the town and the lake.
Doubtful Sound was a side trip we took whilst based in Queenstown. This required a 2 hour drive from Queenstown to Manipouri, where we picked up a Real Journeys catamaran for the first leg of the trip which was an hours sail over Lake Manipouri. We were then taken by bus overThe Wilmot Pass to another catamaran. We spent 3 hours cruising along this amazing stretch of Fiordland out towards the Tasman Sea. We were lucky enough to see Dolphins and Fur Seals as well as some amazing waterfalls. On the return journey, we took a tour deep underground to theManipouri Power Station.
After our leisurely time in Queenstown, it was time to think about going home. We decided to take a day to drive from Queenstown back to Christchurch. The drive itself is about 6 hours, but we wanted to be able to take our time and stop off for lunch along the way.
Following Route 8 out of Queenstown, we saw some amazing and also very diverse scenery. In particular, the Waitaki region which looked almost like desert. We passed by Lake Pukaki and saw the Hydro Canal which actually links 3 Lakes, Oahu, Pukaki and Tekapo. The canal is supposed to be a great spot for fishing Trout and Salmon, we did not see a single soul whilst we were there (or fish for that matter!). Once we reached Lake Tekapo, we stopped for lunch at the small Township there. Very pretty overlooking the Lake. This last day was our best weather day of the whole trip, bright and sunny with temps reaching 17C.
From Route 8, we connected to Route 79 at Fairlie which then took us to Route 1 and our final approach to Christchurch. As we got nearer to Christchurch, the landscape started to change, we could see more farmland with giant hedges of Leylandii Conifers drawing large squares on the landscape. We could also see more cars and people and a busier feel in general - so this is where all the people were hiding!!
We had planned an overnight stay near to Christchurch so we were ready to catch our morning flight back to Singapore the next day. We chose a Motel in Riccarton, just outside the center of Christchurch and a few miles from the Airport. The Amore Motel was ideal for this purpose. I was glad that I had pre-booked over the internet the day before as "NO VACANCY" signs were common by the time we arrived to check in at the many Motels we passed in the area.
We checked in around 4pm, dumped our bags and headed off into the center of Christchurch to take a quick look around. The very short drive, past the beautiful Botanic Gardens led us into the desimated CBD of Christchurch.
Also in this area we came across Quake City, Christchurch Earthquakes Experience. At first we were not too sure exactly what this was, closer investigation revealed it to be a marvelous Museum with some great and also moving exhibits and information on the earthquakes.
WELCOME TO QUAKE CITY , CHRISTCHURCH'S EARTHQUAKE ATTRACTION Coordinated by Canterbury Museum, Quake City is a unique multi-sensory attraction aimed at informing, engaging and educating New Zealanders and international tourists about the Canterbury earthquakes.
This sign on one of the exhibits in the museum sums it up I think.
So, our amazing trip to the wonderful South Island came to an end as we left Christchurch airport, heading back to Singapore. We enjoyed everything about this trip. We will definitely be returning, just hope it is sooner rather than later.
Finally, if you have 26 minutes to spare, please check out this You Tube video I put together which documents the trip, incorporating some of the video footage I took along the way.
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