As most of you will be aware, (if not, peer back to my first blog) my better half and I have been travelling the wonderful country of New Zealand since January.
To say that we have seen and done a lot since my last (and first) blog would be a massive understatement. We have been travelling around NZ for over 6 months now and I have realised I should probably have kept more up-to-date and maybe posted a blog per month. Too late for that now, so on-wards. As I said, far too much has happened so I will break this blog up into two posts (hence the .0 in the title). Now then, where to begin... I guess the best place would be where I left off the last time.
We travelled south from Auckland via Hamilton and Raglan, towards the Taranaki region, with a few scenic stops along the way. Including the wonderful Bridal Veil Falls and a morning strolling around Hamilton Gardens.
We drove the forgotten world highway in the rain towards New Plymouth, and just as we entered the Taranaki region, the clouds cleared to give a wonderful view of the majestic Mount Taranaki.
We had initially planned to hike up to the summit of Mount Taranaki itself, but after chatting with the Department Of Conservation (DOC) in the region we decided against it (they were advising all visitors not to do it or go for the summit at this time of year due to the amount of ice), and settled with doing a number of different walks around the base.
A quick trip to the Weta Cave (famous for making props and special effects for a whole host of films, including of course, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) we wandered into the centre. A must visit here is definitely the Te Papa Museum, with a number of fantastic exhibitions, it would be easy to loose a number of afternoon's (or days) here (unfortunately for us we just had the one).
Checking the local events we discovered that the city was setting up for the LUX light festival, which proved to be a wonderful experience for a slow stroll in the evening by the waterfront of the city after exploring some of the cities many wonderful eateries and cafes.
The next morning, we were up early for our sailing over to the south island. This had been something we were both looking forward to, and we couldn't have picked a better morning for it. Beautiful, calm, and perfectly still weather. Waving goodbye to Wellington being lit up by the sunrise we were soon in the Queen Charlotte Sound, surrounded by stunning rolling green hills. As the small town of Picton came into sight we even spotted a large pod of dolphins welcoming us into the harbour.
One of the most scenic drives in the country is the French Pass, after a look at some other parts of the sound we decided to find out why it gets that publicity. It did not disappoint. The road hugged the hill side high up giving incredible views down multiple valleys to the gleaming ocean bellow it. The road is long, and mostly gravel, but to be honest, you are thankful as it means you have to take it slow. Giving plenty of opportunities to take the stunning surroundings.
The next stops after this were Nelson, Motueka, and Takaka on route to Wharariki Beach.
Despite only spending the morning at Wharariki Beach, it quickly became one of my favourite beaches in the country, and without a doubt a photographic highlight (so far). The beach itself is vast with huge rolling waves. The beachfront is also littered with multiple massive sea stacks. As if that isn't enough to keep a photographer busy, there's also a colony of breeding New Zealand fur seals. Luckily for us, when we were there, there were a number of playful pups in the rock pools. This was our first encounter with the beautiful NZ fur seals.
After a quick stop at Lake Rotiti we travelled on-wards down the west coast. Once we had visited the pancake rocks we made the decision to drive the Lewis Pass over to the east coast, and then drive the Arthur's Pass back over to the west.
Highlights on the alpine passes were obviously the scenery and wildlife. A stunning morning exploring Castle Hill, our first encounters with a New Zealand Robin and a few cheeky Kea's. The passes were worth the detour.
We had learned that the best view of the glacier (apart from on one of the helicopter trips) was from the viewing platform at the end of the Roberts Point track. So, naturally, that's the route we took. The walk itself was super interesting with multiple swing-bridges, a highly engineered staircase, stunning landscapes, and of course fantastic views of the glacier at the end.
The next day brought a short stroll at the Fox Glacier to the view point, then a wander around the flat calm Lake Matheson, providing beautiful views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman perfectly reflected in the water of the lake.
We then drove inland - taking the Hasst Pass on to Wanaka. This is a location I had been looking forward to visiting long before we even set foot on New Zealand. We drove the pass with thick cloud towards Wanaka. However, just as we arrived at the lake front in Wanaka, the clouds parted to reveal a beautiful blue sky and lake surrounded with snow capped mountains. As stunning as I had imagined.
Now, when in Wanaka, it is known that you go and take a photo of THAT tree... So, of course, I went at sunset, under the stars, and sunrise the next morning...
We hiked Roy's Peak during sunrise, giving stunning views over Lake Wanaka, and meaning we passed all the hoards of people as we were on our way back down.
The Rob Roy glacier walk provided beautiful snowy vistas underneath the glacier after an icy path to the view point at the end.