Our last full day in New Zealand was quite busy. After waking at dawn in Arthur’s Pass we finished the two hour drive into Christchurch where our first stop was Orana Wildlife Park.
In the early days of planning the trip, Justin discovered this hidden gem and immediately made reservations, unbeknownst to rest of the party. When we arrived for our scheduled tour, Lyle was shocked to discover that we would participate in a lion feeding.
After hiking the glacier, we followed Highway 6 north along the west coast and Tasman Sea. The road was slow going and 3 hrs of driving turned into 5 or 6 hrs (with plenty of stops for pictures) and we arrived at our cabin in Arthur’s Pass after dark.
From the sound to a glacier we went! Fox Glacier presented itself in a stunning manner. We stumbled upon rocks that can only be found in New Zealand. These have a green color to them because they are chloride schist. Yes, we did snatch some to bring home. Our tour guide was a fountain of knowledge! Some of this information includes the fact that this glacier recedes about a meter a day and the height has dropped about 50 meters in the last five years. He explained that the glacier moves like a conveyor belt, it picks up rocks and such at the bottom and then those eventually move to the top making it appear dirty at some points. Also, he shared that as the glacier melts it takes about five years for any kind of foliage to start growing. First, a red algae grows then a green moss starts to grow and together these two form a soil type environment for other plants. Therefore, we can tell how long the glacier has been gone by what it growing. That is the gist (well, everything I can remember) about the glacier.
Milford Sound was next on the list. Here we were able to kayak the sound. They loaded us and the kayaks on a boat, drove us out to where the sound meets the ocean (Tasman Sea), dropped us off (with a guide), and let us paddle our way back home. This took us about five hours and we were surrounded by beautiful scenery the whole way! Also, it tends to be a bit windy in these parts. We faced some treacherous white capped waves that were rocking our kayaks back and forth almost to a point of toppling us over. Thankfully, our mad kayaking skills kept us afloat. As far as wildlife goes, we saw some seals sunbathing on rocks; and at one point, we were surrounded by a group of sharks that wanted dinner…just kidding, no sharks were seen, thankfully. There were beautiful waterfalls as well. One of them was made famous when Hugh Jackman jumped off of it in X-men Origins: Wolverine. That same waterfall is three times as tall as Niagara Falls and we ventured under it! We were able to paddle over to the bottom, get sprayed by the tons and tons of water tumbling down, and paddle our way back out. The only bad part of the trip were the sand flies that inhabit the area. Since the winds were blowing they weren’t too bad until the very end when the wind calmed down. These sand flies love human flesh. Their razor sharp teeth can bite through clothes and their bite looks much like a mosquito bite, itchy too!
Day five brought yet another flight. We flew from the North Island to the South Island of New Zealand. Thankfully, this was a short flight. We landed in Queenstown and took our time exploring the town. We made our way to the Queenstown Gardens where we stumbled upon the peninsula and found a ginormous lake which we explored. Here we found a man with jet packs on his feet. This allowed him to use the water spewing out of these jet packs to propel him up. He was doing all sorts of tricks! After the lake, we ventured to Devil Burgers which served us GREAT New Zealand burgers and chicken sandwiches. After our bellies were full, we gallivanted over to the “gondola” which took us up a mountain to an overlook scenic area that was gorgeous! Here Lyle and Justin took a luge ride down part of the mountain and Katie joined the party once they decided to paraglide.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 19.4 km hike, was next on the list. This hike included sights of Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings and numerous other beautiful sight seeing opportunities. It is a trek over steep volcanic terrain with many different changes in the scenery. There were parts that looked like Mars, a still active and steaming volcanic vent, crater lakes, a forest, and a lake surrounded by grasslands. Needless to say, we had lots of variety during the hike. Also, on this trek, we learned Lyle has taken the selfie craze to a whole new level (see picture below)… We weren’t able to take as many pictures as we would have liked due to the fact that parts of the hike were near the active volcano so we were told not to lollygag about.
From the dark depths of the cave to the beautiful sunny day above ground, the next day presented itself with zorbing. For those of you who don’t know (which I think is pretty much everyone), zorbing is basically a huge ball with water inside of it, one then gets into the ball and rolls down the hill. Below are the videos of Monica, Katie, and Julie’s adventure down the hill and Matt and Lyle’s adventure (Justin went separately).
Sorry for the delay in posts, we have had a hard time finding both time and free wifi. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave some fun comments!
After approximately 30 hours of travel, we have reached our destination. From the time we touched down in Auckland, NZ, we have been very productive! Matt and Lyle landed first and used their time wisely while waiting for the rest of the bunch to land. They ventured to the Skywalk on the Sky Tower and had a great view of the city from the highest tower in the southern hemisphere.
Packing is never easy. On my first trip overseas, I had no idea what to bring and ended up hauling gear around Europe that I never used. Nowadays, I try to underpack with just the essentials. Continue reading My packing list→