Choice South Island Bro ay?

Posted on December 29, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Last time around, you were promised a highlights tour of our bus trip around the South Island. If I am to get this right it should contain: "glaciers, hot pools, A frame huts, views and vistas to die for, luges and teapots". Phew!

Lucky for me these are in chronological order. I like chronology – it's good for the digestion. And this – this is good for the soul:

This is a shot I took standing on Franz Josef Glacier, looking down at a group of ice climbers returning from their early morning exertions.  We had opted for a later start and a half day hike up and down this natural wonder, accompanied by "Brindin" (Brenden), our Kiwi glacier guide. Because it was raining solidly, the glacier was washed clean and so was a beautiful blue colour. We walked up the glacier for about an hour, past ice caves and around moulins. The scenery was breath taking, as was the cold eventually. We stopped at a smooth section of ice, the top of our climb and Rachel filled her bottle with glacier water – freezing and pure as.

We finished off our day on the glacier with 3 hours in hot pools – three pools of 36, 38 and 40 degree temperatures which you could dip in and out of at your leisure. Since the outside temp was pretty cool (14 degrees or so on the day), the contrast was pretty incredible. It was comforting, relaxing, and I taught Rachel how to swim a bit with her head underwater! Pretty awesome. We also had showers there since they give you free towels, and it saved us fighting for space in the communal showers at the hostel.

Our next awesome stop was the wee town of Makaroa. It's a very quiet town at the head of Lake Wanaka, and the only adventure activity recommended to us was jet boating (which is a form of water speed boat controlled by sucking up water in front, and squirting it out in different directions). Jet boating is excellent as you can skim in water as shallow as 3 inches, and the boats are super manoeverable. However, thanks to an incident we'd had on the way into town, there weren't enough of us willing to do the trip. Instead, we were unloaded at our rooms. Rachel and I had requested a double, but instead we got a massive A-framed hut with 5 beds in it, all to ourselves. 

The huts were set in native bush, a bit back from the main road. Rachel should have some pictures of the A frame up in the near future, but for now we'll just have to illustrate the peacefulness of a nature walk through native New Zealand bush.

We saw ferns, podocarps and lots of local birds. We were only in the town for an evening, but it was a spectacular spot we'd have been happy to spend several days in.

One thing the South Island has in bounty is vistas, staggering views and immense geographical features mesh to make you feel that you're looking at Nature. Here's a mountain alongside the Makaroa river (overnight this night, there was fresh snowfall on these peaks. Altitude makes a difference it turns out):

This is a picture from the head of Lake Hawea:

And this is a picture from the gondola ride, heading up the mountain to the top of Queenstown hill:

I know. Speaking of Queenstown, it's a nicer place than I had imagined since it has a reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and a tourist hot spot. The two things we'd pick out as highlights are the teapots from the World Bar, and the luging. Teapots are more or less as they sound – a small teapot full of cocktail that is prepared for you at the bar. The World Bar does half-price specials between 9 and 10, which means you can get a teapot full of Long Island Ice Tea for NZD 7.50. Sweet as. We spent a good night in here with friends from the bus tour, which was what made the experience, but it's still a well decorated bar with good music. Highly recommended.

The other thing is luging. At the top of Queenstown Hill there is a small complex, incorporating an insane bungy jump, sky swing, paragliding launch platform and a luge track. This is a form of street luge – the race track is paved, and you can control the luge by leaning your body and pulling back to a breaking position should you feel the need to slow down. Three things about the course:

1) the view from the course is incredible – down over Lake Wanaka and Queenstown:

2) Rachel is a speed freak. By her time on the second "advanced" track, she was cutting up little kids (safely) and screaming happily through tunnels and round bends. Peter – I think you get to teach her how to drive, alright? :->

3) Because of point 2 above, Rachel beat me all but the first and last time down the track. The last race was tight, with us each over taking each other twice, before coming down the final straight. As we did so, Rachel looked back over her shoulder and was slowing down. I thought 'a ha! She's tripped her breaks accidentally – here we go!'. This is what this looked like:

Rachel maintains she was slowing down so we could take a nice picture together, and indeed that she told me of this (which is why she turned her head). I like this photo very much.

So – those are the highlights of our South Island tour. There were many other excellent pieces – frisbee golf in Queenstown for free, Puzzling World in Wanaka, with a huge 3D maze, an amazing special effects ridden mini-golf course and, indeed, the Fergburger.

After Queenstown, we shot back up to Christchurch in one day (a tiring drive for Goose, our new driver), and continued our journey there.

'laters,

James

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas

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