Friday, March 28, 2014

West to East coast

After seeing the beauty on the North of the South Island (see previous post) we started to slowly move south towards our next stop - Christchurch. For the road there we (quite logically) chose to use the directly opposite west coast...

Tauranga bay - another home of seal colony. But after seeing the one on Wharariki beach the previous day, this one sucked pretty hard as you could only watch the seals from a balcony 10 meters above the beach. There is also a surfspot on the beach, but the day we went there a massive swell was pumping big waves one after another so it was not really surfable (at least not for me).

Pancake rocks. The name says it all.

Big swell from previous day continued and brought some big waves crushing on the pancakes.

Hokitika Gorge - the Powerade river :) The color of the river on the picture is real, no photoshop! It is caused by the mixture of the white rock flour with the pure alpine water.

Chris and Alan trying to figure out how to catch the big trout which was laughing into their faces.

West coast means beautiful sunsets - this one in Hokitika with a creative nature-based artwork.

To cross to the east coast we used the Arthur's pass, which is the key connection between South Island's west and east coast. The road through the hills of Southern Alps was just stunning.

We stopped in the middle of Arthur's pass for one night and day to do a little hike to the Avalanche peak (quite a scary name, luckily no snow yet so we were safe). The hike was quite short but really steep (1.1 vertical kms on 2.5 horizontal) and fun and the summit offered beautiful views over Southern Alps.

After doing the hike to Avalanche peak we had some time left so we did a short walk to Devils punchbowl falls (love that name) before finishing the drive to Christchurch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Welcome to South Island, the home of Mother Nature

It is a well-known fact that the South Island is much more interesting than the North one when it comes to nature. I was really looking forward to experience the difference on my own. And I must say that it is very obvious from the first moment. During the two weeks here we have been to couple of spots (see below) and the beauty is astonishing. The other thing that I was amazed by is, that there is so many different kind of landscapes on a small piece of land. Example: desert-like sand dunes on the North followed by tropical looking bays with turquoise water and ended by mountains reaching over 2000m. All this within 200kms:

Upon arrival we went to visit our Slovak friend Miska in a god-forgotten land in the Marlborough Sounds - to get here, you need to either use boat or your legs - no road for around 60 kms. Only beautiful bays and clear water. Although our stay did not work out as intentionally planned, it was great to see this place (and Miska of course). And I have been as close to rainbow as never! :)

Marlborough Sounds - one of hundreds bays. The interesting fact is, that people actually live here.. Just the regular stuff as shopping probably becomes a day-long task in their case.

Farewell spit - northernmost tip of South Island - sand, sand, sand...

Farewell spit - look from the "alive" part towards the "dead-lands"

Farewell spit - goose airport :)

Wharariki beach - beautiful beach right next to Farewell spit. Quite heavy rain surprised us while enjoying the beauty.

Wharariki beach is home of a seal colony. This was the highlight for me - baby seals playing in the water. So funny to watch them! :)

Abel Tasman National park - 50 km coastal walkway through picture-perfect looking bays

Abel Tasman - one of many beaches.. At this one we took a rest and went for a swim and snorkeling. From the picture it may look like a tropical paradise, but the water is freezing cold!

Alan Tasman :)

Nelson Lakes National park - northern tip of the Southern Alps. Only 2 hour drive from Abel Tasman. We did a 2day hike here through the  mountains with wonderful views over the surrounding valleys full of lakes.

Nelson Lakes National park - part of the hike was on the ridge which offered these beautiful valley and mountain views

Nelson Lakes National park - Angelus lake and hut. The hut was unfortunatelly fully booked so we could not stay for the night, but we could enjoy the view over the valley.

Nelson Lakes National park - Speargrass hut - our alternative option for overnight stay. Not bad as well :)

Currently we are enjoying the West coast and plan to cross the Alps to get to the unlucky Christchurch soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Last stop on North Island: Wellington

Wellington is the capital city of NZ and also the southernmost town in North Island and therefore a gateway to South Island. We planned our trip the way that we could spend a weekend here (in order to experience the Welly night-life:)). To sum-it up very shortly: Wellington is really nice city, not too big, not too small (around 300,000 people living here) with a nice location in hilly gulf (in some points it reminded me of San Francisco).  

Most typical picture of Wellington: city panorama with cable car

City panorama from the other side - Mt Victoria

San Francisco or Wellington?

Wellington is home to the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand - huge 6 floor, very interactive and interesting museum. Really impressive.

The biggest squid ever caught - in Te Papa museum. 

NZ parliament buildings

The location of the international airport in Wellington is very interesting - right next to city centre in between two bays - basically the runway begins and ends on the waterfront. 

Hungover sightseeing :) Btw. Wellington night-life is the best that I experienced in NZ so far (but still sucks in comparison with Europe)

So, that's it North Island, I'm writing this post while waiting to board the ferry to the South Island. It is now 6 months and 2 days since I arrived in NZ, so the timing is perfect - I have exactly half of my visa time to experience the South Island. And I'm really looking forward to it :)  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tongariro National park: beautiful moon-land and the real Mordor

After almost one month we left Napier and our amazing job (Jayden if you read this, thanks a lot for everything again, it was great fun, you bad motherfucker ;)) in order to finally get to the South Island. I think this time it will work out, as we already booked the ferry tickets for 17/3. Sad is that our road-trip crew is one man shorter again as Liso stayed in Napier to make some more easy money..

So we hit the roads on Wednesday after work and the first destination was the Tongariro National park, which we didn't manage to do previously due to bad weather. The forecast was looking good this time for Thursday, so we drove until late night to get as close as possible to the start of the trek. The next morning we woke up to a foggy, cloudy morning, but we decided to do it and hoped for the weather to get better during the day. For the trek we "exchanged" one argentino (Liso) for two argentinas, as our two friends (Celeste and Barbara joined us for the day).

The Tongariro National park is the oldest national park in New Zealand and the Tongariro alpine crossing (6hour trek across the National park) is proclaimed as the most beautiful one-day trek in NZ (I even read somewhere that might be one of the most beautiful in the world). The whole area is volcanic active with several volcanos and one of them being Mount Ngauruhoe also known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings (the only place where the ring can be destroyed).

I personally, did not expect too much (not to get disappointed) after reading and hearing all the superlatives about Tongariro... After all, it is just a volcanic area with no life whatsoever, so what can be so amazing about that, right? But after seeing it, I cannot find words to describe the beauty, so I'm sure the pictures will tell more:

Reflections in the Emerald lake

Chris and Barbara in the middle of the moon country

Above the lakes. Notice the steam coming out of the mountains - there were several spots demonstrating the volcanic activity by the steam and weird noises coming out of the ground.

And here the demonstration of the past volcanic activity - big crater and lava field

And the spot responsible for it all - the biggest vagina you will ever see ;)

Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom, 2291m) - the real piece of Mordor

The climb to the top of Mt Doom was the most annoying and boring hike ever - basically just a struggle in the gravel, dust and volcanic stones

But we did it - we destroyed the ring and deserved a victory beer on the summit :)

Big-ass crater of Mt Doom.

After 10.5 hours of hiking this was the goodbye picture of the Tongariro National Park on sunset when we were leaving... Amazing. 

Next plans: weekend in Wellington and Monday morning we should be in South Island.