03/2009 - New Zealand – The South Island

18-day trip to New Zealand – South Island – visiting Christchurch, Kaikoura, Takaka Hill, Collingwood, Farewell Spit , Motueka , Kaiteriteri , Abel Tasman National Park , Lake Rotoroa , Swingbridge Buller Gorge , Foulwind Cape, Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks, Shantytown , Hokitika, Franz Joseph glacier , Fox Glacier, Matheson Lake, Wanaka , Arrowtown , Queenstown, Dart River, Double Sound, Manapuri , Milford Sound , Dunedin, Taieri Gorge Railway, Otago Peninsula , Castle Larnac, Moeraki, Oamaru , Mount Cook ( Aoraki ), Tekapo Lake.

We arrived at Christchurch after 24 long hours of flight and 7 hours of stop in the airport. We had left on 8th March and arrived on 10th March. We were welcomed by rain, wind and cold weather.

We visited the town with a tourist tram which crossed the streets with the most significant monuments of the city.

The Botanic Gardens spread in a large area with many beautiful trees. The greenhouse contains plants and flowers, mostly unknown to us , particularly beautiful.

We visited the Maori Culture Centre and the International Antarctic Centre .

The first one is of little importance whereas the Antarctic Centre is a complex of international studies (there is also an Italian staff) . Particularly interesting, it is the reconstruction of the life led at the “Scott’s Base” and the room  of the “Antarctic Storm ” where you can try what is the effect of the wind at – 18° C.

The road that brought us to Kaikoura in three hours offered breathtaking inland landscapes rich in pastures and mountain vegetation , while seascapes , thanks to the rugged coastline , offered very picturesque views.

That panorama would accompany us throughout our trip around New Zealand , both in the South and in the North .

The town of Kaikoura does not offer much .

We stopped there just because it is a great place for whale watching .

We left at five in the morning. It was still night, raining, windy and cold.

At eight o’clock we arrived at the Charlotte Drive, a road famous for its beautiful landscapes but the low clouds prevented us from fully enjoy the view.

Later, the sun peeped out and allowed us to admire magnificent sights from the top of Takaka Hill .

We arrived in Collingwood at 1:00 p.m., in time to make the excursion to the Farewell Spit that made us enjoy the beautiful views of Golden Bay and arrive at a long beach ( more than 26 kms. ) which hosts numerous colonies of terns and boobies .

Unfortunately, the weather was not good: everything was shrouded in mist.

We left at dawn (it was our usual practice ) and arrived in Motueka, where we  would sleep . We left our luggage down and went to Kaiteriteri where we embarked to visit the Abel Tasman National Park.

Along the way, we stopped to see the Split Apple Rock , a rocky fragment which opened in two. We reached Torrent Bay where we landed and began to walk a spectacular track.

In four hours, crossing landscapes scenically very attractive , we reached Bark Bay where we boarded again to go back.

We spent a full day ( as usual) that brought  us, first inland, to see the Rotoroa lake, with beautiful landscapes and beautiful mushrooms, then to the Buller Gorge Swingbridge. Once across the bridge we reached the White Creek Faultline that, in 1929, was the epicenter of an earthquake.

We reached the coast at Cape Foulwind . We walked along a path that follows the cliff until Tauranga Bay where there was a colony of seals . In the distance, we could admire  the beautiful panorama of the Nine Mile Beach.

Then, we took the road that follows the coast lashed by the large waves of the Tasman Sea .

We arrived at Punakaiki to visit , with the wonderful light of the setting sun , the Pancake Rocks which are  formations due to the stratification of the limestone rocks .

We left very early to be, with the rising of the sun, at the Pancake Rocks.

We hoped to find a better light than at sunset but we were disappointed .

We continued our journey and, in mid- morning , we arrived at Shantytown , a reconstruction of a mining town at the time of the gold rush . It was not very interesting .

The small town of Hokitika, a jade work centre is more interesting.

We went to the nearby Hokitika Gorge, a fantastic gorge characterized by the wonderful turquoise water of the homonymous river .

Later in the afternoon, we arrived in the town of Franz Joseph where we could breathe the same air of the Italian mountain locality of Cortina D’ Ampezzo , but we were almost at sea level.

Early in the morning, we started our adventure on the Franz Joseph Glacier .

We started by helicopter which, after a scenic flight, left us in the heart of the glacier.

There, a nice Italian guide was waiting for us! She gave us crampons to wear and an ice ax

and accompanied us through a fascinating itinerary for nearly two hours .

In the afternoon, we went to visit the Fox Glacier which we saw in the distance from the shores of Lake Matheson .

We spent the night in Wanaka, a beautiful town located on the lake shores.

Along the way we stopped to visit the town of Arrowtown where there is an original Chinese settlement.

We continued to Queenstown, a beautiful city that offers beautiful sceneries and is considered the capital of all the high-adrenalin sports.

The town has beautiful gardens but also a park where we had the opportunity to see, although in poor light conditions, the famous kiwi (it is a nocturnal bird). The surroundings of Queenstown are beautiful and full of adrenalin proposals. We participated in the “Dart River Safari”, a jet boat ride with breathtaking acrobatic movements on a river. This latter has a very shallow water  which flows in a valley surrounded by beautiful scenic mountains.

We made another excursion to the Walter Peak Farm, where we could see sheep shearing. We reached the farm with an old steamboat that sailed the waters of Wakatipu Lake .

After crossing Manapouri Lake and passing the Wilmot Pass by bus, we descended on the placid waters of Deep Cove . On board of the nice ship Fiordland Navigator, we began the cruise on the waters of the Double Sound which lasted one day and a half. We could enjoy the majestic views among which stood out the Commander Peak. While sailing, among fjords and forests, we met numerous birds and marine animals.

After the cruise, we began to follow one of the most evocative roads of Southern New Zealand. We could admire many panoramic views ,the beautiful Lake Gunn, thick forests, snow-capped peaks , the Homer Tunnel  and we ended with the spectacular Cleddau Canyon.

In the early morning of the next day, we started the cruise on Milford Sound.

The fjord is dominated by Mount Mitre Peak and numerous other mountains from which several waterfalls descend; some waterfalls are definitely spectacular such as Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.

In that crystal-clear waters, there are many marine animals .

Around noon, we left to go to Dunedin. We spent all afternoon to travel more than 400 km. Dunedin is a beautiful city with many important places in its surroundings.

The historical Dunedin Railway Station is really beautiful; from there, we took the train of the Taieri Gorge railway which covers 60 km and travels through a very green area, at first, and then through a steep and spectacular canyon.

In the afternoon, we went to the Otago Peninsula and visited the Larnac Castle which is the only castle of  New Zealand. It is situated in a panoramic position with beautiful gardens from which you can enjoy wonderful views.

Unfortunately we spent the night in the castle. Its beauty did not correspond  to an adequate accommodation.

In the same afternoon, we made both a guided tour to the Royal Albatross Centre, which is the only existing colony on an inhabited mainland, and to Taiaroa Cape where it was installed, in 1886, a huge disappearing gun.

For lack of time we missed a visit to the colony of yellow-eyed penguins , the only place where they could be seen.

The next morning, before leaving the area of Dunedin, we went to visit the Tunnel Beach Walkway, a track which goes down to the sea where we could admire some rock formations shaped by ocean waves.

On the north of Dunedin, on a beach near Moeraki, there are numerous spherical ancient rocks which the Maori called “Te Kaihinaki” . Then, we reached Oamaru , a town that flourished thanks to the meat market and, nowadays,  the impressive palaces in limestone witness the wealth of its commercial district . In one of the building, while we were waiting for the dark to see a colony of blue penguins, we visited an interesting museum.

Early in the morning (as usual) we left in the direction of Mount Cook. We took the panoramic road until Tekapo Lake where we stopped to admire the great snow-capped mountains that rose up facing the waters of the lake. We arrived at the foot of the magnificent and majestic Mount Cook ( 3.755 meters high!), which the Maori called “Aoraki”, that means  “Cloud Piercer” .

With a short walk we visited the Blue Lakes, greener than blue, while, with a guided tour, we made a boat ride among the icebergs in the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake.

The next day, we moved to Christchurch in time to catch the plane to Auckland.

I invite you to continue the journey with me in New Zealand, the North Island.


The photos of the trip can view them in slideshows with music on the following link:  www.viaggiaresempre.it – Nuova Zelanda del Sud