Lumsden, March 14th 2018
Dear friends and family,
We hope you are all doing well and that it's getting warmer. Here, it's getting colder every day!
It was heartbreaking to leave Akaroa. Fortunately, we had some friends to meet in Christchurch. It was a good occasion to test some nice cafés and take some news from our former colleagues.
We are now ready and eager to discover the South Island, its magnificence and diversity have been so much praised.
We began with the Lake Tekapo, one of the biggest and deepest of New Zealand and one of the most famous. Once visited the small "Church of the Good Shepherd" by the lake, we hiked a bit along the shore.
A few kilometers from there is the Lake Punakaki, close to the Mount Cook. Its size and color are very similar to Lake Tekapo's. But this time, the sun is shining and we can really appreciate its beauty. Its blue color comes from the glacier water and from the sediments on its ground.
We drove along the lake, noticing the sky is getting cloudier by the minute; this is not going to help us to get a glimpse of the "Roof of New Zealand". We still stayed optimistic! To get ready for the next day hike, we walked the whole afternoon close to the mountains and glaciers. The mountain landscape is definitely nice but low gray clouds prevented us from having the full picture.
On the next day, after an apocalyptic night at the bottom of Mount Cook, the weather seemed to be a bit more clement and we decided to hike towards the Mueller Hut we were told so much about. We'll have to climb 1000m in 5km. It starts with a lot of annoying steps (1972 to be exact) followed by big rocks we fly on, to end up at the top and discover the majestic glaciers and surrounding mountains. Some big clouds prevent us to see the Mount Cook (again) but the view is still gorgeous. We will only have a short glimpse of the Mount Cook once back at the van - it was still worth climbing!
After these days inland, we drove towards the shore to Oamaru and its colonies of penguins and seals that we already know after the few weeks on the Fox II. The small town is cute and we liked its small harbour.
We continued our trip to the South to see with our own eyes the scenery of our travel guide cover.
The Moeraki Boulders are round rock formations that, with erosion, are now on the beach and are only visible at low tide. The weather is getting worse and it's under a slightly thick fog that we discover these perfect balls. Mystic! A different style from the idyllic "Petit Futé"" picture.
We then headed more south to Dunedin, the most Scottish city of New Zealand - and proved it by welcoming us with some heavy rain. The city is young and dynamic with several universities in the center and Street Art all over. A good reason to stroll in the streets.
When the sun finally came back, we discovered the beautiful Otago Peninsula. It is full (we were told) of Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Little Blue Penguins. Well, we looked for them! But we only saw seals, sea lions, sea gulls and oystercatchers. Again and again... But the peninsula is striking; we wandered around the beaches and the coast under an amazing sun!
Before going even more South (it's coming to an end), we have to pass our First Aid Certificate. Léonie because she needs it for a job starting the following week and Baptiste by curiosity. We learnt a lot of new vocabulary and learnt again the basics of First Aid - with a strong kiwi accent!
Once First Aid certified, we left for the Catlins, the most Southernmost region of New Zealand, relatively neglected by tourists because it is less accessible. That's another reason to go there, but also because we are meeting again with Sarina, our former colleague on the Fox II.
The coast is sumptuous: beautiful beaches and amazing cliffs. We also caught sight of Yellow-Eyed Penguins (well, we had to hide for an hour) that came back from their daily fishing, from afar... very far. We won't be picky with pictures, it's already a big victory to see them.
After going to the Northenmost and the Easternmost points of New Zealand, we had to go the remote Southernmost point. Nothing incredible, but we met again faithful friends: some sheep and the wind!
After a brief passage in Bluff (we were not bluffed), the Southernmost city of New Zealand, from where you can see Stewart Island, we went back North towards Queenstown and Glenorchy.
Queenstown is the most active city: its perfect situation close to the mountains and by a big lake (Lake Wakatipu) makes it an ideal destination for both ski lovers in winter and the ones seeking thrilling outdoor activities. We were told that commercial bungee jumping was invented there.
We just crossed Queenstown to go to Glenorchy where Léo is starting a horse riding guide job.
The experience was short but interesting. To summarize, she was lucky to ride for 3 days, but soon realized that the job wasn't for her. As she wasn't actually essential as it is the end of the season, we decided to hit the road again South towards the Fiordland.
We are now in Lumsden, at the crossroad of several destinations, in a campground we've already been and particularly like because of their Alpacas.
Léonie & Baptiste