Thursday, January 07, 2016

Looping the South - a whirlwind tour

With the silly season approaching and pressure to use up some of my annual leave, I had to hatch a plan. I liked the sound of going to D'Urville Island - a romantic sounding name for what struck me as a wild windswept location by the perilous French Pass.
When I went to make my booking just a few days before Christmas, lo and behold there was no space on the ferry for days. This led to quite a different route...

After spending Christmas Day with family Wellington, I chilled out for most of Boxing Day before flying down to Christchurch in the evening. The city centre remains an earthquake-struck ghost town with cranes promising new life. The following morning I was up early to catch the 'Atomic Shuttle' to Lake Tekapo. That afternoon I was out horse trekking - a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the Mackenzie Country. Pleased to say that I had no fear of falling off - in fact I would've galloped into the sunset... that night I soaked in the to pools then later enjoyed the stillness of the lakeside, the full moon (& pretty starry sky) - YHA is in a spectacular location!

Up early again the next day to head to Aoraki/Mt Cook. Clear clear skies and bright sunshine created crisp lines in the mountainous landscapes. A bush walk provided shelter from the intense rays, which prevented me from embarking on another more open trail under the midday sun. Instead I struck a last minute deal with the helicopter company and had an amazing flight around Mount Cook and up to the Tasman Glacier, where numerous photos were taken with 3 friendly Chinese suitors and the pilot. Fascinating to read about those early climbers and all the heavy gear... although not so high, it's a challenging mountain which I am happy to appreciate from afar - even climbing walls make me feel rather weak :)

So after all the excitement I travelled back to Christchurch late at night then took the Tranzalpine train through Arthur's Pass the next day. More clear skies and fantastic mountain scenery...

(an amazing train trip - but due to excess sunshine, my photos didn't quite make the grade!)

From there I travelled from Greymouth to Punakaiki (Pancake Rocks) and on to Nelson.

With a bit of packing and shopping the next morning I set off with friends on another scenic journey to the Marlborough Sounds - taking the windy gravel road to the French Pass.
A water taxi from the D'Urville Island Wilderness Resort took us to a new form of paradise - with our own camping area at the end of the beach. Coffee, cold beer, freshly caught fish, and music were never far away. New Year's eve party included bbq, bubbly, fireworks, & DJ. My $35 tent provided shelter and a chill out zone to finish my book the next day!

(Photos by Lisa super-Noble)

The rain appeared on the last day when we headed back to Nelson - got a slice of the jazz festival at Mac's brewery the flowing day. In search of more sunshine and stunning scenery I took off to Kaikoura, where I walked around the peninsula, then relaxed in a hot tub. The next day I went for a bike ride, and went kayaking in the evening - joined by seals, penguins, dolphins... and an amazing sunset!!!
(No photos - flat battery & my charger died!)

Another day in paradise - travelled to Picton & then took a boat around the Queen Charlotte Sounds, exploring & dreaming of my next trip... that evening on the ferry, there were clear views across to the North Island and back towards the Kaikoura ranges - it was a smooth crossing back to Wellington, & a taxi ride home courtesy of my neighbors :)

A whirlwind tour...


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