The Journey – South Island
We started our journey at Christchurch.
Drive from Christchurch to Franz Joseph Glacier through Arthur Pass
Setting out from Christchurch, you will come across the vastness of Canterbury plains as far as your eyes can see.As you are still immersed in the landscapes of plain, the road takes you to the foothills of Southern Alps.The scenery changes constantly as you drive over mountain pass,across lake,rivers and gorges.
Franz Josef Glacier
We were here to hike Franz Josef Glacier.We stayed at Franz Josef Village which is literally in the middle of nowhere.But this village has all the amenities you can think off.I had best Indian food in the village in long time(never expected it here).I remember an incident when our car’s battery drained out and we needed the jump starter kit to recharge the battery.We panicked thinking that we will not be able to find anything in the village but surprisingly we were able to hire the kit from the nearest gas station in just 10$ NZ.I don’t know if its that easy to get things even in remote US.
I booked the Heli Hiking tour of the glacier.Me and my husband were both ready to hike the glacier but unfortunately due to bad weather conditions we couldn’t hike the glacier:-(
Trip to NZ’s west coast is not complete without visiting Franz Josef or Fox Glacier.These are the products of years and years of endless rain.Nowhere in the world glaciers are so close to sea at this latitude.
Its a small 3 mile hike near Fox Glacier.This lake has all the ingredients to create stunning reflections of 2 highest peaks in NZ – Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The water of the lake is brown in colour caused by natural leaching of organic matter from surrounding forest.Coincidentally, the mountains are positioned perfectly to cast their reflection in the lake.Due to bad weather, I was not able to capture the perfect reflection picture but on a fine day the lake would look like this.
Two and a half hour drive from Fox Glacier to Lake Wanaka through Haast is the most mesmerizing drive.NZ is the kind of place where you will keep looking for the picture perfect landscape but each time the new landscape is better than the old one.The bright blue waters of the Hawea Lake are unbelievable.Lake so blue it made me think that someone has photoshopped it.But this is not my favorite lake, it is yet to come:-)
We reached Wanaka late in the night.We spent a night in the cute town along the edge of Lake Wanaka. Its the fourth largest lake in NZ.There is only one word that comes to my mind for this lake – tranquility.Its back door is Mt Aspiring National park.We decided to explore more of the park and went for a drive.Believe me 30 km of dead farm road along the lake takes you to the remotest area of the region and is the most scenic drive you could ever take.But this lake is still not my favorite one:-)
Wanaka to Queenstown through Cardrona and Crown Range Road
Next day we left for Queenstown. Its just couple of hours from Wanaka to Queenstown but you can spend hours on this road just sitting and looking around the beauty of the place.
This cute little town on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu is the “adventure capital of the world”.Small and laid back but simultaneously cosmopolitan and lively, this place offers everything – extreme sports,bar crawling,hiking,vineyards,water sports etc.It was a good place to take rest for couple of days from long drives. Don’t forget to try burger at Fergburger. The joint opened in 2001.Back in the days drunk people didn’t have anything to eat,they had begun eating their clothes and firewoods left on the road. Ferg saw this and he decided to open the burger joint which will have burgers for people to eat when they are drunk to hell:-)
It is a rural village and backdrop in many key scenes in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy.It is 45min drive from Queenstown and located at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu.The drive is perfect for a leisure evening.
FiordLand National Park – Milford Sound
We took a day trip tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound.It is definitely one of the iconic destinations in NZ.The weather is quite unpredictable and its wettest inhabited place in NZ.The landscape is mainly untouched by man and nature is in its purest form.Take a cruise and immerse in the moody black waters of the Sound.On your cruise you will get to see many temporary and permanent falls coming down like veins and seals taking rest on the steep cliffs in the sun.Hugh Jackman jumped off one of the falls called Sterling fall in X-Men Origins.
Kawarau Bunjy Jump
Yes… Bunjy jumping was in my bucket list and always wanted to do it at the place of its origin.Attached by your feet,you can choose to oscillate over water,touch it or even take a dip in it.I was all harnessed, my legs tied down and here was my conversation with the operator:
Operator – Do you want water touch?
Me – Enthusiastically,”yes of course”.
He asked me to sit on the ledge from where I had to jump.I looked down.
Me – “Do I have to jump from here”.
Operator – “Yes.But you can take your time.People spend hours here on this ledge but you look confident,are you ready to jump?”
Me – “Yes.I am.”
I was sitting on the ledge and he picked me up and took me to the edge of the ledge.When I looked down, I started shouting “NO NO WAIT WAIT.. I don’t want water touch.Its too scary.I don’t want to jump”.
Operator – “Its too late now.You will have to touch the water and he pushed me.”
I was oscillating in air for like 5mins and I forgot all my fears and touched the water too.It was cold:-)
After coming up, I thanked operator for pushing me:-).He said “No problem.Its my job to push people from cliffs and ledges” and he laughed.
Mt Cook Region
Here comes my favorite lake – Lake Pukaki. This turquoise colour lake coupled with alpine landform is the jewel in Mt Cook Region.Sir Peter Jackson has used this particular region 3 times to backdrop major location scenes in Lord of The Ring and Hobbit Trilogy -for Pelennor fields, the Misty Mountains, and where Gandalf and the Company escape the chasing Wargs through the hidden entrance to Rivendell.I don’t have any words to express the beauty of the lake,one has to go there to feel it.The source of the lake is Tasman Glacier.
As we missed hiking Franz Josef glacier, we decided to take a boat tour to Lake Tasman Glacier to encounter icebergs.Tasman Glacier is the NZ largest glacier and the lake is one of the only glacier lakes containing icebergs in the world.Yes, you get the opportunity to taste and touch the icebergs from the safe distance.
Mt Cook region is personally my favorite region.Though there is nothing much to do if weather is bad.But on a fine day, you can either go for a hike or take a walk in this beautiful region and get to see surprising landscapes.Mt Cook is the highest peak in NZ and Sir Edmund Hillary developed his skills here in preparation for the conquest of Everest.
Lake Takepo was the last stop for us in South Island.Its another turquoise colour lake in Mackenzie basin popular for star gazing.By this time I had seen so much beauty that I wanted to see something which looked normal and realistic and I was tired of taking pictures:-)
We spent a day in Christchurch before catching our flight to next destination.Its a gateway to the South Island.Try to spend more time in countryside.
1 week is definitely not a sufficient time to explore the highlights of South Island.I would suggest to spend more time in South Island than North Island.South Island is definitely more beautiful and unexplored than North Island.People here are more friendly and close to nature.They know their region well and are very protective about it.People are very athletic and I didn’t see even one fat person in South Island.Summer will be the ideal time to visit if you enjoy more of hiking and outdoor stuff.Weather can be really unpredictable in South Island which can lead to sudden closure of roads,glaciers,tours and national parks.
South Island Route Map