The day we left Queenstown and ended up at the glaciers again
An incredibly stunning drive via the scenic Haast Pass route. We had no plan so just kept driving. Eventually ended up back at the glaciers, where it was cloudy again so we didn’t bother visiting a second time. So we stayed at a DOC campsite and played chess.
(Click on first image for slideshow)
The day we drove Arthur’s Pass again and Sharky gave up on a one way bridge
Arthur’s Pass is a scenic route which we already drove once before, but as it rained all day that day we couldn’t see anything. Since we’ve got time on our hands and no care in the world, we did it again! This time around it was a gorgeous day. So we’re cruising along, enjoying the mountain views that surround us, slowly drive over a newly sealed road… Slowly because the new seal still exists of a layer of pebbles that shoot up and make a terrible noise as they hit the bottom of the car. Gosh this must suck if you have a shiny new car, I think to myself. Then, as we cross over a one way bridge the engine suddenly dies. All the lights on the dashboard are lit and the steering wheel locks. Luckily we were still going with enough speed to actually roll off the one way bridge but we’re in a very inconvenient spot just before a corner now. I get out and tell Sophia to put it in neutral so I can push it a bit further to the side. HAHA! As if! As soon as she takes the handbrake off it just starts rolling backwards as the road is slightly slanted. So I pop the hood (unless something is actually on fire it’s not like I’ll know what wrong but oh well). However at that moment a truck passes, loudly honking, and shoots up pebbles of which some hit my head so I drop the hood and dive for cover behind the car. Hmm. This isn’t going well. Luckily, meanwhile two cars have stopped and three men are running towards us. We push/roll the car back over the bridge as on that side there’s actually a place to stop safely and within a minute the men (who all seem to be experts) have figured out what happened. The power steering belt broke. Sophia and I blame the pebbles for snapping it and consider suing the NZ roadworks. Either way, it luckily isn’t a big problem, but we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere so getting it actually fixed may be problematic. Firstly we’d need a mechanic, secondly he needs to have a fitting belt, thirdly he needs to be able to reach it without taking the motor apart which would mean having to get it to a shop. The men offer to take us to the nearest township of Otira, and we quickly get our bags. Not having a clue of how long this will take (maybe we’ll have to find a ride to a larger town, stay overnight somewhere, do I take a toothbrush?), we just grab our purses and our fleeces. Otira seems to consist of an old train station and a hotel. I just looked it up and apparently has 45 inhabitants. The hotel has a strange vibe to it; a thick carpet, dark wooden tables and chairs, taxidermy animals on the walls and odd industrial-age objects on display. An old couple is having lunch and the woman behind the counter doesn’t seem to possess the same Kiwi friendliness we’ve encountered so often. However, she’ll make a call to a local mechanic, who might be working on the tracks elsewhere today. After her husband gets off the phone, as there’s no cell reception. We eat an ice cream and try to think of what we should do must that mechanic not be available. We laugh at the situation which hopefully won’t costs us a fortune. A few minutes later the lady gets off the phone and tells us Chris will be there in 10 minutes. Hooray for Chris! When he gets there we tell him in all the technical terms we could remember that our rescuers told us what the problem is. He nods and says he’ll be back in 5 minutes to pick us up and drive back to the car. When we get to the car he starts working on it without saying a word and we nervously stand around hoping he can fix it on the spot. “You’re in luck” he says after a while. He’s got a fitting belt and he can actually replace it there and then. Phew! So all in all, less than an hour after the breakdown and $70 later, we’re back on the road!
And after that whole ordeal we saw some waterfalls, water caves and the awesome Castle Hill.
The day we got asked if we were orcs
We were in the Ashburton Lakes district now, the Hakatere Conservation Park, and went to visit Mount Sunday, which may be better known as the location of Edoras in Lord of the Rings. The drive there was one of the best drives in NZ I reckon, most of which was over a gravel road and past pristine lakes. We hiked up Mt Sunday, enjoyed the view and as we walked back down we encountered a LotR tour group. This is when one of the Middle Earth fans asked if we were orcs, ready to battle us with the axe he was holding. Due to lack of a funnier comeback I replied “no, we’re elves” and then politely declined the offer of posing with the axe for a picture.
The time we went for a 2 day trek and smashed the approximate time allocation
It was a grey day, but we decided to go on the Mount Somers circuit track anyway. Half climbing and scrambling we made our way along a river and through gorgeous beech forests until we got to the saddle where we suppose the view would’ve been good, but we couldn’t see much. It cleared up a bit later as we walked down to the DOC hut where we’d be spending the night. We spent it with about 20 other people or so in a dormitory-like but modern hut and got in an early night for an early rise the next day, prepared to hike for 8 hours via the “difficult” way back. Turned out it wasn’t that difficult (actually rather easy) and made our way back in less than 6 hours. Bam! And then we drove to Ashburton to feast on some burgers.
The day we saw some cute penguins
We drove to Oamaru which had a very quaint old town centre that looked quite European. At night, little penguins came out of the sea to go to their nests ashore. They were pretty cute, but a little scared and helpless. There was a marshal on the road to stop cars when a penguin wanted to cross and he yelled at people who came too close. I’m not sure if he was really invested in his job or if he hated it. It was too dark to take pictures and didn’t want to frighten the little buggers with flashes.
That time we ended up at a student party in Dunedin
There were dirty sofas, beer pong, pizzas and people on the roof. It couldn’t get much more cliche. There are no photos of this event.
That week we wwoofed at a Bed and Breakfast in Kurow
We worked in the garden, helped around the house, baked bread and improved/created their website with new pictures, setup and text.
The couple of days we spent driving the Southern Scenic Highway
From Dunedin to Invercargill to Fiordland.
That time in Fiordland when we went for treks every day and cruised the Milford Sound which was named incorrectly since it’s not a sound but a fiord
The first day we walked the Manapouri circuit for which we had to cross a river. There was an old local man charging people $20 a person taking a max of 5 tourists across the river in his little motor boat which took about 3 minutes. Could’ve swam that too. Nice walk though and as we were back early and had to wait for the boat man we had a nice lie down in the sun.
The second day we walked part of the Routeburn Track, which is one of the Great Walks. We went up Key Summit which was just absolutely beautiful and walked as far as the something Falls, which was a pretty wicked big waterfall.
The third day we took a Milford Sound cruise which was nice but didn’t add much to the Fiordland experience for us personally, however I did learn that it’s technically not a “sound” which is carved by a river, but a “fiord” which is carved by ice. Afterwards we did another little hike up to Marian Lake. However you couldn’t really see the lake properly as it was surrounded by scrubs but it was a fun hike nonetheless and I ate a banana sitting in a tree.
We passed this place 4 times and stopped every single time 🙂
The day we made a detour to look at some more lakes and have breakfast whilst on our way back to Queenstown
And we also drove the last part of the Southern Scenic Highway.
The day we went hitchhiking to Twizel for lunch
Because we had nothing else to do and it felt like the last thing missing of the Kiwi experience was hitchhiking. We drove through Lindis Pass which was pretty incredible and somehow ended up in a photo shoot with a motorbike gang and some Asian tourists. The way there was really easy and the guy who picked us up made me drive because he was going all the way to Christchurch. The way back it took us 5 different rides with a bunch of Kiwis complaining about the (lack of) driving skills of tourists.
The very last day when I said goodbye to Sophia
It was a sad day. 😦