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New Zealand - South Island (November and December 2013)
The South Island gave us a warm welcome with lots of sunshine. As it turned out the beautiful weather would follow us for almost the entire 5 weeks we spent there. We drove along scenic roads, hiked to mountain huts and slept there, went swimming in crystal clear lakes, saw animals you usually only see in the Zoo, went Sea-Kayaking and fought an unwinnable battle with billions of sandflies.
We started with a two day hike along the Queen Charlotte Track. We had a parcel sent to NZ with our tent and camping mattresses so we hiked for a day and then camped all alone on a beautiful campground right next to the water.
Our next stop was the Abel Tasman National Park. In the morning we took a water Taxi to our starting point from where we hiked along bays with golden sand for some hours to our campground. The next day we met our Kayak guide and Sea-kayaked 16km back to our starting point.
the lazy part of our Sea Kayaking tour
the lazy part of our Sea Kayaking tour
To our surprise both Queen Charlotte and Abel Tasman were very calm and quiet; we had expected lots of people but we were rather alone in these 2 national parks.
After many days at the ocean we were looking forward to go to the mountains. We did a two day hike, slept at Angelus Hut and found beautiful scenery at Nelson Lakes National Park.
Angelus Hut
Angelus Hut embedded in the mountains and two lakes
Our journey continued to the West Coast and the very scenic drive to the Pancake rocks. These rocks were formed by the ocean throughout millions of years and cut as if many pancakes are lying on top of each other. Unfortunately we did not have the ingredients to make pancakes this evening... ;-)
Pancake rocks
Pancake rocks
We continued our drive down the West Coast to the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. From Austria we are used to see glaciers but this time it was different - here the glaciers are right next to tropical forest and really close to the ocean.
We saw the impressive Aoraki / Mt. Cook (New Zealand's highest mountain) for the first time - some weeks later we would see it again from the eastern side. Both times without clouds which is rather unusual. We felt really lucky to have such wonderful weather the entire time.
Lake Matheson at sunrise - in the
sunrise at Lake Matheson with Aoraki / Mount Cook in the background
From the West Coast we drove up Haast Pass to get to Wanaka which turned out to be one of our favorite towns of NZ. We spent several days there eating good food, hiking, swimming in Lake Wanaka and doing an awesome skydive :-)
Our next stop was Queenstown. As Verena had lived there for several months 8 years ago she was looking forward to come to Queenstown again and re-live the good times. Once again we had wonderful weather and enjoyed hiking in the sun. Queenstown is an adrenaline-charged-town with lots of charm but at the same time (understandably) very touristic.
Next up was Milford Sound.
We had the perfect conditions for driving through Fjordland to Milford Sound: it hat rained the entire night and kept on raining throughout the morning. As a result we were driving along the valley with hundreds (we are not exaggerating!) of waterfalls coming down the mountains. The view was mighty impressive! And to our surprise at 1PM the clouds cleared up just like magic and the sun came out - so we left the Camping (where we had intended to do a rest-day) and went on a boat trip through the impressive Milford Sound (which should in fact be called Milford Fjord as it was created by a glacier). The other days that we spent in Fjordland we went hiking and enjoyed the nature and loneliness.
Mitre Peak at sunrise
Mitre Peak at sunrise
After 4 days of mostly solitude and without any cell phone coverage (it felt good to be completely offline for 4 days...) we continued to the Catlins. Very few people live there and we drove along lonely, windy roads. After many weeks we finally had our first evening without any sandflies and enjoyed being able to sit & cook outside in the evening without being bitten. As much as we love New Zealand the sandflies were really annoying and probably the only downside of NZ.
Our next stop was Nugget Point where we saw the rare yellow eyed penguin for the first time (we saw it much closer several days later) and enjoyed the unexpected beautiful sunset at the ocean after a really rainy day.
Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Further north on the East Coast are the Moeraki Boulders. They are balls/spheres of rock lying around the beach and are pretty unusual and impressive.
Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders
Our next station was Christchurch. Verena's family (parents and brother) came visit us in NZ and we met them there.
Christchurch was heavily damaged by Earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. It felt weird and a bit depressing walking through the city with so many destroyed buildings and so much empty space. Especially for Verena and her brother who both knew the city intact / undestroyed.
But it was also impressive to see how the city dealt with the destruction and how much art and "gap fillers" they have put up to make the city attractive and interesting despite the destruction. The people of Christchurch have a strong spirit for sure!
From Christchurch we drove through the Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo. Early December is blossoming time for Lupines in this area and they were indeed everywhere and so many of them! Together with the intensely colored glacial water in the lake and the blue sky everything was very colorful!
blossoming Lupines and Lake Tekapo
blossoming Lupines and Lake Tekapo
After a delicious barbecue in the evening and a nice hike the next morning it was time for us to move on to Aoraki / Mt. Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain and a sacred place to the Maori. While hiking the Hooker Valley we enjoyed majestic views of the mountain.
After travelling with Verena's family for a couple of days it was time for us to split up again. We drove up north along the East Coast and soaked in the wonderful atmosphere one last time - with little tears of both joy and sadness it was time to say good-bye to the South Island and head back up to Auckland.
We are writing this blogpost while staying in a cosy cabin close to the beach in Piha (on the North Island of NZ). It is short before Christmas and it is very warm outside. We will meet Verena's family again in Auckland and we will spend christmas day together - most likely with a barbecue on the beach :-)
We have successfully sold our car (for even more than we bought it :-)) and are enjoying being lazy for some days. As you might have guessed from our writing we have enjoyed NZ heaps (a lot!) and had a wonderful time here. We are kind of sad to leave in a week but at the same time we are very much looking forward to our next continent - Asia. Our first stop there will be one week in Hong-Kong :-)
Wow... this has become a very long blogpost and congratulations to everybody who read it entirely... we experienced so much on the South Island it is hard to put it into words - we could have written even more...
more Photos in the gallery

in NZ we drove a total of 8700 KMs and spent 1830 NZ$ / 1100 € on petrol. Our average fuel consumption was 9.7 liters per 100km.
we picked up 6 hitch-hikers while driving through New Zealand - we would have liked to pick up more but it seems not to common
after 6 months of traveling the few clothes we have start to be worn out - as a consequence Verena has the feeling that she is sewing (Deutsch: Nähen) all the time...
in supermarkets (and in the streets) you will see many many New Zealanders walk barefoot
to certain restaurants which are not licensed to sell alcohol you can bring your own drinks for a small fee.
some people plant a large square of trees as part of their pension (German: Rente). They plant them when they are young and by the time they are retiring the trees (Conifers) have fully grown and can then be sold