Whew the past two weeks have flown by and I’m already back in Oz as I write this. There is so much to tell but I won’t go into too much detail for now. Haven’t read part one? Start with that.
The last time I wrote was right before Meredith, Ellie and I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. What can I say? It was AWESOME. We trekked across various terrains for over 19 kilometers during a span of 7-8 hours. We hiked through craters past Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from LOTR), ski-slided/ran down 400m of volcanic ash, through lush alpine mountainside and through a forest. It’s not a difficult hike, but it certainly is challenging in certain parts (Devil’s Staircase anyone?). This was easily one of the top 3 experiences on my trip.
After Tongariro we headed down to Wellington where we spent two nights. I finally found the chocolate milk I had been searching for since I first arrived, but more on that later. We took the cable car up to the Botanical Gardens, climbed up to Mount Victoria, spent hours in Te Papa (New Zealand’s national museum) and went to a Southeast Asian night market.
Saturday the 14 we crossed over to the South Island via ferry to Picton and headed to Abel Tasman for an afternoon of kayaking. We unfortunately didn’t have longer to spend there and started making our way further south. On our longest day of driving, we split up the 8 hours by stopping in Arthur’s Pass for a hike at Devil’s Punchbowl. The drive alone through the pass made it worth going out of our way to reach it.
We spent the night getting attacked by sandflies at Gillespie’s Beach just outside of Fox, but it was worth it for the view of the sunset from the beach and being able to look over your shoulder and see Mount Tasman and Mount Cook bathed in a pink evening glow. The entire next day was spent at Fox Glacier, which was also one of my top 3 experiences of this trip (maybe #1???). We choppered right onto the glacier, which in itself was amazing, and then spent the day walking on the glacier in crampons and learning how to ice climb. We had a great guide, Bia from Brazil, and I think she got all of us hooked on ice climbing.
Too soon it was the end of our road trip and we spent the last day hiking above Wanaka, eating ice cream by the lake and then heading into Queenstown to drop off our car. Our first stop was Fergburger to taste test the burgers that we’d been hearing about all trip. It definitely lived up to my expectations. The next day on the 18th, Meredith and I said arrivederci to Ellie, who was flying out from Queenstown, and headed off for 3 days on the Routeburn Track. We completely lucked out weather wise and had three beautiful days hiking through beech forests, across the Southern Alps and past alpine lakes that were freezing but refreshing after a long day of tramping (kiwi speak for hiking). We stayed in the Dept of Conservation huts and met some cool people along the way. While the Milford Track is more popular and I intend on walking it at some point, I really loved the Routeburn and it has a cushy spot in my top 3 as well.
After Routeburn, we headed directly to Milford Sound and stayed at the Milford Sound Lodge for two nights. We spent evenings hanging out in the common room in the lodge which was super cozy and drank local beer. We did a cruise + kayak combo Saturday March 21, the first day it rained in 8 days (of course), but Milford is beautiful in the rain because you experience all the waterfalls. I definitely recommend Milford, but I do not endorse the cruises- I’ll explain more later. Thank god we had an hour of kayak in our tour package because otherwise I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed Milford – there’s not much else to do there so your experience really depends on your tour. The one upside of the boat was that the wake attracted a pod of playful dolphins that swam around us for about 15 minutes and we got to see them up close.
We arrived back in Queenstown Sunday the 22 and incidentally ended up at Fergburger a few more times before the end of the trip. Meredith flew up to Auckland on Monday while I stayed in Queenstown for two more days and hiked to the top of the Ben Lomond summit and bungy jumped, which is absolutely the craziest thing I’ve ever done. And I want to go again stat. The highest one in the world is actually in Colorado, hmm… This was also one of my favorite experiences. But really everything we did on the trip was awesome in different ways.
Except for getting chased by bees in almost EVERY location we visited. Not so awesome. They were huge bumble bees. But actually I’ve become (slightly) less afraid of them since they were a daily encounter for 3 full weeks.
If you are thinking of visiting New Zealand, DO IT! Easily one of my favorite countries I have been to and I know I will be back before long.
More detailed posts to follow!