Adventurous Wanaka

Well, based on the title of this entry, you’ll know where we are heading to next. Yep. To the lakeside town of Wanaka. The bothersome weather at Mt Cook was just to risky for us to bet on.

Leaving Lake Tekapo in the morning, we survived the two-hour ride to Wanaka, which featured the partially windy mountain ranges that overlooked Mt Cook, passing by the serene Lake Pukaki too.

From the outskirts of the lakeside township, we noticed a lot of holiday traffic, which meant that the town was going to be real busy, which supported the fact that there was going to be a festival nearby at Cardrona Valley.

Checking-in on the spot, we were grateful the campsite still had lots available, as it was running out of vacancies by the second.

Having lunch at the famous Big Fig, which served us small servings in my opinion, we had dessert at the chocolatey Patagonia Café, which, you would’ve guessed served sweet ice-cream.

Returning to camp, we pitched our tent, observing that we had some boisterous neighbours. Hopefully they wouldn’t be that outspoken over the period of our stay.

Before dinner, we had a dip at the lake’s cool 20 degree waters, which refreshed us on the scorching day. Dinner itself was simple, with my mom whipping up an easy meal.

That night, sleep came easy for us, although our neighbours came back pretty loud and drunk, which irritated security. Despite that, everything was hushed within half an hour and I was back in dreamland.

After breakfast the next morning, we made our way to town, where we were ready to go on a bike along the lake’s bay. Hiring bikes from a sport outlet, we were soon on the road, excited for a leisure cycle. We were about to be bamboozled.

Taking the route the guide suggested, we were led through sandy beaches, rough terrain and edgy cliffs, which put our fitness…my parent’s fitness to the test.

Eventually, we arrived at our checkpoint, Albert Town through thick and thin without much injury. There, we ate at its renowned bakery which served fresh pastries before making our way back, although exhausting as well, was easier since we knew the trail.

Fatigued after our, I should say ‘traumatising’ biking experience, we had kebabs for lunch and once again, having ice-cream as dessert at a different gelato store before heading back to the park.

Most of the afternoon went through with a snap, with me just journaling and mom preparing dinner.

With my parent’s muscles really sore from all that painful biking, they decided to use the parks’ hot tub as their last thing of the day while I loitered at the playground.

That night, sleep came much harder than expected, with our neighbours talking like elephants. Thankfully, they were kicked out by security after an hour of non-stop screaming as we dozed off, recuperating energy for our New Year’s stop of Queenstown.

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Pristine Lake Tekapo

With the suspenseful ride seemingly miles away from ending, the turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo suddenly appeared over the horizon and my oh my was it breath-taking!

The lake was formed 17 millenniums ago, back in the primitive ice age, when the glaciers melted while its distinct turquoise colour can be attributed to glacial flour suspended in the water. The reflection from the lake made it much more impressive.

 

Driving into the holiday park which overlooked the lake with astounding views, we had a quick check-in before going to our tent site, located at the far end of the park, crowded with other sites nearby. All in all, that park had approximately 200 plus sites, and none of them were available. Imagine that!

Setting up the tent quickly to reveal the phone’s whereabouts, we found in right where my mom guessed it was, which resulted rants from her that would last the rest of the afternoon.

Hanging around at the park’s playground, I finally got to meet other kids, which satisfied me greatly before having steak for dinner.

With the sky clear for the night, we hope the weather would remain consistent for the night as we anticipated constellation of stars in the night sky. Our wish was granted.

That night, the sky was crystal clear, and countless stars could be spotted everywhere. Changing the camera’s settings, my dad tweaked the camera so it could capture the milky way galaxy, which worked like a charm. Since it could not be seen with the naked eye, seeing the galaxy live for the first time was jaw dropping.

Admiring the sky for the next couple of hours, we slept at midnight,

The next morning, we had the normal breakfast before doing our typical morning walks.

Today, we walked through the center of Lake Tekapo, first stopping at the historical Church of the Good Shepherd, an icon in the town. Built in the 1800s, it is an old building that had gone through many renovations to look modern and still conducts mass regularly.

After having our packed lunch there, we continued trailing out of town, in search for Lupins in the masses. In case you have no idea what’s that, it’s a purple flower that looks rather pretty and has a refreshing aroma my mom loves.

Just outside town, we found the grand prize. Following a trail that was supposed to lead to a beach and a ski area nearby, we came across Lupins in abundance.

Elated with our findings, we captured some pictures before heading back to camp, first passing by the supermarket to get some groceries and ice cream to cool down ourselves. I also tried the flying fox.

Back at the park, I hung out at the playground for the rest of the afternoon before doing some journaling. We had dinner and, looking at the sky, felt blessed that we came yesterday. It was cloudy that evening and seemed not to be differing.

Settling down for the night, we were faced with a new dilemma. Mount Cook or Wanaka? We had this problem as Cook had some fantastic views that topped Wanaka, but at the same time was having some rough weather forecast.

Of course, we preferred better weather as we did not want to face wet or windy weather, we just weren’t up for it. We would only make our final decision tomorrow.

Boxing Day Madness

Having not waken up at 6am for quite a while, we managed the predicament as we tried to leave as early possible to reach Christchurch before lunch time.

After a light omelette to soothe our stomachs, we got to work, quickly packing our possessions and disassembling our tent.

Despite having a couple of minor mishaps along the way, our things and tent were completely packed only 15 minutes behind schedule, which was a proud feat, supporting the fact we took nearly 2 hours to pack up the previous session.

Just when we thought we were all good, disaster struck nastily. My mom could not find her phone. And when we realise it was nowhere to be found, we saw a side of her we rarely saw, sympathetically for my dad, who was responsible for that belonging. Nonetheless, there was nothing we could do now as it was probably in the compressed tent. Now, we were 45 minutes late. Talking about a good head start on Boxing Day.

Worriedly looking for fuel in the middle of nowhere with a low tank that was only good for 30 more kilometers, we eventually arrived at the rural Arthur’s Pass village. After refuelling at their expensive petrol station, we made the 150km dash to Christchurch, hoping to get some time back, as we drove under the low cloud that gave away some surreal photos. Being a public holiday, we thought that there would be no problem.

Well, there was. The bad weather along the twisting state highway slowed us down a tad and finding parking at the outlet shop on Boxing Day is like a maze.

Through all that, we were soon out of our car, walking the streets of Christchurch on a cloudy day.

At the outlet mall, we first bought some sleek sunglasses before going on to Puma’s outlet store to buy some sports gear. It had a rather long queue.

With 2 hours of our 3-hour parking limit miraculously gone, we had lunch at Macdonald’s before resupplying on food and drink for our meals to come. That filled the 3rd hour, meaning it was ‘so long’ Christchurch.

Our next pit-stop would be at Lake Tekapo’s township, where we would find out whether mom’s phone was indeed in the tent, which worried us. Another agony was that apparently weather wasn’t so good either. We would have to find all of that out after the 2-hour ride that was still to come.

The Adventure at Arthur’s Pass

After a better night’s rest compared to the previous one, we woke up, ready for our next journey, which would lead us via the West Coast of the South Island all the way to Arthur’s Pass. A stretch of road which is smack bang surrounded by mountain ranges north and south, it was a hotspot for tourist, being a mere 150km from the bustling city of Christchurch.

Leaving at 11am, we drove the first easy 57km to the historical town of Murchison, where we had lunch and were also rather surprised that there was no data service available there.

Dismissing that unfortunate event, we got back on the highway, heading towards the city of Greymouth, along the West Coast.

Stopping at the town of Reefton to catch-up with the world as our heroic data service has returned, we also brought some food at the town’s supermarket before finally driving the distance to our destination.

For the rest of the journey, there were not many happenings, other than a small possible roadkill when a bird hit the bonnet of our car. Hope it’s alright.

Upon arriving at the holiday park, my parents set up camp while I was tasked to charge the devices’ batteries at the holiday park’s lounge, which was really well equipped that we would have and cook all of our meals there.

Settling down for the day after a late dinner, we got ready for our next tramp which would take us through the jungle…

The following morning which was Christmas Day, we woke up naturally, being the first guests in the lounge. With a hefty breakfast in our tummies, we got into our trekking suits, ready to explore the forest.

Once the quick warm-up walk around the park was done, we embarked on their one and only trail which would lead us to a historical Quartz Mine.

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Venturing through 2 creeks, we soon realised that this trail was going to be a hap-hazard one. Not only was the track barely obvious but there was a lot of bush to! We had a bad feeling that we were going to be stranded soon enough.

Thankfully, the second half of the trek was wide with pride, which was a welcome surprise for us. For the next half an hour or so, we would continue the ascent to the mine which would sadly disappoint.

At the entrance of the mining site, you could see some fancy but rusty mining tools that were used back in the 19th Century. However, the only other thing present was a man-made hole, which failed to impress.

Nevertheless, the thought of exercise satisfied us for the way down, where we would take a detour to visit a majestic waterfall, which would be a redeemer and highlight of the walk.

About 20 meters high, the fall was indeed a sight to behold as we cherished it before taking off for base. The waterfall also has some historical value, as there is a 200-year old native Rimu Tree in front of the spectacle.

Back at camp, we hung out at the lounge, feasting on some snacks while I binged on the Internet and wrote some journal entries.

With that iconic Christmas Day coming to an end, we had an early dinner, packed up a little and got ready to be early birds. The terror of Boxing Day was coming.

The Nelson Lakes

Waking up early, we had a typical sandwich as our breakfast before getting ready to leave Smith’s Farm.

After checking out, we took some final photos of the farm’s scenery before hitting the road once again. Along the way, we captured some bright calm shots of Queen Charlotte Sound as a final gesture for this twisty trail.

Lake Rotoiti, where our first camping spot is located, is an hour’s drive from the town of Blenheim which was 30km southeast of Picton.

Upon arriving in Blenheim in high hopes to have a naughty lunch at Macdonald’s, we instead stopped by at Pak n Save, the town’s local grocery store.

There, we bought a simple lunch, which included freshly-cooked chicken and bread rolls that were topped off with some drinks. We would later find out that this lunch was worthwhile as we made the final stretch to our stopover.

Our campsite which was right after the quiet town of St Arnaud, overlooked the pristine waters of the lake, where there was also a small jetty for those who wanted to sail themselves. Named West Bay, we were located at the west of the lake, as the name suggested.

Having no specific tent site under our booking details, we chose the biggest space, only to realise that the soil was real sturdy. Moving to a smaller lot, we learnt that the sturdy soil was everywhere, and inconveniently moved back!

After that half an hour moving around the bushes, we set up camp, which took an hour and a half, the long pitch due to the absence of camping for 9 months. Through thick and thin nevertheless, we figured out our complex exterior of the tent and were relieved with a proud dinner, cooked by my mum. The only thing that ruined the relief were the ruthless insects, bloodsucking our bodies, especially mine. They were the real elephant in the room.

That night, we had a shivering sleep, unprepared to the weather of the South. From that hard-earned lesson, we woke up, getting ready to execute our battle plans for the next night.

After breakfast, we got ready for our first big trek of the day…or the second, if I include the warm-up stroll to Kerr Bay the previous evening. Anyways, we planned to walk up to Mt Robert carpark, and as the name hinted, could have been driven to. Nevertheless, it still didn’t mean we couldn’t take the haggard method.

Located 4.2km from our campsite, it was halfway up the iconic Mt Robert, 600-900m above sea level. The road to the top is mostly gravel, with a few paved or muddy portions every now and then. The road also consists of a gradual gradient that we were able to tackle easily.

Along the way, we had quick water breaks as we got higher and higher. Forking from the main path were other tramping routes, such as the Lakeside and Paddy’s track, which we would probably save for another time.

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At exactly 12 noon, we arrived at our destination with little willpower to spare. Luckily the way down would be a lot easier.

Having lunch at the tranquil lookout only a minute from the carpark, we gazed at the horizon, munching on our sandwiches.

As I predicted, the walk down was simpler indeed, although the impatience was starting to show. Back at camp, we had a quick nap to soothe our legs to whatever pains or blisters they had.

Before dinner, we pleasured ourselves to a hot solar shower at the neighbouring campsite at Kerr Bay, only a 3-minute drive from our tent. Despite the expensive rate of $3 for 5 minutes, we cherished the hot shower, satisfied by our exercise of the day.

Back at our tent, we had another scrummy meal, settling down for the night. Next stop, Arthur’s Pass. Tomorrow.

Our Start at Picton

Leaving the lessons learnt on the ferry for our return trip, we left the small port, hungry for a quick meal. With the town centre bustling with activity despite its small size, we had our light lunch in a small café situated Picton’s town centre. It sold its pies at cheap prices.

With that warming minced pie in my belly, we hit the road, ready to explore the highways of the South.

Before heading for our pit stop of the day, we planned to visit a cherry-picking farm south of Picton, a detour from our farmhouse, which was located north-west.

As we drove down the relaxing highway, we witnessed a vast swamp that had, in accordance with it, a forest of trees…that were dead! It looked really fantastical and I suppose it was a location for the Lord of the Rings, in which many of its scenes were filmed here in New Zealand.

Taking in the quick pep talk on the lenient rules of the cherry farm picking sit, we learnt that there are 2 kinds of cherries, black and white ones. Despite their names, they weren’t in those monochrome colours. The white ones were red, and the black ones looked blue to me. However, we only liked the red ones.

Savouring the ripeness of the fruit, we had a reputable harvest that would be carried along for the remainder of our stay at the South Island.

After a quick stop at a supermarket to get some ham for the sandwiches we were humbly making later, we drove through Queen Charlotte Drive, a windy minor track that served great views if the weather was better at that moment. Thankfully I did not get carsick at any point of that 15km ride!

We soon set our eyes on our first pit stop, Smith’s Farm, a holiday park just a couple of kilometres from the historical town of Havelock. It definitely had a sight to admire and some friendly farm animals, although mad Billy, the farm’s goat, got rather annoyed when I fed his treats the wrong way. I also met a Swiss child named Norris, whom I played with most of the afternoon. We were also introduced to a group of Germans who were staying in the neighboring cabins and have walked up to 1800kms on New Zealand trails and roads. Like many tourists who visit New Zealand, they like the wonderful greenery and hot summer weather, which fits for long holidays, especially those from Europe. Their stories are nothing but inspirational.

After a refreshing dinner of hot noodles and sandwiches, we got ready for the night and our first camping spot, the Nelson Lakes.

The Perilous Ferry

It’s almost Christmas time, the festive season when friends and family meet. Not this year for us though. This year, we’re looking for some adventure, and that’s what New Zealand’s South Island has to offer. That’s right! We’re going camping at the South Island.

Mustering all our willpower, we woke up early at 5am, enthusiastic for the long day to come. After a light breakfast, we made our hasty preparations and last-minute checks before getting in our Mazda and heading to port.

Just like waiting at an airport, the entrance to the ferry, called the InterIslander, was a tedious and mundane process. After checking in with our vehicle, we had to wait half an hour in an allocated lane before being allowed entry. At the ramp leading into the ship itself, cars, campervans and other kinds of vehicles went in an orderly manner, or more precisely, one at a time, which was very inconvenient. Eventually however, we got on-board and were thrilled to explore the massive ferry.

Firstly, we went up to the top deck, located behind the bridge of the ship, to get some final photos of Wellington, just as the ship sailed off.

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Although being on the ferry was dull at first as we had no clue of what to do, I decided to entertain myself with some live sports airing at the café. Sea-sickness was the last thing I wanted to get. We also got to catch a glimpse of a dolphin of the coast, which although brief, was mesmerizing.

Soon enough, we reached Marlborough Sounds, the northern tip of the South Island, where we were introduced to rolling hills and another InterIslander heading the opposite direction. From there, I had a gut feeling that the South Island would be a totally different experience.

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After more than 3 hours at sea, our ferry finally came to a halt at the tiny port of Picton, which was also a rather small city compared to Wellington.

With the new vibes seething in, we got ready for an already exciting start to our journey as we headed back to our car, ready to hit the road.