Both Laura and I are very sorry to be down to our last 10 days in this beautiful country. Each bus journey has exceeded the last with stunning scenery. The bus drivers are still deliriously happy in their jobs and are always an encyclopedia of information. While driving through a National Park only last week we had one bus driver explain to us the science behind photosynthesis !
Laura left you last time just as we were about to do a Whale Watching tour, we waited 3 days for this tour as bad weather rolled in and the sea was too rough and boy was the wait worth it. Most people are lucky to see maybe 1 whale. We saw 3 - score :)
It was the Sperm whale variety that they have in Kaikoura, most reach 10-15 metres in length, its the 4th largest mammal on earth. Just to give you all an idea of their immense size; the arteries in a Sperm's Whale heart are so big that an adult human could swim through them - mad or what ! The whales are quite difficult to spot as they only spend 6-10min at the surface taking in oxygen before deep diving to feed for an hour at a time, so to see 3 really was lucky. Watching the whale deep dive, with his huge fin in the air was amazing. We also saw some dolphins and seals swimming around in the harbour. So a good day all round ! We have 2 videos of this trip uploaded, so be sure to watch them :D
Next we were onto Christchurch, Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook where we just spent 1 night in each to see the numerous national parks that New Zealand has to offer. Queenstown was our next stop, Laura knew a work colleague from London living here so he promised to take us out and show us what Queenstown's nightlife had to offer. We got a 2 for 1 deal on wine in a bar near the hostel so we were pretty pleased with that. Needless to say it was a late one and we made it back to the hostel in a drunken stupor. Next day, both feeling very delicate we decided to give ourselves an easy morning walk and so wandered down to Queenstown's harbour and watched as tourists boarded kayaks and speed boats and children fed the ducks at the waters edge. Queenstown's setting is beautiful, surrounded in mountains and greenery. While we were in Queenstown we were told that one of the must do's was a trip to Milford Sounds, which is one of New Zealand's most beautiful fjords on the west coast. Famed for its stunning views of mountain peaks covered in snow and rain forest which runs right down to the waters edge. Unfortunately for us it was raining that day, but it didn't really detract from the views, the scenery was still stunning and we had the added delight of thousands of waterfalls due to all the rain. The roads leading to Milford Sounds retained the evidence of a recent snow avalanche, where 70 tonne of snow came down the mountains and closed the road for days !
Next stop was Wanaka where we planned to go skiing/snowboarding. I had never skied before and Laura had never snowboarded so we were both beginners. The first day we booked ourselves in for lessons, the ski field had snow overnight, so it was all light and fluffy. Sometime before lunchtime a blizzard started and the wind really picked up. As nerve wracking as it was to be learning to ski, it was made all the more difficult by not being able to see where I was going and with the 30km/hr wind pushing me down the slope ! I was just praying that if I fell someone wouldn't fall on top of me :) That afternoon our instructor foolishly thought we were all good enough to be brought up on the chairlift to a harder slope, well I went spectacularly out of control at least 3 times, once bringing down the instructor as he tried to stop me heading down the slope, 2nd time unable to stop and I went right through one of the slope markers and the last time I had to make myself fall as I was unable to stop - terrifying stuff, especially in a blizzard ! Both of us finished our 1st day on the slopes hoping that the worst part was over, we had both managed to conquer standing up and slowing down and stopping (well at least most of the time). Day 2 came and it was raining. When we got to the ski field, the strong winds overnight had blown away all the fresh snow and had frozen over, so the baby slopes were treacherous. By lunch time we were both tearing our hair out, we felt we had gone backwards, the slopes were so slippy, we were falling down all over the place. It was very frustrating. Over the lunch break it started snowing again and thankfully improved the skiing conditions immensely. By late afternoon we were flying up and down the baby slope, practicing turns etc... My legs were aching a little when I woke the next day and a week later Laura's behind is still giving her bother ( as a beginner snowboarder, you tend to spend most of the time falling on your ass !)
After all that exertion you would think we'd take a few days off, but no, next day we were off to a town called Franz Josef which still has a glacier left over from the last ice age 10,000-15,000 years ago. We had booked a day's hiking tour of the glacier, unfortunately rain was forecast for the day (anyone seeing a pattern here ?), so they kitted us out with wet weather gear and we really did we need it. We were just on the glacier when a thunder and lightening storm started, it bucketed down for the remainder of the day. The glacier was stunning though, we walked up steps cut into the ice and through crevasses and ice caves and got to see some blue ice, which is when an underwater stream in the glacier freezes. We spent about 3 hours on the ice and then headed back to the hostel to dry off. We've never seen rain like it, just when we thought it couldn't get any heavier it did. This part of the world gets 5 times as much rain as Ireland, and we think we have it bad !
Laura will fill you all in next time on our last days in NZ and our week in Fiji.
Well thats all for now,
Love Mel and Laura