A Travellerspoint blog

Queenstown

New Zealand's Adrenalin Capital

After surviving a night in Christchurch without having to experience an earthquake we hopped on an early flight to Queenstown. It's a short 1 hour flight from Christchurch. As we approached Queenstown we flew over New Zealand's Southern Alps mountain range. Mt. Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain at over 12,000 feet, could be seen peaking up above the clouds.
Queenstown 105

Queenstown 105

If you are addicted to adrenalin and enjoy jumping from ledges then Queenstown is the place to be. You can paraglide, skydive, jet ski, zip line, bungee jump, and ski during the winter. The town it self is only about 20,000 people but hordes of visitors flock to Queenstown yearly in search of an adventure. The town lies on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and also near the Remarkables mountain range.
Queenstown 107

Queenstown 107

Queenstown 103

Queenstown 103

Queenstown 100

Queenstown 100

Queenstown 99

Queenstown 99

The main reason why we are in Queenstown is to see Milford Sound, which is New Zealand's largest national park and is truly not to be missed by anyone visiting New Zealand. Milford sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's south island and is about a 4 hour drive from Queenstown and makes for a very long day trip.

The drive to Miflord sounds starts with a windy road along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. At times these roads ran precariously close to the cliff's edge overlooking Lake Wakatipu and I had faith the bus driver knew what he was doing and would get us there safely. Soon lush farmland came into view and seemed to go on forever. There was so much farmland you forget that New Zealand is a small island country where the sheep outnumber the people.
Queenstown-96

Queenstown-96

Queenstown-93

Queenstown-93

We also drove pass a farm that Peter Jackson has been using to film his next movie The Hobbit. The driver said a few days before our trip helicopters were flying over the farm and the surrounding area filming the scenery. Also, Jackson's crew of 400 plus would arrive in a ferry to work on the film but Jackson would fly in using his private jet. The pictures of the area were taken from inside the bus so they're not the best quality. Maybe we'll see some of the scenery in the final movie.
Queenstown-3

Queenstown-3

Queenstown-2

Queenstown-2

A trip to Milford sound is not so much about the destination but the drive itself. We stopped at several spots to take pictures and breathe in the pure air. At one stop we drank from the stream that was sourced by glaciers high up above in the mountain peaks. I walked on some rocks in the stream to take pictures and well the rock gave way and I fell into the stream and soaked my shoes. Nothing like spending hours in wet shoes and socks.
Queenstown-10

Queenstown-10

Queenstown-16

Queenstown-16

Queenstown-18

Queenstown-18


Queenstown-21

Queenstown-21

Queenstown-29

Queenstown-29

Queenstown-34

Queenstown-34

Further along the drive we approached a tunnel that from my seat looked way too small for our giant bus. The driver assured us all the bus is within the limits of the road tunnel. Just outside the road tunnel was some snow that had melted and created some caves. There were some brave tourists that went beyond the warning sign and were inside the caves. Wasn't sure if that was a good idea since it was a warm day.
Queenstown-39

Queenstown-39

Queenstown-38

Queenstown-38

Queenstown-40

Queenstown-40

Once we got to the sound we boarded a small boat that would take us on a cruise. The sights of Milford sound were well worth the trip. Sheer rock faces rise up out of the water and some of the peaks were covered with glaciers. Waterfalls cascaded down the rock cliffs straight into the sea. Although Milford sound gets plenty of rain (the most rain in New Zealand) some of the waterfalls ran dry except for a couple of permanent ones. The trees on the mountains hang on with shallow roots since there is no top soil and it is common to get tree avalanches. We saw fur seals bathing in the sun but didn't see any penguins or dolphins that frequent the sound. Our cruise took us all the way to the fjord's opening to open waters of the Tasman sea. Cruises rarely go out into open waters so we were lucky that day since high winds usually prevent visitors from leaving the fjord.
Queenstown-89

Queenstown-89

Queenstown-85

Queenstown-85

Queenstown-80

Queenstown-80

Queenstown-73

Queenstown-73

Queenstown-72

Queenstown-72

Queenstown-86

Queenstown-86

Queenstown-58

Queenstown-58

Queenstown-42

Queenstown-42

Queenstown-75

Queenstown-75

Queenstown-66

Queenstown-66

Queenstown-63

Queenstown-63

Here are a couple of videos that will give you a better idea of the beauty of Milford sound:
Milford Sound
Tasman Sea

Why else did I visit Queenstown? To bungee jump! The first commercial bungee jump in the world was established in New Zealand. It's a 43 meter jump (141 feet) from the Kawarau bridge about 20 minutes outside of Queenstown. There are higher jumps, about 7 times higher than the Kawarau bridge jump, but I figured I'd start small. The day before our scheduled jump news spread of an Aussie that jumped in South Africa and her bungee cord snapped and she plunged into the swift water below with her feet bound. Not good news to hear the day before my scheduled jump. Too late to turn back now. Go big or go home! Here's a video of my jump and some pictures too:
Kawarau Bridge Bungee Jump

AJHK201110119863

AJHK201110119863

AJHK201110119862

AJHK201110119862

AJHK201110119857

AJHK201110119857

AJHK201110119856

AJHK201110119856

AJHK201110119860

AJHK201110119860

AJHK201110119859

AJHK201110119859

AJHK201110119861

AJHK201110119861

AJHK201110119858

AJHK201110119858

After the jump we went back into town to celebrate the leap of faith. It was fitting that the our last activity was the most adventurous. The next day was our flight back to Auckland and then a 6 AM flight out of Auckland to return home to the good ol' USA. What an amazing trip! New Zealand is truly a beautiful country and the people are equally so.
Queenstown-97

Queenstown-97

Posted by Sikhamsay 12:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Christchurch

Refined and Manicured

We travelled further south of Kaikoura to the city of Christchurch. It's about a 3 hour bus ride along the eastern coast of New Zealand's south island. The road meanders along miles of amazing coastline. We will only be in Christchurch for one night so that we can catch the first flight out to Queenstown. Christchurch is New Zealand's 2nd largest city and it's said to be it's most British-looking.
Christchurch-3

Christchurch-3

Christchurch-23

Christchurch-23

Christchurch-9

Christchurch-9

Christchurch was devasted by a 6.3 earthquake just under a year ago. The city center was hit hard and the entire area is fenced off. Visitors were there to see the destruction, which was all-around. Entire homes and buildings demolished leaving behind empty lots. The closest we could get to the destruction were cracks in the ground.
Christchurch-14

Christchurch-14

Christchurch-39

Christchurch-39

Christchurch-38

Christchurch-38

Christchurch-10

Christchurch-10

Christchurch-12

Christchurch-12

Christchurch-4

Christchurch-4

With no access to the heart of the city center the streets were eerily empty and felt like it was the end of the world.
Christchurch-19

Christchurch-19

Amidst the destruction there was re-building. Cranes hovered high above the sky-line. Without any structures to conduct business the citizens of Christchurch turned to using shipping crates. These crates were converted to banks, eateries, bars, and yes even malls! We had happy hour at a shipping crate converted to a bar and the special was $5 bears for the 5.0 magnitude quake.

The city was still getting aftershocks in the high 5's including a couple of back to back ones just the day before we arrived. When we checked into our room the reception lady told us to pack a small bag next to our beds in case of an emergency and even refused to use the elevator when she was showing us to our room. Happy to say we left Christchurch without feeling any earthquakes!
Christchurch-32

Christchurch-32

Christchurch-31

Christchurch-31

Christchurch-24

Christchurch-24

Posted by Sikhamsay 23:55 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Kaikoura

South Island

Our bus ride down the east coast of the south island lead us to Kaikoura. It's a small coastal town where mountains literally meet the sea. This town is all about tours. You can go whale watching, swim with seals, learn to surf, heli hikes (you take a helicopter up to the surrounding mountains to hike the trails), wilderness tours, and even southern hemisphere star gazing. The main reason why we visited Kaikoura was to do hike the Kaikoura peninsula. It's a 4 hour hike that takes you along the rugged peninsula coast for sweeping views of the ocean. Along the way are seal colonies, sea birds, and if you're lucky you'll spot sperm whales, orcas, and dolphins. Here's a short video of what the view was like:
Kaikoura Peninsula Video

Kaikoura-26

Kaikoura-26

Kaikoura-25-2

Kaikoura-25-2

Kaikoura-24-2

Kaikoura-24-2

Kaikoura-18

Kaikoura-18

Kaikoura-14

Kaikoura-14

Kaikoura-9-2

Kaikoura-9-2

Kaikoura-2

Kaikoura-2

Kaikoura-11

Kaikoura-11

Kaikoura-19

Kaikoura-19

The beaches here have no sand but instead have smooth black rocks. The water is very cold and the beaches are swimmable.
Kaikoura-24

Kaikoura-24

Kaikoura-23

Kaikoura-23

Here are some photos of the town center:
Kaikoura-36

Kaikoura-36

Kaikoura-10

Kaikoura-10

Kaikoura-9

Kaikoura-9

Fishing is big business in Kaikoura. The delicacy here is crayfish and they charge an arm and a leg for it. Averages $80 to $100 NZD for a whole cray. I don't understand why they charge so much for crayfish even though the crayfish are abundant in these waters. Another delicacy here is Paua, which is Maori for abalone. We saw some divers fishing for Paua while hiking the peninsula. The divers are kind of hard to see in this photo and this is the best my zoom lens could do.
Kaikoura-4-2

Kaikoura-4-2

Paua is protected here in New Zealand and you're only allowed 10 per person and each one has to be of a certain size. You're allowed to fish for more than 10 if you are a commercial Paua fisherman. The Paua in New Zealand is typically eaten as a patty. They tough meat is minced and mixed with onions and spices and pan fried to perfection. My first taste of Paua, however, was not a good experience. I ordered a Paua sandwhich at a local cafe and the patty was mushy and way too fishy and to be honest it tasted disgusting.
photo-2

photo-2

Then, when I came back to our lodge I started talking to a couple of people at the pool area and low and behold these guys are commercial Paua fisherman. They had a ton of Paua that they had just caught earlier that morning and when I ate these I was hooked. Absolutely delicious! I ate so much Paua my belly was going to burst. I asked them why the Paua I had earlier tasted so different and they said because it was probably frozen. And Paua tastes great with ice cold Stella Artois also supplied by the fisherman and they said they paid over $40 NZD for a 12 pack. Yikes! So I bought them shots of Vodka and some beer at the bar down the street since I felt bad for eating the Paua and drinking the pricey Stella.

The seafood here in Kaikoura is great. I didn't eat any crayfish since that is way out of my budget. I had some local caught pan seared scallops that I devoured in a couple minutes. The scallops are served here with the delicious roe. Washed this dish down with a refreshing New Zealand lager.
Kaikoura-8

Kaikoura-8

Kaikoura-3

Kaikoura-3

Believe it or not my eating binge that day continued. After spending sometime down at the beach we came back for some beers and I ended up ordering some local mussels. We also entered a trivia game at the bar and team USA! USA! got clobbered by the kiwis. I don't think it's a fair competition when they have questions like "What is so and so's rugby player's natural kicking foot?" or "What is New Zealand's largest inland city?"
Kaikoura-40

Kaikoura-40

Well, we're headed further south of Kaikoura to the town of Christchurch. We'll spend the night in Christchurch to catch the first flight out to Queenstown. I just hope there are no more earthquakes in Christchurch while we are there since that city is still getting aftershocks from the devastating quake from about a year ago.

Posted by Sikhamsay 01:31 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Cook Strait

Journey from North Island to South Island

Our journey through New Zealand's north island ended at Wellington and now it's on to the south island. We boarded a 3 hour ferry ride from Wellington to the town of Picton via Cook Strait. Once on the south island we will take a bus to the town of Kaikoura.

I have yet to travel first class while flying but until then I'm upgrading my ferry ticket to Premier Class baby!!! What does that mean? Well, I get a couch, complimentary food and beverage, free Wi-Fi, and no screaming kids! Boo yeah baby!
Cook Strait-16

Cook Strait-16

Cook Strait-17

Cook Strait-17

Cook Strait was named after James Cook, the first European sailor to navigate this strip of ocean that connects the Tasman sea with the South Pacific Ocean. We were told the ocean conditions here are extremely unpredictable and one of the most dangerous in the world. They weren't kidding! As the cruise started off gale force winds pounded the ferry and they closed access to the deck. We managed to sneak out for some pictures and I don't think that was the brightest idea. Those winds were ridiculous and could've blown us overboard.
Cooks Strait-2

Cooks Strait-2

Cooks Strait-5

Cooks Strait-5

Cooks Strait-8

Cooks Strait-8

By the way, scarf belongs to Judy. I was using it as a prop to emphasize the strength of the wind.

We ran into some Americans in the premier lounge while making fun of how the Kiwis were pronouncing Pets as Pits so when they announced to the travelers go pick up your pets it sounded like they were saying go pick up your pits. Anyways, this couple owns a winery in Paso Robles called Pomar Junction so we are definitely going to check this place out. The ferry docked at Picton 3 hours later and the weather here on the south island is spectacular. It's warm with clear skies. Oh and I heard my name announced over the speaker phone at the ferry terminal. Turns out I grabbed someone else's backpack that looked identical to mine. Idiot move on my part.
Cook Strait-14

Cook Strait-14

Cook Strait-12

Cook Strait-12

Cook Strait-9

Cook Strait-9

photo-1

photo-1

Cook Strait-7

Cook Strait-7

Posted by Sikhamsay 19:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wellington

"Windy Welly"

Another long journey to another town. A 3 hour drive back to Auckland airport, then a 4 hour wait at the airport because of a flight delay, and an hour flight later we finally landed in Windy Welly. This is New Zealand's capital city and it's 10 times smaller than Auckland. Wellington is not as shiny and bright as Auckland but what it lacks in size and pizazz it makes up for in character and vibrancy. The city is alive with a free spirit. Backpacker's roam the streets alongside locals. It's city center sits in a basin surrounded by lush hills and a harbor that rivals that of Auckland's. We did get some of the infamous wind that Wellington is known for. Wellington can get gale force winds at times that have pushed yachts from the harbor back to sea. Most of the homes are Victorian and dot the lush green hills overlooking the city center and remind me of San Francisco.
Wellington-8

Wellington-8

Wellington-7

Wellington-7

Wellington-9

Wellington-9

Wellington-6

Wellington-6

Wellington2_-9

Wellington2_-9

Wellington2_

Wellington2_

Wellington2_-2

Wellington2_-2

Most restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops are located either on Cuba street or Courtenay Place. A local described Courtenay Place as sleezy since most of the bars were on that street while Cuba street had more boutiques and cafes. We went to Fidel's Cafe on Cuba street and enjoyed delicious food there as well. The cafe walls were adorned with revolutionary artwork and photographs of Fidel. Wellington has more restaurants and cafes per capita than any place I've been too. Bring your elastic waste band pants if you plan to visit Wellington. This town is a foodie's wet dream. And I just realized I don't have any pictures of my meals from Wellington and I think it's because I devour everything as soon as it's brought to me. Had delicious braised lamb shoulder at Capitol Cafe, delicous steak at Floriditas, and spicy noodles at KK Malaysian for a late night snack. This town is obsessed with Southeast Asia cuisine and I wish I had more stomach space to try more delicious Malaysian food. And for you beer lovers I drank as many local beers as my liver would allow. They have happy hour in Wellington and offer local beers on tap by the jug which is about 2/3 of a pitcher. Typical American fast food restaurants are also here but I didn't feel like paying an arm and a leg for chicken nuggets.
Wellington

Wellington

Wellington-5

Wellington-5

Wellington-4

Wellington-4

Wellington-3

Wellington-3

Wellington-2

Wellington-2

One of the big draws in Wellington is the cable car ride up to the Wellington Botanical Gardens. It's also a great opportunity to get sweeping views of the city. It's about $5 USD for a round trip ticket.
Wellington-12

Wellington-12

My friend Judy was feeling sick and she was coming down with a cold so she decided to head back to the hostel. I stayed behind to enjoy more views up above Wellington and decided to check out the aptly named Zelandia natural reserve. This place is a gem and it's only minutes away from the city center. Zelandia has miles of trails that meander around a dam and a lake. They may have filmed some scenes from Lord of the Rings here but I may be wrong. Wellington was the headquarter for that film and they shot all around town.
Wellington-17

Wellington-17

Wellington-13

Wellington-13

Wellington-49

Wellington-49

Most of the animals in the reserve were birds including a nearly extinct flightless bird called the Takahae. The spotted kiwi also live in the reserve but you have to go on a night tour to try and spot them since these birds are nocturnal.
Wellington-26

Wellington-26

Wellington-22

Wellington-22

Wellington-46

Wellington-46

Wellington-43

Wellington-43

Wellington-41

Wellington-41

Wellington-62

Wellington-62

It's amazing that all this lush vegetation is just outside a bustling metropolis. Like I said earlier some of the trails were straight out of the Lord of the Rings movie. I almost chickened out of crossing the suspension bridge. What a wimp right? How am I supposed to bungee jump if I can't even cross a damn bridge.
Wellington-68

Wellington-68

Wellington-51

Wellington-51

Wellington-40

Wellington-40

Wellington-38

Wellington-38

Wellington-34

Wellington-34

Wellington-27

Wellington-27

Wellington-59

Wellington-59

Wellington-60

Wellington-60

The Tuatara is found in the Zealandia reserve. It's an iguana-like reptile that is native to New Zealand. See if you can spot the adult Tuatara in the photos below. Look for the colored beads around their necks. I spotted an infant Tuatara and this little guy was not afraid of humans.
Wellington-64

Wellington-64

Wellington-63

Wellington-63

Wellington-66

Wellington-66

Windy Welly is a charming city that is vibrant with life and is proud of showing it. The food scene is bursting at the seams. Backpackers and cruise ship tourist flood the streets. And they are serious about their coffee here. There's one more thing that I noticed about Kiwis. They like to walk around town barefoot. I finally had the courage to take a photo of one.
Wellington-1

Wellington-1

Posted by Sikhamsay 13:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 9) Page [1] 2 »