February 2015

As I still want to have some kind of diary here – for me and anybody that is interested – I post monthly updates of what we did (including pictures), what we are up to and what our future plans are. Ideally that will also show a bit how much our plans change and how our progress and planning goes for the near future. You can find all entries until now here and for a bit more frequent reports you can head over to Agnès Blog or her short updates.

What we did

West coast & Glaciers

01-P1070308After arriving at the west coast of the South Island we experienced the typical weather for the region – rain! At the first glacier, we couldn’t even leave the car as it was pouring down constantly. Instead we went to a Kiwi centre to see the iconic bird at least once, even if it was in captivity. In the afternoon it got a bit dryer so we could visit both glaciers without getting too wet, however due to the weather most of the accesses and lookouts were closed. A bit disappointed we went further south to Queenstown and skipped everything we had planned for the next 1 or 2 days.

Queenstown

The bad weather continued a little bit so that in the night before we arrived in Queenstown it snowed…in the middle of summer! However it got better after we arrived in the city. We were lucky enough to get there in the middle of some festivities for the national holiday so the centre was closed for a Shepard to walk his sheep through the streets. Later that day we went to a campground in the middle of the mountains, along Skippers Road. We drove like this for about an hour to reach it and another hour to get out of it again. Passing drop offs half a meter next to our car and a bridge out of an Indiana Jones movie.

Milford Sound

28-P1070631Before heading to the Milford Sound we dropped a few of our things at a friend of Agnès to not leave anything valuable in the car when we leave to Steward Island afterwards. The road to the Sound was luckily clear again, after it was nearly closed due to the severe snow from 2 nights before. We had booked a ride on a boat with a guide who would explain the important and special things about the Sound (which is actually a fjord). As so often most of these things are only interesting when you can actually connect them to something you have seen, so the only thing I will mention here is the water, which has a fresh water layer on top of salt water which makes it possible to see animals and plants that usually live at 100-200m depth at only 10m depth. That is the reason why people built an underwater observatory which rests 10m underneath the water surface. It feels a bit like a fish tank turned inside out.

Steward Island

35-P1070780On Steward Island we did our first full “Great Walk”. These walks are well maintained and supposed to be particularly beautiful. In addition to that it is possible to spot Kiwis which makes it pretty much the only place in New Zealand were you can do that without a guided tour or an artificial sanctuary of some kind. However although people 10 minutes behind us saw one, we were not lucky enough for that encounter…yet. We walked for 3 days to arrive in the small township from where we started and decided to visit a small sanctuary island before taking the ferry back. On this island people killed all predators (rats, stouts, possums, cats, etc. – which are a considerable problem for the native bird life) to create a safe habitat for several bird species.

East Coast

51-P1080113After Steward Island we went back to Steve – Agnès’ friend – to collect our stuff and rest a few days, doing laundry, sleeping in a proper bed and having regular showers. We took a road along the east coast, trying to spot dolphins, penguins and seals (more or less successfully) before heading inland again towards Mount Cook.

Mount Cook

46-P1080005On our way to Mount Cook we had some “minor” problems with our car (see “Problems”) which fortunately were fixed quite quickly. We camped near the small village next to the mountain before doing a full day of hikes. The first one led up ~2200 stairs to an amazing view over the valley, several glaciers and lakes. While having a break at the lookout we could hear and see several avalanches just across from us on the next mountain. After walking down all the steps again we headed to a glacial lake on the foot of Mt. Cook. In the evening we started driving towards Christchurch and camped somewhere along the way.

Back to Auckland

57-P1080185In Christchurch we crashed at a friends place who we met during the hike on Steward Island. We then drove north towards Picton to take the ferry back to the North Island. In Wellington we spend 5hrs in Te Papa, one of the biggest museums of the country, exhibiting everything from New Zealand’s geological, cultural and economical development including the history of Maori and their relationship to the English explorers to the current and extinct animal life of the islands. We intended to hike somewhere close to Mt. Taranaki which is a school book example for a volcano but unfortunately the clouds didn’t reveal it, so we moved on northwards to one of several “hot water beaches” where geothermal springs are located underneath an ocean beach, which enables people to dig a small hole in the sand which gets filled with hot water so that you have your own hot pool.

Auckland

Back in Auckland we tried to relax a little after driving 8000 km in 5 weeks. It worked only partially as we already had a lot of things scheduled. We “had to” do a few maintenance works on the car, visit our friends in Warkworth were we stayed in December and prepare our trip to Australia. Additionally Agnès mum and her boyfriend arrived 2 days before we left so that meant some more preparation. Eventually me managed to organize everything and caught our flight to Australia without being too much stressed.

What we plan to do

As we are in Australia now, the idea is to move northwards from Melbourne. Stopping in Canberra to get my new passport, visit some friends in Brisbane and eventually arrive at Farewell Station in the outback to work a bit with sheep and cattle again. Whatever happens on the 4th of June we have to be in Brisbane to catch our flight back to Auckland.

Problems

The biggest problem we had on the trip was our car! While it ran pretty smoothly for most of the time, close to Mount Cook it started smelling like burned oil and a bit later white smoke emerged from our trunk. The reason was pretty easy to spot as seemingly all the oil from the engine was spilled in the trunk and under the car. We decided that it was not safe to keep going and instead rolled back to the last town to ask a mechanic for help.

After cleaning the car and investigating the issue it was probably due to a mixture of reasons, including the wrong oil, a wrong dipstick and and faulty rubber ring. Anyway after an oil change that would have been necessary anyway we could keep going and didn’t have any problems afterwards.

What I learned

  • So many facts about Milford Sound that I nearly feel like an expert in geology and marine life
  • Lot’s about general New Zealand history and Maori history and culture in particular from the Te Papa museum

To Do List

  • Get a new passport
  • Get a new phone
  • Book a flight back from Australia to New Zealand. Decide where to go after Australia and for how long and book the flight
  • Get a chest X-ray
  • Get a long-term visa for NZ
  • Catch my own fish for dinner
  • Go back to Auckland
  • Apply for a new passport
  • Arrive at Farewell Station

Leave a Reply