We joined the Kiwi Experience bus tour in Christchurch and set off straightaway for a place called Kaikoura. It was a pity the weather had taken a turn as our whale watching trip was cancelled but Maria,Richie and I did get out to do the dolphin swim. Snorkelling definitely an advantage for this as the breathing takes a little getting used to! The sailing was pretty rough, Martin lasting about ten minutes before needing a bucket! We shouldnt have laughed as 11 out of 14 of us needed them on the way back. It was not pretty! Amazing how close up we got to them but they'd be gone in a flash! Hopefully we captured some on the camera but I'm not too confident!
Headed for Picton then to catch the ferry across to Wellington. While in christchurch the hostel receptionist put us in touch with friends of hers in Wellington and they had kindly agreed to let us have their apartment for the entire weekend and the best bit - it was free! The luck of the irish eh? Accommodation that weekend was tight and expensive! Brent and Jeanette really were so welcoming. They even offered us their car to go to the supermarket! Unfortunately the game on Saturday doesnt go our way and our world cup dreams are dashed. Spent time at the team hotel that night. It was heartbraking watching the team come back to rounds of applause for a job well done.
Back onto the ferry on monday morning to catch the Kiwi Experience bus and go to Kaiteriteri which has one of the top 10 beaches in the world. No sunbathing however as it rains a lot. Took a water taxi to explore Abel Tasman national park. Even though it was a little cold it was a beautiful spot! - plenty of photo ops here! Next stop was Lake Mahinapua where the 50 odd of us had the run of the hostel and were cooked a steak dinner for $11 by 87 year old Les - a real character! Westport was next. The journey down through the Buller Gorge was fabulous. Edel and I had booked in for horse riding here - what a laugh, poor Mike getting a very tempermental horse! Joey (my horse) was pretty well behaved once I got used to the commands!
Lake Mahinapua was our next stop but not before stopping along the glorious coastline of the Tasman sea at the Truman Track and Punakaiki Pancake Rocks which are definitely worth a look. When we arrive in Mahinapua we have a fabulous steak dinner cooked for all 54 of us by an 87 year old owner who can't resist cracking a joke on seeing my irish jersey on the bus! Here we had a rubix cube-themed party, each person trying to have any many single colour outfits in one night as they could! Last person I saw wearing my yellow t-shirt was an english lad twice my size.....wont be wearing that again!
With only one night here we were off to Franz Josef in the morning, a drive that brought us through green calleys, with snow capped mountains appearing from under the clouds and rivers which were so so blue from the glacial valleys. Unfortunately our hike on the Franz Josef glacier was cancelled due to a rockfall the previous day but with some quick thinking by Edel and a few others we were headed for the Fox glacier instead. The ascent to the ice was the most difficult part of the day! The glacier has been growing and receeding so its interesting to see where the front lay in the 1800s and in the 1980s!
Took some incredible shots of Lake Matheson the next day (a short drive from FJ) - incredible for the mirror reflections provided of Mount Cook, not my photographic skills! After a stop at the Roaring Billy Falls we arrive in Wanaka where Edel does her sky dive and we take a trip to Puzzle World.
Queenstown is our last stop on the list where we spend our last 4 nights. There's endless activities here from paragliding to bungying to canyon swings to luging. All you need is time and loads of cash! We have a group night out to celebrate the end of the tour, with Fiona taking up the Fat Badgers Pizza challenge - eating a 22 inch pizza in 15 minutes......may have taken 27 but she managed to finish it!
A trip to Milford Sound is definitely recommended, one of the most beautiful places on earth! the drive itself is even worth it!
A long trip back to Christchurch to fly out to australia finished our kiwi experience.