Motoring round South Island.
We had decided to start our tour of South Island from Christchurch. Air New
Zealand provides a network of interconnecting flights to numerous places of
interest, and a 10% reduction was available on their "Visit New Zealand
Fares" scheme if booked beforehand (or 20% in their winter). Our flight
from Rotorua in North Island had taken about two hours.
The reasonably priced Windsor Hotel in Christchurch was popular with
tourists. Dinner could be taken in a restaurant overlooking the River Avon and
you could drink your own wine without paying corkage. In other respects the city
is well described as being like a piece of England, albeit a gentler England
than has survived today. There is punting on the River Avon as it winds through
the Botanic gardens with that serene quality that reminds one of a bygone era.
Alternatively a tour of the City can be made by tram on a tourist ticket.
We expected to stay in Dunedin but our visit coincided with the annual
festival and accommodation was impossible to find. Had I known I could have used
the web site www.nzbnbhotels.com and email facilities to book bed and breakfast
in advance. Instead we had to drive on to a small town on our route to Milford
Sound. This nevertheless gave us an early start to reach Te Anau in time to swim
in the motel pool and walk alongside the lake. It is a good base for a day visit
to Milford Sound along a winding alpine country road with varying views of
hills, rushing streams and mountains. The entry to the fiords is through a steep
and narrow tunnel in the rocks. I was wary of meeting a bus coming the other way
and was thankful to be following a large van.
. Sight seeing vessels ply the Sound past Mitre Peak which climbs steeply
out of the water then on to the seal colony before reaching the Tasman Sea.
Alternatively trekkers can take the guided walk from Lake Te Anau to Milford
Sound, but this is a six-day event. Details can be found on the web site
The journey from Te Anau to Queenstown was a comfortable journey in half a
day. We were pleased to find a motel with a balcony overlooking the delightful
Lake Wakatipu. The panoramic views were extensive - a place to photograph using
a telephoto lens. Steamship and speedboats cruise the lake. There are numerous
adventure activities including jetboating and whitewater rafting. If you fancy
it, bungy jumping is organised from the Kawarau Bridge about 20 Kms north.#
Our journey continued up route 6 alongside the sea. I had not expected to
walk on ice in the summer but the road rises to Fox glacier in Westland National
Park. Nearby the Minnehaha walk through the beautiful rain forest provided
another opportunity to stretch our legs. Further north the Franz Josef tourist
office offers guided tours up the glacier. These were for climbers only but the
casual visitor to its base needs only to negotiate the stepping stones over the
occasional stream of ice cold water. Stout shoes are recommended.
Mount Cook could be seen from the park. A cloud hung over the peak so we
waited for it to clear. Eventually we realised that it was the wind blowing up
the mountainside that cooled sufficiently to produce more vapour that maintained
Greymouth further up the coast is the terminus for the TranzAlpine train
back to Christchurch on a four-hour trip. It is declared to be one of the
world's most spectacular journeys. We were visiting friends in Nelson, however,
and so continued along the coast road with its views of the Tasman Sea on our
left and mountainous scenery on our right. The pancake rocks and another seal
colony caught our attention. At one stop we fed a flock of Weka birds but
otherwise it is the less interesting part of the trip.
We handed back our car at Picton, conveniently close to the ferry for
Wellington. Our tour had taken 9 days. With more time available we would have
stayed longer in Queenstown and Te Anau, and perhaps an extra day in Dunedin and
Christchurch river/tram /University, Lake Te anau, Milford
Sound, Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Glaciers,etc.