New Zealand part III: the rest of south island

October 1, 2009 - Wellington, New Zealand

In christchurch I tried deciding to get a tour bus/ regular bus or buy a car to see the rest of the South Island - in the end i went with buying a car as I knew that with a bit of luck i would be able to sell it 4 weeks later fairly quickly in Auckland in a backpackers car market (for much the same if not more money - a risky decision and to compound that risky decision i decided not to bother getting insurance as it is not compulsory to have in new zealand as i'd discovered so for 4 weeks driving and to try and keep my spending down a bit i decided against it) But i thought if it pays off then i'll be able to get around for just the cost of petrol and also my preferred option of taking the backpacker tour buses didn't suit my timeframe and itineary considering the fact i'd already seen most of the south island already!

As soon as I bought the car (a 1996 Ford Telstar station wagon) I headed straight away for Arthurs pass across the Southern Alps range - its a high alpine pass that gets quite icy and passing a flashing sign that said wheel chains essential and with a blizzard and treacherous clouds above i was a little apprehensive to say the least (seen as i didn't have chains!!!) When i got to the base of the pass a road worker asked me if my car was 4WD and if so i should be ok - to which i replied "yeah i think so" as i wanted to give it a go to make it over as the alternative to make it too the west coast was a 800km or more back to christchurch and over a different pass (although not as high) or less than 100kms if i made it over this attempt - luckily my vehicle had it in it and made it over the worst part at the top with only a few wheel spins and re-attempts (after being stuck behind a few trucks who couldn't make it)

After getting past the obstacle of the Southern Alps I was on the west coast of the south island and I headed to Franz Josef and spent a day there and the next at Fox Glacier and getting photo of Mt Cook and Mt Abel Tasman reflection in Lake Mathesons' glass like surface. The Glaciers where impressive I guess but after seeing Perito Moreno Glacier in Southern Argentina which was alot bigger and more impressive and with garden shed sized chunks of ice falling of it v regularly these glacier's seemed a little tame! But I took a few obligatory snaps!

Next I headed north up along the west and its an amazing drive from Franz Josef to Nelson skirting around the edges of mountains and beautiful views at nearly every turn and continues up through After this I headed to Buller Gorge which is really impressive to drive through - Although before getting to the Buller Gorge I stopped at Punakaiki pancake rocks - a strange pancake formations of limestone where the sea has eroded the coast forming caves and blow holes (that you could see in action) etc. The drive was cool and I enjoyed it and I was glad I had the car for that leg of the journey.

From Nelson I did a 2 day hike in the Abel Tasman National Park - but I forgot to bring my camera which was probably a good thing as on the second weather was pretty wet to put it mildly and everything I had was fairly drenched even with my water proofs and all - and I abandoned my plans to cross over one of the tidal crossings as the level even at low tide was alot higher due to a night a day of torrential rain and I just got the sea taxi back to Marahau. Even with the rain i enjoyed the hike and the National Park is a nice spot where i would have liked to spend a while longer - but i had a ferry to catch and I wanted to go to Kaikoura to swim with Dolphins!

After leaving the national park giving a lift to a girl from wellington back to Nelson and a picking up a few other hitch hikers to make the journey to Kaikoura a bit more interesting - but when I got to Kaikoura the Dolphin watching excursion was cancelled due to weather conditions at sea and I had a ferry to catch the next day so it was the only day I could do it! Conicidentally the day i was in Kaikoura was the same day there was a Tsunami warning from the Earthquake and Tsunami in American Samoa (luckily it only amounted to nothing more than a 40cm wave at most that came to coast of new zealand)

From Kaikoura i headed north to Picton to get my ferry giving a lift to german girl in my hostel and a canadian backpacking hitchiker as far as Blenheim (the town hub of the Marlborough vineyard region) as I definitely realised that touring about in the car on my own wasn't really the way I wanted to do my travels.

I crossed over to Wellington on the ferry and was back on the North Island of NZ!


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