More Adventures on the South Island

Sunday 09.12.2006

Odometer (Rental car)

172'022km

Twinkle twinkle little star...

Before we take the inter islander ferry to the South Island we have to visit the famous Waitomo Caves. What makes these caves special are the millions of glow-worms who glue themselves to the cave walls and attract insects with their fluorescent light. Of course we can't take the easy way to see the caves, but have to sign up for a full-blast adventure package: we first have to abseil 25m into the river that runs through the cave system. Then we walk upstream in the dark to see the glowworms. In a huge, domelike section of the cave we switch off our head lamps Wow... it looks like the night's sky with millions of stars twinkling. Each star is a little glow-worm luring insects to its sticky net. Still in the dark, we take a seat in the rubber tires that we've brought along and gently glide down the cave. After 500m the ride get's bumpier and it sounds as we would approach a huge subterranean waterfall. Quickly everybody switches his head lamps back on. Luckily we've stopped just above some rapids. After walking and crawling over the rapids we hop again onto our flotation devices and venture further downstream until it becomes unsafe to go any further into the cave system. On the way back, our guide takes us on a detour where we have to squeeze ourselves through narrow holes and cracks. After a strenuous walk against the current we again reach our starting point where we have to climb up the 25m we have abseiled at the beginning.

Keep on goin'

After being so lucky with the weather on our track, it's raining again for a change while we're driving further south. Our first intention is to tackle another track in the Nelson Lake National Park. But after studying the weather forecast at the visitor center we decide to keep on driving to see the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. We are quite amazed to see the whole tourism business that has developed around a few rocks on a beach.

How to get lost in Wanaka

Our next destination is Wanaka, a town dedicated to outdoor activities. Due to the bad weather we decide to some indoor activities instead and visit the "Puzzling World" an exhibition of Holograms, optical illusions and amazing phenomena. Around the exhibition is a huge outdoor maze (labyrinth). Of course Chris wants to do the maze first. She insists to scout alone through the maze to proof her superior sense of orientation (yeah right...) Even though I think she was cheating (I caught her closing an emergency exit) I have to admit that she found the stupid towers faster than me. But that was only because my scientific approach took more time to execute. Well after 2 hours and 1.5km we both made it to the exit and spent the rest of the afternoon solving puzzles at the lobby of the exhibition.

Te Urewera, Gannets

Our next adventure is a 4-day hike in the Abel Tasman area. But first we want to make sure that we are ready for this challenge. As we already know my knees and Chris's neck will be the weak points. So we plan a steep 6h hike in the Te Urewear National Park to see if Chris is able to carry a 14kg backpack without any neck problems. My challenge will be to walk 20km in full gear from Clifton to Cape Kidnapper to visit the Gannet colony and to see if my knees survive the trip. Both hikes are a full success and we can now look forward to the "big" hike.

Abel Tasman Track

Declared as one of New Zealands "Great Walks" the Abel Tasman track attracts people from all around the world. It follows the coastline and is easy accessible by water taxis. We decide to do the track from north to south against the usual direction most people follow. In the preparation for the walk one not only has to consider such things as food and equipment, but also the tides for the beach crossings. Our initial plan is to walk 4 days but on the first morning, the weather is so bad that we decide to skip one day and have the water taxi drop us a bit sooner to make up for the lost time. After a 2h ride the water taxi drops us at the Awaroa beach where our journey begins. After crossing beaches and climbing rainforest hills we reach our first camp at Medlands Bay. As we pitch our tent on the sandy beach and prepare dinner the sky darkens and the first raindrops dilute our ravioli sauce. For the second course we have to seek refuge in our tent. We are lucky, because the German couple arriving just a few minutes later at the campsite gets completely drenched. Even their sleeping bags are wet. Yuck! The next day we can sleep in because there is plenty of time till our first tidal crossing is in the early afternoon. The scenery is fantastic and we enjoy walking even though we have packed way to much stuff (as always). The second night we spend in Te Pukatea in a camp with 14 sites right next to a dream beach. It is very windy this afternoon and after pitching our tent a group of completely exhausted kayakers arrive on "our" beach. They are unable to reach their camp "around the corner" due to the strong wind and the waves. They are forced to spend the night in our camp which is not set up for that many guests. Fortunately the kayakers are too exhausted to throw parties, so we get a good night's rest. The last leg of the trek is not very demanding, but we are still glad to arrive in Marahau where a cosy bed and a hot shower awaits us.

A frozen river

Like we wouldn't have enough glaciers back home, we desperately want to see the Franz Josef Glacier (sounds very Kiwi doesn't it?) Located north of Mount Cook the Franz Josef glacier tumbles town a valley and stops just 18km short of the coastline. Arriving in the little tourist village below the glacier we can already hear countless helicopters shuttling hikers to the glacier. Of course I also want to do the heli-hike-thing but judging by the look on my chief accountant's face I can tell that she is not very comfortable with the idea. After a few sighs and the application of creative-female-accounting-techniques she announces that the heli-ride will be my Xmas present for this year :-) The next morning I can't wait to get to the helipad. Of course I aim for the seat next to the pilot. It's an interesting flight. One slide door accidentally opens during the flight which frightens the hell out of the lady who sits next to it and happens to be afraid of heights anyway. After having closed the door the pilot shows that he can fly the heli while typing a text message on his cellphone - look mom, no hands! Somehow we land safely on a tiny helipad carved in the ice on the glacier. After mounting our crampons we follow our guide to discover the amazing world of ice-tunnels, waterways and towering ice blocks After 2 hours wandering through a maze of ice we somehow make it back to the heli-pickup point. Minutes later we take-off and dive back into the valley.

Te Urewera national park

The national park protects part of the North Island's largest untouched native forest. There is a great walk around Lake Waikaremoana which takes 3 to 4 days. If you don't want to tackle the whole walk, it's still worth doing the first part from Onepoto to Panekiri Bluff which takes appx. 5 hours return. Amazing views.

Attractivity

Cape Kidnapper, Gannet Colony

From September until April the largest Gannet colony on the mainland can be found near Napier. Thousands of birds and their chicks can be observed only meters from the path.

To get to Cape Kidnapper, you can either walk the 20km return along the beach or book a tour on a tractor-pulled trailer.

In either case, the tides have to be checked in advance since the beach is only accessible at low tide.

www.gannets.com

Attractivity

Waitomo Black-Water Rafting

Various tour operators offer different types of cave adventures in Waitomo. We booked our tour with Rap, Raft 'n' Rock. The tour included: Abseiling, Glowworms, Black Water Rafting, Caving and Rockclimbing. Small group size but millions of glowworms.

www.caveraft.com

Attractivity

InterIsland Ferry

The Ferry which connects the North- and South Island. During school holiday (mid December - end of January) the ferry is highly booked and reservations should be made as early as possible. Bookings can be made on the Internet. It's worth sailing at daylight because of the beautiful scenery.

www.interislander.co.nz

Attractivity

Abel Tasman national park

This coastal national park can be discovered in various ways. Another 3-5 days Great Walk follows the coast. However, since the water taxis can drop their passengers along the way, the length of the track is flexible. Several tour operators offer one or several days kajak tours. The huts and camp grounds have to be booked in advance.

www.abeltasmanmarahaucamp.co.nz

Attractivity

Heli-Hiking

It's possible to walk on the Franz Josef or Fox glacier in company of a guide. People too lazy to walk to the glacier (as we were) can take a helicopter ride up to the glacier and walk from there. We explored the Franz Josef glacier with "The Guiding Company".

www.nzguides.com

Attractivity

Puzzling World

The labyrinth is definitely the best part. However, in rainy or chilly weather it's also an option to spend some time in the café shop and try to solve the free logical puzzles.

www.puzzlingworld.co.nz

Attractivity