The Road Less Travelled: The Southern Scenic Route
This part of New Zealand is often missed off the itineraries of travellers, especially those who are pushed for time. The route runs from Queenstown, through Te Anau and onto Dunedin via Invercargill and Balclutha. Lured by the prospects of photogenic lighthouses, wind torn trees, penguins, and waterfalls we set aside a few days to explore this area. Continue reading
Entering Another World
On visiting any of the sounds you would be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a Jurassic park style world. The cliffs here run straight into the water, continuing some hundred of metres below sea level. The water is dark, stained by the tannins carried in the water that runs off the trees on the hillsides. Bizarrely, this run off also means that the water is far less salty than imagined, forming a freshwater layer on top of the sea water. The dark water filters much of the sunlight, allowing deep water species to live much closer to the surface than usual. Continue reading
Take to the Skies
Having already been on several wildlife cruises in New Zealand already, we opted to take to the air in our search to see a whale. We booked a forty minute scenic plane ride with Air Kaikoura. On booking in, we were informed that it was a good day – there were several whales about, with the last trip seeing three! We boarded our plane with some other guests and got ready to start spotting from above! We all had headphones so we could listen to the pilot, in addition to the radio chatter.
This was one of the highlights of the trip so far, which we booked with Encounter Kaikoura. Despite being utterly amazing, it came with some significant seasickness drawbacks! Booking on the early 5.30am tour was perfect for us at it meant we could also make it to church “later” in the day. We arrived bleary eyed at ten past five ready to get suited up and were provided with a long john wetsuit, additional wetsuit jacket, neoprene hood, fins, face mask and snorkel. We chose to wear a rashy underneath in addition to our swimsuits. After a short video briefing we headed onto a bus for a short drive round the coast to the harbour, where we hopped on board our boat.
After reading plenty of reviews we had purchased some seasickness tablets and taken them ahead of time. Although the weather was fine, the sea was choppy and had a large swell. The dolphins in Kaikoura are completely wild, and aren’t enticed in any way, which means the first part of the trip is spent looking for them. We passed a small pod of dolphins, but continued on as our guides decided they weren’t in a playful mood. A few minutes later another group was spotted, and after donning our hoods and masks we were ushered into the water. Continue reading
Back Country Huts
New Zealand’s back country is filled with huts used by trampers (hikers), mountaineers and climbers throughout the year. Ran by the Department of Conservation (DOC), each hut varies in its provision, with some little more than some bunks and a platform to cook on, with others offering larger kitchens with gas and water. Mueller Hut is one of the most accessible huts in New Zealand’s back country, being just 3-4 hours walk from the car park at the bottom of the mountain. In summer months it is also staffed by a volunteer warden. This makes it an ideal “first time” Hut for many adventurers!
We were going to do this as a long day hike, but we managed to grab some last minute cancelled spots, so after a mad dash over from Tekapo we started up at around four in the afternoon. If you can get a spot overnight then do – the sunset and stars are worth it. If you can’t and the weather is good go for a day hike anyway, the views are stunning. When the weather is really poor, it probably isn’t worth it as you won’t see anything!
White Horse Hill Campsite
The Mueller walk starts by following the Key Point and Sealy Tarns route up the mountain. The tracks set off from the White Horse Hill Campsite, or if you wish, you can start at the visitor centre in town, but this adds a significant chunk of time onto your journey! Continue reading
Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe
The Fox Glacier sits within the Southern Alps on New Zealand West Coast. From it’s nevé plummets steeply towards its terminal face, dropping 2,600m over 13 kilometres. This steep incline means that the glacier is incredibly fast moving, covering up to 5m in a single day – distances other glaciers struggle to reach in a year. The fast pace of the glacier and the amount of ice forced into the valley from the nevé means that features such as ice caves, pressure ridges are often seen.
Its Maori name, Te Moeka o Tuawe, means the final resting place of the ancestor Tuawe. He fell to his death whilst exploring the area, and his lover Hine Hukatere wept tears which formed the nearby Franz Joseph Glacier – also know as Kia Roimata o Hine Hukatere. Both glaciers are also unique because they end amidst rain forest which is considered unusual.
In recent years the glaciers in this region have begun to retreat, meaning hiking onto the ice from the terminal face is not safe, and instead tourists must be flown up onto the glacier itself. Despite this, it is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, and local company Fox Glacier Guiding, takes several hundred people up onto the face each day. Continue reading