Monday, 19 May 2014

Te Waipounamu - South Island (part 2)

Tēnā koutou!

I think I forgot to mention in the last blog - Te Waipounamu means "The Greenstone Waters" because greenstone is found in the South Island and it is very precious to the Māori culture.

So I last left you in Queenstown...

Our route for the second half

Friday, April 18 cont.
The first thing we did when we arrived was walk around and find a nice place to play. We stopped in front of a cafe called Patagonia (on our favorite waterfront street). Then we ran into our Australian friend that we met in Wanaka! He was with his daughter and her friend so we all had coffee together and talked about life. After we caught up with them, we set up again to play ukes. It hadn't been very long at all before we attracted two random Italians who sat down to jam and then ALL of our American friends (the boys plus 3 other girls from school) and then our other friend from Zimbabwe who we met in Wanaka walked by and joined us. It was one big, funny reunion. We all jammed for a while and enjoyed the crisp night under the street lights with great people.

Reasons why we love Queenstown

Saturday, April 19
We always have leisurely mornings and make beautiful oatmeal breakfasts with tea and/or coffee+hot chocolate. We had camped next to the boys again and they took off as soon as they could. We eventually made our way to the Saturday Market in town where lots of artists were selling jewelry, pictures, pottery, scarves, etc. I bought a greenstone necklace that was carved by some Māori kids and blessed by a Māori elder. Since pounamu is so precious to the Māori, it's important for it to be blessed after it is taken from the river. We ate lunch in the grass by a rugby field and then decided to hike up to this place called the Skyline - a real tourist trap where you can take the Gondola up the mountain and buy ice cream at the top and ride the Luge (like go-carts). The hike was really beautiful and the view at the top was stunning.

After the hike, we met up with our friend, Lisa, who would be joining us for the rest of the trip. We decided to treat ourselves at Fergburger since everybody who talks about Queenstown RAVES about it. And for good reason! It's DELICIOUS. It was the only meal we treated ourselves to (excluding coffee) the whole trip. Fergburger specializes in gourmet hamburgers and they are HUGE. I ate the whole thing and it was hard work. I got the "Southern Swine" which had Prime NZ beef, American streaky bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli, and tomato relish. So yum.
After that, the four of us busked for a little while and ran into our French friend, Gilles, who we saw busking in Wanaka! We invited him to have coffee with us at Patagonia to warm up. It was a good time :)

Upgrading to BOWLS of coffee

Sunday, April 20 ~ Easter
We had another leisurely morning with oatmeal for breakfast. We also tried to wash up and wash some of our clothes in the river by the campsite. This was my first time bathing in EIGHT DAYS (and the only bath I would have for the whole trip). It was the dirtiest I'd ever been and the river was freezing but it felt so nice to have somewhat clean hair. We hung our laundry out of the car windows and got such funny looks as we drove through the bustling town center. We drove up to the Remarkables Ski Field and have lunch and a 6 km high view of Queenstown - so gorgeous! But let's be honest - you could be anywhere in NZ and snap a random picture and it would be gorgeous. 

The plan was to get to Milford Sound by sunset, but first one more quick 'cuppa' at Patagonia. And the rest is history... "Milford at sunset" turned into a street concert by a group of Brazilian buskers. And of course, we ran into Gilles again, and his friend Antoine. We danced and sang all night and then finally had dinner around 10 pm with our French friends in the parking lot. We cooked soup and pesto and had bread and tea and chocolate; it was divine! We listened to French techno radio and played with poi. It was definitely an Easter unlike any other. Before we left, we passed on our letter from the Rawhiti Cave to Gilles.

Brazilian Street Band

Gilles reading the letter

Group photo :) (minus Maria)

Monday, April 21
We had camped about 45 minutes outside of Queenstown and woke up next to a beautiful lake with more mountains and someone boating around. It was always fun when we set up camp in the dark and were able to wake up in the morning to an amazing surprise.

Once we got ourselves collected, we began our drive towards Milford Sound (Piopiotahi). Driving in was the coolest thing because it was a little foggy and we were listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and the mountains were so majestic. The Sounds themselves were also very majestic and misty and mysterious. While we were there, we met two brothers from Michigan!!! They're from Bay City and one currently lives in Washington DC and the other in Japan. They were just travelling together in NZ for two weeks. Small world eh! 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Tuesday, April 22
Waking up in Fiordland was really cool. We were in a tall, grassy field with misty mountains all around us. The only thing was that the sandflies were really bad and we couldn't stand in one spot for very long otherwise we'd get attacked. Our plan for the day was to get up into the mountains, so we started on the Routeburn Track, which is a 3-4 day long Great Walk but we vered off to do the Key Summit hike, because we only had one day. We also did another secret, obscure side hike, courtesy of Scott Cook. Fiordland is absolutely beautiful. It was so green and there were little ponds because we were walking through a bog and there were squiggly trees with brown moss that looked like they came straight of the LOTR movies and of course, mountains, mountains, mountains. And it was no surprise that we ran into the Michigan brothers again because it's New Zealand and so we walked all the way back to the parking lot with them and talked about America and Michigan and Vernors and Enya and traveling. It was a really great day!

That night we had a hard decision to make. We only had a couple of days left and we could have continued driving south and have long days of driving ahead of us, or start going north and see some things along the way. We chose the latter and drove towards Mount Cook (Aoraki) that night.

Wednesday, April 23
Good morning!

We had lots of driving to do on this day but we still were able to see the Mount Cook/Aoraki, the Tasman Glacier (Haupapa), and Lake Punakaki. We didn't stay long, just made our way up to the glacier viewing point and got to see the lake while driving. I'm running out of adjectives to describe NZ without saying everything is beautiful and stunning... The drive towards Mount Cook was magnificent and the lake was a dazzling teal blue. The glacier was superb and my eyes were delighted to see such wonders.


We drove until we reached our destination for the next day: Arthur's Pass. We found a picnic shelter, set up camp, and cooked delicious soup. I love soup.

Thursday, April 24 ~ Maria's 21st Birthday!!!!!!
We woke up and had a lovely birthday oatmeal breakfast and I gave Maria a card that I'd made for her and a CD of all the songs that we've been singing in New Zealand so she can listen to it whenever she wants to reminisce. 

Our morning campsite surprise

Our first stop along Arthur's Pass was Castle Hill, the land of the large limestone. These limestone were formed 30 - 40 million years ago when New Zealand was covered by water. It's cool having a Geology major (Bridget) with you because she knows so much about the landscapes. 

Boulder Yoga

We climbed around the rocks for a while and played ukulele and enjoyed the sunshine. Next, we stopped at some caves along the pass and explored those too. 

Caves always have cool acoustics. After all this exploring we were starving so we stopped to have food in a pretty spot :)

So obscure, eating pineapple chunks out of avocado shells - always laughing

Shortly after, it began to rain... So we stopped at a cafe for coffee and it didn't really let up. But that was alright, because we had a busy day while the sun was out! We drove until we found our next campsite and set up. In honor of Maria's birthday we made more delicious soup with allll the veggies and hot chocolate and wine and a really nice banana+nutella+carmello chocolate+peanut butter dessert. Mmmmm that was a fun night, so much laughter, so much love ♥

Watch out for Kiwi!

Friday, April 25
Our last day..... 
We had a guest for breakfast that morning - a curious, little weka was drinking out of our dishes that we left out for the rain to wash. Then he felt comfortable enough to sneak inside our tent to see what was up. We let him eat some dry oats and then he tried to take off with our entire loaf of bread!!! We scared him away but he was back shortly after and ran away with our sponge. Silly weka... That sponge was gross anyways.

It was a beautiful day for driving, the sun shining again as we passed by countless vineyards and rolling green hills. We got to Picton pretty early, so we met up with the boys who were camping nearby with the other Americans. It was fun to have one final night all together on the South Island. Our ferry left from Picton at 10:30 pm and we arrived in Wellington at 1:30 am, with still a two-hour drive back to Palmy. We were sad that our journey was over, but we felt content because it was a really fulfilling trip.

I love New Zealand.

and these goofballs

Thanks for reading :)
Ngā mihi rā

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