It is now the last few days of our Mid-Semester Break here at Uni! We had two weeks of holiday and Katie, Bethany, and I (along with one other study abroad student and her boyfriend) went on a road trip around the northern half of the South Island! We took 7 days and just lived out of our campervan and a tent; it was quite an adventure, to say the least.
The first day, we drove about 6 hours across to the West Coast to take a peek at the diminishing Franz Josef Glacier. We got to the campsite pretty late so we just set up camp and headed for bed. In the morning, we drove out to the glacier and hiked the valley walk up to it. It was a rocky valley with lots of waterfalls and a clear, blue river running through it. The glacier was really a sight to see; it was an amazing experience considering they are slowly dwindling everywhere in the world. From there we drove up the West Coast, headed for Punakaiki, our next stop. Along the way we stopped at Hokitika to grab a bite to eat, check out the beach, and stop in at some jade shops. We continued on stopping at Greymouth to watch the sun set and then onward to set up camp at Punakaiki.
On day three we walked to the beach to get a look at the “pancake” rocks and the blowhole. When the waves crash into the rocks, there is a hole where they crash upward and it spouts up a ton of water and looks and sounds really cool. The pancake rocks were cool as well; they looked like a bunch of pancakes stacked on top of one another, hence the name. From there we decided to do a hike up the Punakaiki River. It was beautiful, and one of my favorite hikes we did the whole week! It was very green everywhere, with lots of vegetation, including tons of palm trees. It was the most tropical looking place I’ve seen in New Zealand. The river was amazing, so clear that you could see to the bottom but still a beautiful color of green. It was a great hike; we even saw a baby mountain goat while walking through the brush! After the hike we drove on to Abel Tasman National Park.
Day four consisted of exploring the beauties of Abel Tasman! We decided to hike into the park that day, it was a great hike along the coastline and we got to see a lot of great, absolutely pristine beaches. We ended our hike in Apple Tree Bay on the beach, put our toes in the water and checked out the wonderful view of the ocean. We hiked back into camp and hastily went to bed as we had an early morning appointment for kayaking the next day.
Day five was probably my favorite of the whole trip. We woke up at 7, ate breakfast and headed to the beach where we would get a quick safety briefing on sea kayaking. It was only about 20 minutes and we were already out on the water and headed for the islands! It was a beautiful, sunny day and we were all in t-shirts and sunglasses. It took us a couple of hours to kayak all around the islands and then we headed to a beach to stop for lunch. After lunch we headed back out to the other side of the island to see the seals basking in the sun. It was a long day, and we were tired and sore by the end but it was all worth it! We headed out that night and found another place to camp somewhere outside of Marlborough.
On day six, we woke up next to a giant blue river in the middle of a great forest, it actually reminded me a lot of Oregon with all its pine trees! That is one of my favorite things about New Zealand--there is such diversity on the island, and you can go anywhere and experience a completely different type of wilderness. Anyway, that day we decided to do a four-hour hike up the mountain to check out the view of the valley. It was long and grueling, but well worth it. We passed two waterfalls on the way down, and came to find out from the camp office that the new Hobbit movie had just filmed a scene there! We all felt a little tired but very accomplished, so we headed out and on to our last stop in Kaikoura. We managed to find a campsite with a hot tub for our last night; it was such a great surprise and an awesome way to end our trip!
Our seventh and last day was one filled with seals! The seal colony was in Kaikoura, so we headed out to the beach to take pictures. Someone had also told us that there was a waterfall that you could hike up to where all the baby seals play, so we set out to find the hike. Walking up the trail was amazing because there were seal pups just lying on rocks on the side of the trail, not even 5 feet from us! They were adorable and seemed really used to people. We made it to the waterfall and it was one of the coolest (and cutest) things I have ever seen. There were tons of seal pups just playing in this waterfall! They were everywhere. They would bite and wrestle with each other, and jump in and out of the water; it was really fun to watch.
After our day in Kaikoura, we headed back to Christchurch. I’ll never forget this road trip. I got to see so much of New Zealand in just that week, and I feel really blessed and fortunate to have had that opportunity! I can’t wait to tell you about our next adventures. Onto our second term of Uni!