Journals from Semester Abroad-University of Waikato New Zealand
2013-09-05 South Island Explorations
After only six weeks of classes the University of Waikato decided to bless us with a two week holiday during the end of the month of August. Some other American international students and I decided to use that time to venture to the South Island and take in all that we could see there. Honestly two weeks was not enough time to see the whole island, but we did a pretty good job with the time and money we had.
After sleeping in the airport Friday night in order to catch our early morning flight, we flew from Auckland to Christchurch and caught a shuttle from the airport to our friend’s flat at the University of Canterbury. Actually these were our Linfield friends who are studying down there this semester, so it was great to see a couple familiar faces and have a place to crash for the weekend. They were so great, letting eight people come in and dominate their flat for a couple days. They showed us around Christchurch a bit, and it was incredible to see some of the damage from the earthquake and what the city has done since then to rebuild.
The next day we went to the car rental place and rented two cars between the eight of us for 10 days. Our plan was to take these cars around the island and end up back at Christchurch where we’d return them and pick up relocation cars that we could rent for a dollar a day for just a couple days in order to take them from Christchurch back up to Auckland. It worked out quite nicely, actually.
So on Monday we began our road trip heading over to the west coast planning to stay in hostels each night as we traveled. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of every day of our trip, but here are the highlights (in order of when we did them):
(I know this is long, sorry! But there were just so many good things! If you don’t have time to read it all, see the bolded ones at least)
Castle Hill — This is a hillside in the middle of a mountain range that is covered in massive boulders and rocks that we could climb all around. It is also where some of the Lord of the Rings was filmed.
Fox Glacier — I did a half-day hike out onto the glacier! This was pretty cool! (But actually freezing!) It was raining/drizzling the whole time, which is typical of the West Coast, so we got the full experience, we were told. We went out with a guide and a good-sized group and just walked around the glacier for a couple hours, learning about how the ice is actually like a frozen river that moves very slowly.
Wanaka — This is a small town on a lake in between mountains and was just one of the most beautiful places we stayed. We didn’t have a ton of time to do much there, but just the peacefulness and beauty of the landscape was incredible.
Mt. Cook — We did a walk through the mountains around Mt. Cook and took in the incredibly huge mountains. I was blown away by how close these mountains were to us and just how big they are. We also saw (and heard) an avalanche on our walk, which was totally unexpected and super cool too!
Really really blue lakes! — All throughout the island we drove past beautiful blue lakes (but especially around Mt. Cook). These lakes seriously looked unreal with how clear and blue they were. Just absolutely breathtaking!
Queenstown — This is a beautiful touristy town set on another lake within a mountain range. It was bustling with people who were taking advantage of the mountains for snowboarding/skiing, the lake for boating and sightseeing, and the many shops and local venders that we encountered on Saturday morning. We also got to watch a couple of our friends bungee jump with Queenstown and the lake in the background. Our weekend in Queenstown was definitely a good one!
Invercargill/Bluff — Driving to the southernmost city of NZ!
Dunedin — Cadbury Chocolate Factory tour! Lots of chocolate! ‘Nuf said. There were also lots beautiful Victorian churches and buildings all throughout the city that gave it really cool historic feel. We also visited the World’s Steepest Street, Baldwin street, in Dunedin; I ran up most of it!
Oamaru — A very small town, but home to the Blue Penguin colony. We got to see tiny little blue penguins!
Sylvia Flats Hot Springs — This was a very noncommercial/non-advertised place that we heard about through word of mouth. It is basically hot pools right by a river, surrounded by mountains up in the northern part of the South Island. It was so fun to discover these two little pools that were much warmer than the river water flowing by a foot or so away. We dug out the pools a bit to make them deeper, and just soaked in them for the morning. It was so relaxing and beautiful and was probably my favorite memory of the trip!
Inter-Islander Ferry — This was the biggest and most expensive ferry I’ve ever been on. $55 per person! Yikes! But it was cool to sail away from the South Island, waving goodbye. It was also a different ferry experience for me in that it was about three hours long and we parked on top of train tracks in the bottom of the boat, next to a bunch of train cars! I didn’t know trains could go on ferries--crazy!
So that’s about it! Thanks for putting up with my long-windedness, I could seriously go on for pages about everything we did. But I hope you got an idea of what kind of adventure I had these past couple weeks here in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
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