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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: New Zealand

What an amazing time in New Zealand! In our five weeks, we’ve been to city and country and driven some hairy roads (on the left!) through the most unbelievable scenery. We’ve been to countless beaches, mountains, endlessly rolling countryside, farms, snow, seaside cliffs, and towering forests. Overall, it’s been a month of hiking–we’ve done more hiking than ever before, and seen more awe-inspiring sublime scenery than we can believe. We went to our first rugby match and have learned enough about the sport to have an idea of what’s going on.

You’ve heard most of our adventures in this blog, but let’s take a couple moments to recap our time in this country.

Top three experiences?

Nikki: The cruise through Milford Sound, hiking in Coromandel and going out in New Plymouth after the rugby game.

Brad:

  1. Milford Sound. It was simply stunning, and we were lucky to have perfect weather.
  2. Coromandel peninsula. The drive and scenery was unbelievable, and surprisingly there weren’t a lot of other people. Our hostel on the farm was really nice, as was hiking up at the top (except for driving narrow gravel roads for 20km to get there).
  3. Queenstown. Before we got there, we didn’t think we’d like it, since it was mostly just snowboarders. But it’s actually a very nice town with a lot of really fun things to do (like the luge and bungy jumping).

Bottom three experiences?

Nikki: Invercargill (possibly the most boring and ugly town in New Zealand), Rotorura, freezing at night in Abel Tasman.

Brad:

  1. Rotorua. Maybe we were there during a geothermal downtime, but bubbling mud wasn’t very exciting, and the place stunk.
  2. Invercargill. Except for Queens Park, it was a completely flat city that didn’t seem to have much to see.
  3. Otago Peninsula outside Dunedin. Almost everything on it has a steep entrance fee. We skipped albatross viewing ($80), penguin viewing (??, but probably a lot), and seeing just the outside of Lanarch Castle ($36). If you have money to fry, it’s probably a nice place.

Best meal?

Nikki: Seafood platter in Kaikoura. Very good mussels, blue cod, calamari, fried cod and the best scallops I’ve ever had.

Brad: Our seafood platter in Kaikoura. There were many kinds of seafood, and they were all more tasty than I’ve ever experienced before.

Worst meal?

Nikki: Trail mix three days in a row in Abel Tasman. I may never eat it again.

Brad: Some of our cooking disasters in the hostels.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: Melissa, a girl from London we met in Queenstown. She was just really cool, easy going and funny. It was very fun to hang out with her.

Brad: The owner of our hostel in Rotorua. He was very friendly and we chatted quite a while. He used to live in the US, and it was interesting hearing the differences between there and here.

Worst disaster?

Nikki: Brad’s camera breaking in Auckland.

Brad: My camera breaking in Auckland. I bought it used and it was getting old to begin with. The one I bought to replace it was actually miles ahead of the old one though, so I guess it all worked out okay.

In general, our trip went very smoothly. We didn’t suffer from any car crashes, falling rocks, avalanches, fortunately.

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: The Funky Green Voyager in Rotorua. Not the most modern place, but great atmosphere. Actually felt like a home away from home.

Brad: Old Bones in Oamaru.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: Rucksacker Backpacker Hostel in Christchurch. It was old, dirty, smelly, small and didn’t have enough bathrooms. Good thing we didn’t even spend a whole night there (we had to get up at 3:00 to go to the airport).

Brad: Awaroa Bay hut in Abel Tasman National Park. Without any heat or electricity, it was dark and very, very cold.

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: Wanaka! Especially going to the movie theatre with couches instead of chairs and the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

Brad: Kaikoura. It’s a beautiful town precariously situated between the mountains and the ocean. Our hike was in danger of a rainout while we were walking out to it, but once we got to the scenic part the rain ended and the hurricane-force winds began. Still, the views were stunning. Not to mention it’s known for its seafood.

Statistics

  • Days in the country: 34
  • Places we stayed: 22
  • Rainy days: 8
  • Blog posts: 10
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 2
  • Photos taken: 2250
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 284, 13% of all photos taken
  • Distance driven: 5031 kilometers, or 3126 miles
  • Boat rides: 5
  • Hikes we did: 20
  • Cups of coffee Nikki’s ordered: 13

The Eighth Wonder of the World: Milford Sound

I’ve been looking forward to Milford Sound for about a year. I had read many blog posts about it and I even had it as my computer background at work. But as we drove through New Zealand and saw such amazing scenery, I started to doubt that Milford Sound could possibly live up to my expectations. Could it really be that much better than everything else we saw along the way?

Milford Sound

Incredibly, it did not disappoint me at all. It was actually more impressive in person than in any of the pictures. Now you might be wondering what Milford Sound is. It’s a long channel carved by glaciers through the mountains from the Tasman Sea. So technically it’s a fjord, not a sound. I really don’t think I can describe it adequately. Majestic, enormous, amazing, grand, awesome and incredible were all words that came to mind as we floated by. You’ll just have to look at the pictures, except even the pictures don’t capture the size of the place.

Dolphins in Milford SoundWe were able to get up close to everything on a smaller sized cruise ship. At the beginning, fog was covering most of the mountain tops, making them look kind of mysterious. Then the sun came out, the fog lifted and we could see just how big the mountains were. There were also many waterfalls crashing down the sides of the canyon. When it’s raining, there are literally thousands of waterfalls. Our boat went right up to the bottom of one of them and we got very wet. We also got up close to a colony of fur seals. The best part, though, was at the very end when a group of dolphins swam up to us and started playing in the wake of our boat. Apparently it’s kind of rare to see dolphins there. Even the tour guides were taking pictures of them.

Lake Marian, Fiordland National ParkAfter the cruise, we hiked up to Lake Marian. It was definitely the most challenging hike we’ve done yet. The path wasn’t your typical sand and gravel variety, it was mostly rocks of various sizes, mud and tree roots that we had to climb up. And the entire hour and a half hike was uphill. Steep uphill. Once we made it to the lake, Brad and I had very different opinions on whether or not it was worth it. (I’ll let you guess who thought what.) At least we both agreed that Milford Sound was incredible.