Back from the South Island.
We were travelling down there for 2 weeks after the conference in Christchurch. First we went up to the very north of the South Island, to the Abel Tasman National Park. We did a 2 days hike in one direction and then went back with the Aqua Taxi (=boat). It was amazing! The weather was really nice, and if the sea was a bit warmer, I would have gone for a swim. On the way back we saw some dolphins, too, so the taxi really paid off.
When we came back to the car, we had a flat tire. We found a guy who pumped it up again for us, and we managed to get to the next garage little after 5pm (they close at 5). The mecanic there persuaded us that we should get 4 new tires, and I think it really was a good idea. All of them were old, one already had some metal wires sticking out..
Then we continued our travel and went down the west coast. It was raining, but still it was very fascinating to see the rain forest and the coast line. And it is supposed to rain a lot there anyways. The weather was also bad when we were in the Franz Josef and Fox glacier region, so we decided not to go up there. We continued our travel over Haast pass where it was snowing and lot of people had problems not to get stuck. With our new tires (and Alex driving) we didn't have a problem :-)
We stayed in Queenstown for 2 nights, one in a backpackers, and one at the place of the people where Reinhard had worked last year. The next day, we made our way to Milford Sound. The street was closed because of avalanche danger, but opened the same day, so we only had to wait about one hour. We did a round-trip with the boat (the weather was fine again), and it was not a lot of tourists around which was great, too.
We stayed over night in the region and did a hike the next day, just up the mountain for about 1.5 hours one way. Was great, because we were up in the snow and had a beautiful view round the mountain area. I don't have any hiking shoes, so I went around with plastic bags in my sneakers. It worked fine!
After that, we continued our travel and made our way to the east coast. We stayed in Gore, and then drove down the presidential higway to Clinton and further to Balclutha. Then we went down south to the southernmost point, and back up again to stay in Dunedin. I was really impressed by the city. It seems to be one of the oldes cities in New Zealand, with Scottish history. And they have 2 really great vegetarian cafes! I checked out the muffins in one of them, and we had dinner in the other one (pizza and scones, *mmh*). We walked up the (former) steepest street in the world (not too fascinating), and Alex and Reinhard went to the chocolate factory. The weather went bad again, and so we travelled back up to Christchurch, from where we wanted to go to Arthur's pass - which we didn't do in the end because of the bad weather. We drove to the peninsula though and had some laid-back days in Christchurch. I was able to go to the SAFE office again, and to meet some friends for dinner. On the way up to the ferry, Reinhard and Alex wanted to to the dolphin watching. It was a beautiful sunny day, but apparently the wind was too strong and the sea too rough, so the boats couldn't go out. Pretty disappointing!
We did see seal pups though, who swim from the sea up a river to a waterfall, where they stay during the day. Pretty impressive. Back in Picton (where the ferry to the North Island leaves) we did a short hike up the hill to have a look around the area, and the next morning (with 2h delay), we finally went on the ferry back. We went up to Wanganui where we stayed over night and went to a very good Indian restaurant, and now we are back in Hamilton.
We live in the YWCA, have a room for us three and only pay $80 per week. Pretty cool I think.
New Zealand time is almost over..