I’ll start off by listing the places we slept: Couch, hostel, park, airport, on top of a mountain, a house called “the ghetto” and in El Cheapo.
So here’s the story of what happens when two guys go to Sydney, Newcastle and New Zealand with one spoon and attempt to drive the entire south island in 8 days.
Wednesday morning saw me up and at the bus station at 4am to catch a bus to the airport for my 6am flight to Sydney. We got go Sydney with zero plans and decided that heading to Bondi beach was a good idea. So we caught a bus that direction, hopped off and walked 5 km with all our backpacks of stuff uphill to the beach. Just the beginning 0f much walking and vagabonding about. Bondi is famous for a reason, great sand, sunshine, perfectly clear water, and a classic surf town vibe. All was well till I walked over barefoot on the rocks and gashed my toe real nice and had to buy band aids to fix that up. A nice little travel scar to start the trip off with. No big deal really, headed down into the city after that to check out what Sydney was about and spent most of the day just wandering around the city and checking stuff out. Frankly, wasn’t all that enthralled, it felt just like another city, nothing distinct about it’s character or personality. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge were the standouts as they are pretty spectacular. Met up with a couple of people we know from Cairns and Chapman who were kind of enough to let us crash on their couches for the night. Went to a real good Malaysian food place that was quite good after traveling on about 3 hours sleep and walking around all day with a stuffed backpack. Best discovery of Sydney was made here, the restaurant served a drink called Teh Tarik which is a traditional Malaysian tea. It’s the nectar of the gods in my opinion.
The next day saw us grab breakfast at a place which served quinoa toast topped with eggs avocado and bruschetta. Pretty delicious. Went over and checked into the only night of hostel stay we had the whole trip, walked over to Darling harbour which was a real cool area and then took a monorail around part of the city. Yes, they have a monorail. Went back to the hostel, went to the room next door because frankly our room kinda was a downer, before heading out for the night. Ended up at a bar across town and managed to get separated crossing a rainbow road. Literally. Sydney has a massive gay population and we managed to get lost and separated in the gay district which was interesting getting back from to say the least.
Went back to the Opera house and Bridge the next day after walking through and napping in the botanical gardens which were impressive. Then walked over the bridge go north Sydney which we both found more to our liking and more laid back to have some bomb fish and chips. Walked down the street and saw a train station and decided to catch a train for $4 up to Newcastle which is a beach town kinda city. Got there pretty late and decided a park was a good place to sleep, woke up and realized we were much more in the open than we realized. Oh well, walked out to the lighthouse and point and then hit the beach for a few hours after checking out the town. Caught a train back to the airport to catch our flight into Christchurch.
Landed in Christchurch at 130 am, grabbed a food and slept for a couple hours till they woke everyone up at 5am. Great way to start off Easter Sunday. Decided to walk the 15km into town at 530 am and did. Christchurch is still in ruins from the earthquakes in 2011 and we didn’t realize this till we went to walk into downtown and we’re confronted with fences and caution tape and wrecked buildings everywhere. Let’s put it this way, there wasn’t a Catholic Church open for Easter mass. Disappointing and creepy. There was a piece of street art with the outline of the Christchurch cathedral and the words “we will smile again”. We honestly couldn’t even find somewhere to get breakfast. The only shopping center in town was built of storage containers and closed.
So we got back to the airport rented a car and got outta town.
Driving on the left side was quite fun and not really hard at all. We drove down through a couple of cool towns along the east coast and hit a few scenic spots to see seals and penguins. No penguin sightings though. Got into Dunedin about dinner time and grabbed some food, checked out the town and headed west towards Te Anau. Slept in the car and drove into Te Anau the next morning, stocked up on food and booked my kayak trip before heading to the Fiordlands and Milford sound.
The sheer scale of things there was amazing. It was just gorgeous and so impressive to see it all. Almost to much to take in and comprehend. Picked up a couple of German dudes hitchhiking and gave them a lift into the park. Driving into the fiordlands entails some of the most epic scenery on the planet as well as th 1km long homer tunnel. After the tunnel the drive leads into Milford. We realized we had missed our intended hike and backtracked a bit to get to Gertrude’s saddle. We hiked up it starting about 4 pm. It’s one of the most incredible hikes I’ve ever done and only Yosemite compares. Waterfalls, glacial valleys, a lake high atop the saddle and absolutely breathtaking views. We pitched our tent on top of the saddle overlooking the glacial valleys and Milford Sound. We woke up about 4 am to snow coming down on us and had to climb down in the dark with only one light. It was pretty sketchy but an unreal experience. Got back to the car and drove back to Milford to kayak on the sound which was just mind blowing. Being in a kayak surrounded by 4500 foot cliffs and mountains and waterfalls on a real deep fjord is something that you honestly can’t wrap your head around.
After that we started driving to Queenstown and picked up another hitchhiker who turned out to be originally from Modesto, CA and lives in Queenstown. He offered us a place to crash on his couches for picking him up so we took him up on that after checking out Queenstown and going to Ferg Burger which has some seriously huge amazing burgers. Planned on going out but ended up just hanging out in “the ghetto” as its called with the guy we picked up and a few of his roommates, roommates being from Italy, UK and other places. It was all in all an unexpected but very cool night and experience. Went and hiked Ben Loman Saddle the next day for some more awesome views of the mountains and lake surrounding Queenstown. The range near Queenstown is called “The Remarkables” and lives up to it’s billing. Combine that with views of the Southern Alps and you quickly see why Lord of The Rings was filmed in New Zealand.
Left Queenstown that night and headed up the west coast, slept in the car after driving some very windy and dark mountain roads and seeing some of the clearest stars I’ve seen in my life. I absolutely love starscapes and plan to be among them one day. The next morning saw us at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers which were quite something else. Straight out of the land before time, big glaciers coming down rainforest valleys, and not 5 min drive off the coast highway. We took the opportunity to fill up our water with pure glacial water which was very pure and crisp.
After that we continued up the west coast into Greymouth and then cut inland towards Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park. Slept in the car again, woke up drove to Abel Tasman and walked 25km of the Great Coastal Track there. It’s literally a tropical paradise. Not something you’d ever expect in New Zealand, but beautiful and enchanting all the same.
The following day saw us over in Marlborough Sounds hiking the Queen Charlotte track after having a mild confrontation on a mountain road with a cow just strolling down it. Had some spectacular views there as well. The next day we went down to Kaikoura slept in the car on the beach and woke up to sunrise over the ocean with snowcapped mountains surrounding the bay. Just plain beautiful. We then went and saw the fur seal colony on the coast and then walked up a small track to see seal pups playing and frolicking in a stream and at the base of a waterfall in a pool. Yes, seal pups, in a pool at the base of a waterfall. Followed this up with another hike to get a good view of the ocean and daunting snow capped mountains behind us.
That about wrapped up our trip other than a gorgeous sunrise over a river the next morning and 8 hours in the Christchurch airport.
All in all, a crazy, exhilarating and epic trip with lots of stories to tell, experiences and pictures to share.