Christchurch

From Tekapo we made our way to Christchurch for the final days of our trip together.  We dropped the car off first, and boy did it feel good not to have to worry about driving and road conditions and other cars on the road anymore!

Christchurch isn’t very big, and I had spent a few days here with my mom, so I used my time here to simply relax and it was fantastic. I did make my way back to the botanical gardens, and I also celebrated my two month travel-versary, but other than that I laid low and did some catch up.

Tekapo

We were moving on to Tekapo from Dunedin, but I had one pitstop to make on the way: the Moeraki Boulders!

img_6478

Situated on the clearest, most beautiful lake, and the very photographed Church of the Good Shepherd, there were plenty of beautiful walks for us to do in Tekapo.

But what I was most excited for was stargazing! Tekapo is one of few dark sky cities, where there isn’t any light pollution blocking you from seeing the stars.  It’s one of the top places around the world for astronomy, and we booked a tour.  This was the first time I wished I had a dslr camera, so that I could actually show you what I saw.  On top of amazing constellations like Orion and the Southern Cross, we were able to see the milky way with our own eyes.  With the help of a telescope we could clearly see the lines on Jupiter, and so much more.  It was phenomenal. They took a group photo of us, which I will add here once it’s available.

Today we hiked back up to the Mount John Observatory where we were last night, and got to see some great views of Lake Tekapo and the city itself.

We are currently checked in to the cutest little bed and breakfast (on a working farm, with gorgeous mountain views).  It’s a very nice change from dorm rooms in hostels.

Tomorrow we’re off to Christchurch for our last few days!

Dunedin

From Queenstown we made our way down to Dunedin.  I must say, it was much nicer driving than taking the bus. We arrived in the afternoon, walked around the museum, then explored around the University of Otago.

The last time I was here, mom and I were freezing cold, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually felt like summer this time around.

Today we went down to the train station to take another of New Zealand’s great train journeys – the Taieri Gorge Railway.  100% a tourist train, it takes you through the gorge and back to Dunedin in about 4 hours. I stood outside on the viewing platform on the way there which was good, as it did start to rain on our way back to Dunedin.

And the train station itself was gorgeous as well!

img_6437

Our next stop in Dunedin was the Cadbury Factory! I learned from last time and prebooked our tour.  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but I can guarantee we were all chocolated out by the end.

img_6440

As this was Janetta’s first time here we did walk around the octagon and take in a few more sites before resting up for our long drive tomorrow.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is the only thing I’m repeating this time around.  I’ve managed to find new things to do in each place I’ve visited with Janetta that I went to with my mom, but Milford Sound is so beautiful I had no problems going there again.

We stopped at Mirror Lake, and it was still glorious.

We stopped at this stream last time but it was pouring rain and there were kea birds around that were more interesting at the time.  So it was nice to get to actually enjoy the view this time.

And then we made it to Milford Sound itself.  Last time I spent the full 2 hour cruise taking pictures, so it was nice to just sit and relax and enjoy the view, knowing that I’d seen it already.  Last time it was pouring rain, whereas today it was beautiful and sunny, so the experiences were quite different. Last time there were waterfalls everywhere, but this time more seals were out and I wasn’t freezing cold.  Pros and cons to each.

We rejigged our plans, so we’re moving on to Dunedin tomorrow. We have three spots left, with 2 days in each.  Hard to believe I only have one more week in New Zealand!

Queenstown

We spent the morning in Wanaka – Janetta went for a walk along the water and I relaxed on the beach with a good book.

Then it was time to move on to Queenstown.  One of our shorter drives (only about an hour), the views were spectacular.

As soon as we got to Queenstown we checked in, got lunch, and met up with a Lord of the Rings tour (I know, I know, another LOTR tour). This one took us to Glenorchy and Paradise, which includes locations such as Lothlorien, Mordor, Edoras and more.

And of course there were hobbit cloaks and swords available.

After the tour we got some ice cream and walked around the lake before heading back to the hostel.

We’re going to Milford Sound tomorrow, so that’s going to be an early start and a late end.

Wanaka

Yesterday we drove for 6 hours from Abel Tasman to Fox Glacier.  And today we were leaving the glacier to go to Wanaka and it was a beautiful day!

There was a lookout to the actual glacier (and Mount Tasman and Cook), so we dropped by before leaving town.

And then we were actually on our way to Wanaka (my favourite place in New Zealand, with Nelson as a close second). It was a stunning drive, so I took some pictures as we went along.

Just outside of Wanaka is an amazing place called Puzzling World. Inside is filled with illusions and outside is a giant 3D maze.  We thought we would beat the maze in record time and we did not.  But we still made it to all 4 towers and out, so I’ll take that as a success.

And then we were in Wanaka! A triathlon was just finishing when we arrived so we saw lots of runners slowly jogging as we walked around the lake.

Abel Tasman National Park

Today we went to Abel Tasman National Park!  I think Janetta and I did a great job of doing the things we like – she likes to hike and I like to sit, so we did a cruise, 2 hour hike, and then a boat pick up from the end of our hike.  Abel Tasman National Park is made of beaches separated by mountains. So you do want to ensure you can see it by boat, but it is also nice to get in the park itself and do some exploring there.

It was a beautiful day, and after the hike and dinner, we checked in early to prepare for our longest driving day tomorrow.

Nelson

The sun set just after we arrived in Nelson last night, so I was excited to see a bit of Nelson before we moved on today. Turns out, it is just lovely (and one of my favourite places). I suggested we go to the Centre of New Zealand, so we made our way over, only to discover it was a hill we had to climb. I was about to turn around and say no, as my legs only just stopped hurting this morning, but the family who arrived with us encouraged us to do it with them. So we did. And my legs hurt, but the views were lovely.

We started making our way into town when we came across a lovely garden, that just called to us. Featuring a bridge, rose garden and water wheel, it was so lovely that we treated ourselves to brunch at the cafe overlooking the garden just to spend a little more time there.

When we got into town, we went to see the jeweler that created the One Ring for the LOTR movies. They had 5 giant rings for various shots, and we got to see one of them. It’s really really really big, and I didn’t dare ask about holding it, as it took two rounds of inquiry for them to even bring it out for us to see.

Next up was a small walk through town as we headed towards the weekly Wednesday Farmer’s Market , where we got some fresh fruit and vegetables for a great price! Veggies from grocery stores are pretty expensive so it was nice to stock up and have the opportunity to get some greens and colour into our meals.

And then we had to move on to our next stop, Motueka. Only 45 minutes away, Motueka put us a little closer to Abel Tasman National Park, which is where we plan to spend tomorrow (with a boat cruise and hike), and the less driving we need to do the better! It’s a nice little town with a large lake, so we walked along the lake for a bit (and got some lovely real fruit ice creams to keep us company).

The hostel had a bunch of animals (cats and dogs, with horses next door), and this little one Poppy decided to keep me warm throughout the night.

img_5004

Wellington (LOTR Edition)

From the National Park Village we moved on to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Mom and I spent a few days here and I really liked the city so I was excited to be back. Janetta headed to Te Papa, the national museum, and I hit the streets to replace some of my clothes that had unfortunately fallen apart. I found the bookstore with the great cafe and spend a wonderful few hours reading some books I got on a buy one get one half off (my first non-essential purchase in 50 days!). Janetta and I met up later that afternoon and explored a bit more of the city that my mom and I hadn’t quite reached .

The next day we maxed out our geek levels with a Lord of the Rings tour around Wellington. It was fantastic, even with the rainy and windy weather.

We started off on Mount Wellington, which gave us cloudy views of the city.

A lower part of the mountain was used as part of the Outer Shire. This is where the hobbits tumbled down the hill, found mushrooms, and then hid under a tree when Frodo freaked out (the tree was brought in and then later removed).

img_4700

Our next stop was to Weta Workshops, which handled all the costumes, weaponry and makeup for the films (along with many others). We could only take pictures in the showroom, but it was extremely cool to see how they do what they do.

We had lunch in a lovely little spot out by the water, which was a favourite of the actors when they were filming.

Then we headed back to the city for more film locations. We went to Rivendell, which is the only film location whose name has been officially changed, and who has replicas of some of the scenes (such as this entry gate). Our guide had a replica Sting, so of course we had to pose with it (somehow mine turned out more like King Arthur, but I’m okay with it).

We also went to the field that was used as Isengard’s entry, and staffs were provided so obviously we had to be Saruman and Gandalf.

As I said, a full day of geekery, but totally great. We’re planning another LOTR excursion in Queenstown since this one went so well!