Saturday, 5 February 2011

New Zealand Part 4: Otago, Fiordland and Southland

Queenstown is somewhere we've heard a lot of good things about and upon arrival we immediately fell in love with it. Not only is it an incredibly picturesque town set by a lake with the incredible backdrop of 'The Remarkables' mountain range, it has a vibrant culture and is the adventure capital of New Zealand - a claim that a lot of towns aspire too, with their offer of skydiving, paragliding, white-water rafting and so on - but nowhere does it quite like Queenstown. The downside is that any such activities seems to be twice the price of those offered elsewhere in the country but on the plus side, there's something for everyone (if you're prepared to blow your budget!)

I, of course, couldn't resist the temptation to do another bungy jump - and had a choice of three to decide between, including the world's first ever jump, the world's highest and a freestyle, where you can do somersaults off instead of the standard swan dive. I picked the world's highest, which at 134 metres was three times the height of the jump I did in Taupo! It's also 8.5 seconds freefall before the bungy cord 'catches' you.
Set high above a gorge, I had to get a cable car out to the platform. I then got to watch 4 or 5 others jump before it was my turn - all the while feeling more and more nervous. I felt very precarious stood with my toes over the edge of the ledge - and to add to the fear, it's not enough to just fall forward as I did in my last jump, you have to do a big dive out! Of course I loved every second of it though and if it hadn't been quite so expensive I would have lined straight back up to do it again!
There's no video of this one but I did get some impressive photos, which I think show the scale of it, so I'll scan those on to the blog once I'm back.

That afternoon we took a cable car up to the top of a mountain, where we raced each other on a luge track (5-0 to me, due mostly to my being high on adrenaline and having been rendered fearless after doing the bungy jump) and whiled away an hour watching the paragliders float down to earth over the pretty Queenstown backdrop.

In the evenings we enjoyed a sundowner in one of Queenstown's many bars before heading back up to the campsite to cook dinner.

Our next journey was up to Milford Sound - rated the number one attraction in New Zealand. In an area that receives 7-9 metres of rain per year we were very lucky to have glorious sunshine when we did our cruise around the sound. From the water we had views of forested mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and seal colonies. The drive up to Milford from Te Anau was also stunning, with lakes, mountain lookouts and winding mountain roads.
The day after our cruise the rain returned, though fortunately for us we took refuge in a holiday park, complete with roaring log fire that Kev tended to all day.

We continued down the west coast and on to the south coast - now keen to go where there are no sandflies! Passing through Tuatapere, the supposed 'sausage capital' of New Zealand (!) and on through the Catlins National Park, home to some rugged coastline, sealions and penguins.
We stopped at Curio Bay, home to a 170 million year old petrified (fossilied) forest where, at low tide, you can see tree stumps and large logs all turned to stone. We could even make out the age rings and see the grain of the wood. Up in the rocks behind the bay we saw a couple of rare yellow-eyed penguins, sunning themselves. It's funny to think we're far enough south to see penguins living in the wild!

So by now we've made our way on to the east coast of the South Island and we spent a couple of days in student town Dunedin (pronounced Dun-ee-den). The students (affectionately called 'scarfies') haven't started back yet this term so it was relatively quiet in the town, but we still found it a lively, vibrant little town with a nice cafe scene and good nightlife. We found a nice Cambodian restaurant and reminisced over the familar flavours that were a staple part of our diet when we were in Asia.

We ended up watching the rugby sevens on the television one evening too - despite having no previous interest in rugby, but I don't suppose it's possible to leave New Zealand without seeing a rugby game - the sport is practically religion over here!

From here we continue our way up the east coast, back towards the ferry. It's not long to go now until we're coming home so we're making the most of our last couple of weeks.

Love Sarah and Kev xx

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