Leaving Queenstown at first light I travelled through the heart of the South Island and up the west coast to Franz Josef glacier. The journey took me through pristine rainforest and along a wild, windswept seashore. The drive could easily be spread over a couple of days with a night in a riverside campground, but I was on a mission.
When I arrived in Franz Josef the weather had closed in and my plan of doing a helicopter hike had be cancelled. Instead I opted to do the more active alternative and walk to the base of the glacier and then hike up the face. Taking me on this adventure was Jason from Franz Josef Glacier Guides. His knowledge and passion for the environment and the magnificent glacier made it a fantastic and educational afternoon. The glacier was a truly remarkable formation and is one of only a few glaciers that can be found in a temperate rainforest.
The next morning the weather was clearing, which was a good thing because I had a seven-hour drive ahead of me to the wine-growing region of Marlborough. In the end I rolled into town after dark, because once again, the drive was too scenic to not make a few stops along the way! One must visit place on the west coast is pancake rocks, and if you have time, there are plenty of other beautiful places to relax during the trip.
Meeting me at my hotel in Blenheim was Karen from Explore Marlborough. They run small, personal bicycle tours around the area where you get to try some of the local wines, taste the regions produce and learn all about the way the regions wines are made. It was an active way to visit a few cellar doors, including a really unique winery called Seresin, where they use biodynamic techniques to create a variety of fantastic drops.
After lunch and a short break to make sure I was fine to drive, I hit the road south, travelling from Blenheim to the pretty coastal town of Kaikoura. The drive is typical of all the journeys I had encountered in New Zealand – scenic! Along the way I stopped at a few of the viewing platforms to take in the spectacular coast and also a seal colony. But the highlight of the trip was a stop at Nins Bin. This is a local attraction, consisting of a small caravan that has been converted into a miniature kitchen, from which tasty, fresh crayfish are sold. Nothing beats garlic-buttered cray by the seaside!
The day ended with my final activity of the trip, an afternoon with Maurice from Maori Tours Kaikoura. I had been looking forward to this for the past week. It’s not often you get a personal introduction into another culture, and this special tour is regarded as one of the best ways to learn about the Maori people and their practices. It proved to be a fitting way to end my adventure around the south island.
I flew to Christchurch with Qantas: www.qantas.com.au
I picked up my campervan from Kea Campers: www.keacampers.com
Franz Josef Glacier Guides: www.franzjosefglacier.com
Explore Marlborough tours: www.exploremarlborough.co.nz
Seresin Estate: www.seresin.co.nz
Maori Tours Kaikoura: www.maoritours.co.nz
Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park
For more information about New Zealand visit: www.newzealand.com