2-week Road Trip New Zealand South Island – Part 3
Hello and welcome back to Road Trip in New Zealand South Island series. This is what we covered so far in Part 1:
Day 1: Arrival in New Zealand. Christchurch
Day 2: Tekapo (Church of Good Shepherd) and Pukaki
Day 3: Pukaki (NZ Alpine Lavender) and Hooker Valley Track
Day 4: Pukaki, Sealy Tarns Track and Wanaka
Day 5: Wanaka
Day 6: Ishtmus Peak Hike
Day 7: Rocky Peak Hike
Day 8: Queenstown
Day 9: Glenorchy
Day 10: Milford Sound
Day 11 – Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers
Fox glacier which we visied first is a unique place. I have never seen anything like that in my life! Once you arrive at the car park it is only a short 30min (1.2km) walk away. From the viewpoint you can see (what is left of) the face of the glacier. Due to global warming the glacier is pulling back deeper and deeper into the mountains, however access track is being constantly extended to give visitors the best view.
Tip: Drive from Queenstown to Fox Glacier is a long one, but it is very beautiful too. I recommend stopping by Fantail Falls where you will find hundreds of pebble towers built by other visitors right in front of the falls as well as walk the Blue Pools track.
Franz Joseph glacier, which is just 20min drive away was the second glacier that we visited. When we arrived at Franz Joseph glacier we spotted Kea in the car park, which is a very rare mountain parrot unique to New Zealand south island. There is an estimate that there are only 5000 of Kea parrots remaining in the wild.
The glacier itself is fairly easily accessible similarly to Fox Glacier. The hike takes around 30minutes one way. It is worth noting areas surrounding both of these glaciers get a lot of rainfall so we were glad to have waterproof jackets!
Day 12 – Hokitika and Arthur’s Pass
Hokitika is a sweet little town where we stopped for lunch but we did not dwell too much as we still had a bit of road to cover.
Once we arrived in Arthur’s Pass we noticed a lot of posters saying things like “Ban 1080” and “Save the Kea”. Some of the posters even stated that “We are witnessing a genocide”. It turned out people rallied to Arthur’s Pass to protest against current practices of NZ governments department of conservation also known as DOC.
After speaking to one of the ladies and learning a bit more about what is going on I remembered seeing a notice board in one of the campsites saying that 1080 (poisonous substance) is being airdroped in the area to kill the non-native possums, rats and stoats to enhance the local wildlife. As counter intuitive as it sounds I thought it makes a bit of sense as less possums and rats would probably mean safer environment for local birds, etc. but going as far as airdroping poison onto their beautiful lakes, rivers and forests? I don’t know…
Day 13 – Castle Hill and Christchurch
New Zealand has to be the windiest country in the world. I am yet to check, but I will be suprised if it is not! The fact our tent is still in one piece is a real miracle.
Anyway, today we departed from Andrews Hut campsite (which is another beautiful free site) towards Christchurch. We stopped at Castle Hill to have a little walk just to break the drive when we noticed another poster by DOC. If I was not convinced by the protesters back in Arthur’s Pass, reading what this poster said really made me question the practices of NZ government.
This time the poster explained that they are trying to manage the spread of invasive conifer trees by spraying the area and chopping the trees down.
As the poster explains “If not managed, these trees quickly form impenetrable forests of no economic value. They make farms unusable, use up scarce water, and alter iconic landscapes.”
I mean what the actual f**k? This is complete nonsense accompanied by a picture which shows how barren land which might be suffering from soil erosion, potentially causing flooding somewhere downstream, heals and regenerates itself into a thriving wild forest creating habitat for other wildlife.
What sort of economic value they are talking about? If land is being farmed then it is the responsibility of a land owner to manage it to generate economic benefits. If on the other hand the land is unused then I think it is only fair to say mother nature should decide what is best and we should let things take their natural course. Finally, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong but land with forest should be worth more in monetary terms (wood can be sold) let alone the environmental benefits it would have on the fauna and flora.
Why the spraying and the poisoning and the killing? Let the trees and animals grow! Nature can take care of itself.
Day 14 – Christchurch
It seemed as if the 2007 earthquake left a significant mark on the city and people’s lives. We found out almost 200 people died during the 6.5 magnitude earthquake and a lot of property was damaged. The most shocking was the sight of the Christchurch cathedral which had part it’s roof collapsed and also the main bell tower was completely destroyed.
Unfortunatelly, this was our last day in New Zealand a good part of which we had to spend sorting out the logistics in Indonesia which is our next adventure. Once all was sorted in town, we dropped off the car and spent the evening in the airport waiting for our flight to Bali. Stay tuned to see how it goes.
Tip: If you have any leftover cash ($NZ) DO NOT exchange them in New Zealand. Best thing to do is to arrange a hotel pickup once you get to your destination (Indonesia in our case) and exchange cash in town. For example the rate I was offered in New Zealand was 8000 Indonesian Rupees for 1 $NZ. I ended up geting 9450 at a local money changer in Bali. In some places I could have had as much as 10000 per 1$NZ.
Thanks New Zealand!
To sum up, I can say New Zealand is the most beautiful country we’ve been to so far. We have been blown away by its nature and especially by the amazing sky-blue alpine lakes and rivers. While traveling in New Zealand we kept on thinking about how fortunate we are to be able to visit all those amazing places. We also realized that it is going to be difficult for us to find something that beats what we have seen here. Well done NZ – you have raised the bar really high!
PS. Despite the euphoric moments we had in New Zealand we came to a simple but important realization. That realization is that paradise on earth does not exist. Each and every place has its own problems and challenges be it poverty, alcohol or drug abuse, odd governmental practices, earthquakes or whatever it might be. Nothing in the world is perfect despite the pretty pictures we see on TV or Instagram, but hey, some places like NZ are pretty damn close!