Monday, 14 January 2013

New Zealand - A long dream came true! - part 1


I was excited to fly into New Zealand. It was always my dream to go there and here I come!
We had an awesome view onto the South Island when flying into Wellington.

First of all I had to go through immigrations and if you believe it or not, but they actually wanted to see my return ticket or an onward ticket to issue me my tourist visa. That didn’t happen in Australia! Anyway, wasn’t a problem, as I had one.
Next thing was that I had to hand in my two tasty Granny Smith apples, which I had just bought the day before in Sydney for a lot of money :( Apparently I’m not allowed to bring them into NZ! What a joke!
It got even worse when I asked the costumes officer what they are going to do with them he replied: “We need to destroy them!” Coming from a poor country like Nepal, that hits you straight into your heart! What world are we living in!!! Some people are starving and would be so grateful to eat these apples incl. myself. I love Granny Smith apples and they cost a fortune here! Oh well, I better get on with it.
Then they scanned my luggage again and the officer said I was lucky that I mentioned my apples to the customs officer, otherwise I would have been fined with 400NZ$. Welcome in the Western world!!!! Sometimes you really need to question what rules & laws do exist;)

I took a shuttle bus into the city, checked into my hostel and started to explore the city. Well, Wellington is pretty small and you can find your way around easily, which is handy if you only have a half-day like me!

So I explored the Te Papa museum, which was stunning and spread out over 4 floors.

An interactive expedition about wildlife & sea life in NZ, history and immigration, education about the earthquakes and the 2 plates NZ is lying on – The Australian and Pacific plate. 

That museum was so modern and interesting, I loved it. Unfortunately I didn’t have too much time to explore it, but hopefully I can come back one day.

I discovered that there was a so called Hobbit market close by. What hype about the movie starting in a few days time – I had no idea ;) I decided to have a crepe at a small little stall – mmmhhh, so tasty.

Now I was strong enough to walk up to Mt. Victoria viewpoint. 

Oh mine goodness was that steep, that could compete with a small part of my Everest trek.
Finally, when I reached the viewpoint, the wind almost blew me away!!

Strong winds like on the Irish West coast, but even stronger! That means something ;)

Other travellers were telling me already that the Internet connection is crap in NZ. I couldn’t really believe that it was so bad, but it actually is! First of all you have to pay almost everywhere to use the Internet. That’s a joke! And it is a lot of money what they are charging. Then there are free Internet connections available for CBD Wellington, in the museum and in McDonald. Well, I tried all of them and none was connecting! I thought I’m back in a developing country!!! Seems like the Internet was better in Nepal, not even mentioning Vietnam ;)


The next day I got the bus to Hastings - a small little town, where people get fruit picking jobs. I arrived at the bus stop in Hastings and asked a woman for directions. She offered me to drive me to the place I was looking ;) We soon discovered that she was German as well, but living in NZ. Funny sometimes how things go. So she dropped me off at the Eco Lodge, which I had written down from the Internet and John, the owner, was very nice. I told him I’m here to find some casual work. However as it seems like it isn’t easy without a work visa. Well, anyway I started to work for John in the Eco Lodge for a few hours per day and that’s better than nothing ;)
The Lodge is very nice, in a green surrounding with a lot of cabins, camping vans and some dorm rooms. Big kitchens, washing machines and all you need really ;)

Most of the people who are staying here are very young and Germans or from Chile! Lots of them are just here for partying! I have never seen so many people smoking, taking drugs and drinking alcohol at the same time!
The girls in my dorm room were nice so, almost all of them were from Chile. Very warm people and funny :) I did spend my time the last week to help John out around the Eco Lodge. Was cleaning the kitchen, rooms, houses, digging a 1m deep hole to replant a Camomile tree, mounted furniture together and so on!
The Chileans people organized a BBQ on Saturday night :) Oh, that was so tasty! We had beef and sausages and I enjoyed every bite of it. So far I only ate toast and pasta all the time ;) Food in NZ is really expensive!
I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find any work like fruit picking, but on the other hand very grateful, that I was able to work for John! Better than nothing really and he was a nice guy. However I decided I didn’t wanna spend 3 more weeks here. So I was looking on the Internet to see if I can find some travel mates! I posted a message on a website and saw another add from a fallow traveller. We emailed each other and decided to travel together. Her name is Cecilia and she is from Taiwan. She has a car and we can share the petrol. I’ll meet her on Wednesday in Christchurch and then we will explore the Southern Island together!!!! Yippie :) That sounds like a good plan!

As I booked a bus ticket to leave Hastings on Tuesday I decided to take a local bus to Napier, the town close by. I just had to see something else ;) It was a smallish town as well, but at least a few more coffee places than Hastings. 

I went straight down to the beach, but I was a bit disappointed. Lots of grey stones and no sand :( Oh well, even more the right time to move on! 

Hastings - Wellington

John was so nice to drop me off at the bus stop in the morning! All went well and I reached Wellington in the early afternoon. Check into a different hostel, straight across from the railway station, so it will be handy the next day to catch the ferry in the morning. I dropped my stuff and made my way back to the Te Papa museum. Today I had time to explore everything in a slow pace. Oh, that felt good! I loved that interactive museum :) So much fun!
When I left the museum it started to drizzle and the wind was very strong once again. I just dropped into the supermarket to buy some food and went back to my hostel to chill out. The other travellers had arrived in the room and it turned out I had really nice and funny roommates - Two Australian girls and one South Korean guy. We exchanged lovely traveller stories and I got a great recommendation for a hostel in Queenstown!

Ferry ride “Wellington – Picton” 

I got up early, had a cup of tea and walked over to the Railway Station to catch the ferry shuttle to the ferry “Interislanders”. 

All went well, except for the weather ;) It decided to rain heavily, but at least the sea condition wasn’t rough!
Leaving Wellington

The 3.5-hour ferry ride flew by. I sometimes stepped outside for a quick picture, but it was really rainy unfortunately.

We even had cattle on the ferry!

We arrived in Picton and you could already see the difference in vegetation! It looked much more tropical and I already liked it much much more :) Yippie!

Picton Harbour

Train journey on the “Coastal Pacific" to Christchurch

A short stroll to the nearby railway station, a cup of coffee there and then the train came in. I met a lovely couple from the Netherlands and we were chatting away quiet a bit. 

The train was really modern and lots of windows! Wow, I loved it! 

There was even an open carriage and it seemed like the weather got better. After one hour into our train ride the sun came out and the scenery changed all the time. 
Lots of vineyards first, then a desert scenery and finally we reached the sea! 

Fields of salt

OMG, that was stunning – the water was almost turquoise!!! That’s how I had imagined NZ to be! Stunning!

A short time later we even saw snow capped mountains. 

It was unreal! So awesome – I’m so glad I took the train and not the bus! That was worth every single NZ cent ;) The train took in total 6 hours and I spend most of my time in the open carriage to take pictures.

I saw even a whale, who was stranded 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately he was rotting already :( 
He was too heavy so the locals where unable to move him or free him.

Soon after that we saw a lot of seals and one penguin! Wow, so nice!!! Yes, I was too fascinated to take a picture ;)

This journey was a scenic feast, with the wine growing region of Blenheim to the rugged Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side of the train and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline on the other. 

Pure nature

What a stunning scenery!

At 7pm I met Cecilia, the girl I connect with on the Internet. I stayed in a Taiwanese home stay that night with her flatmates and Asian people surrounded me. It was lovely and I felt really welcome. 

Christchurch – Ashburton – Lake Tekapo

We decided to first go shopping, get some groceries and then we would drive towards Lake Tekapo. It started to rain in Christchurch when we left, but on the way it got dry and the weather really improved. We stopped at a Cookie factory called “Cookie Time” and bought 1kg of chocolate cookies for just 8NZ$. That was pretty cheap if you compare it with the prices in the supermarkets.

On our way we decided to stop at Peel Forest. There is apparently a tree, which is 1000 years old. We just went for a 15min stroll and here it was! A massive trunk, wow! 

This tree has lived here since 1000 years

It's now 31 metres tall and 8.4 metres around its trunk!

 Have never seen such a big one before really!

We continue to drive towards Lake Tekapo and soon we arrived! 

OMG, all these lovely colourful lupines! Amazing and gorgeous looking! The lake is stunning as well – turquoise colour. How stunning will it even be with a little bit of sunshine? Hopefully we will find out sooner or later. 

There was a really cute chapel at the lake as well, which reminded me about Ireland.

Lake Tekapo – BBH Tailormade Tekapo Backpackers

Our hostel for 2 nights

Today I got up and it was lashing rain outside and freezing cold – 7 degrees. So we decided to have a rest day and just relax and do some organisational stuff and sitting in front of the fireplace :)
Nice chilled out day! It was a perfect day to get to know the other travellers as well which was nice! We had two German girls in our room and one of them decided to join us for the Mt. John walk tomorrow. Her name is Astrid.

During a break from the lashing rain ;) Still gorgeous!

Lake Tekapo –  Mt. John walk – Lake Pukaki – Mt. Cook

We all got up early – Cecilia, Astrid and myself and we headed off to a 3 hour Mount John walk :) 

The walk started by the lake and the weather was a way better than yesterday. Fingers crossed the sun will come out. It was a lovely walk alongside the lake for on hour or so until it went uphill. 

We passed a lot of sheep and after almost 2hours we had reached the top of Mt. John. 

The view is stunning onto Lake Tekapo and you really have a 360 degree Panorama view. The sun was out as well, we couldn’t have wished for more :) There was even a small coffee place on the top, so we decided to have a rest.

The walk down to the lake lead us through a beautiful forest and it only took 1 hour to get back to the car park.

We decided to stop at the chapel again to take some lovely pictures in the sunshine. The lupines looked even more stunning!

Then we drove towards Mt. Cook, where we had reserved some dorm beds in the Glentanner Park Center, which was a Holiday Park close to Mt. Cook. We soon reached the lake Pukaki and had some stunning views onto Mt. Cook already.

Lake Pukaki with Mt. Cook in the background

Lake Pukaki

We stopped at the Park Center, dropped our luggage and drove into the small little village of Mt. Cook. There is almost nothing except of an i-site (Tourist Information Center), one Youth Hostel and 2 hotels.
We split up – Cecilia wanted to do the long walk (3h). Astrid and myself decided to only take the 1h walk, as it was already 5pm and we weren’t so keen to walk too late at night in an area we are not familiar with.
On foot we both followed the sign towards the Tasman Glacier walk and we soon realized that it is an 8km walk before you even reach the starting point from the village. 

After an hour of leisurely walk we decided to stop a car and ask for a lift. A lovely French couple stopped in an old cute campervan and took us! We did the walk together, the 4 of us – the small blue lakes were not impressive at all, bit disappointing, but the glacier around the corner was worthwhile all the effort!

Some local flower with nasty spikes!

The French couple dropped us off on the way to our accommodation, but now we were in the middle of nowhere, still 15km away from our hostel. Well, we decided to hitch hike and we found a lovely UK couple in a camper van that gave us a lift.
Astrid and myself decided to think about splitting up with Cecilia as she wasn’t willing to compromise with any of her plans. Back at the Park Center we cooked some dinner. Well, that was a bit adventurous as there were no pots or cutlery whatsoever. However, two innovative German girls did well and we ate some delicious salad and some toast with cheese and ham heated in the oven. Yummy!

 Mt. Cook – Hooker Valley Walk 

Mt. Cook - New Zealand highest mountain!
Mt. Cook mirroring in the lake 

The next morning Cecilia drove to one of the starting points of her walks. Astrid and myself got off there as well and started our 3-hour “Hooker Valley Walk”. 

It was a beautiful walk with views onto blue ice, crossing newly built swing bridges and views onto snow-capped mountains! 

blue ice
more blue ice...
What a difference it is from Nepal to NZ! The new bridges look nice, but I have to say, I prefer the older ones in Nepal. They just fit better into the scenery and are more adventures to walk on.

New built bridge 

Hooker Valley
After 1.5 hours we saw Mt. Cook! What a stunning view and we even had a blue/white sky! Wow, brilliant! 

Mt. Cook - 3755m

Mt. Cook - 3755m

We made our way until the end of the walkway, where we reached the Hooker Glacier lake! 
OMG, it looked in one way similar to Nepal, but not really. There were really big ice blocks swimming around on the lake! 

From one side of the lake we could even see Mt. Cook mirroring in the lake! Wow! 

Impressive scenery! We stopped there for half an hour to just enjoy the view and “indulge” the scenery. We walked our way back through the valley again to the car park where we waited for Cecilia.

Then we drove towards Oamaru. We had agreed to say good-bye to Cecilia as she had different expectations and plans for her travels. So Astrid and myself decided to travel together and we were talking about a possible route we could take and if we would use busses or rent a car.
Cecilia met up with another travel mate, a Spanish guy who was looking for a lift.

Oamaru & the Penguins

We all stayed in a beautiful, cosy and homely hostel called Swagger’s Backpackers! 

It was run by a lovely, kind lady called Agra. She actually drove us through town shortly after we arrived to show us, where to see the penguins and what we could do. 

She even had know the exactly locations for the penguins and holes they are hiding and sleeping at night. There was even a free BBQ happening in the nearby park, which was organized by an American Religious man called Scot. 

Afterwards we drove out to the Bushy Beach hoping to see some yellow-eyed penguins. 

Bushy Beach, Oamaru
We had almost given up when one penguin came out of the water!!! Wow, they were so cute!!! 

Stunning beach

Then we walked from the beach into town and had a coffee in the local restaurant by the sea! 

We waited there until it got dark and then we went outside and were waiting to see blue penguins! 

We so many of them! It was unreal, they were everywhere!!! And so small and cute and some of them were not really shy if you left enough space or didn’t move. They didn’t like the flash of the camera, so I only took one picture. I wanted to give them some peace.

blue penguins

The small blue penguins where everywhere on the street on the way home! It was unreal – it’s not an understatement, but we saw at least 30 penguins or so.
Impressive!!! We came back in our hostel and our landlady had already turned on the heated blankets for us in our bed!!! That is unreal, she was so caring and loving! We were only the 2 of them in our dorm room and we had a good night sleep.

Dunedin – Otago Peninsula

We got up, had breakfast and decided to check out the town to see, if we could rent cars here. We went to the i-site office, but they were very unfriendly and not helpful at all. Then we visited one of the local car rental services. He had different cars to rent but they were all pretty old and we were not sure about how much petrol they would use. So we decided not to rent them. Instead I started to call all the rental companies in NZ to get different quotes for renting a car for 10 days.
We finally got a good deal from Jucy Rentals and we decided to go for it. Unfortunately we now had to get a bus from Oamaru to Dunedin and then another one to the airport to pick up the car. But well, at least we had our freedom and that was worth much more!

The bus trip took less than 2 hours to the main train station in Dunedin. From there we took an airport shuttle to pick up our car. The woman at the Jucy rental desk was so friendly, it was lovely to do business with them. Five minutes later we were sitting in our rental car and drove towards Dunedin and the first supermarket stop!
Our rental car
From there we drove out onto the Otago Peninsula! The road was very winding but lovely to drive and the scenery was beautiful. After 20km or so we saw a sign "Mc Farmer Backpackers" - perfect, that was our hostel or should we better say home stay! We drove up a very steep slip road and ended at two beautiful houses.

There was nobody at home, however the owner had left the door open and we were able to find a message and our room.
How gorgeous that living room was with a magnificent view onto the sea! Wow, I fell in love with that place instantly.

View onto the sea!

Mc Farmers Backpacker's 

Lovely saying glued onto the fridge

We decided to drive until the end of the Peninsula to see the Albatross Centre. 
We passed a coffee shop and after 10km we reached the end of the peninsula. 

The Albatross Centre was lying on a hill and they seriously charged 40NZ$ to see the Albatross behind a tinted glass. Well, not for us. We decided to walk down to the beach and guess what, we saw blue penguins and Albatross live outside!

Cliffs at the Albatross Centre

blue penguin

Beautiful sunset

When we came back to our hostel we met a mother and daughter travelling together from the US and an Indian man. We had a nice chatty evening and cosy time by the fireplace.

Otago Peninsula - Dunedin

We started our day with a tasty breakfast in our lovely hostel and decided to drive by the local coffee place to get some internet connection with some tasty cafe latte. We booked some more hostels, surfed for available hot deals and decided to go on a boat trip up Milford Sound in a few days. We also rang the Fox Glacier Guiding to check out availability and we decided to both go for the one day Ice Climbing!

After that we drove into Dunedin CBD to check it out.

Dunedin Bus Station

Cadbury - even in New Zealand ;)

We had a stroll around the city centre, visited some churches and took some pics. 

We went back to have some lunch in our cosy hostel and back to the cafe place with internet connection. We finalized the Ice Climbing and the hostel bookings and decided to drive up to the Albatross Center again.
Finally later on we drove to Sandfly Bay, where we hopefully could see some penguins in the wild. Our hostel owner gave us this tip :)

We parked our car and walked towards the dunes. Wow, that reminded me of Ireland indeed! The wilderness, the dunes, the sea, the blowing wind - fingers crossed we now can even see penguins.

Some signposts

We walked down to the beach where at least 4-5 huge seals where resting and enjoying lying in the sun.

We followed the sign, which said “Viewing Hide” and enjoyed the scenery. 

Finally we found the small little housing to go in and watch the penguins coming out from the water. We were waiting over an hour and no penguins appeared. We had a lovely view…

…but unfortunately no luck with penguins coming in. Then a local man opened the door and it turned out he worked here for the Conservation Area. He told us that this year the penguins were hardly coming in on that side of the beach, but he would try to show us where we could see some. He was so helpful and caring and really wanted to make sure that we were able to see some penguins.
And after a few more minutes, here it was – one lovely cute penguin coming out from the water!!! He made our day :)

On the way back to the car park we passed a few more seals and at the end of the beach on the other side we even saw another penguin! It was all worthwhile waiting for :)

What a lovely sunset we had - just a stunning day :)

Otago Peninsula and on our way to Wanaka

Otago Peninsula

Dunedin Harbour
The next morning we had to leave our lovely small, cosy hostel and made our way across to the other side of the Peninsula, where we could see the Albatross Centre again. 

There was a small  footbridge, which lead into the sea and we saw some massive seals again.

what a cute seal :)

We drove towards Wanaka and passed by “Shag Point”. We decided to stop and have a look, what this was all about. 
Shag Point

It turned out we saw even more Fur Seals in the wild, enjoying themselves and playing with each other.

On our way to the toilets we met a local NZ man, who just came in with his kayak. He showed us, that he had just caught some fresh cod and offered us some fresh fish. We were first a bit reluctant but after he showed to us that he had caught 12 in total we said “Yes”. He was such a kind and lovely man, that he even cleaned the fish for us. We decided to have it tonight in our hostel in Wanaka.

Astrid with our fresh NZ cod!

From there we continued driving North to the famous Moeraki Boulders. They started to form about 55Mio years ago and are spherical rocks concretions.

Moeraki Boulders

pieces of the Moeraki Boulder

We had a nice break on the beach and drove towards Wanaka, where we started to pass some impressive scenery.

Wanaka Lake - 4th largest lake in NZ
Dino at the playground in Wanaka

The hostel in Wanaka was pretty big, had a lovely spacious kitchen area, which I loved. They had some outside BBQ area as well, with a view onto Wanaka lake.
We enjoyed our fresh cod while dining at the outside sitting area.

Fresh NZ cod - mmhh yummy!

Wanaka – Mt. Iron - Fox Glacier

Wanaka lake

Wanaka Lake

Wanaka felt like a small winter sport town during summer. The whole atmosphere in that cute little town reminded me about skiing - even the small little shops. We decided to spend the first half of the day in Wanaka before driving up to the Glacier. First we took some pictures by the lake, and then we decided to do the Mt. Iron walk. Well, it was a little hill with a nice 360-degree view on the top :) In one of the books they were talking about a 1.5 hour trek ;)

View from Mt. Iron

View from Mt. Iron

Peaceful spot at Mt. Iron
Astrid and myself with view from Mt. Iron

Back in town we went for a little stroll, I did some shopping – this time souvenirs and I finally bought something for myself. A really cool turquoise hoody and flip-flops.
We decided to be brave and went for a swim in Lake Wanaka – OMG was that freezing cold. It felt even colder than the Irish sea ;) Freezing 13 degrees?!
Before we hit the road, we decided to spoil ourselves with some ice-cream. Pretty expensive and I have to say the one in Sydney was tastier ;)

The drive to the Fox Glacier brought us through amazing changing landscapes – green & brown hills, enchanting forests, stunning lakes, snow capped mountains & sunshine. 

The rainforest we drove through was stunning, but unfortunately lots of sand flies. I had never experienced any sand flies previously in my life and was glad not to. The bites you get from them are very itchy instantly and some of them start swelling fast.

The hostel was a bit scruffy, but our roommates were very nice – girls from Switzerland and the UK. The highlight was Ice Climbing tomorrow and that was the most exciting thing ;)

Fox-Glacier Ice Climbing

We woke up and the weather was indeed miserable. It was drizzling, foggy and it felt like a typical bad day at the West Coast of Ireland, except that we were in NZ ;) Anyway, we had booked ourselves in for an Ice Climbing adventure and I was really looking forward to it.

Fox Glacier Booking Office

Fox Glacier in the fog

We met our climbing instructor Tim and he was a New Zealand guy. Very nice indeed, with a strong NZ accent ;) We were very lucky, as we only were a group of 2! We first of all got all our gear: shoes, ice aces, crampons, rain resistant trousers, a backpack, socks, gloves, harnesses & ropes.
Then we took the bus to the glacier and walked up until we had to put our crampons on. The weather was not great – drizzle, but well, it is what it is ;)

Bus transport to the glaciar 
The Fox Glacier

We could already see the blue ice on the glacier! Stunning! 

blue ice

Tim explained a few things to us like how the glacier had changed over time and showed us the different points/marks from 1998 and 2008.

There are 4 people working every day on the glacier to “recreate” the stairs in the ice and gravel for the entire visitor. That is a lot of hard work!

Worker at Fox Glacier making stairs
Getting the gear on!

Ready to go!  

We went to our first mini wall of ice, where Tim explained to us how to use the crampons and the ice axes. Then we walked to our first climbing wall. 

It was thank god an easy wall for a start and Astrid and myself were able to climb to the top :) That was a nice start. We were allowed to use 2 axes, but the 2nd time we were only allowed to use one! That was a different story altogether, but we made it :) 

Then we walked further to another wall, which was much steeper. We first started to climb on the right side, which was a good climb and successful! We both made it to the top :)

After that Tim decided we are trying to climb the left side as well, which had an impressive ice tube in the wall. Tim mounted the rope on the top and when he threw down the rope, it got unfortunately stuck in the crevasse.

Tim - our instructor

He tried to remove it from the top, but didn’t work. Then he decided to climb through the small little ice hole in the middle – wwwoohhh was that scary! 

I was really worried about him. Thank god he came out again, but this didn’t work either. Another employee from Fox Glacier came along and he tried to help Tim. 

Experts talk "what to do"

So Tim climbed through another hole and he actually managed to get the rope out! Wow, what an adventure and operation “stuck rope”!

Rope untied and big smiles ;)

We ate some nuts & raisins and then started to climb up. First we were belayed down into the ice tube! 

OMG, that was something else, then we had to climb up in the ice tube! Wow, so exciting! 

Then inside the tube further up onto a steep wall! Wow, unreal!

myself trying to climb further up

Astrid climbing 

Getting better ;)
Getting higher :)

So happy!
So cool up here :)

For the last climb of the day we decided to go to the Terminal Phase (the end of the Glacier)! 

The Terminal Phase

Tim showed us first of all one place in a cave, where the ice was bluer than blue. Amazing!

Then we started the last climb. My arms where exhausted, my legs still ok. But it did cost so much energy to place the ice axe into the ice! The right hand was still working, but the left one was too weak! On top of that the ice was so hard as well, so I only made it until the middle of the wall. But it didn’t matter, I still enjoyed it! It was an awesome experience and worth every penny!
We were in total 9 hours on the ice and we were pretty tired!

Terminal phase

Made it!

After a lovely Ice Climbing day!
After returning all our gear we drove to the Franz-Josef Glacier and checked into our hostel. We wanted to go into the sauna, well we did, but unfortunately it didn’t really work. So we decided to have a hot shower instead and we had to wash our rain jackets from today as they were really dirty.
We found a lovely coffee place with free wifi after dinner and it was great to post some pics on FB.


  1. Rekha Kulshreshtha15 January 2013 at 19:26

    Incredible photos - what a fabulous trip of a lifetime!

    1. Thanks Rekha! So true :) Unforgettable memories indeed!!!

  2. That is a breathtaking view of New Zealand. Glad to know your dream became a reality. Looking forward to reading the second part of this blog. :)