New Zealand 2016: week 1

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

It’s been a week since my mother and I landed in Christchurch, and we’ve been traveling the South Island ever since. As always my heart lifted the moment the plane set down after the long trip, especially because we got to spend a day in Singapore. (Which was great. I got to catch up with Amy and Jo as we explored the beautiful Gardens by the Bay and ate a feast of dim sum.)
Singapore - Christchurch

Christchurch was a bit of a shock. Last time I was here it was still a pretty, very English town with a busy city centre. All that’s gone now. Lots of construction sites, but what’s most unsettling is the emptiness. There’s the container mall (which I liked but which is smaller than expected), but other than that there’s hardly anyone about. So instead of hanging about, we took the gondola (which was made in Switzerland, much to our amusement) to a very scenic look-out point. The weather was gorgeous and we had great views all around.

Still, we didn’t mind that we’d only booked one night there – the next day we already took our first long bus journey, all the way to Queenstown.
Lake Tekapo

There we stayed 3 nights, which gave us one day to explore (we went up Bob’s Peak with another gondola, walked down and then visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park, where we learned a lot of interesting things about the many endangered bird species of New Zealand) and one day for an amazing trip to Doubtful Sound.
Queenstown Queenstown

Surprisingly enough I didn’t get sea sick (although the bit at the entrance to the Tasman Sea was choppy and had me white-knuckling the handrail) and so could enjoy the stunning beauty of this remote fjord (one has to drive to Lake Manapouri, cross it in a boat, then take another bus over a pass until reaching it). I’d been to Milford Sound before, but Doubtful is much bigger and wider – and unlike the 60-80 coach loads of tourists cruising there, our boat had the entire place for ourselves. We even got visited by dolphins! Another highlight was the time they turned off the engines and had everyone stand quietly outside – it was breathtaking to suddenly hear the sound of water lapping at the boat, waterfalls cascading and the song of birds in the rainforest all around…
Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound

The next day was another long bus trip, all the way to Franz Josef, where we did a nice short hike to the foot of the glacier in what felt like the first proper summer’s day of our trip. We ended the day in the hot pools, enjoying the water and a massage. 🙂
Franz Josef

The trip up the West Coast is one of my favourite things to do in New Zealand – I think I’ve done it four or five times by now. This is only the second time I’ve interrupted it to spend the night in Punakaiki, where the hostel lies nestled into the forest, only a short walk from the beach. I knew this place would suit my mom perfectly – we’re only here for one night, but there are trees all around us, birds are singing, and the internet is fast. 🙂
(For some reason it won’t embed the nice panorama shot I did of the pancake rocks, so here’s a link.)
Punakaiki Punakaiki

Today we’re off to Nelson, and after that Wellington. As much as I’m enjoying the opportunity to show my mom this beautiful corner of the world (and she’s been a trooper, despite having big problems understanding kiwi accents), I’m very much looking forward to seeing “my” city again…