6 days, 3 people, 1 camper van. This living situation definitely took some getting used to but it ended up working out quite well.
After exploring the North Island earlier this year, I knew I had to come back to see the South Island since everyone kept telling me it was 10 times as beautiful. 6 days spent there has officially convinced me to want to move there for at least a year, or however long I can handle the cold. Every bit of this country is incredible, from the snow capped mountains, to the rolling green hills to the black sanded beaches. We spent hours upon hours driving (from Christchurch all the way north up to Abel Tasman Park and then all the way south to the Fiordlands) and every bit of the drive had amazing scenery. I didn't feel like any time was wasted driving so much because the road trip in itself was a beautiful journey.
After leaving Christchurch the day after arriving, we picked up our camper van and were off to Nelson. And we = boyfriend, his mom and I. Our camper van was super cozy and had everything we needed - a little kitchen, bathroom (with shower!) and 2 beds (Britz Campervans - very reasonably priced too). I wasn't so keen on the whole bathroom idea and never actually used it except to shower. Yes, I prefer to pee in a bush (slash the side of the road in the middle of the night) than use a trailer toilet.
We stopped in Nelson and wandered around the town and ended up coming across a parade for their Annual Arts Festival. We were soon off to Abel Tasman National Park and went on a hike the next morning. There's a TON of different hikes at Abel Tasman with the longest taking 3 days. Our 7 hour, 22km hike took us through a jungle-like trek with small waterfalls, streams and a beautiful view of the ocean.
The rest of the day and part of the next was spent driving to the glaciers. We stopped at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier to do a short hike at each to view the glaciers. They're ridiculously large but the open hikes only let you within 200-500 meters so it was kinda hard to grasp how big they were. A pamphlet I got showed the Eiffel Tower in comparison and it was TINY compared to the glaciers.
Franz Josef Glacier
We got back on the road and headed south to Milford Sound, which is part of the Fiordlands. This place is definitely on my top most beautiful places I've ever been to in my life. The Fiordlands are ridiculously large mountains jutting out straight from the ocean. They were formed by glacier activity over 100,000 years ago, which created the super steep cliffs. The tallest is around 1690 meters, which is about a mile tall. The tallest waterfall is 180 meters - three times as tall as Niagra Falls! (pictured below) When it rains, there are thousands of waterfalls coming off all of the mountains but there are only a few permanent ones.
We did a kayak tour through the fiords and learned all kinds of cool stuff about them. They all have crazy forests growing sideways off the cliffs off virtually no soil. The roots go into the cracks of the granite and grow enormous forests where animals such as penguins live. It's part of the ocean so it's mostly salt water but there's a layer of freshwater on top coming from the mountains. It accumulates a lot of dirt and plants on its way down and so it creates a dark layer of water which then tricks the marine life into thinking they're much deeper underwater than they are. So Milford Sound has a lot of really cool coral and fish as shallow as 10 meters that's usually over a hundred meters deep.
This kayak trip was by far my most favorite part of the trip and easily one of the coolest things I've ever done. It's amazing how enormous the mountains are and how steep the cliffs are right out of the ocean. You can barely grasp how ginormous they are because the largest mountains are a bit further away and so they seem close but it would literally take hours to kayak to because it's such a massive area. Our guides asked us how far away we thought the tallest waterfall was from where we were when we were in the middle of the fiords. What we thought was maybe 2 or 3 kilometers ended up being 9 kilometers away, showing us how much our size perception was off because of how enormous the mountains were.
After the fiords, we headed to Queenstown for dinner. This was the most quaint little city surrounded by snow capped mountains.
Definitely wouldn't mind living in this beautiful country. There's so many things to do and amazing things to see. What's better than a country that has beaches and mountains and everything in between? I love New Zealand :)