Day 31 – Queenstown and the view from above

After the big night out I woke up quite late and spent the rest of the morning catching up on my journal in the sunny TV lounge of the Southern Laughter Hostel. Having waited for the day to warm up, which it had only slightly, I then took a walk into town to book my next Magic Bus seat for the Saturday coming, got some lunch and replaced the battery in my watch.

In the afternoon, feeling like I hadn’t done much yet, I went for a hike up to the Skyline Gondola. Partly because I was saving money but it was also a beautiful afternoon I chose not to take the cable car up and rather hike through the dense Beech forest.

Looking through the forest over Lake Wakatipu

Although it was steep, it was a nice path up with great continue reading & see 4 more photos

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Day 30 – Queenstown to a dramatic Milford Sound & back for a Big Night Out

Kevin was our driver for the day and after telling us all about the glacial lakes, how the Remarkables range came to formed and the earthquake that changed the course of the Kawaru River he let those who were tired catch up on some sleep as the first part of the drive through Garston to Te Anau, the halfway point. It was raining when we arrived but by the time we left the sun had come out and things were looking up for our cruise but first we had to get to the other side of the Southern Alps. It was on into the Hollyford Valley and we stopped in the Upper Hollyford to take some photos where we, aside from the many other tour buses, we had some surprise guests who were very bold and curious.

A Kea, the world's only alpine parrot, on top of our bus

From here we made our way up to the Homer Tunnel which is in the middle of an avalanche zone and stopping is actually prohibited. We could see evidence of fairly recent avalanches on the sides of the roads but luckily the road was open for us.

approaching the Homer Tunnel in the Southern Alps

On the other side of the tunnel the sky was continue reading & see 14 more photos

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Day 29 – Wanaka to Queenstown

Today was a lazy day, the Magic Bus was only collecting us at 14:30pm so after checking out we just relaxed on the couches in the lounge of the Purple Cow with great views over Lake Wanaka reading books and writing journals. Then the bus arrived with our new driver Cam (Cameron) who was cool and knew his stuff. It wasn’t far to Queenstown but along the way we stopped in Kawaru Gorge which is home to the world’s first commercial bungy jump site. While I was still not convinced about bungy jumping and the cost for 5 seconds of adrenalin one girl from the bus did do it and we all cheered on from the viewing platform.

Just around the corner we pulled into Queenstown a beautiful ski village set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. It has grown massively in size over the past decade but the town centre is still convenient small. The Magic Bus dropped us all of at our respective hostels. Ours was the Southern Laughter which was great with this view from the balcony.

view of The Remarkables mountain range from the Southern Laughter hostel

A big factor in choosing Southern Laughter was the free soup in the evenings and after that we headed down to meet up with Cam and the rest of the Magic Bus travellers for some pizza and a few drinks at the World Bar. Known as the party town, quite a few people were keen to go out bar hopping but some of us had booked the Milford Sound day trip the next morning with a 7:00am start so sense prevailed and we headed back to our hostels. Besides we were going to be there for four more nights so we would have another chance to go out.

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Day 28 – Wanaka and a full day of skiing at Treble Cone

I didn’t sleep all that well, maybe it was the nerves, the excitement or the five other guys in the dorm room at the YHA Purple Cow. After trying to put on all my ski gear as quietly as possible I stepped outside to be greeted by this stunning sunrise, it looked like I couldn’t have asked for better weather to go skiing.

beautiful colours on the clouds at sunrise

I had some tea and a muesli bar for breakfast before making my way out to the pavement to wait for The Flying Bus, my choice of transport to the Treble Cone skifield because it was the cheapest plus I was told the other buses would take 40-45 minutes while The Flying Bus, as the name suggests, would only take continue reading & see 9 more photos

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Day 27 – Fox Glacier to Wanaka, arguably the most beautiful resort town in NZ

We were collected by the Magic Bus a little before 9:00am and taken down to Lake Matheson which was on my list of must see places in New Zealand. It is also known as Mirror Lake because of the reflections of Mount Cook on its surface when the conditions are still. Sadly the clouds didn’t cooperate but I did manage to get this awesome panorama so all was not lost.

panorama of Lake Matheson (aka Mirror Lake)

Next we continued South along the coast, stopping at Ship Creek, where the sun came out before heading inland towards the continue reading & see 11 more photos

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Day 26 – Fox Glacier like you’ve never seen it before!

With nothing planned today it was an opportunity to sleep in but I got up at 8:00am for free oats porridge. It had rained most of the night and was still raining outside which is not unusual here as they measure rainfall in metres (not inches) and receive, on average, 17 metres of precipitation a year. Karin and I went for a walk around the town which didn’t take long with a population of around 250 people. Then we got some fish & chips for lunch (yes Roan, more fish and chips) before heading back to the hostel to relax for the rest of the day. You might think it’s a waste to just sit around watching DVDs but it does get quite tiring travelling on buses every other day and living out of a backpack. So a rest day every now and again isn’t a bad thing but as promised here are a few more images from my incredible heli hike on the Fox Glacier.

sitting in the front on the helipad ready for takeoff

first glimpse of the Fox Glacier as we fly up the valley

These are all HDR (High Dynamic Range) images which are created by continue reading, see 4 more photos & 1 video

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Day 25 – Frans Josef to Fox Glacier

I anxiously pulled aside the curtain to check the weather and was pleasantly surprised that the rain had stopped, in fact it looked as though it was clearing. I was eager to get on the Magic Bus and move on to Fox Glacier, just a 30 minute drive away, in time to catch the morning heli-hike if it was on. We went straight to the booking office, left our bags behind the counter and paid for the glacier activities only to be told that the heli-hike was still weather dependent and they were waiting for a call from the pilot. Then just after 9:00 am they called us through and we took a bus down to the helipad – the weather looked good to me.

looking up the valley to Mt Tasman and Mt Cook

After being kitted out with boots, and a quick safety briefing it was out to the helipad. The first group lifted off and disappeared up the valley. The guide then asked who wanted to sit in the front and everyone sort of looked around at each other, hesitantly so I just put my hand up and said “I would.” With that sorted, my excitement started to reach fever pitch as the helicopter returned to collect us in the second group.

at the airfield getting excited for the helicopter ride to our glacier hike

I just love flying and while the flight up was only about 10 minutes, I enjoyed every moment taking as many pictures as I could.

routing over the river sitting in the front seat next to the pilot

After crossing the river we turned left and caught our first sight of the Fox Glacier continue reading & see 17 more photos

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