Camping in New Zealand has been…. an experience. Neither of us had much camping experience before this, though we’ve been around enough campfires to know how to cook ourselves a decent meal. What we didn’t account for is that campfires are pretty much banned everywhere in New Zealand. The Canadians in us were highly disappointed. Our little gas burner stove gets the job done, but it takes about 5 times longer than a campfire. We have gotten better in terms of setting things up, cooking and packing, but we definitely underestimated how exhausted we would be from it all. The lack of good sleep, being consistently dirty, attacked by sand flies and the extra effort to cook, clean and pack makes for a tiresome day in itself. Add in a couple hours of hiking, some driving, trip planning, and you get two zombies meandering around the mountains. Needless to say, I am now writing this from a cozy AirBnB that we booked to rejuvenate and clean the layers of grime off our bodies. We’re not completely done with camping, but it’s served its purpose in the most remote areas of the South Island, and if we don’t need to camp again, then we are perfectly okay with that.
Now onto the beautiful sights of the South Island that we got to enjoy BECAUSE we were camping. After leaving Fjordland and Milford Sound, we headed inland to explore the dairy and sheep farms. There we found the Brown Trout capital of the world! Never heard of it? Nothing to be ashamed of. Not much to see there besides a giant statue of a brown trout.
After we got talking to a friendly fisherman, he suggested we head to Twizel to try our hand at fishing. This is an absolutely gorgeous area just south of Mount Cook. It has stunningly bright turquoise lakes and canals that are perfect for salmon and trout fishing. We headed to the local outfitters to get a day license and rod for Mark to achieve his dream of “catching the big one”. After getting a map we set out to some of the main spots, which happen to be absolutely gorgeous, and Alayna wondered around taking photos while Mark fished.
Most of the area has been dammed and canals carry the water to power generating stations. Salmon fisheries use the canals as well. What makes it so special is the magnificent colour of the water. The turquoise waters are caused by glacier runoff into the lakes. The glaciers grind down the rock into a fine dust (like flour) and it gets suspended in the lake. This creates to bright turquoise effect.
Mount Cook lays at the base of Lake Pukaki, one of these glacier lakes. The highest mountain in New Zealand is a towering figure in the Southern Alps. On a clear day its snow covered peak glistens, creating a picture perfect backdrop. In the mountains, however, the weather can be fiercely volatile. Our beautiful, sunny day that we arrived on was glorious, indeed. The following day the wind whipped at our faces, blowing over our tent, sending people careening off the hiking path and coating us in so much dust that we felt like we were back in Myanmar.
Wanaka is Queenstown’s little sister. The bustling town is full of tourists hiking one of the region’s many trails, or doing some adventure sport like helicopter mountain biking. We opted for the cheaper (free) option of hiking to see some of the beautiful lakes and mountains.
We must say that the Kiwi’s we have met along the way are exceptionally friendly. We have now stayed at two AirBnBs and have been blown away by their hospitality. They are very proud of their country and what it has to offer. Our AirBnb here, in Hinds, a very small farming village outside of Christchurch, made us a delicious breakfast of their own fresh bacon, eggs, toast and local honey and jam and hashbrowns which probably would have cost us more than our whole AirBnB, had we gotten it at a restaurant. They let us check in early, check out late, laze around, use their laundry, walk their dogs and provide us with great information on the area. A beautiful country filled with beautiful people.