christchurch

Final Days - Arthur's Pass, Oamaru, and Akaroa

I headed east after leaving Westport via Arthur's Pass. This pass was one of my favorites of the trip, and definitely not one to miss! 

Just look how jaw-droppingly moody and beautiful this is!

P1083176.jpg

I got tons of recomendations to do Devil's punchbowl falls. It sure was a thighburner getting up there though! I think the ranger said there was 212 stairs? it was 250 ft elevation gain in only 1.4 miles, but seemed like a lot more :D

Back in the town of Arthur's Pass, I ran into a couple of Kea! These mischievous parrots will steal your food, wallets, whatever for laughs. These smart, cheeky birds have been caught on camera moving traffic cones to redirect traffic in Milfords Pass! NZ have since setup roadside jungle gyms to keep them distracted/occupied.

I ended up camping just east of town, and the weather changed very fast. In the mountains, it was 40ish degrees, and socked in. At campground, it was about 60degrees and sunny! The drive was about 5 minutes. 

The next day I dropped a pin on a hike that looked like it would be pretty cool, and I was not wrong! It took me into the mountains right away, and I was literally the only one around for miles. I literally live for these types of secluded hikes. It followed upstream and the sun even popped out for a few minutes and a (faint) rainbow appeared!

The Hike was Otira Velley Track

Views up and down the alpine valley are framed by jagged peaks and enchanting cascades. The hike up Otira Valley Track is 3.8 kilometers round trip with 125 meters of elevation change (or 2.35 miles round trip with 410 feet of elevation change)

The next day I made the decision to drive from Arthur's Pass to Oamaru, to get my last chance to see a penguin. It was a 5.5 hour trip, so I stopped a few times along the way. The first was Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. Just a quick jaunt around and then back on the road. I then stopped in a small town of Geraldine and was starting to get hangry. I ordered a hamburger and fries at a local cafe (Country cafe) and Idk if I was just really hungry, but it had to be one of the best burgers I've ever had! It came on a gluten free bun (I'm intolerant) with 2 patties, a fried egg, beetroot, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. I finished it before i remembered to take a photo :D

Springfield, NZ - Simpsons themed town. A girl stuck her head in the hole and photobombed me before i was ready to take it haha. 

Springfield, NZ - Simpsons themed town. A girl stuck her head in the hole and photobombed me before i was ready to take it haha. 

When I arrived in Oamaru, I was pleasantly surprised at not only the architecture, but the steampunk installations all over town! This was a quirkly, cool town that I had no idea was this cool. Came for the penguins, stayed for the art.

I checked into my airbnb and went exploring.

The blue penguin watch sounded super touristy-sit in bleachers and watch them come up. I understand that they use the proceeds to benefit the penguins, but they wouldn't allow photography. Hat-tip to Nathan, my airbnb host for helping me find a penguin in the wild!

put your flippers in the air if you've seen a penguin in the wild!

put your flippers in the air if you've seen a penguin in the wild!

I was sitting on this beach motionless for about 45 minutes, hoping that they would come. As it was just about dark (9:45pm) this guy popped up! I had to do a double take, as it blended in so well 

The next day I drove up to Akaroa to swim with dolphins! It was pretty cold and drizzly, as there was a big storm that hit the west coast.The town of Hokitika where I was 2 days prior was under feet of water!

These dolphins were completely wild. what's especially special about them, is that they are the worlds smallest at 3 feet long, and also the rarest! Those of you who know me, know I hate going in the water, but this was totally worth it. 

I mosied my way back to Christchurch for my final days in NZ. I started out exploring the gardens:

This curious little fantail was chillin with me for like 15 minutes! These images were not cropped, and I didn't even need my Telephoto!

I went downtown Christchurch for some streetart and to see the 185 white chairs. Each chair represents each person that lost their lives in the earthquakes in 2010.

I stopped at willowbank wildlife preserve to see some kiwi, etc, but I was really cutting it close to my flight, so I took some pictures from the parking lot, and headed out to fly out

That concludes my NZ trip. I hope you guys enjoyed the adventure, and hope you can visit some of this beautiful country! If you would like prints of anything you see, please let me know! Anything you see here can be printed in sizes like 8x10, 16x20, 11x14, etc, and will not have a watermark on it.

Cheers!

Kevin 

Day 15-19 Rakaia Gorge, Tekapo, and Mount Cook

I dropped Julian off at the Christchurch airport (flew CHCH to Auckland to SF to NJ to BUF!). I start my journey here out solo, and mainly tent camping (which is super easy! most hotels/airbnbs were booked up around the holidays...not so easy. The next few weeks were incredible! There's a reason everyone says to spend the majority of your time in the South Island. I will attempt to show you how dramatic and beautiful the South Island is. 

I camped at the Rakaia Gorge campground for the first night. The water was really that blue! I explored the area and had found my own special lunch place with nobody around. 

I took the backroads to Lake Coleridge. I didn't have any cell coverage, but I had maps downloaded. This was a scenario where It looked like it could be cool based on the map, and was pleasantly surprised! 

I went on some short walks in the area. I was the only one around for miles! Just me and the sheep/cows. You simply can't find that kinda peace and quiet in the states.

From Coleridge Lake, I drove a few hours west to get to Lake Tekapo. Talk about jaw dropping! I headed to Lake McGregor Campsite, set up camp and headed out on a "shingle" road to explore some of the area. I was truly in my happy place. What was even more exciting? The region is reknowned for lack of light pollution, which make it some of the darkest skies in the world! The weather here was pretty warm, despite being in the mountains.

At the campground (which got completely full BTW), the campground host had this unique duck following him around. apparently one day he showed up, and he started feeding him, and the duck hasn't left his side. He squacks people away if they get too close to him! The guy was even petting him.   

At the campground (which got completely full BTW), the campground host had this unique duck following him around. apparently one day he showed up, and he started feeding him, and the duck hasn't left his side. He squacks people away if they get too close to him! The guy was even petting him.

 

I timed it perfectly to get a new moon while I was in the area. I also didn't have any clouds in the sky! I had to wait until about midnight for the skies to get completely dark. But when it did, it sure was mesmerizing! Above is my rental car, my little backpacking tent under a zillion stars! Unfortunately Milky Way season is in the summertime (same as the states) so I missed out on the galactic core, BUT did get to see some new constellations!

Lupine fields near Tekapo

Lupine fields near Tekapo

The drive to Lake Pukaki was about an hour. This was probably one of my favorite places in NZ. Hands down the most beautiful place I've ever been to. Despite the crowds at the village/campground/hikes, it didn't even bother me. It also spoiled me, and that nothing will ever compare to this place :D 

The first day (above) I did the Hooker Valley Track. It was 70s or 80s and the sun burns fast here! There's apparently a big hole in the ozone over NZ/AUS that makes skin burn really fast. Skin cancer is a big problem in NZ.

IS THIS REAL LIFE? 

IS THIS REAL LIFE? 

More Crazy Dark skies! My older camera struggled on the star shots. I'm sure my newer cam would've handled the noise alot better. If you're curious on my setup, I used an Olympus EM1 and Laowa 7.5mm F2. 30 second exposures @ F2 ISO 1250. I used my MeFoto Roadtrip tripod and used a remote shutter as well.

This was Tasman Lake. You climb tons of stairs to get to this viewpoint, but it's worth it! There used to be a huge glacier there, but it has receded quite a bit. 

One of my favorite photos (I was pulled over)

One of my favorite photos (I was pulled over)

Kea Point trail - I didn't see any Keas, but it was still incredible!

Day 12 - 14 - Nelson to Christchurch

There was a large earthquake last year was just north of Kaikoura, and it destroyed many roads on the east coast. Apparently the ground moved up 9 feet in under a minute! We were lucky enough to time it so that it reopened the day before we were planning to drive through it! many stretches were still under construction, so it was very slow moving. 

these  birds were on the way down to the Kaikoura peninsula. Once we got into Kaikoura, we checked into our cabin and took a drive out to the peninsula. One of the best meals I had (and cheapest too!) was at a roadside BBQ joint - Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk. Don't drive past it! It's amazing fresh seafood! I got salmon and Julian got a giant crayfish. Watch out for the seagulls, they WILL steal your food any opportunity they get...and yes, speaking from experience, they stole the last bite of my salmon :curses:

stomping around doing seagull things

We drove out the the tip of the peninsula - Point Kean Viewpoint, and were a bit underwhelmed at the wildlife. we saw a seal here and there, but nothing that everyone was raving about. so we kept walking along the shoreline, and OMG. There was a nesting seagull colony of 1000's. talk about scary. Then, we saw hundreds of fur seals! These guys are hilarious to watch, and the babies are the adorbs. We probably hung out with them for a couple hours!

like is this real life??

like is this real life??

this one waddled up to us and made a little howl and then shuffled away!

this one waddled up to us and made a little howl and then shuffled away!

listen with the sound on! it makes the best noise

After Kaikoura, we made our way down to Christchurch for Julian's final days before taking off our first stop (below was Waikuku Beach. A pretty empty beach, but saw a few dogs on the beach that we stopped and played with while the owner was surfing :) We ended up talking to the owner quite a bit when he came back.

We arrived in Christchurch, checked into our Airbnb and was greeted by the sweetest 9 month old chocalate lab, layla. She was the best. We headed downtown to check out some architecture. Christchurch was interesting in that they had 2 earthquakes in a 3 year period , almost 10 years ago. It sounds like it wiped out most of the city, and it's still rebuilding. It was a mix of brand new buildings, and old architecture. overall I was underwhelmed by the city, and didn't like it very much. 

We drove up to the top of the gondola before heading to Godley Pass

Next we took a hike around Godley Pass. There was still bunkers from WWII you could explore! I didnt expect to see that out here!

Finished off with a beautiful sunset up on Cashmere hill lookout. The next day we were going to swim with the dolphins in Akaroa, but they cancelled due to high winds. Whomp, Whomp.