Choppers, Dolphins & Wino's.
21.10.2008 - 28.10.2008 14 °C
Still clinging to the disappointment of the missed heli hike at the Franz Josef glacier a week or so before we ditched our bus pass and made our own way from Queenstown to a town called Twizel hoping that the weather would be good enough to take a helicoptor flight to the mountains surrounding Mt Cook (New Zealands tallest mountain). We arrived and checked in to the hostel and got them to call the helicoptor guys to see if we could......again we couldnt as there was just the 2 of us so we were put on standby in case someone else booked in. So we made the most of the savage day and went golfin! It was class.
Golfing New Zealand
Sweaty and smelly we made our way back to the hostel and they rang again to check for us.....and it was ON! With a full tour bus of rich Thai folks no less! The Thai folks were late but we didnt mind too much, we managed to sly our way into the front two seats beside the pilot and off we went.
Sitting up front in the helicoptor
It was amazing. The 1st time either of us have been in a helicoptor at all and we zipped across the farms, over the foothills and through the snowy valleys of the mountains before setting down on the snow at the top of one of the peaks. We jumped out of the 'chopper' (thats slang for helicoptor in the industry you know!) and onto the snow a couple of thousand feet up! It was Lorraines dream come true, she really really likes snow....its scary!
Up on the mountain!
Yeah im afraid Robs not exagerating there.. I really do have an unhealthy fascination with snow im afraid to say. However i think i should be excused for getting a tad excited afterall it was a pretty amazing experience. The helicopter flight itself had us nearly peeing our pants. It was pretty fun to watch the Thai group once we landed.. They had never seen snow before & they just lost the plot in the snow.. crawling & dancing.. fair play to them cause it was really friggan cold up there.
With chopper up on the mountain
On top of the world!
After the excitement of the helicoptor trip we had the hostel to ourselves so watched the 2nd Lord of the Rings (we had to watch them all while goin through NZ. In Twizel we could look out the window at where they filmed the huge battle scene in the last film! We're nerds i know.) over a roast dinner ala chef Lorraine....what a day!
Lake Tekapo. We stopped here briefly on our way back to Christchurch.
We arrived back where we'd started in Christchurch from Twizel and were determined to stay for as little as possible and keep on moving, so after only a quick and uneventful night stopover there we jumped on a bus again up the coast to a beautiful town called Kaikoura.
We decided to go for a little walk to see the local seal colony just about 30 minutes away from our hostel which actually turned out to be pretty cool. We almost walked on top of one big dude who was chilling out on the side of the road. We were able to get really close to them & got a few nice pic's as ya can see.
Sleeping seal Kaikoura
We got up really early to go swimming with the dolphins and had a really clear day for the trip. We got fitted for our wetsuits in the offices and i looked like 'Scuby Steve'! Rob looked equally as bad! We jumped on a bus to the marina and before we knew it we were on the sea on our way to see the dolphins. It was a bit surreal because the tide was quite rough and we were both struggling with sea sickness. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the dolphins. We got the rest of our gear on - gloves, socks and headgear as the water is freezing. All of a sudden there are about 15 of us hanging off the back of the boat and when the siren sounded we all had to jump into the sea. I didnt even have time to get nervous. In i jumped alongside Rob and you are instantly struck by the freezing water. It seriously takes your breath away! You almost feel like you're having a panic attack but its just your body getting used to the baltic temperatures. You soon quickly forget about the cold because you realise you are completely surrounded by dolphins. It really was amazing how close they come to you.
Its funny because in order to attract the dolphins you have to make noise, so everyone is swimming along shouting through their snorkels and if you're above the water it sounds hilarious and slightly ridiculous. Although it did make it easy for me to find Rob I just had to follow the sound of him singing Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire'! The dolphins are fast though and just as we were getting settled and used to the water the siren sounded and we all had to scramble back on the boat and move to find the dolphins again. Once you get out of the water you really feel the cold, we dived in 3 times before we called it a day. We also got to see 2 or 3 sperm whales in the distance and some ginormous albatross seagulls. It was a pretty amazing experience and we're both glad we did it.
Very cold after swimming with the dusky dolphins
We got very comfy in Kaikoura it was just a beautiful spot to relax in and we had to force ourselves onwards to the very Northern tip of the South island to a town called Nelson. The town of Nelson itself was really nice but absolutely dead - there wasnt a sinner about and we were there on a bank holiday weekend. The main reason we'd come here was so that we could go hiking or camping in the nearby Abel Tasman national park, but being lazy as we are we slept in the first morning and were too late to do anything. So plan B came into effect - we went on a wine tasting tour!!
Most of New Zealands' wine comes from this region so there are dozens of vineyards all around. We were on a bus with an Australian mom/daughter combo, a swedish girl and a mad Irish woman from Cork. I was well outnumbered, and outclassed too. I cant even smell so half the wine tasting technique was completely lost on me! I couldnt tell the difference between the 'gone off' stuff and the proper stuff at the beginning! Now Lorraine on the other hand is a pro, an absolute connoissor of all things vino. She was without doubt the teachers pet!
"This one has a bright citrus feel to it."
"Why yes Lorraine very very good!"
"Oh its got a very oaky, wooden and almost smoked taste i feel."
"Exactly Lorraine kudos to you!"
"I can taste a fresh meadow breeze of gooseberries and joy on my pallet from this delightful vintage. Tell me, it is a '99 Pinot gris is it not?"
"Bravo Lorraine, Bravo! You simply are the toast of the evening!"
Ah it was a great laugh, we went through a lot of beautiful wines and cheeses in 5 different vineyards and were nicely toasted by the end of it! All in the name of culture of course.
At one of the vineyards on our winery tour.
Abel Tasman is one of the most famous national parks in New Zealand & we had heard great reports from our friends Toni & Breezy about it so we were really excited about our one day hike in the park. We were dropped off by boat at Anchorage Bay which is one of the many golden sandy beaches around the park.
Hiking through Abel Tasman park
The four & half hour hike took us through dense jungle past waterfalls & numerous isolated beaches. The path we chose was quite high up & we had the most amazing views across the national park & the surrounding sea which looked a stunning emerald colour.
An Abel Tasman beach
On our way up one of the steepest parts of the trek we happened to behind this pretty large girl who had an impressive builders bum which nearly made Rob puke ha ha.. It wasnt long before we overtook her We thoroughly enjoyed the walk & only wished we had enough time to camp there for a couple of days... I guess we will have to wait to our next visit.
Lynmoo on Abel Tasman beach