Completing the Loop

Landscapes, nature and weather all contribute to making scenery dramatic, calming or just plain gorgeous

Queenstown, New Zealand

Landscapes, nature and weather all contribute to making scenery dramatic, calming or just plain gorgeous. I cant quite believe after 9 months of travelling these things still inspire me, still make me wake up every morning and rush to the window to see it all again…although secretly it is sometimes just to check if the sun is shining 🙂

My loop back around towards Christchurch took me to Queenstown, Milford Sound, Dunedin and Oamaru. Queenstown can only be described as cool, buzzy and certainly funky. It is filled with many tour operators offering you thrills that will get the blood pumping, test your mind and frankly sometimes scare you half to death. The adrenaline of completing one of these activities and or having been on the slopes for the day progresses into the bars in the evening making for a happy vibe. I will be honest the crowd was a tad young for me filled with many young 18 year old Brits – but no point in hating it I just joined in with the silly dancing fun.

Milford Sound looks just fantastic on the brochures – beautiful blue skies and calm oceans and I was quite looking forward to seeing this stunning place. The day I decided to take the long journey to Milford it decided to rain from the moment I got up at 6am until you guessed it the journey back to Queenstown. Our coach driver pointed out the sights in front of us but I couldn’t quite believe that Lake Te Anua is 65km in length when I could barely see into a meter of the lake. The drive did have it’s advantages though – I could catch up on some sleep after barely getting 3 hours the night before and rest my legs after all those hours of silly dancing.

Even through the rain and clouds, Milford Sound was spectacular with all its waterfalls, seals sleeping on the rocks and lions rock which was way more believable with all the clouds surrounding it. It was also my chance to get up close to the alpine bird – the Kea. Far bigger than I thought and very cheeky as it seems to love picking the rubber out of windscreen wipers.

After spending a day in Arrowstown I made my way to Dunedin, where I met up with a friend I had made at the bus stop in Blenheim – as you do. Dunedin is a town where you feel you have been transported back to Scotland – you can certainly see the Scottish influence in the buildings and then of course you get the Scottish Shops just to make it more realistic or is it weird. After exploring the historical buildings in the town I ventured onto the Otago Peninsular to see some wildlife and watch the yellow eyed penguins waddle up to the homes at dusk all the time calling for their mate.

My last stop in New Zealand took me back to Christchurch so I could explore the town, go and soak in the wonderfully hot, hot pools at Hanmar Springs and catch up with my friend Rach.

My last words on New Zealand is that it is indeed a beautiful place and I can well see why it has become a favourite backdrop in the movie world.

Accommodation: Sir Cedrics Southern Laughter Backpackers – 4 Isle Street, Queenstown, New Zealand

Log Fires and DVDs

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

I am sure I have surprised you all by my title being ‘Log fires and DVDs’ when surely I am visiting the most scenic and dramatic part of the south island – the West Coast, aka a photographers paradise with hundreds of picture perfect scenes?

Well I surprised myself that a large portion of my trip did involve curling up in front of a log fire to warm up my cold toes while watching a DVD – a real treat after venturing into the cold and rainy air to get a look at some of the most amazing natural phenomenons! So no I have not become a couch potato during this trip but mealy balancing must-needed relaxation with defrosting. Defrosting from some crazy walks in blustery storms with sometimes visibility just a few hundred meters in front or from unexpected rock or tree root climbing just to get further up a snowy path.

My adventure to the wild west coast started off in civilised fashion with a train ride on the Tranz Alpine express from Christchurch to Greymouth. I had 4 hours in a warm carriage treating myself to a Devonshire (yip in NZ) cream tea for breakfast while starring out the window wondering if the air was as fresh as it looked. I throughly enjoyed my journey on what they call the world’s greatest rail journeys but was just as pleased that I was only going in one direction as it would have made for a long day. As we pulled into the station, Greymouth lived up to it’s name as it loomed in front of us dark, dreary and strangely grey!

The weather never really let up and I did wonder as I headed to Punakaiki if I would actually get to see the Pancake Rocks. Never fear I was told the stormier the weather the more spectacular the blow-holes – forgetting to mention the wetter you will get too. But it was worth the wind and the rain to see these limestone rocks that have been formed by the wind and sea over the past 30million years.

From Greymouth I headed south on the bus to Fox Glacier – the weather was horrible and the bus driver kindly dropped me off at the hostel’s front steps. I was wondering what on earth I was going to do for the next few days but as it happened my decision to stay 3 nights turned out to be the right one as the morning appeared with crystal blue skies. It was a perfect day to make the 12km return walk to Lake Matherson. Fueling my energy over lunch it was back on the walking track this time another 10km to view the Fox Glacier terminal. It was great to look at but I will still say that Argentina would win ‘The best glaciers competition’ if ever they had one.

Clearly my body did not have enough exercise as the next day I went with a fellow traveller to tackle the Mount Fox Walk. It was really tough with some parts having to physically pull yourself over rocks and tree roots to go further upwards. After about 2 and half hours I finally arrived towards the top to see some spectacular views of the alps and coastline. Although this was not the end of the route I decided enough was enough and headed downwards while my friend continued upwards. I can only believe him when he said the view was even more amazing but did involve walking through chest high snow.

Haast was my final destination on the West coast. An extremely scenic place but I was a bit disappointed that once in the township you were limited for choice on what to do unless you had a car and I had so many walks planned to do over the four days! In the end the owners of the lodge lent me a bicycle so I could get around. I also ventured on the river on a jet boat to see the sights – it was very relaxing way to see the river with just a few 360 degree turns thrown in for fun.

My best highlight of Haast was making friends with the locals and being invited to join them for a bonfire on the beach, to eat venison steak sandwiches and to join them in the cover of darkness to go Possum hunting. But don’t worry out of the million of Possums they say have invaded NZ we did not see one. Could it be the fact that 7 giggling ladies singing to the latest tunes warned them of our approach?

Ivory Towers Backpackers Lodge – 33-35 Sullivan Road, South Island, New Zealand
Neptunes International Backpackers  – 43 Gresson Street, Greymouth, New Zealand (note: closed down)

Transport: Naked Bus

Green hues

“It was a grey and misty departure from Wellington”

Nelson, New Zealand

It was a grey and misty departure from Wellington and from the sounds of the weather report my destination – the south island – was to be more of less of the same…

My ferry crossing was pretty much uneventful but the scenery I was approaching… the Marlborough sounds was gorgeously green – lush vegetation and emerald coloured waters. The colour of the water was different from what I expected and the views remained one of the most spectacular throughout my touring through the region of Marlborough and Kaikoura.

My trip over the last few weeks has been full of exploration and walking along the coastal paths in the region. Come rain of sunshine I have made the most of getting out there to see the great scenery New Zealand has to offer and I am sure my photos will speak 1000 words on what I have seen and discovered.

Quick Highlights:

Nelson – a great feel town with lots of art and craft shops – plus a great market to visit on a saturday morning.

Abel Tasman – even though this is the smallest national park in New Zealand it has some amazing walks. I managed to spend about 5 hours walking along the coastal paths getting caught in some rain showers and climbing as high as I could to try and take some good pictures. I will admit I was freezing by the time I had finished and enjoyed every mouthful of the free hot chocolate pudding at the hostel that evening.

Blenheim – getting a break from the rain I ventured off to explore the wine region and you guessed it New Zealand does have some yummy wines

Kaikoura – I was so looking forward to getting here to see the resident sperm whales but disappointedly the seas where too rough and I lost my chance. I did however go on a 3 and a half hour walk around the coast and visited the local seals instead – not the same but at least something.

Dangling on ropes

“My first nail biting adventure was a trip to an underground region known as the Lost World…”

Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

Being underground is one of the major tourist attractions in the Waitomo region – the main reason being the abundance of glow worms and black water rafting. For those of you unfamiliar with this sport it is basically exploring caves by the light of your own head lamp by either abseiling, walking or floating your way around.

Not being the hugest adrenalin junkie it took me a few days to decide if I was going to take part in this ‘must do’ activity, but once booked it was no going back. My first nail biting adventure was a trip to an underground region known as the Lost World – being a misty day I could well imagine it being undetected from the world as well as being very eerie. Looking down to the depths below it did not seem to far to descend but once I was dangling on those abseil ropes it was a different story and no stopping once you were off from the starting platform – and I will add here it was a 100m descent. I surprised myself by feeling less scared and whizzed my way down to the bottom.

Feet safely on the ground it was time to roam, climb and squeeze through tunnels to explore all the caves formations – I was impressed especially at the size of some of the stalactites and stalacmites which have taken 1000 of years to form. In the darkest part of the cave we turned off our lights and stared at in amazement the millions of glowworms on the roof of the cave watching slowly as a the greeny lights from the glow worms slowly started to lighten the cave.

Now that I was 100m down into the cave it did not surprise me that it would take a few steep climbs and a vertically placed 30m steel ladder to climb to the surface. Only 30m I thought but with a tight grip all the way by muscles were shaking a little when I finally made it.

Enough Adrenaline? Well almost – I took myself back the next day to visit St Benedict’s cavern which has a lot more formations and fossils to explore. This time is took 2 shorter abseils through narrow tunnels to get into the cave and then so not to ruin some of the formations a flying fox some 30 odd meters to the other side. Not my favourite part which was even less so when I was asked to pose for a photo with my legs dangling a good 10 meters in the air – all I could see was the nice safe landing in front of me and hence my picture is safely stored away!

All in all it was a fun few days but I do think my favourite part is keeping both my feet flat on the ground.

Full Steam Ahead

Rotorua, New Zealand


Hot steamy baths, bubbling mud and erupting geysers were the focus of my next explorations in New Zealand.

I had the privilege of being able to borrow a friends car which not only saved me some money but also gave me the freedom to roam where I chose and at leisure. The drive along the Thermal explorer highway from Auckland was pretty much standard and it was only once I reached the Huka Falls near Taupo that I felt like things were starting to get interesting. I watched the bright blue water of the falls for a while before heading off to see my first official thermal activity at the craters of the moon. I looked into a smokey landscape – puffs of white cloud steaming from the ground with the odd eggy smell wafting past.

Leaving Taupo (pronounced Toe-Paw) I headed towards my friend Ang’s parents farm, Omahamui for 2 very cosy nights. My treat at the farm was being able to kayak on a glass looking river and see plenty of geothermal activity along the way. Stopping to explore and feel the warm water was wonderful, it did however mean that the trip back to the farm around 6pm was very cold and the 4km felt a lot longer.

Wai-tapu was the next destination and is known as the most colorful of all the thermal wonderlands. It lived up to expectations as I passed green, copper, yellow pools puffing with steam. It certainly was a good adventure plus the added fact that I got to see Lady Knox geyser erupt at the set time of 10:15am – with the help of a little soap, very sneaky.

Rotorua was not such an amazing town but it certainly was at the centre on what was on offer. The weather was not wonderful either but I got to see some Kiwi birds at the Kiwi Encounter and hear all about the breeding program they have in place. Such cute little birds it would be sad to see them become extinct in the world and this organisation are doing a wonderful job by having hatched over 1000 eggs this summer.

It was back to the beaches in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel after all this thermal activity. I fell in love with the Mercury Bay area and decided to stay 2 nights in Hahei so I could walk along to the famous cathedral cove and later watch with interest the people building their own little hot pools on hot water beach. So not totally moving away from thermal wonders I found it fitting to end this part of my journey in Miranda on the seabird coast with a long soak in one of the hot pools.

Cactus Jacks Backpackers – 1210 Haupapa Street, Rotorua, New Zealand
Tatahi Lodge Motel – Grange Road, Whitianga, New Zealand

Twin coast discovery by Campervan

Whangarei, New Zealand


The camper van was booked and I must admit I was very excited about it being my home for the next four days as my friend, Angie, and I made our way up north to explore the ‘Twin Coast’ or the Northland as it is officially known. Our little van (which I will refer to as Nomad) was well cozy and came equipped with fridge, stove, kitchen sink, bed and a portable heater. The main selling point being the heater as the nights were a bit chilly but sadly we found out on our first night that it just did not want to work – at least we had our snow chains so we would not get stuck anywhere for too long!!

We started off by making our way along the west coast which was made up of beautiful coastlines, narrow and windy roads and Kauri Forests. It was a long drive as we wanted to get as far north as possible but we still made time to see the famous Kauri Tree – Tane Mahuta – wow it was tall! We did not get to see the pet dolphin at Opononi but we witnessed a sparkling sunset across the ocean as we headed to Rawene for our first night stay.

The excitement of reaching 90 mile beach in less than an hour got us up bright and breezy to catch the 7:30am ferry. I am sure the surroundings would have been spectacular but as it was so misty we could not see a thing but things soon changed. The views on our drive were spectacular as we followed rainbows in the sky and watched the mist lift eerily from the ground. I was not too sure how many times we would turn the corner and see yet another amazing view before us, but for sure the words ‘wow’ never tired from leaving my lips.

Our stomachs were grumbling by the time we reached Aripara, so we made ourselves some toast and a cup of tea before walking on the wet sand which mirrored the sky above perfectly. What a way to spend a morning. We did toy with the idea of driving Nomad out on the sand but we soon came to our senses and decided it was better to look at everyone else taking a drive than having to dig ourselves out of any sinking sand.

Aripara was the start of beautiful beaches as we headed towards the east coast admiring Doubtless Bay and getting out occasionally to stretch our legs on the white sands. It wasn’t all about beaches so we stopped at Waitangi for a bit of culture and to see where effectively ‘the modern New Zealand’ began.

Our east coast part of our journey we slowed down the pace a little and explored some of the coastal towns of Paihia, Russell and Waipu Cove and of course many more stunning beaches that I certainly could never tire off.


Auckland Times

Auckland, New Zealand


I am not sure how much I can elaborate on Auckland – you know been a city and all. But to be fair it does have its merits – beautiful bay views from almost every direction and definitely one of the most cleverest things the Kiwi’s did was build the Sky Tower. Not only does it add something to the skyline but it gives perspective and a sense of importance. No not the Tower, although it does ‘tower’ over everything, but the views are just incredible when you are up there and it shows how close the city is to it all – volcanoes, the harbour, waters, greenhills and a growing and buzzing city.

I spent most of my days in Auckland with my friend Angie who I have not seen for a over 5 years – so I got to see the real deal of living here – the suburbs. Filled with gorgeous houses with wooden finishing, porches, balconies and really big rooms (okay that is the London thing coming out). When I wasn’t walking down Queens street trying to find a warmer jacket for the chill, I was up the tower staring at the view from the Skytower and best of all sampling some of the local wines.

Boutique they call it on Waiheke island -which basically means they only focus on quality. Each vineyard was unique in their wine and making up the most of the views from the country houses. Being autumn everything was gold – the trees, the vine leaves, the sunshine, some of the white wines and the olive oils. Talking about olive oil did you know it could taste like pepper, thyme, apple and nasturtium flowers? Me neither – I guess you learn something new everyday!!!