New Zealand – South Island

Where was I? Ah yes, leaving the north island and sailing to Picton on the southern island. We drove straight on to Nelson and spend the next day driving around some five wineries, of course sampling their wares. Already from the first winery, it became clear that the new zealand wines are more to the fruity character than the more heavy tannin, oaky flavours from some other new-world wine countries. As a fan of the oaky characters, I’ve never been much for chauvignon blanc, but already the very first wine we sampled at Brightwater was a very fresh and tasteful example of the style. Try it if you can find it. In this cold climate, it’s mostly white wines, chauvignon blanc and chardonnay, that’s produced here, but also pinot gris and pinot noir. Seeing how many australian wines are available back home, and almost no new zealand wines, I’m impressed both by the quantity and quality of the wines here.

From Nelson, we went over the mountains to the west coast to Westport. From the name, one would expect a large harbour, but we only found Fishermens Warf, which wasn’t quite up to the reputation of its bigger and more known cousin in San Francisco. All in all, the town looked pretty run down, which give it a more genuine feel as we probably were some of the few tourist to drop by. The next day, it was on along the west coast to Franz Josef. The weather wasn’t too good, so we almost didn’t get out of the car. Luckily it cleared up a bit by morning, and we were able to see both the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier a bit to the south of it. Both overrun by tourists and a helicopter passing over every 2-3 minutes, but well, you have to see them when you’re in the area. Just 6km on the other side of there road was Lake Matheson. Not much in itself, but not many people either and we spent a good hour walking around it and returned just as it started to rain to have lunch in the restaurant at the start of the trail.

We spent the night in Wanaka, along the shores of Lake Wanaka high up in the mountains. Next, we drove past Queenstown and on to Te Anau. We’ve been having rain for several days now, and Te Anau wasn’t much better. 180mm fell that day, which they tell me is quite normal as they usually have between 7 and 8 meters of rain per year. You can imagine that our cruise in Milford Sound (which isn’t a sound but a fjord) was quite damp, of course not helped by getting close to some of the waterfalls which has to be seen from up close.

Even though one usually forgets about weekdays when traveling on vacation, we certainly did notice it was Monday. After returning from the shop, it turned out we had a flat tyre. After putting on the spare in the rain, the garage had closed and Avis didn’t pick up the phone. Letting Monday be Monday, when the garage opened on Tuesday, they fixed it for a huge sum of NZ$25, so did survive another day.

Now the story already comes to yesterday. Only a few hours drive from Te Anau to Queenstown, the adrenaline city of the world, we took it slow in the afternoon by hiking up Queenstown Hill. A 2-3 hour walk of which 70% of the time is used uphill, we had some magnificent views from the 907m summit of Queenstown and Frankton, the lake and mountains surrounding it. Today will be a bit more exciting. Gert-Jan already went bungyjumping this morning of the (in)famous Nevis with a 134m fall. A text just confirmed that he did fall and survive. Adrie and me are off in a few moments to go quad-biking somewhere in the hills. That’ll be fun!

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