We had to bring our rental car back to the airport at 5 pm today, so we went back early to the motel this afternoon to relax. We are staying in a motel so close to the airport that I could walk back after dropping the car off. Tonight it was then delivery dinner from the nearest pizzeria and a movie on the iPad!
Tomorrow our flight here from Nelson leaves at 7 am, so we will be up very early!
Nelson really turned on the most fantastic weather for us today, our last day in the South Island was sunny and warm. We spent most of it just chilling though. First we took a drive along the coast out to the little town of Motueka where we had morning tea with this season's first 'hot cross buns', mmm!
Then we decided to look around Nelson town center, and spent a few hours in the shops and having lunch etc.
Linnea and I found this: 'The Swedish Bakery' where we bought some Swedish delicacies to feast on.
In the afternoon we went out to see something I'd seen marked out on the map: the 'Center of NZ'. Turned out it was on top of another biggish hill, and this time there was no indication on the information board on how long it was going to take; but we still decided to venture up.
It took us about 20 minutes of steady walking up the hill before we reached the top, the views and the special monument. It was a nice thing to see! Here we are, at the 'Center of New Zealand'!
Also, just down from the hill there was a big clearing, where the first rugby game in NZ apparently once was played. Another special spot I'm happy we've seen!
Our drive up from Queenstown became successful thanks to mainly one thing - our guide books from AA. We picked up these free guides which had lots of different maps and tons of useful information - and we have followed them basically to a tee. They've been fab!
It's always really nice when you read about something or somewhere in a guidebook, and when you get there it totally meets your expectations; instead of being overly built up or exaggerated in any way which can otherwise often happen.
These guides seems to be impartial, hence the info is pretty much "just as it is". A great plus!
On the last bit of driving yesterday, about 2/3 between Westport and Nelson, we stopped at this beautiful little Heritage Park, 'The Buller Gorge'. To get there we had to cross New Zealand's longest swingbridge (110m long and 17m high), something I wasn't too sure about. I had asked before if it was moving at all, and got told "No, no"... So off we went. The kids had no issues with the bridge nor the height and ran off swiftly.
Well, I on the other hand, didn't move as swiftly...
It took me a little bit longer to cross, very slowly. It wasn't the height as such, it was more that the bridge did in fact move. Those little, sideways movements made me all nauseous, but I made it over in the end.
On the other side, we went for a short enjoyable loop walk on the little peninsula to see some remains of the gold workings that used to take place there. Actually the river is still mined today. In fact there was an abundance of different tracks available, but since we had the kids we chose this shorter one, which was still really nice.
Then it was time to go back to the other side again... and I wasn't so keen on another go at that bridge... so the kids and I quickly decided to ride back on the 'Comet Line' instead! :)
This zip-line is 160m long and we decided on doing a tandem ride, all three of us. Here we are getting ready and suited up, we sat comfortably strapped in in each our seats, Lucas in the front one and Linnea and I in the back one.
Yes, that was a whole lot faster, and a whole lot more fun! I could do that again any day, over and over again! Whiiiiiiiii!
An obligatory stop when you go up the South Island West Coast is at the edge of Tauranga Bay, just outside Westport. It's a popular spot for many reasons, liked by swimmers and surfers and also very scenic.
But, the main reason most people go here is to see these guys!
At Cape Foulwind there is a big breeding colony of fur seals.
We saw quite few seal pups, and also young seals playing in the surge. They were very cute. Linnea wanted to take one home.
Well, yesterday we made a bigger effort in stopping for some more scenic photo-ops so that we would get some shots for the real album as well as for my mental one! These ones were all taken just outside Greymouth , on a long stretchy beach called 'Nine Mile Bluff'.
After having spent the night at (what we found out was) the newest motel (and absolutely superb too!) in Greymouth, we set off yesterday morning for the second half of our road trip. We didn't drive far before we reached the first stop for the day, something I really was looking forward to - the "Pancake Rocks" at Punakaiki.
This park was easily accessed and offered a lovely walkway around to get good views of these amazing formations.
These naturally layered rocks are consisting of limestone separated by thin bands of mudstone, which has then been worn away by thousands of years of rain, wind and sea spray.
There was also subterranean caverns in the park, that became blowholes as the waves surged in under the huge pressure, and exploded in a huge spray.
This was rather cool, what do you see?
And what about now?
It was just as spectacular and different as I'd hoped to walk around and admire these natural sculptures! Even the kids thought it was very exciting, and they took a lot of amazing pictures I'll upload at a later occasion.
When I took today's photos off my camera, I was a bit disappointed I hadn't taken more photos of our fantastic drive today. Every time there was a scenic lookout, I kept saying "let's stop at the next one", but in the end we just kept going. I wish above all I would have stopped at the glittery, blue Lake Hawea. It was so amazingly blue. Honestly, I was too busy just staring out the window trying to store all the beautiful images "in my brain", as Linnea would say. Trying to store mental snapshots of all this beauty, in a special photo album I can use whenever I'd need a pick-me-up.
Those of you who have not yet been to New Zealand must think I'm exaggerating or being far too bias, since I keep raving about how spectacular everything is here. But, I have honestly not yet experienced an area of this country I didn't like. NZ truly has unparalleled beauty.
There is mountains, hills, lakes, rivers and waterfalls everywhere. NZ is breathtaking. It's as simple as that.
The two West Coast glaciers we visited today are rather unique, not only because while many of the other glaciers in the world have retreated, these two (Fox and Franz Josef) still flow almost to sea level. Also, these two glaciers are particularly steep and long, both about 13 km.
Many companies offer scenic overflights, both with small planes and helicopters; and they also do snow-landings ON the glaciers. We thought we had alrerady done one scenic flight this holiday, plus we know how snow feels (!), so we were quite content with driving up the view roads and walk up as close to the glacier's terminal face as we could.
Here we are first at Fox Glacier:
Back in 1750, this glacier covered this whole valley and came even further down closer to sea level. It was as high as that mountain you see to the left in this photo:
When we came to the Franz Josef Glacier we decided to do one of the local walks.
There was this "hike" advertised as a "20-minute return climb" up a big rock, and we thought with all their hash training the kids should be able to do that! And they did, with no problem!
So we walked up the Sentinel Rock, and had superb views of the glacier (and Mount Cook!) from the top!
Lucas was busy taking his own photos. (You will see his take on our holiday once we get to Taupo and I can sort through the bigger amount of photos!).