Ciarán & Elaine's Travelog

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Milford Sound

We took the remainder of the Southern Scenic highway to Te Anau which is in Fiordland at the South West of the Country. Fiordland is a really amazing area with the majority of it being designated World Heritage Area as is pretty much the whole of the South West of New Zealand. Te Anau is the gateway to Milford Sounds which is said to have the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand.

We took a tour to Milford with Trips n Tramps as we'd met quite a few people with horror stories about crashing on the road from Te Anau to Milford. It's about 140km's long and winds it's way through the Southern Alps passing a lot of avalanche areas so we thought we'd let someone else worry about the driving...

We were really glad to have taken the tour as the guide pointed out all the really stunning things along the way such as the Chasm, Mirror Lakes, Knobs Flat(!), Deer Flat etc. with plenty of opportunity to get out for walks and photographs. We passed the remnants of an avalanche that had occured last week. The road was cleared by now but the snow on either side of the road was 5 metres deep.

When we reached Milford we had a 3 hour boat trip on the Fiordland Navigator out into the sound but by the time we arrived the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was quite grey and rainy. This just added to the effect though as hundreds of waterfalls began cascading down the mountains. It was really something else to see all these waterfalls because in Milford only 3 waterfalls are permanent and the rest just start flowing when it rains. Unfortunately our 3 hour boat trip had to be cut short when the weather started to get rough as we got closer to the open sea and we had to turn round and go back to port. This didn't really take away from the experience though as Milford was so spectacular that even to have had 2 hours there was amazing. Definitely one of our favourite places so far.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Next stop Antarctica...

Next stop was Invercargill and Bluff which is the most southerly point in New Zealand.
We'd made it all the way from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south and really there's not a lot else to say about Bluff - it's cold, grey and kinda boring but still looking out at the sea it's hard to imagine that the next piece of land is Antarctica!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


We left Dunedin and took a drive out to the Otago Peninsula which was really beautiful and had it's very own Dublin Bay!

Then it was on further south through the Catlins which is a really beautiful area with lots of forests and waterfalls. The highlight of the Catlins though was the petrified forest at Curio Bay. A petrified forest is a forest which has been fossilised and we could see trees and stumps which were 160million years old! lying in the water at the edge of the sea - very impressive.

We happened to be there around dusk and luckily for us we saw some rare yellow eye penguins coming home to nest for the night - fairly amazing to see them waddling and hopping over the rocks to feed their young.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


We left Oamaru and went further south to Dunedin which is a fairly big city with a lot of Scottish heritage.
The first night we went to the Speights brewery tour. It was a really good laugh and the guy giving the tour was like a Scottish Willy Wonka & very funny - the fact that we were in a brewery may have added to our merriment! Although some of his jokes were particularly funny especially at the expense of the poor Japanese tourists who obviously couldn't understand his accent - he'd say 'don't touch that barrel' and they'd all make a dash for it... when he mentioned not wanting to catch bird flu from them we nearly fell off our bar stools. The tour ended like all good tours should end, with an open bar and us pouring our own beer - we could get to like Dunedin....

Next day we just had a look around the city, there's some really nice buildings but lets face it nothing could top the brewery tour....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


We left Oamarama, driving through Otamatata to Oamaru - seriously, how is anyone ever meant to remember where they're going when everywhere sounds the same!

Anyway, got to Oamaru and found the most gorgeous hostel ever. About 5km's outside the town, in the middle of farmland and looking out at the pacific ocean - not bad. It's called Old Bones, if you're ever in Oamaru you have to stay there and they have the best hostel dogs - Humphrey, a pure bred mastif who's about 4ft tall and Bonnie, a real cute old dog.

We stayed there for 4 nights, the only people in the hostel apart from the manager and it was fantastic to just chill out - we've been so stressed lately - hahaha!

While we were there we went to the penguin colony just outside town. Saw little blue penguins coming home at dusk, they're the cutest thing in the world - when fully grown they're less than the length of a ruler.
A local woman also took us and Sonya the hostel manager and the dogs, out for a drive showing us all the hidden treasures of the area, including elephant rocks where some of The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe/Narnia was filmed.

It was such a great place I could've stayed there forever!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Aoraki Mount Cook

We left Tekapo and headed up the road to Mt Cook - the highest mountain in NZ (3500m). The scenery along the way was breathtaking particularly because of the dusting of snow.. The water of Lake Pukaki was the most brilliant blue we've ever seen, offset by the snowy mountains behind it looked amazing.

After a coffee in the Heritage hotel at Mt Cook we went back out into the snow to really take a look - it's a fantastic sight towering into the sky. The Maori's call it cloud piercer - think they could be onto something with that!

One snowball fight later it was back to the car for the drive to Oamarama where we spent the night at Buscot Station, a backpackers on a 900 acre sheep farm. It was so warm and cosy and just lovely to sit in front of the open fire and chat with the owner Tony.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A very Irish conversation...

There happened to be loads of other Irish in the hostel in Tekapo at the same time as us. Naturally we all sat together, having a chat about this and that. Generally complaining about the food you can't get here in NZ and how kiwi's wouldn't know a decent rasher if it came up and slapped them in the face.
Then the topic of conversation turned to the most serious subject of all - Teabags! Well all Irish abroad would agree that you can't get a decent teabag outside Ireland but the way these guys were debating the merits of Barry's v's Lyons you'd swear it was a matter of life and death. Then of course we got on to the usual 'kiwi's wouldn't know a good teabag if it hit them in the face' which launched us into which was the best kiwi teabag... The best comment of the night had to go to the girl from Dundalk who came out with "these bloody teabags, you have to beat the tea out of them'. Mightn't sound funny to you but after ten months without a cup of Lyons it was nearly enough to reduce us to tears (of laughter!) - doesn't take much to keep us entertained, does it!

Winter Wonderland

We left Fairlie and headed in the direction of Mt Cook but along the way we ran into a snowstorm and ended up snowed into Tekapo for the night. We were actually quite lucky we didn't have an accident because as we went over Burkes Pass the car in front of us slid off the road down the ditch and into a stream. He actually crashed straight into another car which had just had exactly the same accident and was sitting in the stream waiting to be towed out. By now we were quite nervous as the snow was coming down so heavy but as we were only going 10kmph we made it to Tekapo ok.

There was no way we were going to go on towards Mt Cook and shortly after they closed the roads in and out of the town. We're glad that they did because waking up in Tekapo the next day was amazing with everything covered in a fresh layer of snow. The place looked beautiful and we spent the day messing about in the snow and walking by the lake. Saying that though we wouldn't mind some of the sunshine you's are having at home either!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hitting the slopes

We left Akaroa and headed towards Methven where we intended to spend a few days skiing at Mt Hutt. When we got there we didn't like it - no reason why, just didn't like the place so the next morning we headed towards Fairlie to ski at Mt Dobson.

One night at Fairlie holiday park quickly turned to three as it was such a nice place. Mt Dobson ski field was about 30 km's away (about 15 of which were directly up the side of the mountain). It was scary to drive up there the first day (and terrifying to be a passenger!). We had to stop about half way up for Ciaran to put the snow chains on the car (there was no way I was lying down in the mud!) once the chains we're on we really started heading into the ice and with a drop straight down off the side of the cliff I thought we'd never get to the top. I was exhausted and we hadn't even got our ski's on yet!

I spent two days getting skiing lessons and practicing on a slope that was about as steep as the driveway but by the second afternoon I came down the big learners slope which was actually quite steep (I fell about a hundred times on the way down and am covered in bruises) so I felt great. Ciaran had a snowboarding lesson and went straight to the big learner slope (I was so jealous!) still he fell over a million times himself although now he think's he's a pro-boarder - hahaha!

Going to Queenstown in a few weeks so will do it all again there.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day in Akaroa

There's a town about an hours drive from Christchurch called Akaroa which is supposed to be the 'French' town of New Zealand because the French landed here and tried to claim NZ as it's own about 150 years ago but the Brits fought them off. Seeing as it was Bastille day we decided there'd be no better place in NZ to be so we headed there to check out the celebrations.

Unfortunately, the celebrations turned out to be a couple of balloons outside the information centre and the guy in the grocer shop with a beret and some onions hanging around his neck - we're presuming this was for Bastille day or maybe this is how he always dresses...

Akaroa was just a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere and the weather was fairly bad so we got out of there fairly fast the next day. However there were two gorgeous dogs, Boots & Jessy in our hostel that we got to play with all night.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Well we've made it down to Christchurch pretty fast to be able to see the World Cup final. We plan on going back up to some of the places we skipped through though at some stage.

Christchurch is the biggest city on the South Island with a population of about 350,000. It was mainly built by British and Irish settlers about 150 years ago and you can really tell because all the place names are Cashel this, Tuam that and Oxford the other. Its a really nice city and some parts of it really remind us of home because of the older architecture and gothic style buildings.

We arrived on Sunday and had an early night because we had a 5 am start for the football! Watched the match in the Holy Grail pub and there was a really good crowd there - full of Italian and French. Later that day we met up with Isabell (a friend from Auckland) and went to the Bog Irish pub. We met up with another Irish guy there, Keith, and we entered a pub quiz. We did pretty well and came 2nd winning a $30 bar tab. But then came the bonus was fastest fingers on the buzzer - the buzzer being Siobhans phone number back in Dublin as only Google could answer these questions! We knew Siobhan wouldn't let us down and with the correct answers we went through to the tie breaker - which we won with a spectacular guess from Elaine! I mean, who would have known that largest number of letters in a dinosaurs name is 23?!! Well we won another $300 bar tab with that one and it may as well have been the lotto with the way we celebrated!!

We had to act fast to spend the tab as Isabell was flying to Australia on Thursday so we arranged to meet up the next evening for a slap up dinner (and 1 or 2 drinks...). Luckily for us it was a trad night in the pub and we had a brilliant night. As you can imagine the next day was a bit of a write off....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

South Island at last

After being on the North Island for the last 8 months we've eventually made it to the South.
Unfortunately the weather was really bad on the ferry crossing so we didn't get to see much of the Marlborough Sounds. After overnighting in Picton we headed straight for Hanmer Springs (we've to try to get to Christchurch in time for the World Cup final). The drive to Hanmer took us down the east coast which was really beautiful and through Kaikoura. Just outside the town of Kaikoura we passed a sign warning us that there might be Seals Crossing! How strange but we stopped the car to have a look and there they were - about 50 seal's lying back enjoying the sunshine.

Then we ran into a little adventure. We hadn't quite judged how much petrol was required to get from Kaikoura to Hanmer. Considering there's less then a million people on the Sth Isl there aren't exactly petrol stations everywhere. Left us in quite a predicament really as Hanmer was on the other side of the Southern Alps to Kaikoura - we ended up driving up hill and then turning off the engine to roll down the other side - had to do this for about 30 km's with the empty light on! We were both having a heart attack as all we saw during that 30 km's was snow and sheep!! Not to worry though, it was our lucky day and we made it to Hanmer. What a gorgeous little town (population 550). Great hostel, great pub, great people and the best hot springs we've been to. Sitting in the outdoor hot spas surrounded by snow capped mountains - heaven!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Windy Welly....again

Well, we're coming into the our last few days on the North Island. We have slightly rushed down here but the World Cup only comes around every 4 years and I think I'm entitled to see England lose ;-)

Its great to be back in Wellington. We were here over Christmas and the place has lost none of its charm. Its just full of cosy cafes, restaurants and bars that you can easily spend a relaxing few days getting over our adrenalin filled ones!

We stayed up to watch the England match (it didn't finish until 6am here!) and I managed to see all the other quarter finals and apart from that we didn't do all that much here except visit the Te Papa museum again. It had a really good Lord of the Rings exhition on which had so many of the original props, waxwork models, dummies and clay models. The details involved in creating some of these things is unreal and very impressive.

Off to the South Island next and hopefully some snowboarding....can't wait!