Endless coastlines, mountains, glaciers and beautiful lakes, doesn’t that sound perfect? That’s exactly what I thought for the past couple of years when I saw pictures of New Zealand and had plenty of friends telling me about their travels to the opposite side of the world. So there I am, thinking about when I can make it happen. As I had a pretty big break between my semesters in uni I contacted some friends and asked them if they would come with me. In the end me and my buddy Hannes booked flights to New Zealand’s South Island and started planning our 16 day-adventure.
When we arrived in Christchurch we immediately picked up our rental car and started our road trip. But first we had to get some essentials: a camping cooker, a mattress for the trunk and plenty of food. Being equipped for the next few days we headed north to the northernmost point of New Zealand’s South Island, Wharariki Beach. After 6 hours of driving through the hills and mountains we were stopped by a policeman who told us the only road to our destination was closed due to roadway damage caused by a cyclone. Not exactly what you want to hear after driving for the whole day. Luckily the road re-opened the next day so we decided to sleep in our car and wake up early the next day to catch sunrise at Wharariki. We did not get the sunrise we hoped for but we were stoked about the first impressions and pictures we got that day.
Now it was time for the west coast which is packed with scenic roads and many beautiful views on the way to Wanaka. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate at all, it was raining all the time. After stopping at a few view points along the road we reached Hokitika. After a short, easy walk we enjoyed excellent views of the blue-green waters of the Hokitika River as it makes its way through the rock sided Hokitika Gorge. After taking some pictures we were surprised by some heavy rain showers and decided to leave.
Next stop was Franz Josef Glacier and Fox-Glacier. Our plan was to hike up to a mountain hut in the afternoon and stay up there until sunrise. Once again the heavy rain forced us to change our plans. Instead of shooting the glacier from the mountaintop we decided to go for a little walk to nearby Lake Matheson and see if we could get a reflection shot of New Zealand’s highest mountain Mount Cook. When we arrived at the lake it was pretty windy and the water was not calm at all. But after waiting for about 1.5 hours the wind stopped and we finally got the reflection we were waiting for, with mighty Mount Cook mirrored perfectly.
After a successful sunrise mission and some breakfast we started our drive towards Wanaka where the first real bed of our trip was waiting. (We slept in the car on the previous nights). We expected a long and boring drive but we were proven wrong. Haast Pass was awaiting us with winding mountain roads, low clouds, and countless waterfalls along the road. No wonder it took us ages to finally get to Wanaka because we literally stopped every 15 minutes to take some pictures. After we arrived in Wanaka we got our well deserved sleep and took a day off to get some rest and edit some pictures, oh and we also went to go see a special tree. There is this one lone tree on Lake Wanaka’s shore that became pretty famous during the last few years, but no one really knows why. When we were there for sunrise at 7AM there were already 30 photographers waiting to shoot their #thatwanakatree picture. Totally confused about the hype we snapped 1-2 quick pictures and returned to our warm & cozy beds.
Next big mission: Roys Peak. Roys Peak is a 3-hour hike with an elevation gain of just over 1200m, just perfect for a little sunrise walk. Just kidding, it was really painful. The hike was pretty boring and exhausting, it just kept getting steeper and steeper and it just would not stop. But when we found ourselves at the top we could not believe how incredible the view was. From Roys Peak you could overlook all the inlets and little islands of Lake Wanaka with the peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park in the background and the ridge-line of Mount Roy in the foreground. And this was also the day when we got our very first sunrise of the trip, no rain, no wind, no clouds. This time everything was perfect.
This concludes the first half of our trip, stay tuned for the second part of my New Zealand travel report that will be online next month.
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