New Zealand, South Island, Part I

After spending 2,5 months in Sydney, it was time to go to New Zealand. So on the 17th of march, St Patrick’s Day, I boarded the plane from Sydney Airport and flew to Christchurch. I took the train from Central Station and used my Opal card for the journey. The journey is around 17 dollars, but the good thing is that you can go on minus with your Opal and just ditch the card, like I did.

I flew with China Airlines and got two seats for myself. The plane was comfy, but you would be bit uncomfortable with longer legs. Food was good, you got tv and movies and tv shows on board and you get headphones and a pillow.

As traveling with a passport from Finland, you don’t need to apply for any sort of visa if you are visiting New Zealand for less than 3 months. BUT, you need to have a return ticket before you can board the plane and you need to show the ticket when doing check-in at the airport. Something that I learned as I was doing my check-in at the airport. Good times.

You can check here if you need a visa for your visit.

I stayed in All Stars Inn hostel in Christchurch. It’s a modern and big hostel and the WiFi is unbelievably fast. The beds are alright, but the rooms are made as hallways and there’s no aircon so it gets bit stuffy but the rooms have balconies. The location isn’t the best one; it’s pretty far away from everything. I would recommend staying somewhere else.

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. The city is slowly but strongly recovering from the horrific series of earthquakes that happened between 2010 and 2012. So there is a lot of construction going on in the city, but it’s a nice city to visit and there’s quite a lot of street art to be seen around the city.

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Street Art in Christchurch

On the 21st of march my friend got to Christchurch and on the 25th we started a three day roadtrip towards Queenstown with a girl named Alice who had her own car and who we met through a facebook backpacker group. Gotta say that she is awesome and so easy to get with. Before leaving Christchurch, we went to Pak n Save to get groceries and to Kmart to buy sleeping bags and a tent. Pak N Save is the cheapest grocery store in New Zealand but you can also find cheap stuff from New World if you get the club card. Christchurch and Dunedin are the only cities in South Island that have Kmart.

Our first stop was Lake Tekapo which was the first proper lake that I saw in New Zealand. The contrast between green and blue is just amazing in New Zealand. Lake Tekapo is definitely place worth visiting. There’s also Good Sheperd’s Church at Lake Tekapo.

 

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Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo

Next up was Lake Pukaki and again just spectacular views. We camped near Lake Pukaki on our first night on a free campsite. The site is pretty big, but it’s quite hard to find a flat surface for a tent, but we managed to find one.

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The view from the campsite at Lake Pukaki

So the tent we bought from Kmart, was 17 dollars. It rained during the night so the tent was basically drenched. Note to self: always pay more for tent. Sure if you are camping during the summer and it hardly rains and it’s warm, you can manage with a cheap tent, but not during the other seasons.

The next day we spent at Mount Cook. If you can, fuel up before Mount Cook. They do have petrol Station there, but it’s quite pricey. The petrol station is close to the visitor centre where you can use the toilets.

The road to Mount Cook is something else. You’re surrounded by mountains and it looks and just feels amazing. The mountain tops were misty and full of clouds when we went through and it looked spectacular.

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En route to Mount Cook

At Mount Cook the most popular walk to do is the Hooker Valley Track. The complete track is 13 kilometres and takes about 1.5 to 4 hours. We didn’t complete the whole track because it was raining and we wanted to head to our campsite before dark. But just doing a part of the track was worth it so definitely, if you have time, do the whole track or just a part of it. The track is best when it’s sunny and clear; you’ll get an awesome view of Mount Cook.

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From Hooke Valley Track, Mount Cook surrounded by clouds

Our camp for the night was at Lindis Pass Historic Hotel Campsite which is a free campsite for any vehicle. The road to the campsite turns from the main road. It’s a gravel road which goes next to a river and through fields and few cattle bridges with gates. The site itself has the ruins of the hotel that there once was. There’s also a smaller building that has a small table inside so you can cook your food under a shelter. The campsite has a toilet and is suitable for any vehicle and for tents.

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The ruins of the hotel from the Lindis Pass campsite

After waking up and packing our stuff, we were on our way to Wanaka. The town is quite small but a nice ski and summer resort. The best part is that it’s situated right on Lake Wanaka and home to multiple mountains so the views are pleasant.

 

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Lake Wanaka

We spent the night at Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels which was 22-23 dollars per night per person. The campsite is about 5 minute drive from the town centre and is a nice site. They have tentsites, powered sites for campervans and unpowered and cabins. There’s laundry facilities, common area building which includes kitchen and lounging area and spa which has two jacuzzi’s and a sauna. We were lucky and got our own almost private tentsite and could park the car right next to the tents.

Wanaka is also home to the famous Roy’s Peak hike. The hike is 16 kilometres return and takes around 4-6 hours to complete. We did in six hours. At the bottom of the hike there’s a small parking lot and also space to park your car next to the road and a toilet. The hike was exhausting and something I’ve never done before. My legs wanted to give up but the views are worth it; at the top you got 360 degree view and every angle is different.

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Wanaka as seen from Roy’s Peak

After completing the hike, we stopped by Coles to buy Coke and sweets and were off to Queenstown. Every person that I’ve met that have been to New Zealand always say that they love Queenstown. And now I understand why. Queenstown is a resort town built around an inlet on Lake Wakatipu. There’s few walks and hikes you can do. Ben Lomond is a popular hike which is 40 kilometres in total and requires a moderate to high fitness level. There’s a shorter hike, Queenstown Hill Time Walk, which is 4,2 kilometres and is pretty much for everyone. There is some quite steep paths though.

 

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The lovely Queenstown

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From the Hilltime Walk

We stayed in Nomads Queenstown for about 6-7 days and it was alright. Even though it is a party hostel, but the price was good and the location is perfect as you have everything on your doorstep. The hostel has alright kitchen, nice common area and a sauna (which is not really like back home). I could stay here again, because of the location.

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