Saturday, 12 January 2013

South Island Excursion, Part 2

We are back in Wellington now, after a simply astounding excursion to the South Island. It has to be said that New Zealand truly does live up to all the hype when it comes to breathtaking natural beauty. The South Island is a jewel and I recommend it as one of the best places in the world to see in terms of variety and contrasting scenery as well as unsullied natural beauty. Geographically it is tiny, but the amount of places and things to do an see is literally incredible. We saw a decent chunk of the island, driving along the north, west and east coasts as well as through the interior. We saw oceans of turquoise water and beautiful beaches, snow-capped peaks and vast plains of golden grasses, alpine lakes encirled by forests, and quaint little towns tucked away amongst undulating mountain passes. And yet we barely saw a fifth of what the South Island has to offer. That fact blew my mind a bit. The people we met on the Able Tasman trail told us about all the amazing things they had seen and done, things to do and places to go that we hadn't even heard of. So we'll be back, probably as soon as we can.

When we left Christchurch we drove south for a bit before driving inland, skirting the lower slopes of the Southern Alps towards Queenstown.

Some of the Southern Alps

Lake Tekapo

The view from our apartment was breathtaking, and along with our view over the town and lake, we were treated daily to the spectacle of a constant stream of colourful paragliders, descending from the mountains like rapidly deflating balloons.
Queenstown is most assuredly a place for aventure seekers and adrenaline junkies. The amount of activities you can choose from is staggering and it is truly the centre hub for adventure-tourism. It's also the place where we did the least in terms of actual activities  The town is abuzz with hordes of juiced-up tourists, high on adrenaline from their last activity or wired with anticipation for their next. This gives the town a kind of surreal quality as the economy of the whole town is plugged into this energy. The view from our apartment was too good to miss out on, so we mostly sat on the balcony watching the activities from afar and taking gentle strolls around the lake and the beautiful surrounds.

Queenstown - the view from our little flat

We did, however, take a trip to a little place about 100km north of Queenstown called Wanaka. The reason we went there was specifically to visit a little independent cinema called Cinema Paradiso. It's a great little place in a rather unassuming building across the road from the local supermarket. It has one screen and the seats are mostly old couches and armchairs. It's like watching a movie in a friend's living room. The best thing about it is that they have an interval during which they served freshly-baked hot cookies. I heard about the place whilst we were on the road and I was dying to check it out. It was an amazing experience, especially because of the movie that we saw there. We went to see  "Searching for Sugarman," the story of Rodriguez, an American musician famous in South Africa, and pretty much nowhere else, and the two South Africans who went looking for him. It's a great story and one which I would recommend to anyone for myriad reasons, but mostly for its art, heart and soul. It was great to see scenes of my home town and the film gave both Elsje and I strong pangs of homesickness. And it was definitely worth the 220km roundtrip :D

Lake Wanaka

We finished off our trip at a place called Hanmer Springs, about an hour north of Christchurch and a town famous for its hot baths. After all the driving and hiking and hardcore holidaying, we thought a couple of days soaking in some mineral baths would do us a world of good.

Hanmer Springs

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