Finally we were able spend time to write about our unique experiences in New Zealand. It was a longtime dream. We covered south island in 2 week trip (11th-25th may). Thanks to the valuable information from tripadvisor, the trip turned out to be a great one. In short, South Island is extremely beautiful. We used aatravel for route planning.
Day 1: Landed in Christchurch after a long flight from India via Singapore; we reached in the morning around 11am; our host Denise from Lilac rose was there to pick us up. We found CCH beautiful on our way to lilac rose; hence we couldn't stop ourselves. As soon as we reached, we freshened up and left to explore the city. We headed towards city center. First thing we saw there was the mall (restart) they have built out of shipping containers due to devastation caused by earthquake. It's an amazing effort. Then we went to museum followed by the botanical garden. The garden was our first tryst with the fall colors of NZ. We used city bus on the first day for commuting. We wanted to avoid driving for first 2 days after a long flight and jet lag. In the evening after resting for couple of hours we went out for dinner. We went to this place with delicious Punjabi food "the maharaja restaurant". Weather was gloomy and chilly first day. That made us little worried about the days ahead.
Day 2: We had planned a day trip to Hanmer springs; had booked hanmer connections on day 1. ; started at 9 am. The bus picked us from our place. It was around couple of hours travel. After reaching there we went to i-site and decided to go for a "conical hill walk” and then plunge into the pools. They have variety of pools; totally relaxing; had lot of fun. . fortunately it was a sunny day; Didn’t get time for lunch. Started again around 5 pm; for dinner we went to "china kitchen", walking distance from Lilac rose. good food. Spent couple of hours in the night reading “NZ road code” to prepare for the road trip. Made sure we read about every details possible. This did help us. Actually driving was so comfortable once we knew the basic rules.
Day 3: Finally we had to leave cch and start our road trip. Had booked apex car in advance; got ready early enough to pick up the car; we made sure we learned about how to put snow chains just in case. Picked up our Toyota corolla and then started our journey to Mt cook. We made our first stop at Geraldine at barkers’ bakery. Then drove till Lake Tekapo. We saw the lake from different locations. It was amazingly beautiful serene blue lake. Some of our best photos were clicked here. We went to mount John observatory and clicked many pictures of lake from there. Had a refreshing green tea at the café up on hill. After offering our prayers at church of good shepherd we headed towards Mount Cook. After Tekapo, it’s all scenic way to Mt cook, with Lake Pukaki on one side of road. Reached Mt. Cook at 7pm. Checked-in @ Aoraki alpine lodge. Cooked dinner in the community kitchen; then went for a stroll gazing at the clear starry sky. Spent some time at old mountaineer’s cafe with pleasing ambience at night.
Day 4: Next morning in Mount Cook, we left early for hooker valley walk but couldn't complete it as we had booked Tasman glacier boat trip at 9.30am with glacier explorers. It was unique experience. It included a small walk uptil lake and boat trip. There were many icebergs floating around. The guide also explained a bit about the glaciers which was useful. We started from Mount Cook around 1 pm to Queenstown; on the way we wanted to see clay cliffs but unfortunately when we reached there we came to know that we have to buy entry tickets from the I-site in town center. So we dropped the idea & drove ahead. On the way we stopped at Cromwell. Sweet town; got some grocery from Cromwell. Reached Queenstown around 7.
Day 5: So finally we were at the adventure capital, Queenstown. We were really looking forward to our stay in qt and it did not disappoint. In fact we extended it by one more day. So the first thing in qt we decided to do is the real adventure stuff we came here for : bungy jumping@kawaru bridge. Unforgettable experience for lifetime; mixed feeling of fun & fear. Both of us jumped; the background of Kawarau gorge does make it more enticing with blue green color of water; then we drove to ArrowTown in the evening; Beautifully made.....no wonder it's a place where gold mines were found. We had booked an hour, in the late evening, at minus 5 degree. Different experience but an hour was too long. Can't stay more than 15-20 minutes. After this happening day, we had nice Thai food at tham nak Thai.
Day 6: Had booked for Milford sound day trip with naked bus. Early morning when a small bus came to collect us at town centre, we were tad disappointed with the bus; we were just 5 of us in total in the bus. However the moment the guide/driver started his commentary we knew we had a great trip ahead. Despite the great milford trip itself the best part was the guide and nuggets of knowledge he shared. It proved again the value of a guide. He had story/trivia about every small and big thing on the way. I remember he shared this story about a “sheep” who avoided being sheared for 3 years. Touching story; Those 13 hours with him we learned so much about NZ; it answered many questions we had without asking. Had good time on real journeys cruise. Undoubtedly a tiring day due to 7-8 hrs. bus journey.
Day 7: Today early morning we started for Glenorchy and Paradise. Very beautiful... Literally paradise; we spent few hours there and then returned back. Had delicious lunch at vudu café; good vegetarian options. Then we enjoyed the view of queenstown from gondola; later spent some time in Queenstown garden; a romantic place.
Day 8: We were looking forward today for the most awaited activity "sky diving". The weather forecast was not favorable for sky diving. We kept our fingers crossed as this was our last day in Queenstown and so was our chance to go sky diving. We kept our options open and were talking to both Wanaka and paradise skydiving. As soon as we came to know from “skydive paradise” that they are diving, we got to i-site in 10 minutes’ notice. Fortunately it turned out to be a lovely sunny day. Thank God!!! Thrilling experience with beautiful view from top while diving. Its memories will be cherished for lifetime.
Day 9: time to bid goodbye to Queenstown. Most beautiful city. Miss being there. We stayed at amity motel in qt. really good apartment; very well located; you can walk to the town center; the owners were helpful in guiding us what to do etc. Especially Doug had a good sense of humor.
Started really early morning for fox glacier. We drove via Crown range to Wanaka to explore new route. Tricky drive in early morning fog. Spent some time at Lake Wanaka and then went to puzzle world. It's an interesting place. Must go. Then drove to Fox Glacier. As soon as we reached there we went for a walk to fox glacier. We stayed in rainforest motel. Again a decent place.
Day 10: Started our day with Lake Matheson walk. It was drizzling; enjoyed this weather of NZ too. Relaxed for a while in Matheson cafe and then then we left for Hokitika and reached there by evening; gr8 drive; lush green rainforest on the way with sea peeping in between. Reached hokitika around the time of sunset; so we went to the beach to capture the views of sunset on the beach. Late evening we went to see glow worm caves. Stayed @ Bella vista;
Day 11: Early morning we drove to Hokitika gorge. spent some time walking along the streets of hokitika ; sweet little town; saw jade factory, glass blowing, wilderness gallery, clock tower , church; started for Christchurch . Reached Christchurch in the evening stayed at southwark apartment (earthquake red zone). Went to riccarton mall in the evening to xplore. Tried Pita pit.
Day 12: we had planned to go to Kaikoura and booked kayaking with kaikoura kayaks; one more unexpectedly sunny day; Beach was really good. Kayaking was one more different experience. Had lots of fun. Returned to cch; had some Indian vegetarian food at mayuri restaurant (ricarton) with friends in NZ. Great time good food.
Day 13: Today we had our flight back to India; so was the culmination of our unforgettable trip of south island, New Zealand. It was a blend of fun, adventure, beauty, knowledge. Felt very close to nature; returned the car and off to airport. Thanks everyone on trip advisor for their expert guidance and help. Surely coming again to kiwi country.