The journey continued where we crossed the mountain range. Sounds literally like LOTR when the fellowship of the rings crossed the Charadras (the mountain pass). The road was so hilly and windy with few avalanches. I thought it was one of the most challenging road I have ever driven so far. Then we began our 6 hours journey along the West Coast to Fox Glacier.
You will see dramatic change when travelling from the East to the West side of the South Island. The climate changes from arid to sub tropical rain forest. You might question yourself “am I still in New Zealand?”
Driving in this season may require more cautions from the drivers. The road was slippery from the high amount of rain fall. There were avalanches where we needed to detour slightly.
We arrived quite late at Fox Glacier town (around 10pm). Thank goodness the owner of the backpackers lodge was quite nice to let us had dinner even though the restaurant was already closed.
The next day, we nervously drove to Skydive Fox Glacier. I have read many news about the sky dive especially the plane crash that killed 9 people. Hopefully things would turn out well for us. This is also one of the most beautiful site for skydiving. You could see ocean, mountains, green field, braided rivers and glaciers all at once. For this time around (I don’t think I am gonna do another skydiving) we chose 13000 ft tandem skydive.
I was so nervous, I could not comment much. Just prayed and prayed that we would all safely landed in one piece and alive.
The scariest part would be falling out from the aircraft door. It was a hair raising experience. I could not write that in words, so you have to try it yourself.
Satisfied with the excitement, we spent the rest of the day hiking to the Fox Glacier.
We heard about mirror lake somewhere close to the town from the locals. So we drove there and did short hike around the lake.
At night, we walked to the track to witness glow worms. Not that bad.
Before continuing the 12 hours journey to Motueka next day, we stopped at Franz-Josef Glacier. Half of us went up for the Heli Hike while the other half just hiked to the glacier face (including me because it is too expensive).
We were all quite tired. It took us almost 3 hours of light hiking to the glacier face. So, we decided to have a few hours break and had lunch at the town. The rain started pouring and I was getting worried about the next drive. 10 hours to go.
The road was still windy and steep at certain places. The weather was not that inviting too. Rain and clouds along the way. We did make few short stops, notably at Greymouth and Punakaiki.
After a long and tiring journey, we finally arrived at Motueka. At first, we thought that we have lost our way because GPS directed us to an unknown location. But with experience in previous road trips and intuition, I decided to head straight at the main road and we finallt arrived at the town. It was already very late but we were relieved to be staying at a very comfortable place, Equestrian Lodge.
At 9 am (quite late), we drove to Abel Tasman National Park for an hour. We arrived and left disappointed that kayaking trip has closed. So, we decided to hike along the coast. We hopped on the speed boat to the starting point location.
The next day, our journey continued back to the East Coast. This would be our longest drive (14 hours). We stopped at few places, notably Nelson, Havelock, Picton, Blenheim and Kaikoura.
The climate gradually changed and we returned to semi arid region. The east coast region after Picton reminded me of California. Vineyards near Ward reminded me of Napa Valley. Very serene and breezy.
The good thing about road trip is that you have time to explore and stop wherever you want. When we reached Havelock, we noticed about signboards and shops with mussels replica all over the place. So, we decided to have mussels for lunch in one of the restaurants. Yummy!
Final destination for that day was Akaroa. However, we already felt tired over the long journey. We stopped at Kaikoura, the whale watching town for a while knowing that there was still half of the journey to go.
After a nerve wrecking drive going downhill to Akaroa at night, we finally reached the town by midnight. However, we could not find the pre-booked accommodation. Since it was already midnight, we could not ask anyone, so we were like wondering around the area. Somehow, we found the entrance and settled there for a night.
Akaroa is a unique town. The history began with English Settlement and then followed by French. French influence is more prominent based on the buildings architecture and street names.
There are many activities but with so little time, we just spent our time shopped for souvenirs. If we stay longer, we could hike on the hill, go for a cruise etc.
That day was the last day in New Zealand. By afternoon, we drove to Christchurch. Christchurch was our last destination. The mood of the city was sad and quiet. We could see the aftermath of February 2011 earthquake. The city was still under construction and some buildings were still remained in ruin.
We also visited RE: Start Mall. Due to the earthquake damaged, the authorities build RE: Start Mall using containers.
Besides city center, we went to visit Canterbury University. Just for sight seeing.
In a nutshell, New Zealand South Island Road Trip was a blast. I would return when I have more money and time.
There are six of us and we spent differently. Since I was the most frugal one (had to), I spent about RM7000 (equivalent to ~USD2000) including round trip flight ticket (KLIA-MEL-CHC) and souvenirs.
There are cheaper options like backpacking but for 11 days road trip with an MPV, the cost is okay and can be reduced if you manage it well. One advice; be prepared financially if you want to go there.
I heard if you do backpacking and travel alone, you can save money by working there given that you are staying for more than a month.