We left Te Anau and the Fjordland and drove up north with direction Mt. Cook. We did a short stop in the small town called Wanaka for it's main attraction: Puzzeling World (which is a museum with a lot of illusions) which is definitely worth a stop (you can look like a giant or a dwarf there!). Once we arrived in Mt. Cook village (with is basically a pure tourist town) the weather had changed from sunny to slight rain and the mountains were covered in clouds. Firstly, we checked the accommodation situation (not good, only some expensive bed's available) and then we checked the weather forecast, which was even worse than the accommodation situation: rain for the next days. So given these facts, we decided not to stay in this town (because hiking up a mountain and not seeing anything is not what we want) and we continued our journey. We wanted to spend the night in Lake Tekapo (they have some thermal baths) but we also had some issues to find an accommodation. Finally, we were able to get a nice and friendly Bed 'n Breakfast (most likely the last available one due to high season in town) which was not cheap but sometimes, you have no other choice. After a good and rich breakfast, we went to the thermal baths for a dip in the hot pools there (which is always a good option with insect bites!) before we drove to Arthur's Pass.
|Puzzling World in Wanaka
Next morning, our legs were still a bit sore from the hike but we had to drive to Picton, the town where the ferry from Wellington is landing, connecting the South and North island. On this drive, we had the opportunity to stop a the pancake rocks which are amazing when the waves are coming in and crash against the rocks. Once we left the car park, we tried to establish the "driving on the right side" in New Zealand for a short time, but since the others did not participate, we switched back to the left lane quickly (nobody was hurt!) :-)
|View from Avalanche Peak
Picton was our last stop in the South island, so we boarded the ferry to cross the Cook Strait to the North island were we drove up to Turangi. This is the town close to Mt. Tongariro and "Mt. Doom" of Lord of the Rings. So this was the goal for the next day, hiking the 22 km and climbing the volcano that was used in Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom. It is a very steep climb over loose rocks and a lot of poorly equipped people do it as well, so you have to be very careful when descending since they kicked off a lot of rocks. But the view from the top and the view during the hike are incredibly!
|View from Mt. Doom to Mt. Tongariro
|Lakes in the Crater
|Still active Volcano
Before we went to Auckland, we also visited the Waitomo Glow-worm caves and the Hukka Falls close to Taupo. So finally, we handed over our car with this summary:
- about 5000 km travelled in 3 weeks in New Zealand
- fuel consumption of about 9 litres per 100 km
- once driving the car on the wrong side, but no accidents :-)
In Auckland, we relaxed and visited the city's highlights (e.g. Sky Tower) and I took the opportunity to visit my old school where I went to 10 years ago (language Internationals). The school still exists and my old teacher (Martin Schwartz, now re-named to HD Francis Waterman) is still there (he stated that we will be teaching there until he drops dead). Very funny to see him again and he actually remembered me :-)
So, after 2 days in Auckland, we cached our plane to Sydney and continued to Perth. Since custom and pest control were very quick, we were able to catch an earlier flight to Perth where we arrived in the late afternoon. Now we are planing our west coast trip with our 4x4 car we'll pick up on the 28th of Feb.
|Hiking at Arthur's Pass
|Kea on Avalance Peak
|Avalanche Peak Summit
|Sky Tower in Auckland
|Sky Tower ... have a close look at it!
|Skyline Auckland from Harbour
|My former English teacher