Milford Sound has to be surely one of the highlights of New Zealand, even if there are undoubtedly many in this small but incredible country.
The road in from Te Anau is about 120km long and makes the journey as interesting as the destination. The landscape changes and you notice how it is almost becoming like a tropical rainforest except of course we are at the far south of New Zealand’s South island. The mountains start to get more strong and peaked as we get closer, and then the road winds up through the hills toward the tunnel that cuts right through the mountains to the other side and the sound.
We stopped several times on our way to take photographs and savour the majestic scenery. Many times having sights of Kia parrots whose favourite home is these alpine regions. We decided to park our van near the tunnel for the night. The area being shaped like a bowl of mountain peaks. It likely was not the most usual parking or camping spot tourists would choose – there’s no facilties, its cold, theres no one there and its desolate, exactly the reasons we thought what an excellent camping spot !
Obviously this little van parked there on its own was a source of curiosity for any Kia parrot and they just couldn’t help but go and investigate. They have such an amazing character and it would also seem very little fear. Our new friend perched itself on our wing mirror and was peering in through the glass trying to check out the inhabitants on the inside !
The next day dawned and it was time to venture to the sound. We arrived to find it covered in thick cloud and mist and also raining heavily. We thought that this very unfortunate because we had come all this way to see the sound and now to be greeted with this foul weather not out of place from a normal days bbq weather in my Scottish homeland, however the Tour operator of one of the sightseeing boats assured us that this is actually the perfect weather to see the sound. I felt slightly reassured, but percentages of scottish doubt lingered on. We booked nonetheless, made our way to the allocated vessel and climbed aboard.
After cast off we inched our way out into the sound still our surroundings enveloped in thick mist, and the rain coming down, but soon we could catch sight of waterfalls streaming down from the steep peaks into the waters of the fjord. So maybe this tour guide was’nt fooling us…
The skipper at one point directed our boats nose right into the spray of one of the largest waterfalls in the sound, which was pretty cool, and I think it was a new source of thrill for those on the front. eventually we appeared to be entering oceanic waters and we turned around. It was then that i feel we were blessed by a Nz miracle. The clouds parted to show the skies of blue and the sun came out. Yet all the waterfalls were in free full flow. I really could’nt have hoped for a better day.
3 hours flight from Australia New Zealand has the feeling of being at the end of the Earth. It has somethings very familiar about it for me especially since I come from Scotland and yet the plants and tree’s have a particular uniqueness about them.
Every time I think about this country it takes my breath away. The sheer beauty of the place is majestic. The above photo was taken outside my home (temporary ! while working at local ski resort Cardrona for the season) in Lake Hawea, near Wanaka and Queenstown in the South Island.
NZ has a fantastic climate, except not too many people and one or two sheep ! The mountains, but then they have such stunning beaches and surf. They also have amazing tree’s, the Kauri, these giants of the forest take 100 years just to mature from a sapling. Unfortunately much of the ancient forests were felled by commercial logging. However today protected remnants of the forests remain.
This magnificent tree is called ‘Te Matua Negahere’ it means ‘Father of the Forest’ it has a trunk girth of 16 metres !
I spent most of my time in the South Island which is really quite empty of people. But this doesn’t detract from the amazingness of its beauty, and the freedom of the land.
The Kiwi people I met were really friendly and hospitable even after they found out I had lived in Australia for 7 years.
The only time I met Mauri people was when I played music. Which I think is quite apt because they have a reputation as very often being amazing musicians, and I found this to be the case.
The freedom is unbeatable. I don’t know why people even use hostels except to meet other people.
– Park almost anywhere
– Sleep anywhere.
– No accomodation costs.
– Budget travel.
– Car ownership costs are very low in NZ
– Car and van prices are low too.
Top Tips for living in a Van
1. Make sure to have good curtains that block out everything.
– Then no one knows if theres anyone inside which makes it safer when you park it
& when you sleep in it.
2. Shower and wash at swimming pools
– They are cheap (like a couple of dollars)
– Free swim !
– NZ has swimming pools in most towns.
3. Check out if camping is allowed, very few places seem to be directly prohibited, especially in the south island. Just choose your cool spot and do it !
4. Some sort of power unit in the van to recharge mobile’s, laptops etc.
5. For mobile go for a Vodafone SIM card.
6. Then buy a V8 card it gives you super cheap international calls from your mobile, ironically cheaper than calling within NZ.
Unfortunately NZ doesn’t generally have the best paid jobs especially compared to its bigger, richer neighbour. However this doesn’t have any influence of my love for the country. It is truly amazing, and the people are wonderful.
We ended up getting jobs at Cardrona ski fields for the season, which was occasionally hard work, but also a lot of fun and we got to ski for free. The ski area’s are not developed like the european ski fields, but hey as long as there’s a ski lift and there’s snow what else do you need ?!
My job was working as a chair lift operator, basically when someone falls off usually on the on ramp or off ramp, we stop the lift before they wipe out in a new and interesting fashion. Definitely shovelled alot of snow in my time there.
Apart from the free skiing one great experience was getting to see the changes of the season and the whole life cycle of the snow. Its something that short-term snow tourists don’t get to experience. Now I know there not just snow and then snow.
In Nelson I managed to luck out and get work running a jam session in the Stingray Cafe, which was fantastic. My girlfriend got work behind the bar, and I also had some time being doorman. A first and probably last experience !
There are plenty of fruit picking jobs you can pick up in NZ, but it does depend on the season. At the end of our time in Wanaka, the local vinyard was employing anyone to come and pick grapes.
My girlfriend and I decided to go to New Zealand, which isnt too far from Australia where I lived at the time. (still its 3hours flight from Brisbane !).
Having done a little bit of homework beforehand, but not enough to destroy any hope of spontaneity, we thought it the best plan to buy a van to travel and live in. A move that in hindsight was golden.
There did’nt turn out to be much choice in Christchurch’s Backpacker Car market. 3 vans and 2 cars. We wanted a van so that left 3 to chose from.
I don’t know much about mechanical workings but my Mechanical guru friend Louis from Oz had some advice that came in very handy !
1. Look for oil leaks on the motor.
2. Start the engine let it run for 10 minutes, rev it and watch for colouration in the smoke.
3. Check the oil and water again for any signs of blown gasket’s or other nasty happenings.
4. Last check the brake and accelerator pads to see how worn they are – if they’re worn it’s been driven hard and worth considering not to take it.
So with all these in mind I checked under all the vans and the 2 vans that were $3000 both had gratuitous oil leaks underneath the motor’s, was suprised they had’nt been cleaned off, and the 3rd which was $1300 was spotless.
So decision made for us really. It drove really nice and the guy selling it gave a discount too!
With the money we saved on not paying for expensive hostels, and the freedom to go where and when we liked it was truly an awesome experience !