We are joined again by Jessica Mather, outdoor fanatic and keen traveller, who tells us about her incredible adventures in New Zealand. If you missed part 1 of the series, be sure to go back and read it.
Everyone who's travelled New Zealand says that the South Island is something else. It truly is!
It was a comfortable 2.5 hour ferry over to Picton. As I caught sight of the views, I became overwhelmed with excitement for the epic adventures lined up. On the way to Abel Tasman we visited a Vineyard in the Marlborough wine region. One thing that New Zealand does well other than the incredible views, is wine. The wine tasting was so laid back, and I soaked up the atmosphere.
Abel Tasman National Park is a coastline paradise; beautiful beaches, costal paths and clear blue sea.
There was so much to do there, I wish I'd had longer to explore. The famous Abel Tasman Track follows the coast and can be completed in a few days. There's an endless amount of coastline to kayak or sail. We chose to go Canyoning, staying in Marahau, which was brilliantly placed for the adventure.
We took on the Torrent River Canyon with Abel Tasman Canyons. We took a water taxi to Anchorage, which is a beautiful secluded beach, that can only be reached on foot or boat. We then hiked to the top of the Canyon. Wet suits and helmets on, we zip lined, abseiled, and slid down waterfalls, as well as tackling an 8 metre jump. This jump is one of the best in New Zealand, and I highly recommend giving it a go.
Every backpacking trip has its little problems, right?
The west coast is renowned for bad weather, and we certainly got a glimpse of how wild it can be. On the journey down towards Franz Josef the weather progressively worsened. Wind and torrential rain caused road closures, but we made it to our destination. We were told that the planned Heli Hike was cancelled. So instead I planned a short hike just out of town for the following day.
In the morning the weather was terrible, there was a Cyclone passing down the west coast. Imagine turning a shower on, and it staying on high pressure all day! No matter how good our waterproofs were, they'd never have kept that rain out. I opted not to go on my planned hike, and spent the day exploring the small town instead, and visited native Kiwi birds at a local sanctuary.
It was so lucky that I'd decided not to take the hike, because the bridge that I'd have crossed to start it had collapsed! This quickly became Franz Josef's new attraction. That evening we were told we wouldn’t be leaving the following morning due to the collapsed bridge and other road closures.
What do you do when stranded in Franz Josef? – Party! The whole town came alive that night, with what seemed like the majority of Franz Josef's residents, and all of the backpackers, partying into the night.
We finally got on the road to Queenstown and there was a long drive to face. We had to skip Wanaka completely, which I was really gutted about as we had plans for paddle boarding, Via Ferrata and hiking. It was the place I was most looking forward to on the whole trip. But I guess that just gives me a reason to go back! After another delay, and an extra stop overnight en route, we finally headed to Queenstown.
Spirits were high! Other travellers whom we'd met along the way were due in Queenstown at the same time because of the travel disruptions. A fun reunion in Queenstown was an epic way to experience the nightlife.
The next day we were back on schedule. The adventures started as we took on the famous Nevis Bungy Jump; the highest in New Zealand at 130m. To get to there, a cable car took us to a platform in the middle of the valley. My legs were shaking. There was a moment whilst in mid air where I questioned if I'd ever stop falling. It was incredible, and in my opinion is a must do in New Zealand.
We hired a car and headed to Te Anau. The plan was for an overnight kayak trip with a camp in Doubtful Sound, which is arguably a quieter alternative to Milford Sound. Due to unsettled weather though, this was cancelled. Instead, we went on a ferry tour of Milford Sound with Go Orange.
Pictures of Milford Sound show its beauty, but standing there in person, looking out through the Fjords, is absolutely breathtaking! The only downside is being bitten to death by sand flies, which are worse than the Scottish midges! Once bathed in the lovely aroma of Deet insect repellant, the boat took us down the Fjord towards the sea. We sailed passed dramatic mountain-scapes, waterfalls, and wildlife.
Once back in Te Anau, I decided to take a solo run, on part of the Kepler Track. I intended to do 10km, however had a Strava mishap lead to an extended run of 10 miles. Running through the forest at dusk, listening to the wildlife around me, was perfectly calming after what had been a disrupted few days.
Leaving Queenstown and Fjordland behind was sad. I have so many happy memories in such a wonderful part of New Zealand. We drove past Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/ Mount Cook. The sadness soon faded when the mountains came into view, and I was psyched to see Mount Cook. The landscape reminded me of the Himalayas.
Continuing the weather theme, the track was closed on the Hooker Valley trail due to damage. So we took the Sealy Tarns track instead. We climbed 2000 steps up to two small tarns, where the reflections of the surrounding mountains were truly stunning, and the views over Mount Cook were indescribable.
It was here that I realised my true passion lies on foot. I'd loved every adventure in New Zealand, but there are so may hikes I wish I could have done. Every corner I turned, I saw something that took my breath away.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a dark sky reserve, making it an amazing place to see the stars.
Peel Forest was another 'off the beaten track' type stop. We chose to do the Rangitata White Water Rafting. Any Lord of the Rings fan would recognise the landscape we were surrounded by.
It was a cold morning, snow and frost covered some of the hills. A great day to get wet. I had never white water rafted before. 6 of us jumped into the boat. The first few runs were fine, and then we got our first glimpse of the grade 5 rapids. We could see and hear how rough the river was becoming. It lasted seconds, paddling and then sitting tight in the boat, hoping not to capsize. It felt like being in a washing machine. What a buzz! A scary one, but so much fun. It was a perfect way to end my 4 incredible weeks in New Zealand.
New Zealand truly blew me away. There's so much more of it that I need to explore, and I will certainly be going back.
See and read more about Jessica on her Instagram page @jessicamather91
If you're feeling inspired for more check out The Journal for more epic adventures and stories.