The day after it was time to leave the Northern Island by ferry. A great walk was waiting for me within a week in the Fjordlands (south of the Southern Island) so I had to rush a bit to get there. I covered all the eastern coast, traveling all day in bus and stopping by in cities for a night or two always in couchsurfing. The more I couchsurfed the more I enjoyed this way of traveling: instead of staying in backpacker hostels and always meet more or less the same kind of people, you get to know the locals and all the best tips about the city. With Dan I learned a lot about Christchurch and the terrible earthquake that happened a few years ago, destroying pretty much everything in the city except the famous botanic garden that survived. With Karleigh in Dunedin, I did some early morning surf and discovered the vigourous student side of the city. With Ania in Invercargill I biked and she took me to see the amazing and windy (well, more windy than usual) area of the Catlins, where we almost ended up eaten by a huge sealion.
In Te Anau I booked my backpack for 3 days of hiking with a supposed bad weather. The hike is called Kepler track and takes you on the top and ridges of the Luxmore mountain. I began to hike at early morning with threatening clouds upon my head. I feared for the weather forecast to be right… the way up is in the forest and I was protected from the hit of the sun.
I had no view on the valley before I reached the hut where I would spend the night. The evening was very nice with all the hikers coming from the USA, Chile and UK. We all shared stories and experiences about New-Zealand and hiking in general. It was a very warm atmosphere and everyone shared its food as well. This is how hiking is like !
I woke up very early the morning after because of a burning sky. The sun was coming on a sea of clouds and it was absolutely stunning : Orange then red then pink. Pretty much all the hut is outside to stare at this beauty. The days after are awesome, on the ridge first then down in the valley.
After that hike I decided to head to Milford Sound but the bus was very expensive. Therefore, I chose to give hitchhike another try. By luck, I found some guys who were going there as well in the backpacker hostel. Too easy ! The road was splendid, despite some fog, with waterfalls everywhere. Once in the Sound I cruised for 2 hours : It was simply magic. We saw penguins, fur seals and even a dolphin ! I hitchhiked again to reach Queenstown and got there faster than I would have with the bus. Plus the last driver gave me a lot of tips regarding Queenstown, hiking… and pubs. There I couchsurfed again with Damian, a yoga and meditation master. The few days I spent there were very busy between the hike of the Ben Lomond summit and the friendly evenings.
Queenstown is full of Chinese tourists and young people wanting to have fun. The town is very active and expensive and all kind of activities are proposed by travel agencies (skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, biking..). This a bit paradoxical as the area remains quite wild with the Aspiring National Park very close. After a few days it was time to leave that crowded city to Wanaka. There I was supposed to be hosted by Andy but when I reached his house he was already completely drunk so I decided to book in the rush a guest house for the night. It was the first time that a couchsurfing was turning wrong and I did not really know how to react. Being safe for the night was definitely be my first purpose. Besides I was supposed to hike the Roy’s peak with a friend in the morning. The ascent was steep and we tackled the 1 500 meters within 2 hours before deciding to keep on hiking on the ridge and go back to Wanaka from the south. What could have been a brilliant idea turned out to be a tricky adventure : running out of water, cutting through the forest and rivers before being expulsed by a farmer with its rifle (not really kiwi-like manner !). We ended up, dirty and thirsty on a road and hitchhiking without great hope as our appearance was not very lovable. We could not believe it when a car stopped within a dozen of minutes ! An Australian family picked us and even gave us drinks and food. Life lesson : It is always worth trying !
Wanaka is a very pleasant and quiet city. I liked it way more than Queenstown and explored the area by hiking everyday, always with different people each day. Time was flying fast and I had an appointment in Christchurch : a plane to go to Thailand where I would spend Christmas with my sister and my father. They wanted me to come back in France but I didn’t agree as the journey was terribly long. We both decided to meet halfway between France and New-Zealand : Asia. First we wanted to go to Myanmar but it seemed rather difficult to get a visa and tramp there. Thailand was more convenient (and cheaper) and we conceded to explore the northern part. But this is another story. During the trip from Wanaka to Christchurch the bus stopped in Tekapo and I fell in love with the stunning turquoise colour of the lake. I made the decision to come back and spend more time there.