Holiday in the South Island of New Zealand - Dec 07/Jan 08

Aahhh, holidays!

Cakelaw set off for Christmas holidays in the South Island of New Zealand with her mother and brother in late December. However, it was a very bumpy start. Our flight to Christchurch as delayed for 6 hours, and until the 11th hour, we were not given any promises that the plane would be leaving at all that night. The general malaise and despair among my fellow passengers can be clearly seen in the following photograph:

However, our 5.30pm flight finally left Brisbane Airport at 11.30pm, and we arrived in Christchurch the next morning at around 6am (NZ time). Below is a photo of the welcome sign in the international terminal of Christchurch airport, listing Christchurch's sister cities around the world:

Our "home" in Christchurch was the Holiday Inn on Avon in Oxford Terrace. It is situated about 10 minutes walk from the centre of town, but is in a lovely setting by the Avon River, and as Christchurch and the province of Canterbury, in which it is situated, are very flat (despite the surrounding mountains), the walk into town was pleasant rather than taxing. Here is our first "room", a little townhouse out the back. It was rather nice, but the very steep climb up the stairs to the second floor is daunting with suitcases.

After catching up on some sleep lost the night before, we spent the first afternoon working out the lay of the land in Christchurch by catching one of the many tourist trams which travel a loop around central Christchurch:

While the lay of the land is very flat in Christchurch, this is not true for the whole of the South Island - in fact, two thirds of it is mountainous. It is also a land of stark contrasts, as I think the following photograph taken somewhere in the province of Otago demonstrates:

Natural beauty

In the South Island, the two key things which attract tourists are adventure sports and the natural beauty. Both of these stem from the natural geographical layout of the South Island, which has more than its share of mountains and lakes surrounded by lush foliage.

There are many rivers running through the South Island. In its capital, Christchurch, there is the Avon River, which flows with brownish water between steep mud banks, like the majority of rivers that I have seen:

However, the South Island also has a number of more unusual rivers which flows in turquoise or blue coloured rivulets across gravel beds:

There are many mountains of all varieties in the South Island. Below is one of its most famous mountain peaks, Mt Cook, which is capped with snow even though it is currently the middle of summer:

We felt very privileged to see Mt Cook's peak, because it is often shrouded in cloud. In fact, when we passed by in the morning, it was hidden behind dense cloud cover, but decided to make an early afternoon appearance (surely for our benefit!).

As well as tall, snow-capped peaks, the South Island features many softly rolling hills, like folds in a blanket:

There are a number of very beautiful lakes in the South Island. The lake below is Lake Tekapo, which you pass on the road to Mt Cook, and which is a popular holiday spot for Kiwis:

Beside Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous little stone church known as the Church of the Good Shepherd:

Further along on the road to Mt Cook, you come across Lake Pukaki, which is a vivid turquoise colour when the sun is shining due to the presence of rock powder on its bed:

That's Mt Cook in the distance!

On the way to Milford Sound, you stop at Lake Te Anau:


The picturesque Queenstown, famed as a centre for adventure sports, is nestled on the banks of Lake Wakatipu:

We were fortunate enough to spend New Year's Eve in Queenstown, and to witness New Year fireworks over the lake from our hotel on the steep Stanley Street hill:

One way to grasp the layout of Queenstown is to take the Queenstown Gondola straight up:

You can get down the way you came, or luge down!

Milford Sound

It rains almost every day of the year at Milford Sound, but the Gods smiled on us, and it didn't rain a single drop. The only wetness came from the spray of the boat and the waterfalls. We also managed to avoid the sandflies for which the Milford Wharf is famous.

The drive to Milford Sound is as scenic as it is winding, and includes a glimpse of Falls Creek:

An idea of just how winding the road to Milford Sound is from time to time can be gleaned from this photograph:

A popular scenic stop on the way to Milford Sound is Lake Matheson, or as it is better known, the Mirror Lake:

Unfortunately, the gusty winds on the day of our trip significantly rippled the surface of the lake, so its mirror quality is not immediately apparent in this shot.

Another lovely spot en route to Milford Sound is the Tutoko Mountains in Fiordland:

At Milford Sound wharf, we boarded the Milford Mariner for a two and a half hour cruise around the Sound (which is actually a fiord). One of the first sights that you see in the Sound is Lion Rock (the lion's partially obscured head is to the left and its rump is to the right of the shot):

Next to Lion Rock is Stirling Falls. They say that getting sprayed with the water from the Falls makes you 10 years younger - having tested this theory, I can say that it is definitely false!

Another one of the waterfalls in Milford Sound is Bridal Veil Falls:

Milford Sound opens out onto the Tasman Sea, known by Kiwis as "The Ditch" between New Zealand and Australia. Just before you reach the mouth of the Sound, you will see on your right heading out to sea the Kissing Turtle rocks (look hard and use your imagination!):

On the left hand side heading out to sea is Anita Bay:

Below is the point where the Sound meets the Tasman Sea, with Dale Point jutting out on the right:

Maori people

While in Queenstown, we visited the Kiwi & Birdlife Park in Brecon Street. The South Island is not the centre of Maori culture; however, for pure entertainment rather than cultural accuracy, you can see a brief Maori performance at the Park. The haka is shown below:

In this shot, the girls are twirling poi balls (made of woven flax):

My brother was rather taken with the girls in this photo!

Flora & fauna

I liked the mountain lupin, which is a noxious weed in the South Island:

Apparently an American lady painter who migrated to New Zealand loved lupins and cultivated them for her paintings. Other ladies followed suit, and soon the lupins were growing wild all over the South Island. The lupins pictured grow beside Lake Tekapo. Scottish broom and gorse are also unwelcome introduced weeds in the South Island.

A common plant growing wild in New Zealand is the tussock. Pictured is the red tussock in Otago, waving in the wind like a sea of red Noel Crombie hairdos from his early days with The Enz:

Unless you have never heard of New Zealand, you will know that it is famous for its sheep. There are 39 million of them, comprising 36 certified varieties:

Apparently sheep numbers are down on the 60 million they had about 10 years ago because farmers are moving into dairying and other agricultural pursuits.

Deer, another introduced species, are also commercially farmed on the South Island for their velvet and meat (yep, the funny little twigs behind the reflection of my camera are deer):

Cattle farming (both dairy and meat herds) is also carried out extensively on the South Island:

Heading back into Christchurch, the banks of the River Avon are inhabited by ducks:

New Zealand has some unique native wildlife. Bob the ranger at Queenstown Kiwi & Birdlife Park holds a tuatara, a species somewhere between a lizard and a snake, which has a vestigial third eye:

An endangered native New Zealand bird is the kereru or wood pigeon, with vibrant green plumage:

And of course, there is the bird which New Zealanders name themselves after, the kiwi:

The kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird. You can view live kiwis in darkened kiwi huts at the Kiwi & Birdlife Park in Queenstown. They are surprisingly large, and have long, pointy beaks with nostrils on the tip, so that they can sniff out food in the leaf litter. It is well worth the wait to catch a glimpse of these birds. The females are also amazing in that their eggs are one third of their body weight in size - roughly the equivalent of an average human female having a 17kg baby!

On Milford Sound, you will see the resident fur seals, lazing on the rocks like fat gents on the beach:


Cakelaw loves Split Enz, one of New Zealand's most famous popular bands. They are reforming
for a New Zealand-only tour in March, and Cakelaw has a ticket to see them in Welllington. Below is a photo of the promotional poster for the tour, found all over the street posts in Christchurch:

In Cathedral Square in Christchurch, if you look up near the tram shop entrance, you will see this cute kiwi clock:

A very different sort of clock can be found in Victoria Square in Christchurch. Pictured below is the Christchurch floral clock:

I loved the Kiwi mailboxes, which I thought were kind of groovy. This one is on Madras St in Christchurch:

In Victoria Square facing Colombo Street in Christchurch, you will see this old fashioned telephone box, seemingly the sole survivor of its kind:


As its name suggests, there are many churches in Christchurch. (According to our tram driver, all of the streets in Christchurch are named after famous English cathedrals.) These churches range from simple weatherboard churches, like the Church of St Michael and All Angels:

to grand stone structures, like Christchurch Cathedral:

Christchurch Cathedral is heavily European-influenced, with large stained glass windows:

and a grand high-beamed ceiling:


Christchurch is filled with many beautiful architectural buildings of different styles. Examples include 41 Cathedral Square:

the Arts Centre on Worcester Street:

the Spanish-mission style pastel facades of New Regent Street:

the government department buildings on Worcester Street:

the Christchurch Press building at 21 Cathedral Square:

and the ANZ Chambers on High Street (as viewed from a suburban bus going at high speed!).

Six days, four provinces, one island, a unique country - I loved it!

This post would not be complete without my thanking the mysterious McDreamy look-alike who helped me to lift my 20kg suitcase up a steep broken escalator at Brisbane Central Train Station on the way home. McDreamy, wherever you are, the girl in the black T-shirt with the ponytail and glasses, swearing profusely, whom you gallantly rescued, thanks you from the bottom of her heart!


Claudia said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cakelaw said…
Hi Claudia, I have only just realised you left this comment. Thank you!! I am glad you enjoyed reading this post. I have just re-read it for the first time in almost a year, and I am glad that I wrote it - there is so much that I had forgotten myself. It is a pity that I have not been so energtic about posting about my other trips.
Selba said…
Hello... I'm blog hopping in here :)

Very nice pictures of your holiday in New Zealand, I wish that someday I would be able to make a trip there.
Indie.Tea said…
Beautiful! My dad lived in NZ for a few months during his youth - he thought it the most beautiful place he'd ever been to. Your pictures seem to suggest something along those lines - it is a lovely place!
Kayte said…
I can't decide which I like best, the scenery photos, the church photos, or the building architecture photos...okay, maybe I will just pick that Kiwi photo and declare that my favorite as I have never seen one and they are so enchanting to look at for some reason...I just love them. Great photos, thanks for sharing them! I like how you label everything so I actually know what I am looking many people don't do that and it is way more fun to have the labels!! My best friend's son just moved to New Zealand for a year of study and we are so excited to get his messages about it all. So far he has been there a week and bought a car and is trying to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road from what he knows here. :-)

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