In my last two weeks in New Zealand I felt it was best to take it easy and decided to do just that by taking up the evening receptionist job at Chez La Mer in beautiful Akaora. It’s a weird feeling being so close to going home and having a lot of time to yourself in this place like I did which was reflective if anything. Though, working at Chez La Mer gave me the opportunity to reflect and open up to others who worked at or were passing through Akaroa. As well, this was definitely helped by the atmosphere that Chez La Mer possesses because with no TV people are forced to socialize and interact with one another by the fireplace. On top of that my boss Sarah had a pet sheep that kept us company along with an assortment of dogs to help give the hostel a much more vibrant and exciting place. Furthermore, the staff and I organized shared meals from everyone in the hostel in a smorgasbord of sorts, which allowed everyone to try different meals and experience different cultures in a friendly and social environment. In saying that, there were always great times to be had, and I thought about extending my stay to enjoy Akaroa more but unfortunately we have to move on eventually.
With the season coming to an end and winter on the horizon, the chance to go dolphin or whale watching in Kaikoura was slipping. I managed to get there eventually after being stranded in Waipara where I spent the night in a train carriage converted into a hostel. Upon arriving in Kaikoura the next day though, I couldn’t help but be reminded of home with how close the mountains and the shore were to one another. Which allows exceptional beauty to the surrounding coastline of which a number of tours are offered to go see the various types of marine life in Kaikoura. I settled on kayaking with fur seals, figured it was the most economical and intimate of my options. Luckily my luck was well spent, besides being able to paddle up close with fur seals, a pod of Dusky dolphins as well passed through the area . And seeing them flow effortlessly around your kayak is a surreal experience and you can’t help but feel childish almost for how close of an experience this was.
Aoraki/Mount Cook-Tasman Glacier
Arriving back in Queenstown we thought it best to rent a car for the next part up to Mount Cook. I’ve been hitchhiking for a long time in New Zealand but with what I’ve heard about hitching to Mount Cook village and the weather I decided it was best to see New Zealand by your own transport.Of which in this case was an japanese export model: the Daihatsu Sirion . With this tiny car we drove up from Queenstown through Cromwell, Twizel and alongside lake Pukaki before reaching the tiny settlement that is Aoraki/Mount Cook village. In being small though we had no choice but to stay at the YHA unfortunately because it’s one of two hostels in the entire area. But fortunately the next day cleared up weather wise and I was able to enjoy a lot of the day-hikes up the road that take you around the glacial lakes and valleys that we’re carved up by the retreating glaciers that line the southern alps in New Zealand including the largest, Tasman Glacier.
Kepler Track- Luxmore Hut
After the easy-going cruise through Milford sound, I felt it was time to get back into hiking for the first time since Routeburn. Definitely was not disappointed in Kepler though. The track begins 45 minutes from the lake-town of Te Anau and some of the best views along the track are above the treeline at 1400 meters above sea level as the views are dominated by the town and lake Te Anau and the Murchison mountains. Ultimately though it was just a 2 day hike as snow and rain were going to ruin camping out for the rest of the hike so I returned to Te Anau. Before the hike back I managed to get a glimpse at Luxmore caves, which are an easy 10 minute hike from Luxmore Hut, and shows off limestone rocks and various cave formations such as stalactites and shawls,
Being a world heritage site, Milford sound should be on the list of anyone who’s visiting New Zealand. On a sunny day the glacier-cut valleys and fiords of Fiordland National Park really come into view, along with fur seals and dolphins and it’s worth every dollar spent being able to experience such natural beauty. Even though I’ve been hesitant about touristic activities because of the costs and the feeling of being carted around, I caved in on Milford and have yet to regret anything about it. It does indeed sometimes pay off to have someone else show you around and to point out and explain things about the area you may be unfamiliar with. Not to mention being able to stop and take photos which seldom happens when hitchhiking about. Therefore this opportunity was very much welcomed and enjoyed on my part.