Cloudy with a chance of Mountains
15.01.2014 - 17.01.2014 25 °C
Wellington - St Arnaud (227km/141m)
It was time to say goodbye to both Wellington and the North Island (well, for now) when we were up at 06:00 to make sure we got to the Interislander Ferry in plenty of time as we had been told that traffic would be chaos. There are two ferry companies that operate over the Cook Strait linking Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island; Interislander and Bluebridge (both seem to be the same and both are horrendously expensive!!). As we had done a reckie the day before we knew where we were heading and typical there was no traffic at all, so we joined the queue with plenty of time to spare! Better safe than sorry though I guess.
We had also been warned that the ferry crossing was notoriously rough and not having the most stable of sea-legs I was a little concerned when I saw the black storm clouds over head as we waited to board.
Luckily though, these soon cleared and it was quite literally clear sailing for the next 3.5 hours with barely a wave felt. We pretty much just read, slept and tried to keep each other entertained. Nick even saw two dolphins whilst taking the photo below, but was not quick enough to get them on camera sadly!
We had made it to the South Island!! It is much larger than the North Island yet only 23% of New Zealand's total population actually live there -famously having more sheep than people. It is home to Mt. Cook; Australasia's highest peak, Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers; the most low-lying in the world, the birthplace of the Bungee Jump, slowly recovering Christchurch and some truly epic and awe inspiring scenery - coincidentally all of which are on our itinerary!
A relatively short drive in comparison to some of our trips so far past yet more amazing scenery, and stopping for photo-stop by a beautiful river surrounded by mountains and forests which Nick is convinced was in one of the Lord of the Rings movies!
Roughly 2 hours later we had made it to the tiny town of St Arnaud in the heart of the Lake Nelson National Park. As the town is pretty much just one road we really didn't need to bother about our directions for finding the Travers-Sabine Lodge. It was a really small, almost alpine themed backpackers and was cheap enough we were able to afford a private double - hurrah! The weather was amazing, and not at all what we had been expecting so we dumped our stuff and walked through the lodges garden and straight onto a footpath that led down to shore of Lake Rotoiti - stunning!
We sat by the lake for the rest of the afternoon enjoying a picnic dinner (Nick even braved the eels and chilly water for a swim) until the sun was gone and the sand-flies were no longer phased by our bug spray - ouch!
After a brilliant nights sleep we were up at the crack of dawn (literally) as we wanted to go for a hike up nearby Mt Roberts. The DOC weather forecast was not looking too promising (typical after it had been so beautiful the previous day) but it looked like our best shot at some views was by being up early and back down before the rain hit in the afternoon. As we trudged up the very steep first part of the hike we were in and out of a layer of cloud, but still managed to get some great views down on the lake and could make out the surrounding mountains.
We continued to climb steeply up, but were surprised when after only a hour we had reached the summit of our planned walk, with our route turning back down around the mountain. Not satisfied, we took an off-shoot onto the Robert's Ridge track and continued to climb, eventually coming out of the cloud and being rewarded for our hard work by some incredible and breathtaking scenery with peaks erupting out of clouds all around us.
Back on solid ground about 4 hours later it was back to the hostel for lunch and much needed showers, just as the heavens opened - perfect timing! After our efforts in the morning and due to the now appalling weather - we couldn't even see the mountain we had just climbed anymore!
We spent the rest of the afternoon snuggling up in the warmth of the hostel, reading, snoozing and getting some important things done like booking more hostels, oh and writing this for you good people!