On 28/Dec, we said goodbye to all the lovely people, jumped in a hire car and headed for Golden Bay which is in the northwest of the south island. We stayed in Annie's Nirvana Lodge in Takaka (also recommended!) for another 4 nights. Takaka is a small hippyish town. We got a couple of days climbing in at Payne's Ford which was just down the road. It was a nice enough spot although I think we've been spoiled these last months in Europe because it didn't compete with the European crags. We spent New Year's Eve kayaking in the Abel Tasman national park which we thoroughly enjoyed before coming back to lots of drunken Kiwis and visited the Nelson Lakes National Park on New Years day (nice enough but probably wouldn't go out of my way again).
After the holiday period, we left sunny Nelson and Golden Bay behind and headed for Greymouth which lived up to its name. It started raining in Greymouth and kept going for 10 days! Its just like an Irish summer. From Greymouth we headed up to the hostel in Arthur's Pass which had some lovely 3 bedroomed cottages. Each evening we had great chats with the other occupants who were all really sound. We also did some hiking up Avalanche Peak in the rain and seriously gusty winds. After Dunk got blown off his feet and the hail started we decided not to bother with the last ridge to the summit. There were some amazing views of glaciers, waterfalls and the valleys that made it worthwhile. We also got to meet the cheeky kea (a big kiwi parrot) who tried to make off with our bag.
After the Greymouth/Arthur's Pass trip, we headed on to the Franz Josef glacier. We booked onto an ice climbing trip but the fates were against us. The evening before the trip, the heavens opened and it poured rain for 24 hours. All glacier trips were cancelled due to flooding and adverse weather and with them unlikely to go ahead the next day we had to concede defeat and head to Queenstown. We did catch up with Ingrid, our Dutch friend from Nelson, though and once the rain had eased in the afternoon took a walk up to get some views of the glacier. A few days later we bumped into a couple we had met in Franz and who had waited 3 days to get up on the glacier so I think we made the right decision. I'm sure it wasn't as nice as the Alps anyway!
We arrived into Queenstown on 8/Jan, still plagued by the rain. We had 4 nights booked and the original plan was to spend a couple of days climbing and potter around for the other day. We were thwarted by the pesky rain yet again although we did manage to go mountain biking in Skipper's canyon which was really good fun but extremely muddy. The clothes had to go in the shower before they could go in the washing machine when we got back! We spent another day hiking up Ben Lomond with Ingrid which allegedly has "amazing panoramic 360 degree" views. We could see 360 degrees of clouds! but it was nice to get out. On the way back down we made a pitstop to play on the luge which was good craic. The other must do in Queenstown was the "Fergburger", basically its a restuarant doing gourmet style burgers. Dunk went with the traditional fergburger while I opted for the cockadoodle oink and Ingrid ate little bambi (she'd eat anything, that one!). I have to say I was disappointed. Give me a Macaris from Inchicore any day. Queenstown itself though is beautifully situated even in the rain. Its on a lake with snow capped peaks in the distance. The lake has a bizarre rhythm. The level of the lake rises and falls by about 20 cm every 6 to 7 minutes. We never managed to find out why but its quite odd.
We said goodbye to Queenstown and Ingrid this morning and jumped on the magic bus for Dunedin and the east coast. Keep your fingers crossed for us the weather improves :)