The Southern Journey Let's explore New Zealand. Be the change you want to see in the world - Gandhi
Photos by Welcome Home.

“What if we took the long way home?”— welcome home

Wellington, North Island, CapitalTime to hit the road again

It's never easy to leave. Saying goodbye to new friends, new family and not knowing when you will see them again.

When I first arrived in Wellington, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew such a little bit about New Zealand that I wasn't expecting anything. I guess I was expecting to see the most amazing landscapes I could ever see because of the image we have from Lord Of the Rings but I had no idea what life was there. I couldn't even remember that Rugby was big here.

At first, I had a hard time adjusting because it took us almost a month to find a place to live in and I didn't have a job, I didn't know the city, I didn't know anyone.

Wellington's Waterfront

Alexis found a job before we even got there. He had already some contacts via LinkedIn of companies interested by getting him onboard. But me, I was opened to any possibilities.

I wanted to try something new that could help my future self and not do web work for a while. I love coffee, I want to open something related to coffee someday and Wellington is known to be the Capital of Coffee. Apparently that is the place where you can find really good coffee in New Zealand (They also claimed to have invented the Flat White but I will leave them to fight with Australia & Canada for that!). So I told myself why not?

It was quite hard to find a barista job at that time of year because winter was coming and all the jobs were already taken. I was lucky when I found it. Poquito took a chance on me because the owner was leaving on a holiday and they needed someone as soon as possible.

South Island from the top of a hill next to Wellington

I made my first friends there and I started to feel more home. Though, the job was though. Waking up at 5AM to go to work, coming home at 3PM and trying to sleep early so I could woke up not too tired. I was not living at the same path at anyone else at home, not at the same one as Alexis either. It was hard. Even if working there was a really nice experience, I tried to find something else. I wanted to get back to what I knew: Programming.

The Windmills Farm above Wellington

I didn't know what I wanted to do in particular but I wanted to try here. I applied to several companies but only one really cautch my attention: Heyday Digital. When I applied, they told me they didn't have any job oppenings but they still wanted to see me. And when I went there for an interview, it felt right. I didn't know it then, but everything about it felt right. Dogs allowed in the office, music allowed in the open space (only good when Lucas runs it!), interesting projects to work on and above all: amazing people.

heyday digital

It was the best job I could ever get and what I ever wanted. I won't be able to thank them for hiring me and taking a chance on me. I guess that is something I love about Heyday, they take chances on people. It is something very uncommon in France.

Leaving was not an easy decision and I know I will regret it and miss the job, miss the amazing people I met there, every day with all my heart. Sometimes life pulls you in weird directions and maybe it is a sign, maybe it is a mistake. You won't be able to know unless you try.

You will never be completely at home again because a part of you heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness knowing and loving people in more than one place — Miriam Adeney

I discovered a few things during my year in Wellington, here are some facts:

  • You can see people walk bare foot and it's totally normal because streets are clean
  • Criquet is actually huge in New Zealand even if we had no idea it existed before
  • Wellington can get orcas in the waterfront in the actual middle of the city
  • There is also tons of raies around the harbour
  • The water is turquoise & green and incredibly transparent
  • Water in Wellington's waterfront
  • New Zealanders are the nicest people I have ever met
  • Wellington is known to be a windy city and it is the case. Wind becomes part of your normality when you live in Wellington and you don't even notice it is there at some point.
  • Wellington from the Windturbine
  • There is a fountain on the main street (Cuba Street) that is still a mistery to me because it puts more water around the fountain than in it
  • The mysterious fountain (Did you know Elijah Wood peed in it?)
  • You can pick up olives in the streets
  • There is an outdoor fountain that gets really good water quality
  • Peyton's water
  • Wellington is located on a sesmic fault and it can shake pretty bad
  • Don't buy a bike in Wellington, WAY TO MANY hills
  • My bike
  • Buy a mountain bike in Wellington, there are so many tracks around, people go after work for a ride
  • ...
I am sure I missed a few things but I will add them later on if I can remember them.

Now we are leaving tomorrow for the longest trip I ever made. Three months around New Zealand, one in Australia (if you have any spider repellent tips for me...), three weeks in Japan and then back to France. I am not specially looking forward going back but I guess I will have to at some point. I don't know what the future will look like, maybe I will end up right back here, maybe I will end up somewhere else. All I know is that I can't wait to visit the South Island everyone is talking about since we are here.

Let's go! #welcomehome

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

... Next chapter when we'll get wifi.

From Wellington to NelsonCrossing to the other side

Time's up, we're crossing.

KM: 186

Places we tried in Nelson: Kuch Coffee, Sweet As, Yello Café

The last day in Wellington was really speed. We had to pack everything that was in our room in order to make everything fit into the car. Damn, it’s crazy how much stuff you can accumulate in a year and it is crazy how small a trunk can be.

I thought I had gotten better at that with time: not buying too much stuff. But it appears that it is not the case at all. I guess I don’t really want to have to move all the time, because it is annoying for example when you want to cook and you don’t have your usual tools or when you want to read a book but it is back home. What to do then? Well… I buy them here too anyways, maybe with the hope I could stay a while.

Sunrise in the Sounds

Anyhow, time against us, we managed to fit way too much inside the car, leaving too much space for the three of us (yes tomorrow we will be three! One of my friends is joining us for almost two weeks). We finished packing at 11PM and our boat was at 2:30AM. No it wasn’t tight! We had to leave a lot of stuff behind as well.

After putting Lucie (Alexis’s sister) back to her new accommodation, we headed toward the ferry departure. People kept telling us that gas was more expensive in the South Island so we decided to fill up the tank. Well, don’t listen to everyone tells you. The first gas station when we went out of the ferry was way cheaper than the one in Wellington. All the other ones we saw in Nelson were the same price. We’ll see if it gets worse lower in the Island.

Sunrise in the Sounds

We slept like an hour on the parking waiting for the boat to arrive. I don’t know how but we woke up exactly when people started moving to get inside.

Tips to take the boat:

  • Book way in advance if you plan on travelling between December and January. We booked in November, hoping to leave soon after Christmas but the first ferry not full we could find was the one we took on the 28th at 2:30AM
  • Take a pull over with you on the boat. It is chilling inside for an unknown reason
  • You can sleep on the floor if it is at night and the boat is packed. Because the seats are not that great to sleep in if you have just your seat
  • Please don’t sleep laying on multiple seats if the boat is full. It happened in the boat and it is not nice for people who can’t seat (the boat was totally full did I say that enough?)

I didn’t get much sleep that night. The seat was not confortable (for sleeping), there was no space for the feet because there was someone in all the seats, it was freezing… Though it was totally worth it. When I saw the sky lighten around 5AM, I jumped out of the seat to get outside. Don’t be confused, it was really cold outside on the deck. The sunrise though was just unbelievable. We saw the shapes of the islands around us rise, the sky turned yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue… We had a really nice sunset the night before in Welly but it was nothing compared to this.

Sunset on Tuesday 27th in Wellington
Sunrise in the Sounds

It made me think about Vancouver’s Island when we took the boat to get there. The same atmosphere, going between the islands. It also made me think about Free Willy for some reasons… Maybe I want too desperately to see orcas?

When we got out of the boat, we were so tired that we just hit the road for a few minutes before finding a place where we could rest just a little bit. The view was so nice, I had trouble sleeping again. I love how the Sounds looks, specially with the colors of the sunrise.

We stopped then in a few places before reaching Nelson. The is one really nice place next to a river called the Pelorus Bridge. The water is so green an clear, you can see at the bottom of it. You can jump from the rocks into it in a lot of different places. The water was a bit cold but nothing you couldn’t handle.

The other one I really really liked is called the Cable Bay. You walk between two different seas. The water is once again just perfect for swimming or kayaking and I am sure for diving too. It is not too cold either.

They have reversed bumps on the road!

We arrived after that to Nelson (finally) and I was really surprise how nice the city was. Very bright, a lot of people in the streets, nice houses. We tried to check what there was to do in Nelson but everything ended up with the same answers: Art Galleries and Vineyards. I guess I was expecting something else but we just wandered in the streets before going to find a campground somewhere.

My only advice to anyone: download CamperMate. It’s a really good app with all the details you will ever need about camping in New Zealand. We ended up next to Abel Tasman in one of the cheapest campground which doesn’t mean crapy. Clean toilets and really nice beach two feet away.

What else would you need to end the day?

Sunset over Nelson

It feels strange to be on the other side of the water, the side we used to look at from Wellington, from Red Rocks or Makara Peak. Looking at the ocean from here leaves me interrogations on what we can see from this side.

The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have. – Anna Quindlen

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

... To be continued at the next wifi spot.

Let's the real adventure beginWhat’s the Southern point we can get to in ten days?

Finding Louis

KM: 231

$: 37 per person (pp)

Camping: ***** Berlin’s Café & Bar & Accommodation

When we woke up on day 2 in the Nelson Campground, we didn’t expect to meet a friend of ours. I am starting to think New Zealand is a small world! Well, if you want to travel cheap, I guess it is a small world because you will always end up in the same cheap campgrounds. There are not so many around. I am quite surprise how hard it is to find one. You have to be there early if you want a spot.

Camping next to Abel Tasman

That was one great thing about Norway: Free camp is allowed at 150m from someone’s place. Meaning you can camp almost anywhere and you are not stuck trying to find a camp when night is coming. The only small trouble with Norway is that there is a lot of mountains and it is quite hard to find a spot for the tent.

Anyways.

Kuch Coffee

We didn’t do much in that morning because we were waiting for my friend to arrive from Paris. We chilled in a coffee place called Kuch Coffee which is organic and fairtrade but with normal prices ($4.5 for a soy flat white). They have free wifi for customers there but only up to 50MB. We then had lunch in another coffee place called Yello Café which was really good food (and I found it quite original food too) but really slow also to get our plates. Maybe it was just really busy. (Indication of price: $18 for two people)

Yello Café

We picked up my friend at the airport right after lunch. Well… Nelson’s airport is from far the smallest airport I have ever seen. Departures are in the same place as Arrivals and to get your luggage you have to go outside and pick it up almost out of the plane. How fun!

Luggage reception at Nelson Airport

And this is where the adventure begins.

We headed South straight away. No time for jet lag! We wanted to get the closest we could to the Pancakes Rocks in Punakaki before the night.

On the road

We did one stop on the way to the “longest suspension bridge in New Zealand”. It is 110m long. It was $10 per person (pp) the entry with access to a walk to the fault that was created by a big earthquake that happened there in 1929. It was a nice stop on the road, I won’t say it is a must do but if you have time it is accessible for everyone. We are still not sure where the fault was exactly though.

We headed back on the road and stopped at the nicest camping I have done so far: Berlin’s Café & Bar & Accommodation.

On the road

It was $12pp a night but totally worth them. The owners are really nice. The camping is very big so lots of places to put tents, they also have a place for RVs and campers. The best was that they have also a backpacker hostel and a restaurant so we could use their showers (very clean and hot water) and cook on their barbecue and eat inside, away from those evil sandflies! Wifi was $3 but really good (I posted my previous update from there). Apparently they have a glow worm forest in the back yard but we didn’t go - too tired of the drive.

On the road

And let me tell you about the night sky. Oh my… We were in the middle of nowhere with ZERO light pollution except the one from the tents. We could see everything. The milky way, nebulas and so on. On that last look at the sky we slept.

Night Sky
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars – Norman Vincent Peale

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

... To be continued at the next wifi spot.

Pancakes Rocks & Arthur’s PassDon’t be fooled by the Kea

KM: 319

$: 18 per person (pp)

Places we tried: Ali’s Dinner (Greymouth)

Camping: **** Lake Brunner (Moana)

The Pancakes Rocks

We woke up quite early that day in order to get to the Pancakes Rocks early. Though, it is really hard to pack the car because we have to take down the bed in the morning and put all the boxes back in their place. It was the first time we did it so we didn’t have the hand and it took us almost an hour to get ready.

The Pancakes Rocks

We arrived in Punakaiki, thinking we would see something very natural and untouched like the day before but it was a big mistake. The Pancakes rocks are SO touristic. The entrance is like an entrance to an amusement park. On the ground it is all concrete. And there are tons of people.

It is really nice to see the blowholes though with the water going inside the arc where you are walking in and the view of the coast is really beautiful but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

The Pancakes Rocks

A friendly advice too: don’t eat the pancakes at the café, apparently they are expensive and not really good (a friend of ours tried them).

We stopped in Greymouth in order to get to the DoC to grab some information about Arthur’s Pass but they didn’t have much more than what we already had.

Crossing tons of rails in Greymouth
Even driving on the rails!

I had heard so much about Arthur’s Pass that I was ready to see the most amazing road I could see. And it was amazing. Winding through the mountains with this mysterious look and feeling that you are in a movie was great.

What I really loved about Arthur’s Pass was that there was a lot of different length of walks. We only had the afternoon so we did some short ones but they were so nice.

Going under a waterfall with the car
Be careful with the Kea and don't feed it! It likes playing with cars and you might end up with a hole in the tire...

The first one we did was called Otira Valley and is a quite easy hike following the river from the Glacier. It takes one hour return to get to the Glacier.

Otira Valley

You will have to cross small rivers but nothing too big. There is a path that goes after the view point but you will have to be equipped to do it.

The other stop we did was to get to the highest waterfall on the west coast: 130m. It is huge!

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall

You can’t even see us in the picture because we are so small compared to it. You can go further after the observation point and reach the bottom of the fall. We saw two people swimming there (I don’t know if it was a good idea…). From there you have a really nice view with a rainbow under the fall.

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall

You should be careful around Arthur’s Pass though. We saw on the DoC website that a few cars were wrecked into on the parkings. Lock your car and take your most important belongings with you!

Arthur's Pass

On our way back from Arthur’s Pass, we were heading to the “ free” campground the DoC told us about, the left wheel of the car started to smoke… We had to stop on the side road for a few minutes so it cools down. Nooo our front left break has troubles :( Of course I started panicking thinking about what if the cars goes on fire and so on. To be fair, the slope we were on was really steep so the break had all the time in the world to heat up. Anyhow, we need to fix it. Too bad, we were on the 30th of December, on a Friday at 6 or 7PM. It was a safe bet to say nothing will be open on the next day…

Arthur's Pass

We made it to Lake Brunner where the free camp was supposed to be but we never found it. There was a campground but not free at all. It was our only option for the night because it was already quite late. We had a nice view over the lake and a beautiful sunset.

Lake Brunner

The camping was $15 per person and the showers were not free ($1 for 6 minutes). There is a kitchen and a lounge with a TV. The grass is good for the tent. I guess this camping is mostly for regulars because the tents were quite big and everyone seemed to know everyone.

Lake Brunner

We cooked to the really nice sunset with not too many mosquitoes and 0 sandfly (which is a BIG plus for the camping). We could see the inhabitants of Moana take their boats, jet skis and even a terrasse (YES a terrasse with a barbecue on it!) out on the lake for a sunset drink or dinner. They take them out just for an hour or two.

The Terrasse boat!

Already three days had gone by but it seemed way longer.

Not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

... To be continued.

The Hokitika Gorges & Franz Joseph GlacierRainy new year’s eve, happy year right?

KM: 305

$: 63 per person (pp)

Places we tried: Colombus Coffee (Greymouth)

Camping: / Backpackers: ***** Chateau Franz

Oh boy. If someone would have told me the weather would turn so bad for New Year’s Eve, I wouldn’t have believed it. Well, it could have been worse with thunder and tornados but the one we had was quite bad. It was raining cats and dogs! Literally (or almost because it would be scary if cats and dogs were going down the sky).

On the road

The day started weirdly. As we had a trouble with the car break the day before, we tried to go downtown in order to find a mechanic open on a Saturday, the 31st of December. Greymouth has tons of mechanics… None were opened. And it wasn’t going to get better with the 1st of Jan around the corner. We decided to carry on with using the less breaks as possible (using the engine break instead).

We stopped for some New Year’s grocery shopping and ended up meeting a really nice Kiwi guy who had been to France a few times and spoke a really good french. I think it is the first New Zealander I hear speaking french like that. Very impressive!

We hit the road towards Franz Glacier where we wanted to sleep for the night. There was one stop I really wanted to make… Have you already seen the pictures of a New Zealand river that is Powerade blue? Well, that was on our way! The Hokitika Gorge.

Hokitika Gorges

Going there requires a detour of half an hour one way and the same to get back on the main road but it is worth it.

What a treat. I had never seen anything like that before. That blue was so pure, it was incredible. I still can’t believe it. I have no idea what sediments were in the river to turn it that color but I will investigate.

Hokitika Gorges
Hokitika Gorges

I think this is my big “coup de coeur” of New Zealand for now. There was quite a few people which made taking a picture with no one tricky but that was still less than at the Pancakes Rocks.

Hokitika Gorges
Hokitika Gorges

After that blast, we drove down to the Glacier. The sky was getting dark, rain was starting. When we arrived in town, the rain was quite heavy and the Information center told us that if we went to the Glacier now, we would only see clouds. Damn.

Cloudy all around

For a New Year’s Eve, cooking in a heavy rain, setting up the tent, setting up the car would have been hell. I couldn’t see it, even if it was not New Year’s Eve to say everything. We decided to get three beds in the last free backpacker hostel in town. The cheapest ones.

I guess we found a good one because it was clean, they had free soup at night, free breakfast in the morning, laundry room, even a spa pool, big kitchen and living area.

Chateau Franz Backpacker

We didn’t stay yet though… We decided to also treat ourselves by trying the hot pools of Franz Glacier. It is quite pricey but we were so tired of the rain and we didn’t want to do nothing in the afternoon that we just did it.

Best Idea Ever. They have three pools of different temperature and you can relax all you want. It was raining outside but it made it even better. Fog was coming out of the covered pools giving a mystic look to it all. We could also see the mountains. So nice.

To say the truth, I think I love this New Year’s Eve more than any other one because we will remember it and it was not usual. We didn’t party but I don’t care, we did something we would remember and that’s what’s counts. It was amazing!

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves — Bill Vaughan

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

See you next year!

Franz Joseph (Glacier & Glow worms cave)Welcoming 2017

KM: 305

$: 24 per person (pp)

Places we tried: The Landing (FJ Glacier)

Camping: * Gillespie Beach

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful evening.

Waterfalls on the way to Franz Joseph Glacier

Usually when I woke up on January the 1st, I don’t have much to do except cleaning up the house. It was a strange feeling this year because it didn’t felt like a January the 1st. We started the day quite early in order to get to the Glacier not too late and avoid the crowd (and the clouds that usually comes down during the afternoon).

The clouds were already quite low in the sky

The hike to the glacier is easy and short, only one hour and a half return, going up a bit at the end but that is it.

Waterfalls during the hike
Other waterfalls during the hike

Looking at the Glacier you can easily notice that it has melted quite a lot. From what was visible ten years ago, you can only see a small piece of it now. They are saying that the Glacier is in a recession phase since a few years now. Maybe the fact that we were in summer didn’t help either but still. And they say climate change is not real, right?

The Glacier

The side walk you can take is short and it is not exceptional so if you are in a rush you are not missing much by not going. The only good thing about it is the legend of how Franz Joseph Glacier was made. A girl that loved climbing made her partner come with her everywhere even if he was not as confident as her. One day, they came here to Franz Joseph and her partner fell and did not make it. The Glacier would have been made of all the tears she cried.

Franz Joseph Glacier used to be more visited than Fox Glacier because it was bigger at the time. Now it is not the case at all. Places were exchange and Franz Joseph Glacier is melting. There are still guided tours there and expeditions but way less than in Fox where you can see helicopters every minutes coming and going.

The Glacier

One secret thing to do in Franz Joseph Glacier area is to go see the Glow worms. It is not so secret because they can tell you where to find the cave at the Information office but I guess no one really ask about it because there are no tours and it is free (yes you heard me! Free!), and by so there are not many people visiting it.

The hike starts not too far from the Information center, in a small parking lot that doesn’t look like a parking lot and where you can see a DoC sign indicating a tunnel: Tatare Tunnel

The walk is going up and down in a rainforest but it is not too long (shorter than the Glacier, I think it was 1 hour return). You can’t get lost or miss it because the tracks stops at the entrance of the Tunnel.

The tunnel is an old gold mine that is not active anymore (but maybe you can still find some if you look veeeeery carefully, who knows!). There are no rails inside but water. I would advise you to take you shoes off (maybe have jendals or water boots) and think about bringing a towel with you that you leave at the entrance with the shoes (and bring a head torch fully charged!). If you are in shorts it is better too.

In facts, in the tunnel there is a small water flow running. It goes up to your ankles but with the shoes, the water might go over and trust me, wet feet to hike back is not what you want (even worse: drying your hiking boots…).

When we entered the cave, we didn’t know how far we needed to go. We started walking but after a few minutes we couldn’t see the entrance anymore and the water started to go quite high up our shoes. We stopped there, thinking this glowworm cave was a scam of some sort.

A girl that was there and me headed back because we were only lighten with the phone flashlight but Alexis and Louis went on to check a bit further with the only torch light we had.

A few minutes after I went out, some people got out of the cave telling me they found the glow worms and that I just had to go like 5 to 10 minutes into the cave to find them. They showed me the pictures!

Reassured that the worms actually existed, I decided to go running after the guys. Of course I only had the phone light again so I can’t tell you how hard it was to run, taking care of the water on my feet, taking care to not put water on the camera (water was falling from the ceiling a bit) and not making the phone fell.

I went a bit further than the first time. Though, I tried to call Alexis and Louis to see if they were still there but I had no answer, I couldn’t see the entrance anymore and I couldn’t see any other light ahead. The tunnel started to get narrower too around.

Guess what?! I started panicking and feeling a lot claustrophobic. What a terrible feeling. I decided that having a panic attack in the middle of a dark cave was not a great idea so I rushed out, running back. That’s where I got a lot of water into my hiking shoes.

Maybe it was stupid of me but going alone with only a phone light in my hands seemed even stupider. Especially when we didn’t know anything about how the tunnel was built, what if there was an earthquake?

I didn’t see the glow worms this time, the guys did, but I will see them next time (if the cave is bigger!).

    In a nutshell, if you want to see the free glow worms cave in Franz Joseph, remember to:
  • Bring a flashlight (headlight is better)
  • Bring a towel
  • Take off your shoes / Put on water boots or hiking jendals
  • Put the bottom of you pants up or go with shorts
  • Don’t be claustrophobic

After this terrific failure from my part, we went for a lunch in town before getting back on the road. HUM. Never ever eat in Franz Joseph on January the 1st.

Burger and Nuggets at The Landing

There was only one restaurant open (it was called The Landing) and they charge 20% more because it is a special day. Though the food was really good and they don’t go easy on your plate. The burger we had was huge!

We headed to a campground not too expensive ($8pp) next to Fox Glacier that we wanted to visit the next day. The campground is next to a beach but you have to drive through a 12km gravel road to reach it. It is not a mean gravel road, anyone can go.

The beach

If you like sandflies, I guess it would be a very good campground for you…

Ahah Maybe they'll see this picture. Yes your rock is still there and readable!

Seriously, WHAT A HELL! I can’t believe how many they were. People say French people always complain.. Well after the sandflies, it is definitely true and I dare any one to not complain about them! New Zealand has beautiful landscapes but a lot of them (at least in the South) are ruined by the sandflies. That’s terrible!

For those who never heard about them, sandflies are like small (very small) flies that bites you like mosquitoes and you can keep the scratching for a few days and the traces of the buttons can stay for a few weeks (not joking…!).

Adding to that the rain that starting during the evening, it was a great night!

Home made rain and Sandfly protector for the window
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind — Bernard M. Baruch

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_ ; Snapchat @bemoy

Let's hope we get more good wifi somewhere!

Fox Glacier to WanakaLeaving the sandflies behind

KM: 375

$: 47 per person (pp)

Camping: **** AlbertownCampground, Base Backpacker (Shower)

Fox Glacier is well known for it’s drop off and guided tour on the ice. It used to be less visited than Franz Joseph but the climate change made Fox Glacier resist more than its neighbor.

Fox Glacier

The two glaciers are one of a kind if you listen to all the tourism publicity you can see. I don’t know if you can see many glacier by just walking. I had never done that before. Usually it’s when I am skying or hiking for a while somewhere. I think that is what makes those two so special.

Fox Glacier

The weather was still not quite nice but it rained less than the day before. The only thing we were hoping for was no fog so we could actually see the ice. I was expecting Fox to be way more accessible than Franz Joseph but it was not. It was nice to see though but I think it would have been more impressive to go on it. Maybe the ice melting of the beginning of summer made it look smaller at the time we visited.

Fox Glacier

When you looked over the valley from the top of the road next to the Glacier, it has a serious look of Lord of the Rings. Those mountains on the side of the river, I could totally see the landscapes of the movies. I am not sure though that they actually shot anything there but it definetely had a feel.

LOTR secnery

We hit the road again but our tour of the West coast was going to an end. It was time for us to cross over to the East and leave those hateful sandflies behind.

We crossed at a city called Haast and took the Haast Pass. They will tell you to stop everywhere just because it is the last road you can take to cross over and they are trying to take advantage of the tourists but there is only a few stops that are nice and anyways we didn’t had that much time to stop. Maybe it is worth some more time? (If you have done it I would love to know what we missed!) We only did one stop actually. It’s a spot you can’t miss because of the number of cars there. You can see a blue/green river going quite fast right next to the road. It is nice to stop and watch.

On Haast Pass

Otherwise, the road is quite cool to drive through (less than Arthur’s Pass though if you have the choice of where to cross!).

On Haast Pass

We made it to Wanaka by the middle of the day and ended up right in a traffic jam! Back to civilisation I guess… Nah! We just arrived at the same time as a Rodeo was ending (Apparently on the 2nd of January there is a Rodeo in Wanaka, I don’t know if it is every year).

There is a cool campground not too expensive a few minutes away from the city, it is called Albertown Campground, and it is $10 per person. There are no showers but you can take a hot shower for unlimited time for $5 at the Base Backpacker downtown. They allow the access to their facilities for people who are not sleeping there (Great thing to know!). You can also use their laundromat (but it was out of order just when we were there…!).

I was really looking forward to go to Wanaka for two main things: Roy’s Peak and the very famous (not famous amongst New Zealanders though) Wanaka Tree.

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person. ― Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_

Write to you soon!

WanakaTHAT Wanaka Tree & Roy’s Peak

$: 50 per person (pp) for 2 days

Camping: **** AlbertownCampground, Base Backpacker (Shower)

Ah dear Wanaka. I was waiting to get to you in a while. Two of the most taken pictures for every New Zealand travelers: The Wanaka Tree and Roy’s Peak. Alright it was gonna be touristic but I wanted my pictures too.

Wanaka Lake

I made a lot of different scenarios in my mind for the Wanaka Tree. One where it was pouring and we couldn’t get to the tree, or one where the tree was way too far for getting a close picture or that we had to walk for hours to reach the point of the lake where it was or even that the tree had fallen because of the bad weather of the past days.

Well Wanaka was very different from what I expected and I still don’t know if I liked it or not. There is so much people everywhere there. Maybe it’s the time we stayed in the middle of nowhere for the past week that got me used to not so many people. It really looks like an Alpine Resort of the French Alps.

The lake is beautiful though. Surrounded by the mountains. It almost looks like a fjord. We had rain the first day we got there but it still was beautiful.

I was really surprised to get so easily to the Wanaka Tree. You don’t have to go very far from the center of the town, maybe that’s what’s making it so popular. You just have to go along the beach for like ten minutes and you can reach it. There is even a parking lot right next to it.

Wanaka Tree

The funniest thing about the tree was to see all the photographers around it, all trying to take the exact same picture they have seen in the travel books or online. Too bad the weather was shitty that day.

Wanaka Tree

Another funny fact about the Wanaka Tree is that not that many New Zealander know about it!

I still stayed quite a while with my camera, taking long exposure and watching the scenario playing around me.

Wanaka Tree
Wanaka Tree

Alright the tree is beautiful in the water but a few meters away there is a botanic garden with some pretty huge and nice trees that would require as much attention as that one. I guess everything popular is played on one picture of someone very talented.

There is tons to do around Wanaka. It’s a good spot for climbing for example Diamond lake (which is also a hike). There is also some mountain biking and different hikes.

The most famous hike is Roy’s Peak. Ahhh Roy’s Peak. I dreamt about it but I never thought it would be that hard to go up. We decided to do it at night and sleep on top so we could get up for sunrise.

Damn it was so worth the effort of going up and sleeping in the cold. It was amazing. One of the most beautiful view I have seen here so far.

If you want to know more about our hike to Roy’s Peak and many more pictures, please click on this link.

Legs broken we got back to the car for a good breakfast well deserved before hitting the road again!

Day 8 was not over yet.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves — Edmund Hillary

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_

xoxo Do.

Mount Cook's regionLake Puekaki & Lake Tekapo

Camping: ** Lake Tekapo Campground

After we left Wanaka, we headed to Mount Cook. The famous mountain of New Zealand that we waited for a long time to see. There was a few things we wanted to do around it, amongst it the Lake Tekapo that is well known for it’s dark sky.

It has been named one of the Dark Sky reserve in New Zealand (and the world if I am not mistaken). It is one of the places where light pollution is not an issue yet and where you can see Hundreds of Thousands of start… And the Milkyway like you have never seen it.

The milkyway in Lake Tekapo

Some of you might know the love I have for stars. I used to have a telescope at home with my dad and we used to look at the stars through it. I learned a few of them but remembers only one or two unfortunately. Though, the South Hemisphere doesn’t have the same stars. It doesn’t have the same constellations and not even the same moon. The planet seems to turn on the other side here. Everything was to learn again. And I did, we did.

The way from Wanaka to Mount Cook

On the road to Mount Cook Region

The most amazing thing going from Wanaka to Mount Cook Region is when you arrive around the Lake Puekaki. Suddenly, you see a board saying they have some fresh Salmon you can try, and the next thing you know, you are driving along the most beautiful lake color I have ever seen.

Lake Puekaki

I thought we had seen already plenty of beautiful colors with the Hokitika Gorges, the rivers around Wanaka, I have been to Lake Louise once (in Canada), but the Puekaki Lake has nothing to do with what I had previously seen. The unreal blue / turquoise of the water was stunning and magnetic. I couldn’t help myself from looking at it. It looked like the whole landscape was Photoshopped. And you might think the pictures are too but they are not, the color is real, it WAS that color in front of us.

Lake Puekaki & Alexis
Lake Puekaki & Louis
Lake Puekaki & Me

We couldn’t see the Mount Cook on that day but the day after, when we went there, the sky was clear and we had the most beautiful view over the majestic emblematic mountain.

Chillin' in Lake Puekaki
Chillin' in Lake Puekaki

Lake Tekapo

After leaving the Puekaki Lake, we drove to the next one that is a few minutes away: the Tekapo Lake. I was kind of disappointed by its color at first because it was not as bright as Puekaki was. We set up the tent in a big campground there because it was the only one with a shower and spent the night next to the water.

Lake Tekapo

That is when I fell in love with Lake Tekapo. We had one of the most incredible sunset ever. The mountains turned red, the water turned red and the whole sky was on fire too. It was stunning.

Lake Tekapo, beginning of Sun Set
Stunning sunset at Lake Tekapo

I wanted to take pictures of the night sky in Tekapo so we stayed awake during the night and around midnight I started taking pictures. There were a few things that annoyed me though. First of all, the lights were on in the city so there was some light pollution after all. Second of all, the “spot” to take a picture at night in Tekapo is a church but there is lights and tons of people wanting to get the same shot. What was the point of going there? The sky is the same all around.

Lake Tekapo and its Milkyway

The sky was clear but not as much as the first night we spent in a campground in the middle of nowhere (Berlin’s campground). I guess I was disappointed again because I was expecting this crazy sky full of stars and it was full of stars but not crazy. (By the way, the most amazing sky I have ever seen in New Zealand - or elsewhere - was during the Routeburn Track in the Mackenzie Lake).

The famous Tekapo Church
Lake Tekapo next morning
Lake Tekapo next morning
Lake Tekapo next morning

The next morning we woke up in order to go to Mount Cook and do some hikes / walks there. But before, the lake had turned turquoise compared to the day before. We played in the famous lupins, enjoying the sunny that was coming ahead.

Mount Cook's reflection
Mount Cook & Lake Puekaki
If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a lot differently. — Bill Watterson

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_

xoxo Do.

Maybe one of the most epic drive of my life.Aoraki / Mount Cook

KM: 248

We had heard about Aoraki / Mount Cook since we arrived in New Zealand. It was a bit as if we were in France and everyone talked about Mont Blanc. The highest mountain in Europe. Well, here it is the highest mountain in New Zealand, well known because of its two peaks - which are actually three.

Mount Cook behind the lake

Back in Wellington, for a while, I thought we could see it from the south shore because in winter, we could see some snow on top of the mountains. Just a side note but if you have the chance to go on the south coast of Wellington, it is the most beautiful view when there is the sea and the white mountains behind. I could have stayed forever there, watching them.

Mountains from the south of the North Island

Another tips for sunset lovers: the sun sets the right way if you are on this side.

Sunset over the South Island

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get close to Aoraki / Mount Cook and see it from the base.

We woke up that day after sleeping at Lake Tekapo and took the road back to Lake Puekaki where you can start the drive towards Aoraki / Mount Cook. You cannot get lost, there is only one road going there.

Mount Cook behind the lake & Loulou Rockin'

We were struck again by the beauty of the lake and this time, we could actually see the mountains behind thanks to the beautiful weather.

Mount Cook behind the lake

There is something indescribable about that place. You can see how many pictures you want, you can describe it the best you can but there is nothing like being there, driving along the turquoise water surrounded by the peaks.

The drive to Mount Cook

One piece of advice would be to get some gas before driving even to Lake Puekaki because the only gas station in Mount Cook is quite expensive (and there is only one). Same goes for the food.

The drive to Mount Cook

Mount Cook village is very small. There is only a few utilities and shops. The hostels (well, there is only one I think) are public because it is a National Park and private hostels like the Hilton or Sheraton or else can’t put hostels there. It keeps the area from being too much of a touristic station (and it is already very touristy).

Aoraki / Mount Cook & the Lupins

That is also why we didn’t sleep there and why we slept at Lake Tekapo where there is campgrounds and hostels.

There are a few short walks around Mount Cook, one of them is very well known as it brings you to the Tasman Glacier.

Tasman Glacier

The lake used to be ice and snow. I guess climate change is most visible at untouched places like this.

Tasman Glacier

There are longer walks too, even multi days walks that you can do in summer and winter. Though you should be aware that in winter it can be dangerous and you should get the equipment needed to go there. Maybe get a guide too if you are not used to hiking in the snow. Two of my very good friends in New Zealand went on there own up there but they bought all the equipment. If you want more informations, maybe they can help you out! Here’s the link to one of their Instagram account.

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Another famous thing to do in Mount Cook is getting an helicopter ride. We didn’t do it but each time I look at pictures online I wish we did.

Aoraki / Mount Cook & the Lupins

Well I guess now you know more about my favorite place in New Zealand. Really, for me it is the thing not to miss, even if it takes a 4h detour to reach it.

Aoraki / Mount Cook's Valley view

On my next trip to New Zealand I want to do the multi day hike there. Any advice for me if you did it?

Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it. — Edmund Hillary

You can follow our trip on Facebook @welcomehome.travelling ; Instagram @welcomeho.me ; Twitter @bemoy_

xoxo Do.