Contiki New Zealand Grand Explorer – South Island

The south island of New Zealand is absolutely amazing, too!

Again, I’ll try to keep this post as short as possible, but it will be massive nevertheless. My Contiki trip is packed with fun experiences.


The ferry ride lasted a good 3 hours, afterwards we had a 4.5 hours bus ride to our hotel in Christchurch. In the morning we had picked up 5 new people (a few had left us in Wellington) and there are 5 more to be picked up in Christchurch.
We checked in and a little while later I left with a few people to go to an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately we didn’t find it, and everyone was so hungry by that time that we went to the next Thai restaurant we saw. It was a nice and quite cheap dinner. Back at the hotel I uploaded some photos and published the previous article about the north island, then I booked accomodation for the night my Contiki tour ends as well as the train+ferry ticket from Christchurch back to Wellington.


Day 9

We got to sleep in! Well, sort of, at least for contiki standards. Breakfast was at 8 and there we met the remaining 5 new people. The group is now 37 people and will stay like this until the end of the tour, except that a few of them will finish 2 days earlier in Queenstown whereas the rest of us goes to Dunedin and Lake Ohau and finishes back in Christchurch.

We got a small tour around Christchurch and saw the still shockingly apparent devastation the earthquakes had caused 1.5 years earlier. They are still tearing down buildings. Until that is completed they cannot start rebuilding the city. Most of the city’s core is fenced off (called the “red zone”), many buildings are uninhabited or just ruins, debris everywhere. The day before we had watched a DVD about the earthquakes, but only now I could fully grasp the dimensions.
After that horror start we left the city, dancing in the bus to our daysong once more. We set off to cross the mountains which gave us the most beautiful scenery you can imagine. By now I really felt like being in Middleearth. Listening to the soundtrack of “The Return of the King” I got shiver after shiver because of this epicness.
2 hours in we stopped at a beautiful location where the final battle of Narnia had been filmed. Continuing through the mountains the landscape changed drastically. While the west coast was dry brown and golden, the east coast was misty and green and we had some rain and fog. The road was very windy and the views were spectacular. We had a lunch stop at Arthur’s Pass before we went down the most dangerous and exciting part of the road.

I had secured myself the seats just before the rear door because on top of the toilet was a series of powersockets for charing phones, cameras and other equipment. The bus trip was more than 6 hours and it allowed me to use my laptop all the time. Most people on this trip are just on a holiday for 2 weeks so they’re not carrying a laptop with them. I on the other hand have been carrying a laptop with me for the last 5 years or so. I helped people by copying photos from CDs onto memory cards and usb sticks and giving them a chance to watch them. I also converted videos on DVD into mp4s for them.

Later we did some speeddating on the coach to give the new people a chance to integrate more with the existent group. After a few rounds we had to interview each other and prepare answers to a fixed set of questions to introduce ourselves to the group on the microphone. It was hilarious but took so long that we could only do half the people, the rest is due for the next day.

That night we had an included evening at the hot pools and dinner at the Franz Josef Rainforest Retreat. I skipped the party that night because I wanted to catch up on sleep and get some photos uploaded.


Day 10

This morning I had decided to do a hike up the Fox Glacier. About half the group did the same, the rest had decided for a helihike. They flew with a helicopter to a higher part of the glacier and hiked around there, but payed 4 times the price. We got some warm socks, boots and jacket (which I didn’t need) and were driven towards the glacier. We hiked up the first bit, than got croupons under our boots and started hiking up the glacier. Suddenly it was much cooler, but I was okay. There were some interesting ice formations that we walked through. We had some time for photos at the highest point of the hike, then we headed back. The whole hike was about 3 hours long. It was a cool thing to do, but not nearly as adventurous as it may sound. People from the tour company had prepared the whole way by hacking steps into the ice and making the path rough and easier for us to walk on. You didn’t need much fitness to do that. Most other people where freaked and had the time of their lives. I guess being used to skiing in the alps and walking on frozen lakes in winter made me less impressed by this little glacier. I am glad I did not spent that awful lot of money on the helihike, just to do the same a bit further up. My german travel mate Vicky was of the same opinion.

When all the hikers where back we had a rather long drive all the way to Queenstown. To get there we had to drive through the Westland National Park and the Southern Alps which were just beautiful. We stopped at a roadhouse in the countryside where it was as peaceful as it could ever get. The sun came out and the view all around was stunning.

In Queenstown we had an included gourmet pizza dinner at Winnies. The dinner was really good but I didn’t party afterwards, I took the chance to get a cheap taxi ride back to the hotel with other people. Before that we had a short walk around the city though, stopped at Starbucks and a lolly shop that even sold Haribo and Maoam. Gosh was I happy to by some Maoam, haven’t had them for more than a year!


Day 11

Everytime you think it can’t get any better, it does. Here comes Queenstown. This city is located at the side of a huge lake with gorgeous mountains all around. Our hotel was located on a hill and from there we had an awesome view. The sunrise at breakfast was breathtaking!

Unfortunately the weather didn’t last. For the first time on this trip it became really bad: cloudy and rain. I had booked the Dart River Wilderness Safari, which would have taken us out into the beautiful landscapes on a 4wd bus, then a nice hike to the dart river where we would go up and down in a jetboat for 1.5 hours. Kirsty, Vicky and I where at the pickup location on time but warned the tour might not go ahead because the weather was looking really bad. We went on the bus to Glenorchy anyway. Glenorchy is a suburb on the other end of the lake, the drive there took us about 45 minutes. Unfortunately the weather was really shitty when we got there. They explained us the tour would not go and why. We bought a hot drink and a little later we were driven back to Queenstown. We got a full refund and the trip to Glenorchy and back was free, but we were quite disappointed nevertheless. The tour looked so amazing and we would have seen several locations where The Lord of the Rings was filmed. Anyway, we couldn’t help it.
Back at the hotel I used the free time to chillax and do my washing.

I had dinner with some people of the group at our hotel, they had a Contiki special for us, cheap and yummy πŸ™‚
Afterwards we all met at the Boiler Room, a nice bar in town. From there we had a session at the Minus 5 ice bar, which was good fun. It was just like the one in Melbourne, but because we were Contiki they let us take our own cameras in there πŸ™‚ I got some awesome shots, unfortunately most people had either cheap cameras or didn’t know how to use them. They had no idea what a slow synchronised flash does. I showed 1 or 2 people, the others had cameras who couldn’t do it. Unbelievable! These people spend a crazy lot of money for this tour and they use crappy cameras and/or have no idea how to make good photos with them. No surprise most people told me that I’m good with photos. Well, I had almost a year in Australia to practice πŸ˜‰

Knowing what was coming for me the next day I didn’t stay out after the icebar but shared another taxi with people from my group.


Day 12

This morning I had to get up earlier than the previous one, which means I got to see an even prettier sunrise.
After breakfast 6 people including me shared a taxi down the “Station”, the nickname for the bungy centre. We checked in for the highest bungy jump in New Zealand, the Nevis. We had to wait a while but could use some crApple computers for the time being. When the waiting time was over we where driven to the Nevis Bungy Centre, on the way we dropped someone at the Kawarau Bridge, the original (much smaller) bungy jump.
We locked our stuff away and got into our full body harnesses. A little wait later and we stepped into the gondola that brought us over to the cablecar that is the bungy jump station. One after the other we got strapped up, photos taken, and jumped.

It was epic! It is a 134 meters free fall which takes 8 seconds. You bounce a few times, then unlock your feet so you can sit comfortably while being pulled back up. Some people fail to unlock their feet and it looks hilarious when they arrive back up with their head still down πŸ˜€ luckily I had no problem whatsoever. I managed to stay quite calm all the time and enjoy the jump. I did not hesitate to jump for a second, as my videos prove. It was absolutely amazing. Afterwards we went back on the gondola to the station where we could see our photos and videos. Of course we all purchased them!

I have one special video though: I was allowed to jump with my camera in hand, and I took a video from my perspective. It is hilarious and I am very happy to have that πŸ™‚

Around 1.30 pm I was back in Queenstown. I had a Starbucks Frappucino for lunch and took the bus back to the hotel. I organized all my photos and videos and started uploading them.
I still had time until dinner, so I worked out the different Lord of the Rings stops for my trip by car from Wellington to Auckland. I’m not telling anything more now, wait and see ^^

For dinner we had an awesome buffet in the skyline restaurant high above Queenstown. We went up and down by gondola and it was good fun πŸ™‚ Afterwards we went out to different bars and had some beers. In one bar we got cowboy hats and rode a mechanical bull, so much fun πŸ˜€
Around midnight we returned to our hotel. Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to some nice people who’s tour is ending here.


Day 13

First thing this morning was an awesome jetboat ride on the shotover river. It was included with the tour so all of us did it. For about 40 minutes we went up and down that river with the beautiful scenery everywhere around. We drifted through canyons and did some 360Β° spins. What they didn’t tell us was that they where filming us from the front and rear end of the boat all the time. Afterwards I could buy a CD with a 3-4 minutes video with the best bits of our ride. It was freezing, but unbelievable beautiful. Jetboating through Middleearth? F’in awesome!!!

After that adrenalin rush (for some, not so much for me) we stopped at Arrowtown. It is a cute old village and there was another LOTR location I checked out πŸ™‚ Unfortunately we had only 15 minutes because we had to get to the Kawarau bridge in time where some people did their bungy jump. It is the original one but also the smallest you can do. It is over water and you can get dunked into it if you like πŸ™‚

Then we drove through changing landscapes to Dunedin and checked in at the LivingSpace hotel. A little later we had a tour through the Speight’s Brewery. The best part: afterwards we had about 45 minutes in the tasting bar with all-you-can-drink πŸ˜€ we were not allowed to get drunk though, only “happy” πŸ˜‰
Then most of us had booked a dinner at the Speight’s Alehouse, which was quite nice.

After dinner I left the group. My friend Katie who is a true Kiwi picked me up. I had met her in Surfer’s Paradise almost a year ago and we had stayed in touch, thanks to Facebook. She took me to a student bar where they played some live Jazz later on. After a drink and a lot of talking she walked me around the university. It looked like how I imagine Oxford: lovely old buildings and patches of grass in between. Dunedin is the student city in New Zealand. After that Katie drove me back to the hotel where we said goodbye. Katie is a musician and currently working on her first own album, check out Katie Raven, she is awesome πŸ™‚ Her singing at breakfast on a beautiful morning in Surfer’s Paradise will forever be one of these unique memories I have of Australia.


Day 14

Straight after breakfast we had a tour through the Cadbury chocolate factory. We got heaps of free chocolate and tasted some fresh one, very nice. Unfortunately Cadbury is nowhere nearly as nice as the chocolate in Germany.

After putting on all these extra calories it was time to work them off: we walked/hiked up the steepest street in the world, Baldwyn Street in Dunedin.

On the way to Lake Ohau we stopped at Moeraki for lunch. There are some massive round boulders on the beach. It was beautiful weather and having lunch right at the ocean was perfect!

In the afternoon we arrived at the last accomodation for this tour, the Lake Ohau Lodge. This is one giant lake with beautiful mountain ranges around and the highest one, Mt Cook, being visible in the distance. A nice stroll around the lake and then I chillaxed in the living room in front of the chimney. It was freezing outside! After an included dinner we had a toga and pyjama party. We got white sheets that we wore as togas while partying at the bar. Good fun! Unfortunately the music wasn’t the best and many people went missing. I enjoyed it nevertheless, especially because I had the chance to dance my favourite dance (Discofox) with Vicky from Germany. We both miss dancing heaps and it was good fun! The others where quite impressed by our performance, although that was pretty basic for us.


Day 15

At breakfast I had another beautiful view over the lake towards the snowtopped mountains. I don’t think I can take this awesomeness any longer!
On the way back to Christchurch we stopped in different places for more beautiful photos. Some people took a scenic flight that I could not afford. Instead I enjoyed chillaxing near this big beautiful lake.

Around 4.30 pm we arrived at the hotel in Christchurch. This night was not part of the trip anymore. Vicky and I had booked a hostel about 15 minutes walking distance away. We said goodbye to some people, the tourmanager Sarah and the driver Richie and started walking.

This was my Contiki trip around the South Island of New Zealand, and it was an absolute blast.


“New Zealand”

From 2012-04-26+7 Contiki South Island. Posted by Philipp HΓΌbner on 4/27/2012 (Showing 164 of 166 items)

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Category: New Zealand, Places