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So, as I gear up for my trip to Alice Springs, Ayer’s Rock & Melbourne this weekend, I have my eyes on the adventure that lies beyond. Probably the thing I am most excited to do is visit New Zealand. It started out innocently enough (ha!) with my huge nerdiness on the LOTR movies and wanting to see the beautiful landscape they used as the backdrop to Middle Earth. But beyond that, everyone who has been there has told me how amazing it is there which only increases my excitement and desire to go.

So, Kelly and I will be flying out January 25th, 2009 to land in Christchurch, New Zealand. From there, we’ll spend a night together in a hostel (note to self: still need to book) and the next morning, bright and early, I will head out solo on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I booked the trip with KiwiExperience, based on a friend of a friend’s advice and I’m looking forward to it. Those who know of it say it is one of the best, so it should be good fun.

This is the trip I have booked, which is called the Southern Round-Up. Time dictated I wouldn’t have time to do both islands, sadly, so I went with the southern island, as I hear it has the most to offer. I’m not too depressed about missing the northern island, as there’s so many things on the southern island I want to see but I am a little sad I will not be able to visit The Shire. Oh, my geekiness knows no bounds.

The Southern Round-Up tour map:

The KiwiExperience Tour

The KiwiExperience Tour

From the KiwiExperience website, I will be experiencing the following tour (bolding activities I would like to do):

CHRISTCHURCH TO KAIKOURA
We travel across the northern Canterbury Plains towards Kaikoura arriving there around midday. Kaikoura used to be the South Island’s best-kept secret. Kaikoura means to eat Crayfish (kai – to eat, Koura – Crayfish), actually the full name is Te-Ahi-kai-koura-a-Tama-ki-te-rangi These days its the Whales, Dolphins, Seals and the fish and chips that Kaikoura is becoming ever more popular for.  Experience Dolphin Swimming, Whale Watching, Seal Colony walk or chill out at the hostel situated just up from the beach.

KAIKOURA TO PICTON
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive, and we may take the opportunity to stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long.

PICTON TO NELSON
We meet the Cook Strait ferry in Picton and travel via Havelock, and Pelorus Bridge over to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city. A great place in summer to jump off the bus and explore the Abel Tasman National Park on foot or kayak.

NELSON TO WESTPORT
We visit the Nelson Lakes National Park for a walk in the forest and a visit to one of the more spectacular lakes in the area, surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains.  En route to Westport we meet the team (and Rata the dog) from Buller Adventure Tours where you can experience the best value for money jet boating and horse treking in NZ.

[Edited to add: According to the Buller Adventure Tour site, they also offer white water rafting – if that’s an option, I definitely will be doing that.]

WESTPORT TO LAKE MAHINAPUA
Today we head down the spectacular West Coast Road that stretches along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through diverse landscapes, which never cease to amaze both locals and visitors alike. Highlights include Cape Foulwind seal colony, rugged beach walks & Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes.  Tonight your driver will arrange a group meal for you at the legendary Mahinapua Hotel known as the “Poo Pub” (a traditional West Coast Pub).  It’s an awesome evening to get to know your fellow travellers.

LAKE MAHINAPUA TO FRANZ JOSEF
Our first stop this morning is the Bushman’s Centre where you will get an insight into how people make a living on the coast with sphagnum moss growing, old timber-milling techniques, possum trapping and helicopter deer recovery.  We then head through to Franz Josef Glacier Township, nestled in the Westland National Park.

FREE DAY FRANZ JOSEPH
Today is your chance to hike on Franz Josef Glacier, rated in the top three NZ activities by Kiwi Experience passengers.

FRANZ JOSEF TO WANAKA
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson, near the village of Fox Glacier. We then cruise down the last stretch of the West Coast Road stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then we head into Mount Aspiring National Park and arrive in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.

WANAKA TO QUEENSTOWN
A short but action packed drive today through to the NZ’s adventure capital, Queenstown. Highlights include Puzzling World (check out the toilets – highly entertaining), skydive over Lake Wanaka & the Southern Alps and stop in at the world’s first commercial bungy site – the Kawarau Bridge. On arrival in Queenstown you will get a chance to book all activities and re-confirm coaches at Base Travel Desk as well as get a group photo with all your new West Coast friends.  Then out on the town  – what better way to enjoy a memorable trip down the coast with a night out exploring Queenstown nightlife with all the crew to finish things off!

FREE DAY QUEENSTOWN
Queenstown is rated up there as being one of our passengers favorite spots to hang out In NZ so take the time to spend at least 3 days here Apart from being one of the most beautiful places in the world, Queenstown is New Zealand’s, if not the world’s, adventure capital. You can take advantage of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. We do recommend one activity however, the overland daytrip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as New Zealand’s most beautiful spot, and that’s saying something!

TO CHRISTCHURCH
We head out of Queenstown, up over the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country, named after James Mackenzie who was a notorious sheep rustler (or Velcro glove wearer). After dropping people in Twizel for the connection to Mt Cook, we travel through to the amazing aqua blue Lake Pukaki to see Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo for a view of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the bronze sheep dog and the milky blue colour of the glacier fed lakes. From there we have a very straight and flat run into Christchurch and will deliver you to the hostels of your choice between 4.30pm and 6pm.

So that’s the tour I will be taking!

Kelly plans on doing a more traditional bus tour, by just purchasing Greyhound-type bus tickets but I definitely wanted something that catered a little more to travellers so I could get all the neat little historical and trivia stories I’m sure our tour guide will offer. We do plan on meeting up in a few places, such as Queenstown, and I’m sure she’ll have just as much fun too.

We will be flying back to Sydney on February 7th, 2009 and may depart directly that day to the Gold Coast but we will see. That’s something for another post!

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