Big Cities in New Zealand do exist!


On my first day in Wellington, the sun was shining and even though the "windy city" proofed its' name, it was nice and warm outside. I spent the day walking around town and explored diverse areas in the city centre, e.g. the Cuba Street, where you can definitely find some extraordinary shops and people. Moreover, I went to both the old and the new St. Paul's Cathedral, close to the "Beehive", New Zealand's parliament buildung. Now, I was keen to see everything from aboth and I walked up to the lookout on top of Mount Victoria, a short climb through a park which finally allows you nice views to the whole city and the Tasman Sea.
On Christmas Eve, I woke up very early, which was worth it after all because I could be one of the first visitors of the Farmer's Market next to the Te Papa National Museum. I hadn't even known that there would be a market, but soon I found myself covered with fresh fruit for a very reasonable price! After this succesful start of the day, I bought a coffee at one of the thousands of cafés in town and had a closer look to some areas in the city center. In the afternoon I then went to the Te Papa once again to have a look inside this time. Even though I am usually not a big fan of museums, I really enjoyed the Te Papa because it displayed so many different and interesting information about every part of New Zealand culture, settlement, wildlife, geography etc. I also found out that there would be a light show at the Te Papa at 8pm. This "light show" turned out to be a small walk for kids through artificial builders and some plants, enlightened by different colours, where the kids could spot some "elves" in the bush. Nevertheless, it was quite funny to see and afterwards I enjoyed sitting at the waterfront and watching the harbour in the dark.

  Leaving the South Island on a beautiful morning View of Wellington from Mt. Victoria The Beehive - House of the New Zealand Parliament Light Show on Christmas Eve

After Wellington, I drove to New Plymouth were I would meet a friend from Germany. On my way though, I couldn't go past the Tararua Forest Park without a tramp to a small hut, 900m above the car park but still in the bush. The forest was very nice, in contrast to the weather: About half way to the hut, it slowly started raining and the rain only got stronger the further I went, so that neither the trees above me nor my rain jacket were able to protect me from getting soaking wet...
After all, I was quite happy when I reached New Plymouth slightly before sunset. It was amazing to see the Mount Egmont/ Taranaki even from far distance, a huge vulcano surrounded by a very flat area and, according to scientists, due to errupt again. Even though I knew I wouldn't have the time nor the equipment for a summit try, I really wanted to do at least a smaller hike there the next day.
First, though, I went to the water front of New Plymouth. Next to the harbour, there is a huge boulder directly at the water, which you can climb with the support of installed ropes and some ladders. Once at the top, an amazing panorama with views to Taranaki and the Tasman Sea is to be expected. The sunshine made it even more beautiful, so that even the strong wind couldn't really disturb me.
This changed rapidly once I reached Taranaki itself. Because of its' height, all the wet, cold air assembles around the vulcano so that it was covered in clouds. Only a few hundred meters above the car park, it got very uncomfortable when I suddenly found myself in the middle of theses wet rain clouds with a rising wind. Still, I kept going further up on the summit track after I had reached a private hut used by lots of hikers for their lunch break. On my way, I met several trampers coming back. They were forced to return due too bad weather conditions, and half an hour later I reached the point were I had to return myself because the wind almost blew me off my feet.

Way into Nowhere at Taranaki




Up to the North


My plan for the big holidays, which would allow me to travel for 5 weeks, was to go up to the North Island of New Zealand. Since I was going to drive up there in my car, I planned to stop at several spots in the Western South Island on my way. First, though, I did a little detour, driving to the Mount Cook National Park, where I wanted to do the Mueller Hut Track. In the backpacker hostel I found some company, two other travellers who spontaneously decided to join me. The next morning, we started our hike from Mount Cook Village, where it was surprisingly warm and sunny after I got caught in icy rain the day before. After 2000 steps and another 500m ascend of hiking and climbing up huge rocks and gravel, we reached the first snow fields and then a saddle, where it was suddenly quite cold due to a cold brise. During the climb, we had already enjoyed spectacular views down to the village and Aoeraki/ Mt. Cook, and as soon as we reached the saddle, we could finally also see the huge glacier at the other side of the mountain. From the saddle, the track continued over a snow field to the Mueller Hut itself, a nice place to relax in the sun and watch avalanches roaring down the massive mountains of Aoeraki National Park. On our back, we used the rain covers of our rucksacks to slide down the snow field.

Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook/Aoeraki in the background Mueller Hut in between snow-covered mountains Watching avalanches from Mueller Hut

After my side trip to Mount Cook, I went back to Queenstown, where I hiked up to the summit of Ben Lommond. The track starts at Queenstown itself and leads past the Gondola station and than 800m further up through the beating sun, until you finally reach the summit 1300 metres above the city. Up there, an amazing panorama of the city and lake on the one side and a "Lord of the Rings"-landscape on the other side rewarded me for all the effort. Moreover, a Kea greated me at the summit, even though I soon found out that he was rather interested in my lunch.

Lake Wakatipu and A landscape made for orks and elbs A kea who just stole some hikers' lunch

From Queenstown on I crossed the Haast Pass to stay one night at Fox Glacier Village. On my way, I stopped in the beautiful city of Wanaka to hike the famous Roys Peak right next to the lake. The track turned out to be rather boring, looking more like a farm road which zig-zagged steeply up the mountain, completely crowded with tourists longing for some exercise. During the hike, however, I met two Austrians who didn't only want to go to Roys Peak but even further, to Mount Alpha. This route was supposed to be a lot harder and longer, but once we had reached the summit of Roys Peak and I could see that from this point on the track looked more like a real hiking track and no other tourists were visible anymore, I decided to join them. Reaching Mount Alpha a relatively short time afterwards, we underestimated the time it would take us to get to the finish of the track at Cardrona Road. Instead of going straight down the hills, the track winded around privat land and then up and down smaller hills, so that we finally reached the carpark at 6pm after almost 8 hours of hiking, with rain and wind up on the mountains and the heat down in the valley. Still, I wanted to reach Fox Glacier Village that day. I arrived at 10pm, tired and hungry, but the owner of the hostel was just about to start a short trip to a nearby forest full of glowworms. After hurrying back to my car to get some warm clothes (once again, the West Coast proofed to be a lot colder in the night than the Queenstown area), I joined them and enjoyed the short walk in the rainforest, which was enlightened by masses of glowworm webs.

Laka Wanaka

The next days I headed up north along the West Coast, seeing Franz Josef Glacier and the Pancake Rocks. My last stop before Picton was Nelson, where I planned to stay a couple of days. Instead, I soon got into the hype of the Abel Tasman National Park. After collecting all the necessary equipment and managing to get the last free tent side at Bark Bay Campsite, I started one day later to a 24km-trip along tropical beaches and diverse cliff structures, finished by a refreshing swim at Bark Bay, where the water was still surprisingly warm. Even though the track is relatively flat and very well-maintained, I was very tired due to the heat and my heavy backpack. I hardly managed to stay awake for the sunset, but after all the relaxed atmosphere (only disturbed by millions of sandflies) while sitting a the beach and watching the change of colours in the sky was worth it.

The Pancake Rocks at dawn

Back at Monueka the next day after hiking the same way back, I drove to Picton and one day later, I took the ferry to Wellington. I had been looking forward to the trip with the ferry for quite a while, and I really enjoyed the fresh seawind, standing on top of the ferry and watching the harbour of Picton, beautifully located in the Marlborough Sounds, and later the mountains of the South Island slowly getting smaller in the distance. Passing the peninsula of Miramar, suddenly a group of around 20 dolphins appeared next to our ferry, a real highlight before the skyscrapers and bank towers of Wellington became visible. At 11.30am, one day before Christmas Eve, we reached Wellington, by far the biggest city I had been seeing since I had left Auckland in July.


Snowboarding, Kayaking and Penguins


My first destination of the second part of the holidays was Christchurch. It was surprisingly cold due to a fresh wind but at least the sun was shining so that it was nice to wander through the city and the gorgeous public gardens. Since the majority of historic buildings had been destroyed by the earthquakes in 2011 and not been built up again yet, the town centre itself was quite small and there wasn't much sightseeing to do, so that I decided to go to beach in the evening. This took me a lot longer than I had thought but when I finally arrived there, I could still watch some Kite- and Windsurfers on the water.

One of the few remaining historic buildings in Christchurch Some Kitesurfers took advantage of the cold wind 

After only one day at the coast, I drove back to the mountains to go snowboarding at Mt. Hutt. Before I did that on the next day, I still had half of the first day in Methven left and I drove to a small mountain nearby. The track up to the top took me over a sheep field and afterwards along the stone crest of the hills. At the top, I could see the back of Mt. Hutt as well as some lakes which were surrounding me.

On the top of some mountain nearby Methven


On Saturday, I got up very early in the morning to catch the first ski bus that would go up the mountain. The weather was very bad, it rained in Methven and once we reached the ski field it started snowing and it wouldn't stop for the whole day. Still, I enjoyed staying on the field as long as I could and tried different tracks. After all, the bad weather even had a positive attitude for me because there were not many other people, so that I didn't have to wait at the ski lifts at all.

Now, it was finally time to leave the mountains behind for a longer period and I drove down South to Dunedin. On my way, I stopped in Oamaru where I was very lucky to see some of the rare yellow-eyed penguins on their way back from the ocean in the evening. Moreover, I went to Moeraki, where I saw the famous Moeraki Boulders at the beach. In Dunedin, I picked up some friends and we started our journey in the Catlins, the South-eastern coast of New Zealand. Our first stop was the Roaring Bay, where we saw another yellow-eyed penguin and a sea lion. Afterwards, we went to Nugget Point, where a small lighthouse is built on top of the fascinating cliffs. On our second day in the Catlins, we visited several waterfalls like the Puranakui and the McLean Falls. Especially the McLean Falls were definitely worth it visiting them, coming down in a beautiful rain forest. Furthermore, we went to Curio Bay, which is famous for its' fossil forest being over a million years old. At the end of our journey, we visited another lighthouse at Waipapa Point, where we also saw a sea lion relaxing at the beach, and to Slope Point, the most-southern point of the New Zealand mainland - other than that it wasn't very spectacular, but at least it gave us the feeling that we had seen everything in the Catlins so that we drove to Invercargill in the afternoon. Invercargill might not be the most beautiful city or the best place for shopping, but the Queens Park right in the centre was a good place to relax in the sun after two exhausting lots of driving and sightseeing the days before.

Penguins in Oamaru... ... and at the Roaring Bay Sunset at Tunnel Beach in Dunedin Tunnel Beach with its' amazing cliff formations The mystic moeraki boulders Nugget Point Puranakui Falls McLean Falls

When the holidays were already almost over, it was time for one last highlight: Kayaking at Milford Sound! Of course, quite an expensive adventure, but I wouldn't regret it: Even though it was quite cold, we had an amazing time, spending 4 hours on the Fjord seeing an impressive waterfall, giant and steep mountains and trying to transform three kayaks into a sailboat when the wind blew up. In the end, when we reached a calmer water area again, our guide told us the Maori-legend of how Milford Sound and its' unique flora and fauna were created by several gods being fascinating by the beauty of this place. I definitely understand why Milford Sound is advertised in every tourist guide now, and by the time I came back to Gore, my mind was filled with pictures of beautiful pictures and memories.

Lake Te Anau

Let the Holidays begin!


In the first week of October, it was finally time for the spring holidays! I filled my car with clothes and food and started my journey around the South of New Zealand. Starting in rainy, cold Gore, I was very happy when I arrived at my first stop, Wanaka, in sunshine and I walked along the waterfront for a while to relax after the long drive. Since the ski season at Cardrona had been open for 2 more days, many enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders where in town, but the next day I decided to save my money for the ski field at Mt. Hutt and went hiking at the Diamond Lake instead, a decision which I wouldn't regret: The weather was still beautiful, as well as the whole walking track up to the top of a little mountain where I had a fantastic view down to Lake Wanaka on the one side and the Mt. Aspiring National Park on the other side. Having a break, I could even watch falcons hunting for their own lunch. Returning to the town itself, I used the rest of the daylight and the warmth to walk up Mt. Iron, a hill right at the beginning of Wanaka which is very popular by tourists who want to catch a view at Lake Wanaka, so that I actually got to see the lake from both sides on the same day.

Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps - simply a great panorama! View to Lake Wanaka from Mt. Iron 

The next day, I continued my way up to the north - Next stop: Fox Glacier! On the way to Westland over Haast Pass, I stopped by at the Blue Pools, which basins of beautiful clear water from the mountains. When I arrived at Fox Glacier in the afternoon, I walked a track along a stone beach and through a small rainforest to a beach which is known for a colony of sea lions. Of course, all of them must have decided to chill out at some other beach that day, so that I couldn't see any. Still, it was very nice to sit down in the sun for a while and I arrived back at the carpark right in time to see a beautiful sunset. On Monday, the weather had changed: It was very foggy and all the mountains were covered by thick rain clouds, so that none of the dozens of helicopters started to take tourists up to the glaciers. Hoping that it might clear up in the afternoon, I went to Franz Joseph Village and started the track up to Alex Knobb, a mountain right next to the Franz Joseph Glacier with several lookouts. After almost getting lost in the rainforest and two lookouts where I could at least see some parts of the hazed glacier, I reached the treeline around noon. From that point on, I felt a freezing wind and went right through a cloud to the top, where, obviously, I couldn't see anything but fog. On my way back, I was relieved being in the sheltered forest again, where I saw a wild goat and heard multiple birds singing. In the evening, I drove to the "probably most-photographed see in New Zealand", Lake Matheson, where it was still too cloudy to see the Fox or Franz Joseph but the panorama was stunning anyway.

Fox Glacier (or what's left of it)

After recovering in the hot pool outside of the backpacker's hostel, I left the West coast and drove to Arthur's Pass Village on Tuesday. On the way there, I had a look at Hokitika, a small town which basically consists of overpriced jade shops. In Arthur's Pass Village, I "checked in" my new accommodation, a rather rustic hostel, and started hiking to Temple Basin, the basis of the local ski area. The way was very steep and I was very happy when I reached the ski station which was above the treeline. Up there, I could sit down in the sunshine and watch the clouds being stuck in the other tale behind the huge mountains around. One of these mountains is the Avalanche Peak, which I originally planned to walk up, but since the rain finallyreached Arthurâ's Pass Village on Wednesday and the Peak was covered with snow, I went up to Mount Bealey instead. Even at the attitude of 1500m, parts of the track where slightly covered with snow and I rather felt like being in autumn than being in spring. By the time I came back, the rain was pouring down - time to test the quality of my rain trousers and my rain jacket! Luckily, both proofed being water-resistant and I got to a huge waterfall nearby my accommodation. After this exciting start of the holidays at the Southwestern part of the South Island, I was quite sad to leave the Southern Alps but also looking forward to discover beautiful places at the East Coast! 

Caution - Keas could destroy your car! Temple Basin Snow and fog at Mt. Bealey

First Trip - Dunedin


In my fourth week at the Boarding House, I became part of a rather special tradition: A "Mid-Christmas Dinner", including a Christmas tree with gifts (cans of food, which we would donate to a charity organization) and - of course - Santa Clause himself! Dressed up (the motto was "Dress to Impress", which made everyone at least wearing shoes instead of only wearing work socks), we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a great range of different desserts.

My first week to Invercargill followed a few days later, when I watched a P.E. class taking part in an indoor bowls competition. To be honest, there are definitely more attracting sports to watch in my opinion and obviously most of the kids had only signed up for the trip to get a day off school.

In the following week, the whole city was just talking about one topic: the musical "Mamma Mia", performed by a local theatre group and now being presented after months of practice and a huge amount of money that had been invested. After visiting the show myself, I can say that it was worth it putting so much effort in it. It was a great performance, full of brilliant dancing and singing and a great sense of humour.

Since it took me quite a while to find a suitable car, I decided to borrow a mountain bike from school. This allowed me to explore some of the hills nearby Gore, so that I could enjoy a beautiful view, dominated by sheep farms, which are spread all over the countryside and often far away from the closest city. In the background, the panorama was completed by the fascinating, snowy mountains of the Southern Alps which reminded me of the fact that we were still having winter, even though the temperatures had been rising for a few days.

Once a term, the Boarding House closes for a whole weekend so that I had time to travel a little further and I decided to visit a friend in Dunedin. Arriving in Dunedin after a 2h bus ride, the feeling of spring which had came up during the previous week suddenly stopped and I was welcomed by rain, 5°C and a fresh wind. Still, we decided to use the rest of the day for some sightseeing and I got to see the beautiful old town centre of Dunedin. After almost 6h of sightseeing, the day ended with a typical but delicious meal of pasta and tomato sauce in the Backpacker's Hostel and a Speight's, a traditionally Dunedin-brewed beer, in a small but nice pub at the Octagon.

The Railway Station in Dunedin - amazing to watch from the outside ... ... as well as from the inside Even though you couldn't quite feel it yet - spring is on his way

The next day was still cold, which couldn't stop us from hiking up Signal Hill. The hiking path leaded through gorgeous trees and ferns, which made us feel like being in a rain forest and I was suddenly very happy to wear my hiking boots. At the top, we enjoyed a well-deserved lunch with a spectacular view to Dunedin and some parts of Otago Peninsula, known for its' penguins, sea lions and royal albatrosses. Back in Dunedin, we had some time left to visit a small park/forest in town, before it was time to say goodbye.

The path to the top of Signal Hill - beautiful for hikers ... ... but definitely not the right place for a car A great rewarded us for 2 hours of hiking uphill

Sightseeing was not the only reason why I came to Dunedin. On Monday, a football tournament took place right next to the huge rugby stadium in Logan Park and I helped to coach a team of our college from Gore. Let us not talk about the results, the only important fact is that we won the derby against Gore High and the whole group had lots of fun at the tournament itself as well as in Mosgiel, a calmer, smaller city nearby Dunedin where we had our accommodation. Between two games at one of the matchdays, I had some time to have a look around and I visited the Otago University with its' huge campus and beautiful old buildings. Finally, I could understand why this university is known as one of the best in the country and mentioned in almost every tourist guide. In the evening, we drove to St. Kilda, a beautiful beach which is only a few minutes away from the Octagon. The weather was still not very lovely but after jumping in the Pacific Ocean it suddenly felt quite warm outside the water.

The journey begins - Winter I'm coming


Kia Ora!

Seit über drei Wochen bin ich nun schon am anderen Ende der Welt unterwegs.
Die ersten Tage verliefen dabei eher touristisch: Nachdem wir als Gruppe von ca. 40 Deutschen in Auckland gelandet und von unseren Projektmanagern empfangen worden sind, ging es direkt Maori-Empfang inklusive Haka ins Museum.
Am nächsten Tag stand zunächst der Skytower auf dem Programm. So konnten wir bei Sonnenschein den Blick über die Millionenstadt genießen, bevor das Wetter kurze Zeit später umschlug. Der neuseeländische Winter machte sich mit starkem Wind und Regenschauern bemerkbar, sodass wir unser weiteres Gruppenprogramm auf den Besuch des Aquariums beschränkten, wo wir u.a. die Pinguinfütterung zu sehen bekamen.
Der folgende Samstag war dann für das eigentliche Seminar reserviert und wir wurden in 5h langer Informationsflut langsam auf den eigentlichen Zweck unserer Reise, den Freiwilligendienst selbst, eingestimmt. Den letzten gemeinsamen Abend haben wir dann in einem Restaurant im Stadtteil Devonport ausklingen lassen, welcher mit einer kurzen Fährfahrt von Aucklands Zentrum aus erreicht werden kann.

Blick aus dem Skytower bei (noch) gutem Wetter Der Fähranleger bei Devonport mit schöner Sicht auf Aucklands Skyline

Mit bangen Blicken hatten wir während der ersten Tage die Wettervorhersagen und Nachrichten von Überflutungen rund um Christchurch verfolgt, letztlich konnte ich jedoch wie geplant am Sonntag über Christchurch nach Invercargill fliegen und während des Fluges sogar bei klarem Wetter die schneebedeckten Southern Alps bewundern. Im tiefen Süden angekommen, wurde ich beim Ausstieg aus dem Flugzeug gleich von einer steifen Brise und 5°C begrüßt wurde. Nach der 45-minütigen Autofahrt war der Empfang durch meine zukünftigen Kollegen am St. Peters College in Gore dafür umso freundlicher und mir wurde direkt das Hostel und meine eigene kleine Wohnung für das kommende Jahr gezeigt.

Schneeedeckte Berge der Southern Alps Gore - Welthauptstadt des Forellenfischfangs


Während der nächsten Tage habe ich so langsam die Schüler im Hostel und die Arbeitsroutine kennengelernt, auch wenn die ca. 70 neuen Namen genauso wie das Van-Fahren auf der linken Straßenseite anfangs noch ein paar Probleme bereiteten. In meiner Freizeit konnte ich auch bereits etwas die Umgebung erkunden. Gore ist zwar eine recht überschaubare Stadt, dafür sind aber alle Geschäfte und Supermärkte im „Stadtzentrum“ gut zu Fuß erreichbar (auch wenn die Schüler sich natürlich trotzdem lieber fahren lassen). Bekannt ist die Stadt für Fischfang und ein jährliches Musikfestival im Mai, ansonsten ist es gerade jetzt im Winter eher ruhig. Auch die Umgebung ist schön, man kann die Southern Alps im Westen und dichter gelegene, kleinere Berge wie im Dolamore Park sehen.

Die Wochenenden im Hostel sind normalerweise sehr ruhig, da nur wenige Schüler dortbleiben. Bereits am zweiten Wochenende nach meiner Ankunft war jedoch ein Skitrip geplant, bei dem ich direkt mitfahren durfte. Mit ca. 20 Schülern und zwei weiteren Aufsehern sind wir freitagabends zu einem kleinen Vorort von Queenstown aufgebrochen, um die nächsten beiden Tage im Skigebiet der Gebirgskette „The Remarkables“ Ski und Snowboard zu fahren. Nach strahlendem Sonnenschein am ersten Tag war es am Sonntag neblig und Schneefall erschwerte zwischenzeitlich weiter die Sicht, nichtsdestotrotz hatten wir sehr viel Spaß und konnten jeweils den ganzen Tag auf der Piste verbringen.
Um die nähere Umgebung Gores etwas besser kennenzulernen, bin ich in der folgenden Woche an einem freien Tag im Dolamore Park wandern gewesen, wo ich sogar einen schönen, aber kleinen Wasserfall gesehen habe.

Sonnenuntergang über Queenstown

Insgesamt verliefen die ersten Wochen in Neuseeland für mich sehr abwechslungsreich und nun hoffe ich, bald ein Auto zu finden um weitere Touren unternommen zu können. Das Wetter ist zwar noch sehr gewöhnungsbedürftig nach den warmen Tagen im deutschen Sommer, allerdings wird es so langsam auch hier wärmer und der Sonnenschein trägt dazu bei, dass es sich meist nicht wirklich wie Winter anfühlt.