Type ‘New Zealand’ into Pinterest and you will see the peaks of the fiord lands; majestic domes of green descending straight into the water-filled crevices made from ancient glaciers. I had heard a lot about these famous sounds in the very south of the South Island, and was really looking forward to seeing them for myself. I pictured us kayaking through the formidable landscape, or maybe trying out SUP boarding, or just walking through the luscious vegetation.
As we got closer to them, we started to realise that these dreams of independent, off-the-beaten-track sightseeing were not to be. The fiords are undoubtably beautiful, but can only be seen from a 3-day tramp, or a day-cruise… costing upwards of $200 per person. A cruise is Adrien’s idea of hell, and I don’t totally disagree with him. For some it’s a great way to experience the outdoors, but if you hadn’t yet picked up on this, we tend to prefer the obscure walking routes where you clamber up tree roots to find your way to a cascading waterfall (see photos below!), or in any case just be able to do some exploring ourselves. It’s not that I’m a real back-to-nature gal (hence why the 3-day tramp didn’t appeal), but I love to find interesting, beautiful, and unexpected sights on our travels (doesn’t everyone?), and also do some sort of exercise at the same time. A cruise just didn’t have the excitement factor of a walk like Falls Creek, in the same region (again, see below!), with its scrambling up grassy roots and down muddy banks, the discovery of the stunning waterfalls, and the absence of other humans to make it feel all the more unique and untouched- New Zealand at its best.
In the end we found a 2-hour boat trip with the travel company Jucy for $45, which was good, not too long, and gave us the chance to see the fiords close up. I still don’t think I’d recommend this region- the cold drizzly weather didn’t help, but I think it’s probably a little overrated unless you are a seasoned tramper and fancy the 3-day walk to really get up close and personal with the area.
By this point I had had enough mountains, hills, lakes, and feeling chilly, and was getting desperate for some sunny weather and beaches. We headed to the north of the South Island, to Abel Tasman national park, where we stayed for 4 nights. Night number one was in a beautiful campsite right on the shoreline for a very acceptable $6 each, and then 3 nights in a great hostel/lodge- with our own bathroom! Absolute luxury!
It was a great end to a fantastic and extremely varied tour of the South Island, with rainforest-like jungle walks, warm weather, swimming in the sea and feeling like a true summer holiday. We visited a really interesting cave with thousands of stalactites, many curving outwards towards the sun, apparently quite a phenomenon in the geology world.
We swam in pools carved out by eroded limestone, got sunburnt through clothes, discovered a love of beach frisbee, drank much wine, and developed a border-line unhealthy avocado habit (when in Rome..).
The most unexpectedly beautiful place (only because we hadn’t planned on going there ) were the northern sounds, a vast blue and green landscape of peninsulae, inlets and bays. These were just a stop off on the way to Wellington to see Jen and begin the journey back to Auckland, but we were blown away by their beauty and will definitely come back. I would now tell everyone to visit these accessible, warmer sounds rather than their southern equivalent!