Travelling to New Zealand had always been my dream ever since I arrived in Brisbane 3.5 years ago. I made myself promise that I would visit this country before I left Australia for good. I planned to travel with my housemates at the end of this year, but then I realised that it’s just not possible — graduation, packing, etc. I decided to change the time to July, during my winter break. However, the decision came rather late and all of my friends had their plans set for the winter break. So, for the first time of my life, I decided to travel alone (I don’t count travelling alone to Spore here..). The idea of travelling alone freaked me out a bit 😛 (well, I was not as brave as Mulia! hehe). But its beautiful scenery made me want to sacrifice: I had to step my foot in this country at least once! I was a bit excited to do backpacking though :). But then I realised that there were no public transports available in NZ, especially in most remote places in South Island. Other things, e.g. VERY limited time, Singapore Airlines’ complicated ticket booking process and visa application, also triggered me not to do backpacking. It’d be so much easier if I could drive a car!! (I had a license, but the last time I drove a car was 4 years ago) So, that’s why I decided to do a group tour instead — with Contiki. It had the cheapest tour packages compared to others and was specifically for 18 to 35 years old travellers (no advertisement, please! 😛 ).
Alhamdulillah, I arrived at night on 6 July in Christchurch, the largest city in South Island. My first reaction was: SOOOOOO COLD!!! LOL. My bare hand was freezing! (I thought I didn’t need a pair of gloves! Stupid me! haha) I was welcomed by the tour manager Kate at the hotel. She grabbed my passport and quickly noticed that I was born in Cairo. She showed me her Egyptian hieroglyphics ring :D. She’s very funny too!! Hehe. Then I was introduced to a girl named Amy who shared a room with me. She’s from Wollongong (reminded me of mbak Ina). Anyway, the tour started in the morning on the next day. I freaked out when I woke up at about 7 am and the sun had not risen!!! It was totally DARK! 😀 There were about 40+ people on the Contiki bus. Most of them were Aussies, some were Americans, and few of them were Europeans. Asians? Not so many. Only three: me and 2 Singaporean girls. We first headed to the centre of Christchurch, passing Avon River and Christ’s College, the oldest and most prestigious school in Christchurch (or perhaps in NZ?). We’re given about an hour free time to explore the city. I spent my time visiting the cathedral, Christ Church and searching for gloves!! 🙂 The city of Christchurch was just like any other ordinary city. Perhaps what I liked about it was its parks and colourful trees. I travelled to NZ not to see the city, but nature stuff :).
We then headed to the famous and beautiful Lake Tekapo, after stopping briefly for lunch in a small town called Geraldine. Lake Tekapo was and is still my favourite lake!! I loved its turquoise colour.. it felt like I was watching a movie! Every capture of the lake was like a Photoshopped version. It’s so clean, for sure. There was a small church located on the shores of the lake. I went inside the church with my friend and was surprised that I could see the sceneries from the inside. She quickly told me, “Oh my God, isn’t it beautiful to marry here???” 🙂 Indeed. After taking few shots, we realised that we couldn’t take any pictures there! The nun was actually standing behind us, but she didn’t say a word. So we quickly apologised to her. Sorry 🙁 .
After that, we continued our journey to Lake Ohau. The weather got colder and colder. And eventually, I saw snow! Yes! I had never touched snow in my life!!! (hey, I lived in a tropical country! hehe) So when we arrived at our accommodation near the lake, I was sooooooo excited to see, touch, and step on snow LOL. No, I wasn’t embarrassed by it. One of the girls on the tour even told me that she ATE snow when the first time she saw it hahaha. I didn’t do that 😀 . I couldn’t stay outside for very long, coz my hand was freeeeezing! (I needed a thicker pair of gloves!) My body and leg were alright though. Anyway, we stayed at the lodge — as far as I could remember, that’s the only building stood near the lake. The location was quite secluded, I think — and I loved it!! The views and sceneries were always amazing. Some people got the lake view from their rooms, but I got a Contiki bus view hahahaha. Well, that’s not bad 😛 . Dinner time was quite fun. That’s the time when I got to know more people. Afterwards, we moved to the bar, socialising and playing some card games. I realised that this was sort of like a “ritual” for most of them (what else you could do at night, really?). They went to the bar or clubbing after dinner. That ritual was an advantage for me, coz I could pray peacefully alone in my room 🙂 . And it was also an advantage for them coz I was always the one who slept early and therefore was assigned to wake everyone up in the room hahaha.
We departed from Lake Ohau Lodge at 7 am SHARP! It was still dark and definitely so cold. It was -7 degrees Celcius — the coldest weather I had ever experienced!! We had to arrive at Milford Sound by 4 pm, otherwise the cruise would leave us behind, Kate said. We stopped at Te Anau for lunch and then travelled to a mountainous road, passing Fiordland National Park (the largest of the 14 national parks in NZ) and Homer Tunnel. FYI, the road between Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound was prone to avalanches. Thankfully nothing happened; otherwise, the road would be closed and I wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful Milford Sound!! We arrived at the ferry terminal at about 3.30 pm. We boarded the cruise and saw magnificent views of this fjord. Although located in a remote area, Milford Sound was reportedly the most visited tourist destination in NZ! I was totally amazed by the sceneries… soooooooo beautiful!!! Yes, I was so amazed by the views that I stayed outside for too long and found myself sick! Gosh!!! The wind was VERY strong and cold. I was so unfortunate and stayed on the bed for the rest of afternoon and night. That’s why I didn’t get to take good pictures there, sigh. I got the opportunity to hop on a small boat and saw a sleeping seal and MANY dolphins, though. We were given two options, either to go on a boat or do kayaking. I wanted to do kayaking (coz I had never done it before), but then one of the cruise’s crews told us, “you can bring your camera when you kayak, but only if you’re 100% sure that your kayak is not going to be turned over.” Instantly I changed my mind hahaha. The boat was much better! 😛
Cruising on Milford Sound was honestly the best part of the trip to NZ. Everyone who travels to NZ must go there!! The views were just priceless! (quick, quick.. before it’s destroyed by humans!) The cruise was very good — excellent facilities and great foods. I actually thought it’s going to be a dodgy ferry haha! I didn’t expect that it’d be THAT good! If I had an opportunity to travel to NZ again, I’d have to visit Milford Sound once again; but this time, I want to do hiking on both Milford Track and Routeburn Track 🙂 . I’ll definitely make sure that I can drive by the time I’m there 😛 .
You can see more pictures here.
…to be continued. Read the next post.