We hopped on the ferry from Wellington to Picton with our car, for the start of our adventures on the South Island. On the way we had a nice view of the Marlborough Sounds, later the site of our first tramp (hiking trip). Before our tramp, we stayed a couple nights in the Marlborough Sounds wine area, the largest wine producing region in NZ. We had a great time visiting vineyards on bikes, tasting wines, and even buying a few bottles. We biked around with two other couples from our backpackers, one from Vancouver, the other a young couple from Boston, or “Team America.”
From the vineyards, we drove to start our first tramp, the Queen Charlotte Track. Instead of hiking the entire 4-5 day track, we opted for an overnight hike covering 30km. Our weather wasn’t great, but we had nice views of the Sounds, and the track ended at a historic sound favorited by Captain James Cook ( the 1700’s navigator who kick-started the European settlement of NZ). At the end, we took a shuttle boat back to our parked car.
This brings us to the concept of “glamping” – glamorous camping. NZ has it down: along many of the tracks, especially those along waterways, you can hire a boat to take your packs to the next stop each night. You can even stay at posh lodges, or have a boat take you from one spot to another, if you don’t want to tramp yourself. New Zealand trails have consistently impressed us with the quality of the trails, accommodations, and backcountry amenities. The trails are full of gorgeous suspension bridges and fun wooden walkways. Some backcountry campsites even have potable water, sinks for washing hands, and flush toilets. Flush toilets!!!
Further evidence of glamping can be found in Abel Tasman National Park, the site of our second tramp. We did another overnight hike here, ending with a boat ferry back to our start. We were incredibly impressed with the scenery, waterfalls, and flush toilets at the campsites. Jon even hiked to the Cleopatra Pools, where he slid down a natural slide in the rocks. Abel Tasman was amazing, but the sandflies were not. Sandflies can drive hikers crazy. Tiny little flies, their bites last for weeks and cause their victims to awake at 3 am to itchy spots. Plus, there are always tons of them around. Despite the sandflies, Abel Tasman is all about the glamping.
In between glamping, we hung out in the town of Nelson, where Jon got to mountain bike, and relaxed a bit. We also spent a night outside of Nelson Lakes National Park to get a glimpse of the beautiful lake. We didn’t have time for a hike in Nelson Lakes, so we’ll have to come back.
In Franz Joseph, we get to the Glaciers and Glowworms portion of our post. We visited both the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers, and even did a night time walk to see some glowworms. We saw tons of little green guys suspended on an upturned tree! Unfortunately, the glow worm photos didn’t come out. It was difficult to see too much of the glaciers from the walking trail, and we weren’t willing to shell out for a helicopter ride (we have seen lots of much bigger glaciers in Alaska!) so we headed on for the main South Island event in Fiordland.