3 Travel Memories: New Zealand’s South Island

It’s good to stop for a moment, step back, and consider the journey: the places visited, the impressions accumulated, the conversations and ideas left behind. In the midst of career change and year-long RTW travel, every moment becomes a potential highlight. I’ve been keeping all of my senses tuned, and in the southern winter’s low-season, it has become more than just a possibility, with far fewer people on the roads and at various sites.

When Christina Hegele asked if I might participate in a blogger relay, I was in the last stages of my July 2012 visit to New Zealand’s South Island. Te Wai Pounamu o Aotearoa has provided some of the finest travel highlights, a conclusion shared by many.

I’m happy to participate in this blogger relay, but an important question is: how does one select a mere *three* memories? I’m happy to give it a try!

As Mark Wiens at Migrationology has passed the virtual baton to me, here below are three travel memories from the South Island of New Zealand. Each memory includes a different mode of transport, but all three memories include mountains.


It’s easy to forget that your boat is wandering around a former volcano. That might explain the overall topography, the rugged hills, the quiet secluded harbour. The volcano was formed in the last million years, and filled with water as the sea-level rose about 20,000 years ago in a global post-glacial melt.

I’m headed out on a day-trip from Christchurch to the neighbouring Banks Peninsula. What started out as a typically grey winter day has turned for the good with clear blue sky and calm conditions. I head out into the water with Black Cat harbour cruises.

There are mountain goats, seals, yellow-eyed penguins, and Hector’s dolphins. For many, these are the highlights of a boat cruise into Akaroa harbour. For me, it’s imagining I’m on the flank of what was once a very powerful volcano. Here, at the mouth of the harbour looking east out over the Pacific, the next landmass is South America over 9000 kilometres away.

Akaroa harbour, Pacific Ocean, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand

Entrance to Akaroa harbour from the Pacific – 16 July 2012


The TranzAlpine train is one of three KiwiRail journeys in New Zealand. I’m taking the train one-way from Christchurch over the Southern Alps to Greymouth on the West Coast.

An open-air carriage provides passengers with unobstructed panoramic views . The train’s maximum speed is about 100 kilometres per hour or about 60 miles per hour. At altitude close to the snow line, the temperature is at or below freezing, and the windchill from the train’s speed makes the effective temperature closer to -10C/14F.

It’s cold enough to have me grasping for air. But there’s another reason.

The scenery is breathtaking.

What I’m seeing is oddly familiar; it’s as if I was on a train somewhere either in the Coastal Mountain Range or the Canadian Rockies in my home province of British Columbia.

But this isn’t British Columbia, I remind myself. I’m on the opposite side of the planet, and I’ve left Upper Canterbury and entered the Westland on New Zealand’s South Island. And as many who’ve traveled here know, the surprises keep coming, lurking behind every corner.

Waimakariri River, Arthurs Pass, Southern Alps, South Island, New Zealand

Headwaters of Waimakariri River, just south of Arthurs Pass – 18 July 2012


With a free afternoon between glaciers, I’ve a need to go up into the air for a better view of the Southern Alps. I sign up with Air Safaris, and with a GA8 Airvan, we fly up to a height of about 2500 metres (about 7500 feet) for a look around in a 50-minute flight.

One great advantage of this flight is being able to take in both Mount Tasman and Aoraki (Mount Cook). At 3755 metres, Aoraki is not only the highest mountain in the country, but is also a sacred place to the local Ngāi Tahu iwi or tribe.

My head keeps whipping left and right, one mountain to another; there’s the Tasman glacier, and over there, that’s the Murchison glacier. Again, this all looks very familiar, as if I’ve been transported back to British Columbia. There is, however, one important distinction: New Zealand explorer Sir Edmund Hillary participated in a climbing expedition on Aoraki in 1948. The preparation was clearly productive, as Hillary and Tenzing Norgay scaled Mount Everest a mere five years later.

Mount Tasman, Mount Cook, Aoraki, Southern Alps, Westland, South Island, New Zealand

Mount Tasman (left), Aoraki or Mount Cook (right), in the Southern Alps – 21 July 2012

The pins in the Google map below mark approximate locations for “Akaroa Harbour by boat” in red, “TranzAlpine KiwiRail” in green, and “The Grand Traverse, from the air” in blue.

Thanks to Lowcost Holidays for sponsoring this campaign, and to Christina Hegele for captaining team Blue. I’ve enjoyed reading the variety of travel moments from other members of the relay team, and I look forward to reading a lot more from the next members in the relay. You can also follow the thread on Twitter with the hashtags #BloggerRelay and #TeamBLUE.

For the next person in the relay for Team Blue, I’m pleased to pass the “baton” onto Lauren DiMarco of Where in the World is Lola?.

Goooo Blues!

I made the photos above with a Canon EOS450D camera. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-28L.

CMP.LY/6 Custom Disclosure: The author has also written this post which is associated with a contest, sweepstakes, giveaway, or other special offer described in the post.

26 Responses to “3 Travel Memories: New Zealand’s South Island”

  1. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h)

    Ahhhhhmazing! You know I’m a sucker for anything New Zealand related. You did three things that I never got to do. The train was really something that I wanted to do, but it wasn’t an option as I had a car and a round-trip ride would take too much time. As for the flight, I had my glacier helihike canceled three times. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. I know by looking at your beautiful photo that I missed a spectacular sight.


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Leah. After a week chilling out in windy Welly, I was very fortunate to have had 15 days on the South Island. I opted to use train and bus/coach throughout the 2 weeks. Obviously, I gave up the freedom of being able to stop at a moment’s notice; I recognized missing out on a lot of photographic opportunities. But it was interesting to ride the train and coach, where each journey would have some kind of running commentary about the geography and history of a place, a town, a river, a mountain, etc. As I had already taken two of the three available KiwiRail journeys, I considered the third which was the Overlander from Wellington to Auckland, but that would’ve taken too much time. I’m sorry that your helihike was canceled three (!) times. I definitely recommend The Grand Traverse which was spectacular, but the length of the flight might tell you something about the cost of that privilege.🙂 Thanks for your comment!


  2. Christina

    Ah Henry, I love your post. I’ve never been to Arthur’s pass despite spending a lot of time on the South Island. But I did stay on the Banks Peninsula for a while, and I loved Akaroa, too. Next time I’ll have to head out into the harbour. The scenic glacier flight also looks special. Been to Mount Cook, but just for doing some day-hikes. Wonderful pictures as always! Thanks for being part of TeamBLUE!🙂 Go Blues!!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Christina. Hope you’re enjoying your summer visit in Seattle; just try not to be sleepless. I can imagine that a summertime stop at Arthurs Pass would be outstanding. As it was windy, cold, and overcast the day I took the TranzAlpine, I stepped out to stretch the legs and make a few shots (along with the other passengers), but I made my way back into the carriage to get warm! I know how much you enjoyed Akaroa – if you go back and the weather is warm enough, consider a harbour cruise *and* you get to swim with the Hector’s dolphins. How cool would that be? The Great Traverse flight is just long enough to see a lot of the details in and around Tasman/Aoraki in the Southern Alps, but short enough that you don’t break your credit card. Oh, lemme tell you – that credit card got a little bendy throughout my time on the South Island, but the memories really are worth it. Thank you for your comment, and thanks for asking me to take part in the relay in the first place; I’m glad I was able to contribute. Gooooo Blues!


    • Christina

      My stay in Seattle was not sleepless at all🙂 It is so beautiful there in the summer. I’d love to swim with the dolphins again, especially with that scenery around. Swam with dolphins in Cuba once, that was pretty special too!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Leigh. Thanks! I think you’d agree that anyone making a brief visit anywhere might want to do and see things which provide some “bang for the buck”. However, I can only imagine how beautiful and productive your two-and-a-half months’ time would have been spent in the country, and the number of people you met during that time. New Zealand has left its mark on me, and I would love to go back in the summertime. Thanks again for stopping by and for your kind comment!


  3. Cathy Sweeney

    Every time I read something new about New Zealand, I get more determined to visit sometime. Your photos really kicked the craving up a notch, especially the Southern Alps pic. What a gorgeous place on earth! Happy to be on your #bloggerrelay team. Go Team BLUE!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Cathy! I’m happy to read that my photos have added a little more push for you to visit New Zealand. Seeing the South Island basically defies description. It’s almost as if one shouldn’t even try : it’s enough just to be there. 🙂 I’m happy that I said “yes” to Christina’s initial request, and that I’m a part of our present Team Blue blogger relay team. Thanks for your comment!


  4. lola

    i haven’t made it to any other continents other than Europe & North America. that all changes in 2 weeks and after that, well…the world is my oyster. everyone raves about New Zealand – i can see why🙂


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Lola. May I say that I’m excited that you’ll visit Asia for the first time and that it’s towards a noble goal of working with Habitat for Humanity! I’m going to sound like a “preacher”, but like others before me, I’ll definitely tell people the good news, that New Zealand is a place people must also see.🙂 Thanks for your comment!


  5. elatlboy

    Great New Zealand memories Henry! I’ve driven from Christchurch to Greymouth and have seen the trains whistle by. The scenery is grand between the two and I’d like to see it all from a different prospective and not have to worry about going off the road haha.🙂 It is a hard task to select just three travel memories, even from just New Zealand!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Aaron. It’s all true – for everyone, it’s very difficult to be limited to just three memories from New Zealand. An advantage of being on the train is just letting the scenery go by without much worry; another great thing is that there’s also running commentary on the train about places, history, landmarks, and geographical features. But the advantage of the car is stopping on a whim, to stop and see something which you can’t do on a scheduled train. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Laurel. You both would love New Zealand! I think you’re also going to like my upcoming and second post on Akaroa harbour; my post will include photos of more dramatic scenery and of some animals.🙂 Thanks for your comment!


  6. travels4couples

    Wow those sound like some amazing experiences! Being fellow BCians, you have made us want to hop on a plane and go there now. I love the photos in particular (they are so well done).


    • fotoeins

      Hi! I write that the Westland or the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island reminds me a lot of the Coastal Mountains’ region in British Columbia. It’s a feeling of familiarity, but it’s also one of discovery, owing to the remoteness and the vast distances to the other major continents. You really do feel like you’re standing in one of the “last places on earth”, and it really is that beautiful. I have a few more posts to write about my time on the South Island! But yes, do plan a visit to New Zealand – I want to go back, too!🙂 Thanks for reading and for your very kind comments!


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Aleah. Thank you! I’m catching up on writing up a few more posts to document the month of July in New Zealand. I’m never going to forget my time on the South Island!

      When I was planning my RTW, I had read other blogs about New Zealand, and I mentioned similar yearnings about the country after seeing their photos. It’s a great compliment that I’m able to share these experiences and to encourage other people to see these sights.

      Thanks again for reading and for your very kind comments!


Please leave a reply or comment; thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,432 other followers

%d bloggers like this: