New Zealand – Southern Island – Christchurch & Arthur Pass

RO: In sfarsit, suntem pe insula sudica! Insula peisajelor dramatice, a valurilor spumoase ale marii Tasmaniei la vest si-ale oceanului Pacific la est, a campurilor de lupini de la Lake Tekapo, insula muntilor impaduriti pe partea vestica a Alpilor Sudici si a celor complet desertici si uscati pe partea estica, insula celor peste 200 de piscuri mai inalte de 2300 de metri, a lacurilor de smarald, a drumurilor pustii, insula pinguinilor si-a pasarilor kiwi, a bungee jumping-ului si-a vinurilor delicioase de la Malborough si Nelson. Aoraki (Muntele Cook), cel mai inalt varf muntos din toata Noua Zeelanda, nebunia dupa aur care a atras exploratorii europeni in zona, peisajele ca scoase din revista, ghetarii terifianti, drumurile sinuoase si linistea, toate definesc insula de sud. Si adevarul e ca aici e Noua Zeelanda aceea pe care ti-o imaginezi. Aici sunt soselele spectaculoase, padurile tropicale pe coasta de vest, campurile aride in centru, muntii inalti, parcurile nationale ce fac parte din patrimoniul Unesco. Supercontinentul Gondwana trebuie sa fie mandru de copilul rebel care s-a desprins si-a fugit in mijloc de Pacific, nu de alta dar e cam singurul loc din emisfera sudica cu asa vegetatie si peisaje.

EN: We’re finally on the southern island! The island of dramatic landscapes, foamy waves of the Tasman Sea to the west and the ones of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the island of lupine fields from Lake Tekapo, timbered mountains on the west side of the Southern Alps and completely deserted and dry ones on the eastern part, the island of more than 200 peaks taller than 2300 meters, emerald lakes, empty roads, the island of penguins and kiwi birds, of bungee jumping and delicious wines from Marlborough and Nelson. Aoraki (Mount Cook), the tallest mountain in whole New Zealand, the gold rush that attracted the European explorers in the area, the postcard landscapes, the terrifying glaciers, the sinous roads and the silence, all these define the southern island. And the truth is that New Zealand is the country you imagine it will be, here, in the southern island. Here you’ll find the spectacular roads, the lush tropical forests on the West coast, the arid fields in the center, the tall mountains, the national parks that are Unesco heritage. The Gondwana supercontinent must be proud of its rebel child that detached and ran away in the middle of the Pacific ocean, remaining one of the only places in the southern hemisphere with such a vegetation and scenery.
New Zealand Southern Island_1RO: Si intre noi fie vorba, nu stim ce tara ar fi mai potrivita pentru un road trip. Incepem in forta cu un varf de munte Cook vazut din avion si-apoi c-un crosswind de toata frumusetea la aterizarea in Christchurch, ne luam masina de inchiriat, nu zabovim prea mult in Christchurch si-o luam la goana catre Arthur Pass. Adevarul e ca nu-i nevoie de mai mult de cateva ore ca sa vezi Christchurch-ul, hai poate maxim o zi. O fi el cel mai mare oras din insula de sud, insa din pacate cutremurul din 2011 l-a cam decimat. Sase ani mai tarziu, strazile sunt inca pline de conuri portocalii, reparatii de drumuri, demolari de cladiri si reconstructii. Da, se simte o dorinta de reinventare a orasului si parca totul musteste a arta. Pana la urma, simbolul orasului este un graffiti pe perete. Si-un tramvai colorat in mijloc de strada New Regent. Si-o obsesie pentru mic dejun si cafenele cochete.

EN: And between you and me, we don’t know what country would be better for a road trip. We’re starting with a peak of Mount Cook seen from the aiplane and some seriosu crosswind when landing in Christchurch and then we’re heading to Arthur Pass. The truth is that you don’t really need more than a few hours to see Christchurch, let’s say maximum one day. Maybe it is the biggest city in the southern island, but unfortunately the 2011 earthquake cut this city to pieces. Six years later the streets are still full of orange cones, road repairs, building demolitions and reconstructions. Yes, you can feel the need of reinventing the city and everything seems to be packed with art. In the end, the symbol of the city is a graffiti on the wall. And a colorful tram in the middle of New Regent Street. And an obsession for breakfast and stylish cafes.
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RO: Cat despre masina de inchiriat, hm… noi am cam fost mai catolici decat Papa. N-ai nevoie de 4×4, nici macar pe drumurile din insula sudica. Or fi ele micute, or avea o singura banda iar podurile or permite accesul unei singure masini, insa sa fim seriosi, nu-s drumurile F din centrul Islandei. Un pic de pietris si-o dara de nisip “never hurt nobody” cum ar spune melodia. Asa ca de dragul bugetului tinut in frau, o masina mica e la fel de buna. Asta daca bineinteles, nu ai o carca de bagaje si jumatate de casa dupa tine 😀

EN: As for the rental car, hm… we wanted to be on the safe side. But you don’t really need a 4×4 car, not even on the roads from southern island. Maybe they are indeed small, having only one line and the bridges only allow one car at the time, but let’s be serious, they do not even compare to the F roads from the center of Island. A bit of gravel and a trace of ballast never hurt nobody as song would say. So for the sake of keeping the budget under control, a small car is equally fine. That of course, if you don’t have tons of luggage to carry 😀 

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RO: Ce-i drept, cea mai autentica experienta neozeelandeza poate fi cea cu camper van-ul. Sau motor home-ul, in functie de buget. Si ne-a tentat si pe noi sa facem asta, insa am avut doua mari probleme cu companiile de inchiriat. Una ar fi faptul ca mai toate companiile cer o perioada minima de inchiriat de 14 zile (cel putin in plin sezon, decembrie-februarie). Cum noi aveam planificate mai putine zile, camper van-ul a picat din start. Apoi, o a doua problema ar fi fost traversarea cu feribotul intre cele doua insule, care ar fi fost mult prea scumpa (aproape de 700 NZD). Unele companii ofera traversarea gratuita, in functie de numarul de zile inchiriate, insa pentru noi nu a fost cazul. In orice caz, dupa n calcule-n Excel am conchis ca pentru patru persoane, pentru traseul ales si numarul de zile alocat insulei sudice, varianta fezabila este sa inchiriem un 4×4 si sa rezervam cazari la motelurile de pe drum. Da, program criminal de impachetat/despachetat zi de zi, trezit cu noaptea in cap, mers noaptea pana la locurile de cazare, nici urma de flexibilitate a traseului prestabilit. Dar hei, nu le putem avea pe toate 🙂 Si cum n-avem suficiente zile de concediu sa vedem Noua Zeelanda intr-o luna, cum fac cei mai multi turisti, ne alegem un program de “killareala”, pe repede-inainte 🙂

EN: Honestly, the most authentic experience in New Zealand can be the one with the campervan. Or the motor home, depending on the budget. We have also been tempted to do this, but we had two major problems with the rental companies. One was the fact that all rental companies are asking for a minimum rental period of 14 days (at least in full season, December to February). As we have planned fewer days, the camper van was no longer an option. Then, the second issue would have been the ferry crossing between the two islands, which was way too expensive (around 700 NZD). Some companies offer the ferry crossing for free, depending on the number of days rented, but for us it wasn’t the case. Anyway, after n calculations we concluded that for four persons, for the itinerary that we have chosen and for the number of days allocated for the southern island, the most feasible option would be to rent a 4×4 car and book accommodation at the motels on the way. Yup, a terrible schedule of packing and unpacking each and every single day, waking up early in the morning, driving during night time to get to the motels, no flexibility for the itinerary that we established. But hey, we can’t have them all 🙂 And because we don’t have enough vacation days to see New Zealand in one month, as the most tourists do, we have chosen a fast-forward schedule that will probably kill us in the end 🙂
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RO: Dar gata cu introducerile interminabile si toate aspectele logistice! O luam prin campiile Canterbury-ului si incepem aventura pe insula sudica! Trecem rapid prin piticania de satuc Sheffield, ratam patiseria laudata de Lonely Planet, ca abia ce s-a inchis la ora 4, lasam Springfield-ul in spate, cu a lui gogoasa uriasa roz cu tot, si-apoi intregul drum e-al nostru! Campuri intregi inverzite, soare, munti slefuiti! In insula unde ploua mai bine de 200 de zile pe an, avem soare si vreme buna si-un peisaj de nu duc cardurile aparatului foto atatea cadre! Si stoooop, opreste si fa plinul, nu de alta dar nici ca mai vezi tipenie de benzinarie pentru urmatorii 80 de kilometri. Traversam insula sudica de la est la vest, n-avem ce face, dar e musai sa ajungem intai si-ntai pe coasta vestica cea plina de vegetatie si piscurile inalte ale Alpilor de Sud.

EN: But enough with the endless introductions and all the logistic details! We’re heading through the Canterbury plains and we’re starting the adventure on the southern island! We’re passing through the small Sheffield village, we miss the famous pastry that Lonely Planet brags about, as it has closed at 4 PM, we leave Springfield behind, with its huge pink doughnut and then the road is ours! Green fields, sun, polished mountains! We have sun and good weather on the island where it rains more than 200 days per year! And some landscapes that we simply can’t stop photographing! And stoooooop, we need to refill, as for the next 80 kilometers there will be no trace of gas station. We cross the southern island from east to west, we have to do that as we want to get first on the western coast, the one full of vegetation and tall peaks of the Southern Alps. 
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RO: Ajungem la Castle Hill, prima oprire inainte de Arthur Pass. O multime de stanci de calcar parca aruncate intentionat de vreo zeitate in varf de deal. Nu te mai mira ca maorii spuneau ca sunt o comoara adusa din vreun teritoriu tare, tare indepartat (Kura Tawhiti) si ca intregul loc este considerat sacru de catre tribul Ngai Tahu. Pana la urma, nici Dalai Lama nu s-a lasat mai prejos si a numit rocile de la Castle Hill Centrul Spiritual al Universului!

EN: We get to Castle Hill, our first stop before Arthur Pass. Tons of limestone rocks that seem to be thrown away on the hill by who knows what goddess. Not surprising at all that the Maori considered that this was a treasure brought from a far away territory (Kura Tawhiti) and that the entire place is considered sacred by the Ngai Tahu tribe. In the end, even Dalai Lama called this place the Spiritual Center of the Universe!  

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RO: Si numai bine ca s-a lasat deja seara. Trecem prin trecatoarea Arthur Pass la inserat, prin micutul sat cu acelasi nume, in care abia daca locuiesc 60 de oameni, si parca nu ne vine a crede ca abia ce-am urcat la 920 metri altitudine. In stanga stau semete varfurile muntilor Rolleston (2271m) si Murchison (2408m) de parc-ar spune “stai asa, numai sa vezi ce urmeaza mai la sud!”. Pentru ca da, Alpii de Sud se mandresc cu ceva varfuri peste 3000 de metri inaltime. Iar Muntele Cook, mandretea tarii, la cei 3574 metri, parca le rade tuturor in nas din mijlocul tarii. Dar gata, am trecut de Hokitika si-am ajuns in Ross. Primul motel de pe traseu (Ross Motel), o lista lunga de traseu pentru a doua zi, si-o sticla de vin din Canteburry. We call it a day.

EN: And it’s already evening. We pass through Arthur Pass, through the village with the same name, where there are barely 60 people living and we simply can’t believe that we are already at 920 meters height. On the left hand side we have the tall peaks of Rolleston mountains (2271m) and Murchison mountains (2408m) as if they we’re saying “just wait for to see what’s on the southern part!”. Because yes, indeed, the Southern Alps can brag about their over 3000 meters peaks. And Mount Cook, the famous of them all, at its 3574m, seems to laugh in everyone’s face from the center of the country. But hey, we already passed Hokitika and we got to Ross. The first motel on the itinerary (Ross Motel), a long list of sightseeing for tomorrow and a bottle of Canterbury wine. We call it a day.
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