After three plane journeys and many long layovers, we eventually made it to Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand, Monday afternoon, September 21st (having left saturday morning). We picked up our camper-van and drove straight on out of Christchurch, well, after hitting the grocery store. I don't go without food peeps! We drove slap-bang across the island, heading for the west coast, but we were exhausted by early evening and so decided to stop at the side of the road. We were also driving in the dark and didn't want to be missing anything!
We woke up bright and early and carried on until we reached the coast and headed north toward Pancake Rock. We were a bit early (waiting for high-tide around lunchtime) so we went for a stroll through the rainforest, crossed a river and got totally drenched in a downpour even Mississippi would have been proud of. I was super impressed by the number of different ferns I could count, most definitely one of my favourite plants. We headed back to Pancake Rock where the waves crashed against the cliffs; which, in my opinion, looked nothing like pancakes. The roaring of the waves was incredible and the spew of water into the air as it shot up through the blow holes was mind-blowing, but the shaking of the ground beneath your feet was a little unnerving! We then headed on to check out a cave which was eerily dark when we turned out the torch, not a single slither of light and we the only folks in there. This was my favourite day of our entire holiday. I remember it fondly. My other favourite thing about our holiday was living in a camper van with my favourite man in the whole wide world. It was lovely to spend so much time together, unadulterated quality time with no responsibilities or jobs to do, no stress from work, no being too tired and grumpy, bliss!
We then drove south through more rain and parked up just a few kilometers north of wednesdays destination, the Franz Joseph Glacier. We ate dinner, made up the bed and Danny went around the van locking the doors for bedtime. He called me outside to look at the stars and as I (begrudgingly as I was tired and we all know that means grumpy too!) grabbed my boots and coat and came outside. Danny shut the side door because he was worried that I would yell at him about the bugs getting in, and as it clicked shut I heard this little voice; shit, was all he said. What, as I glared at him. Well, the keys had been locked inside the van and we were outside of the van. Im cold, says Danny, who is only wearing a tee-shirt. hmmmm. I should probably mention that we were in the middle of nowhere! Ok, this is a slight exaggeration, we had spotted a house about 10 km down the road, but that would have been a long and embarrassing walk in the middle of the night. Now the only way to get to the roof of the van was for someone to hoist someone else up there, and since I had no intention of letting Danny step on my shoulders, I somewhat clumsily made my way to the roof where I had to bust out the screen of our roof vent, which fortunately was open, only to discover that there was a thick bar down the middle and there was no way I was either busting it out or fitting down the side. So Danny took the torch into the woods to look for a slim long branch whilst I teetered on top of the roof and considered the stars. hmmmm. Unbelievably I hooked the keys first time with my inch wide, 7 foot long branch and managed to get them out of the tiny little hole in the roof. When I made it down from the roof of the van, we enjoyed the stars together! Thankfully it was at the beginning of our trip and everybody saw the humour in it! It really was hilarious!
Wednesday we did an organised hike up Francz-Joseph Glacier, crampons and all! It was pretty darn cool, walking on ice, under ice, through ice.
Thursday we drove South along the awe-inspiring west coast stopping to check out cool rock formations, the geeks that we are! We parked up that night on the edge of a lake and took in the scenery while we ate dinner. The next morning, when we woke the freeze level was considerably lower than the night before and it was cool to see the new ice on the mountainside.
Hiking a mountain took up most of friday morning, then we treated ourselves to lunch in Wanaka, a very cool town. Things in NZ were pretty expensive, but up until this point, we had no idea really, as we had just bought food at the supermarket. Our lunch, which was not extravagant (a burger and a salad, guess who was who!) cost us NZ$45. Insane! Needless to say, we hardly ate out again while we were there!
Saturday we had a date with Doubtless Sound, which is in fact not a Sound at all, but a Fjord. We boated across a lake, took a coach down to the Sound then boarded another boat. We saw rare Hectors Dolphins playing, sea lions basking in the sun and penguins looking sheepish on the rocks. The weather was unseasonably good but it was still a windy day! The best part of the day was when they turned off the engines of the boat and asked for everyone to be silent for a few minutes. You really felt like you were in the wild with the birds of the rainforest singing their hearts out and the waterfalls falling around you. Incredible.
For the next few days, we drove on South until we hit the bottom of the island and then east until we hit the corner, and north toward Christchurch. We stopped regularly to check out the awesome coast line but the countryside was no longer snow tipped mountains, beautiful lakes, and gorgeous coast line, now it was pasture. Pasture, pasture and more pasture. Mostly sheep, cows and some deer and alpaca. These few days it rained, and rained and rained. The coolest thing that happened in that time was when we bundled up and headed to a lookout in Dunedin (said Dun-E-Din, not Dune-din as I thought) where we saw Yellow-eyed penguins coming in to roost in the cliffside vegetation for the night and furseals hanging out on the beach. Pretty cool.
When we got to Christchuch tuesday we popped in for an hour, even though we had intended to spend the afternoon there. Like most cities in NZ, it was pretty lame and really had nothing of interest to offer us. So we checked into a posh hotel and took our free-drink voucher straight to the bar to taste the local brew. I was kicking Danny's arse in Canasta, I had a 2000 point lead over him and then somehow (I blame the beer) I lost my game and he schooled me. Such a shame.
Our flight left Christchurch 630am wednesday morning and we hit Auckland bright and early, picked up our camper-van, hit the grocery store (of course) and headed on out of town. We drove straight to the beach, of course and walked along Horehei Beach, over the cliff tops and down into Cathedral Bay, which was a pretty cool cliff arch. That evening we backed our van up to the beach to cook our dinner, what a view!
Bright and early the next morning we strolled along the beach and up a cliff on the other side for a lovely sunrise over the bay. On to Hotwater Beach which was an interesting experience. Much to my surprise, I had a good time but it was looking doubtful there at first. I dislike people. Thus crowds are my idea of hell. There is a small area of the beach where hot springs rise up through the sand heated by rocks several hundreds of kilometers below. When the tide is out you can dig a whole in the sand and sit in a hot pool. So Danny tried his best to dig down into the sand and every time he thought he had his hole protected from the waves, a big one would come in and knock the wall down! But the area in which the hot springs flowed was a very small one, probably smaller than my living room, and there were about 100 people trying to dig holes in the sand. So I just kinda stood there hoping everyone would avoid the grumpy girl in the turqoise bikini, freezing to death. Thankfully the tide came back in and we got washed out, but Danny wanted to play in the water, mad-man, so I built a sand castle, with little shells for decoration. A home has got to be stylish now, even if it is made of sand!
About this time I started to miss my friends and my beautiful boys and wonder how awful my garden looked untended.
We drove toward the center of the island, toward Rotoroa. On the way to the town we took a little detour to visit a river that was in our guide book. I could tell Danny was not impressed about having to look at another waterfall, but he tried not to make it too obvious. The floodgates of the river had just been released when we got there! Amazing for some river geeks! There were some guys watching who had just gotten off the river kayaking, just in time! I asked them what the river usually flowed at and what it was at now. Now I dont know what units they were working in but the sheer scale of the difference in flow was enough to impress me. In the summer it flowed around 2 (of whatever units), people kayaked it around 5 (some unit) and right now it was flowing at 1100!!! wow! It was ripping!
Rotoroa had a disgusting smell to it, the smell of sulphur hung continually in the air. By this time we were a little frazzled out on sight seeing and jumping out the car to check stuff out, so we parked up at the edge of the lake and read our books. In the afternoon we had appointments with geothermal hot springs; Danny then got a hot rocks massage and I had a mud-wrap and massage. Since we were all relaxed we stayed in a B&B that night where the woman did not stop and breath for talking. The geothermal park we checked out the next day was pretty cool, though rather smelly.
We drove on north and made it to Orere Point to camp for the night before heading on back to Auckland. Scariest place ever! The people were totally scary, and yes, I have become a snob, apparently.
The journey home was tiresome, but ended with our cute little boys and the best nights sleep in our own bed! We got dropped at the airport sunday at 1pm, our flight left at 3pm. We arrived in Los Angeles, CA at 7am that same day. Weird. We then sat around for 5 hours and arrived in Memphis at 630pm.
Two weeks of fun packed holiday!
I was relaxed, now I am tired again!
New Zealand wrapped up: South Island West Coast awesome scenery, blow your mind away awesome. Everywhere else, pasture. Cities suck and most places are really run down. You have to pay for everything, and I mean everything. It is really expensive. Lots of very clean and convenient public toilets. They dont really ever seem to fix the roads, just mark off the problem spots with cones. Cross between American, English and Scottish. That's my take at least!
Me, the van, the saviour branch and the elucid keys!
More pictures to follow during the week!