It’s been a bit of a whistle stop tour of the South Island so far since my folks have arrived. In saying that, we’ve picked wisely so they’ve visited the top spots, yet still managed to relax, and have rarely driven more than a few hours every few days. This is a much better way to ‘do’ the South Island than do what most people do – visit for three weeks, try to cram in the North and South Island, underestimate distances, and spend have their time on the road whilst flying through places.
Our budgets have been blown out the water a bit too, but it’s been good, and we’ve now done most of the expensive ‘big ticket’ things we wanted to do on the trip, so we’d have done them at some point anyway….but we’ve left many places without scratching the surface, in the hope we return.
In the last three weeks’ we’ve been from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown, Doubtful Sound and wrapped up their time here with Kaikoura and Akaroa so they could see some of the coastal areas too.
So what have we been doing? Within the first two days on the road we went up Mt John Observatory in Tekapo and saw the starry skies at midnight, with some good photos taken on my own camera (with the staff’s help!). We also went on a 50 minute scenic flight from Lake Tekapo on a cracking day, which took us over the lake, surrounding hill stations (huge farms), then around Mt Cook (NZ’s largest mountain), the Franz and Fox Glaciers and surrounding mountains. This was one thing that blew me away – I love seeing things from the sky, and mountains like this were an exception, so it was worth every dollar spent…and it could have brought me to tears if I wasn’t so manly
Needless to say when I tried fishing in the ‘top spot’ where some motorhomers told us to go…I never caught jack shit.
From here we went to Mt Cook where we left ‘the olds’ to do a day walk and relax, whilst Ciara and I overnighted in the Mueller Hut in an alpine setting. We lucked out on this with a perfect day and evening for it. A beast of a short (in distance) but very sharp trek directly up the mountainside to a hit in an amazing setting, just beside a ridge which overlooked the campsite, but it was also directly across the valley from a glacier. Clearish skies were above for some stargazing at night, and we got up at 5.30am to catch the sunrise opposite the glacier. Mueller Hut is reached via a bloody steep walk, but it’s right in the mountains on a ridge overlooking some glaciers.
From here we drove down to Wanaka which is one of my favourite places in New Zealand – like a local’s Queenstown, albeit on a much smaller scale. We managed a walk up one of the small local hills, and a days climbing, and some fishing. I had crammed in a job interview on the first morning of their visit in Chirstchurch, and I had a second Skype interview from the van whilst we were in Wanaka. (Un?)fortunately I never got the job as it wasn’t a perfect skills match.
Moving on a bit too quickly, we drive straight through Queenstown and went to Te Anau to spend an overnight trip to Doubtful Sound, one of the biggest fjiords in New Zealand. Most folk would head to Milford as you can drive directly to it, but for Doubtful it’s a boat, bus, ferry combo to get there. It was chucking it down which meant there were hundreds of amazing waterfalls around that were just as a result of the rain.
From here we headed back and spent a couple of nights in Queenstown where we did the Skippers Canyon jetboat (which I think offers a far better package than the better known Shotover Jet), where my mum was panicked on the road to get there, never mind the jetboat ride! Somehow when we got back and went up the gondola overlooking Queenstown, Allan commented that he may like to do the bunjee swing….before he had the chance to rethink we had him paid and checked in.
We did a big drive up the east coast, and went to Kaikoura where we swam with dolphins, and mum and Allan went to see the whales. I’ve been going on about hundreds of dolphins there to Ciara for year, so luckily it was a similar experience to what I had a few years ago with hundreds of dolphins around us. We also saw several Orca’s as well which was amazing.
Also, I finally CAUGHT MY FIRST DECENT FISH!!! I was surfcasting from the beach in Kaikoura when I hauled in what I thought was my third bunch of seaweed until I realised it kept moving and had some silver fleshy thing on the end of it… unfortunately for Allan he had to do the nasty bit at the end as I still need to be able to deal with all the jumping around. Although we put it on the bbq that night I think the ‘aftermath’ of the actual fishing may have put Ciara off a bit.
That last few days were spent in Akaroa where Ciara and I had been just before they arrived. There was mixed weather but some absolutely roasting hot days by the beach…well timed as I read yesterday that swimming there was banned for a bit this week due to bad water quality!
This post has been half written for quite some time but I’ve hardly been online while they have been here as we’ve been too busy doing things, and catching up – the first time since the end of April last year (which was manic as we were packing to head off). Although I haven’t went into too much detail about everything it was a really quality few weeks, and we loved showing off New Zealand and the completely different things you can do here in such a short space of time, and relatively short distance (they covered 2300km in 3 weeks). We had some van rental issues at the start which we rapidly got over, but apart from that everything went super smoothly, making up our plans as we went along, and readjusting them to ensure we weren’t rushing around everywhere, and not spending too much time driving.
It made us feel good that we had visitors that had never been over here, and really appreciated why we wanted to stay for longer, and what we loved about the place. We managed to experience some really diverse activities throughout the time, and many great free ones as well – never mind just the quality time we managed to spend. It was fortunate we had them visit whilst we were on the road as well as it will prove really hard or impossible to spend such an amount of time when we are working, with limited holidays.
Sadly they’re back already, but we’ve managed to spend this weekend looking after a 12 acres ‘lifestyle block’ owned by one of Ciara’s relatives, and we are heading away again on Monday. We’ve made enquiries to a volunteeering place in Wanaka which we need to contact again, in the hope we can do some work in exchange for accommodation for a couple of weeks or so. We’ll head back there at some time anyway, and hope to squeeze in a visit to Stewart Island. We’re going to really struggle to decide when to start putting an end to this road trip, despite it costing a bit more than we hoped, and even harder to decide where to end up. Both of us would love to stay in somewhere like Wanaka for a while, but ‘real’ jobs may take us elsewhere. We are considering Christchurch but we just don’t think it’s nearly as nice a city as Wellington, but it does offer a whole host of other places to visit around it.
Anyway, better dash……. more sometime! (and I’ll do pictures).