The gorgeous, more remote South Island was our destination for 9 days in November 2010. Flying from Sydney to Christchurch took around 4 hours and we picked up our Jucy camper van from the airport. This camper van was AMAZING...complete with double bed, cooker, DVD player (not needed but nice to have) and kitchen sink, all in one compact minivan. It was called the Jucy crib!
Laura did most of the driving and we had most of our night stops pre-planned - with map in hand we set off to tour the island.
First stop was Hanmer Springs - a beautiful natural hot spring. We parked up and walked into town for dinner before spending our first night in the van- it was actually far more comfortable than expected. The next day we spent the morning at the spring before driving to Punakaiki in time for sunset and our first attempt at cooking a-la camper van! Meal 1 = Spaghetti on toast. Dessert = toasted marshmallows.
Punakaiki is home to the pancake rocks and a blow hole that shoots water high into the air...
Also, check out our video of the helicopter ride!!
At Fox Glacier you can also take an amazing glow worm walk (or white water raft through tunnels covered in glow worms, if you choose). Laura made sure we had our torches at hand as glow worms tend to go shy if you scare them and no-one wants to be left in the dark!
One of our highlights was actually being able to set our own pace, because we didn't have hotel reservations or places we needed to be - we could pull on and off the road as and when we wanted. That meant picnics overlooking rushing rivers, waterfalls or beautiful fields rising into mountains, watching sheep (NZ has more sheep than people) and rarely saw anyone else.
On arrival in Wanaka, located on Lake Wanaka, we found Puzzling World. Wanaka is usually known for it's outdoor sports but being brainiacs (not really- it was just a bit cold) we spent an afternoon being amazed at feats of gravity.
From Queenstown we also headed to Milford Sound, a natural wonder and part of the fjordlands. The sound leads out to the sea, makes its own weather conditions and is home to thousands of seals. The landscape is spectacular, created by glacial movements that left behind deep valleys that have filled with water over time - visually this means that you are surrounded by sky high peaks while you sail over deep water basins. We took a two hour cruise that allowed us to get up close and personal with a waterfall and almost talk to the seals! Just watch out for the Kea birds in the area - they have a penchant for rubber so attack cars if you leave them to take photos (they like the rubber in the doors, and to be honest will eat anything, so be careful)....our tip? Just take photos from inside the car!
|We made the mistake of getting out of the car - and were accosted!!|
The most extreme part of our trip was our bungee jump trip in Queenstown....rather than doing it separately we ended up doing the 'highest swing in the world' tandem! The drive up was probably the worst bit, watching the road fall away as we got higher and higher. Actually scrap that the worst part was the walk out to the platform we would swing from. It was swinging, with see-through bridges/steps, and was the WORST for Sarah, who is scared of heights! Why would you want to see-through to the floor SO far below?!?
|Us swinging, Laura full on bum in the air!!|
And here's the video!!
The final part of our trip was spent with a friend who lived in Christchurch with her very own SHEEP. Laura wanted to pet a sheep the entire trip (SO CUTE!!), but when she actually got the chance, she was completely scared - they are much bigger close up!! We saw the (now gone) cathedral in downtown Christchurch. We had missed an earthquake the week before we arrived but the roads showed the cracks and older buildings had scaffolding. We were sad to read that the later quakes did SO much damage to the beautiful city. We're sure with the spirit we witnessed there, the city will bounce back.
In summary New Zealand is a place of outstanding natural beauty, amazing activities, accessible travel (we've had friends do similar routes on bus tours) and stunning scenery. You can get away and relax or use it as the opportunity to do something new. We LOVED it, in fact after all the travelling we have done together, and separately, New Zealand remains our favourite place. Sleeping under the stars, being responsible for our own schedule and planning as we went was liberating and fun....and if you can spend 9 days sleeping in a camper van together you know you've got something special!
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Lots of love, Laura & Sarah xoxo