We have been in beautiful New Zealand for over a week now, and as the title suggests we are back in a Campervan and enjoying another road trip. This van is not quite as shiny and lovely as her predecessor Sheila, however we have now become well acquainted with her and learned to love her charm. Of course, we’ve also named her – Rusty; very fitting.
Arriving in New Zealand wasn’t without its issues (as is becoming quite the norm for us now it would appear). In all of the research I had done, I had neglected to realise that in order to gain entry to New Zealand you need to have an outbound flight booked. I knew we were allowed six months, and that we didn’t need to fill paperwork out prior to arrival, however I had somehow not spotted this important fact. In my defence, it is not in bold red letters on the direct gov website, and when booking our flight out it didn’t warn us either. Nevertheless, we arrived at Sydney airport to find we couldn’t check in for our flight because of this minor issue, and so we sat and quickly searched and booked a flight out of Auckland. The cheapest we could find around the date that we wanted to leave – whether we end up using it or not remains a mystery for now.
We have been doing an anti-clockwise circuit of the South Island and have stopped at plenty of places. Each one as scenic and mesmerising as the last. Even the driving has been full of incredible landscapes. I’m struggling to think of a stop we have made that hasn’t been pleasing on the eye, because everywhere has a view of a mountain, hill, lake or forest as a backdrop. It’s the definition of natural beauty. It’s also exactly what camping and road trips are about – freedom. The trip began in Christchurch, which is sadly still a building site from the devastating earthquake. Local businesses are in quirky pop up shops in rows of colourful shipping containers and walls are decorated with graffiti to brighten the concrete streets. We’ve visited Hamner Springs and taken a dip in the 40 degree sulphur pools – although my dip was fairly brief as I got far too hot far too quickly. From here we ventured to Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is a top stop for wildlife lovers – we saw wild sea lions on the beach, and wandered into a seagull birthing ground (bad idea, aggressive seagull mums are happy attacking humans), but best of all we swam with wild dolphins! I’m lucky enough to have swam with dolphins before, but under quite different circumstances in Florida. These dolphins were not trained by any means, and I was actually slightly worried about upsetting them in their natural habitat but on the contrary, they seemed to love it. Once our boat had located the dolphins, we were surrounded by at least 30 of them. Jumping and playing and splashing around only got more enthusiastic when we entered the water and they come swimming right beside you and playfully circling and talking to you. I’m sure us talking back was quite comical for the crew left on the boat. Maybe they just told us to do that for a laugh. The experience was just incredible. Although a little scary at first being in choppy waters, it was something I would recommend to anyone – strong swimmer or not. Definitely another thing ticked off the bucket list that I’m not even sure I knew was on it.
We have witnessed first hand more devastating damage from the most recent earthquake ( felt one of the aftershocks ourselves actually) and taken a long detour to reach Abel Tasman National Park. We spent two days in the township of Franz Josef Glacier hoping for brighter weather to allow us to go hiking on the ice but sadly that wasn’t too be as even in the sunshine the cloud is sitting too low and the wind is high. Lake Wanaka has been another highlight and we enjoyed parking up for the night in complete solitude to enjoy the views as well as doing Gandalf impressions with a large stick we found (I say we, moreso me on that one).
We have seen the old town of Greymouth and spent two days enjoying the sunshine in the adventure capital that is Quenstown. The weather however, was still windy, and therefore not on our side for participating in any of the adventures we had considered, nor a flight to Milford Sound, so we are currently en route by road as I write this. The wind is still against us and the iconic drive isn’t so pretty in the downpour of rain, but we have a playlist featuring an eclectic mixture of Adele, Wham, and ICE Cube to keep us entertained and there’s tea and dairy milk chocolate in the back for our next rest stop. Hopefully it clears up to see the Fiordlands tomorrow, otherwise we are going to get very wet.