In which we get campervanning, get lost on a mountain and get rewarded with the most stunning views of our lives
16.01.2013 - 19.01.2013 18 °C
New Zealand has so far been beyond our wildest dreams, literally some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine. Combine that with hitting the open (and winding) roads in our own campervan, cooking up a storm on the BBQ at night and topping it off with the world's greatest sauvignon blanc... you might say we're enjoying New Zealand. Just a bit.
We landed in Christchurch on Wednesday afternoon and were met by Andrew from Cruzy Campers to introduce us to our home for the next three weeks.
Neither of us had ever been in a campervan before but luckily its easy enough to pick up. We headed straight into downtown Christchurch, the centre of which is still devastated by the 2011 earthquake. There's a whole area, called the red zone, which is closed off and contains the worst of the damage. It was a pretty weird experience, almost like walking around a ghost town.
If its possible to see a silver lining in all this, they have taken it as an opportunity to plan a regeneration project which will eventually build a beautiful, modern city. There is already a new shopping area made out of really cool, multi-coloured shipping containers that we had a wander around.
Can't help but think Christchurch will be an incredible place to visit in a few years time.
The next day we headed off on the 520km drive to Queenstown. Because we like to start easy. The first part of the journey is down the coast, through flat, Canterbury farmland. But the landscape changed for the better when we headed inland, first to Waimate then Omarama and finally through Cromwell before arriving in Queenstown. The scenery was incredible, the most shining green lakes bordered by grey mountains, whole roads lined with abundant pink and purple wild flowers, and the flattest, straightest valley roads followed by twisting and turning mountain passes. Its a shame one of us always has to drive while the other sits in the passenger seat shouting 'Look at that!'
Queenstown itself doesn't disappoint either. Built on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, its a small town filled with every adrenalin activity you can think of, outdoor shops, coffee shops and bars.
We stayed in a camp site overlooking the lake... not a bad view to wake up to!
We decided to stay a couple of nights so the next day we did a walk from the lake side called the Fernhill Loop. The walk took us through (yep, you guessed it) even more amazing scenery... beech forests, alpine forests, wild flower meadows and rainforest... before we reached the top.
We actually got lost and ended up doing the track the wrong way round, which meant that instead of an 'undulating path' to the top, we went straight up (for two very steep, very painful hours), although this meant the terrain changed around us probably every 15 minutes. And when we got to the top? It was seriously worth it (our photos definitely don't do this justice... Marcus claims its the best view he's ever seen).
Today we drove the 180km to Te Anau which is a really small town on the edge of Lake Te Anau. Its basically a stepping off point for trekking routes and trips to Milford Sound but in a pretty location on the south of the lake. After setting up camp and having lunch we did a two-hour lakeside walk for some more beautiful mountain and lake views.
Tomorrow we're driving the famous Te Anau to Milford road, which was described to us by the guy who rented us the van as 'about as wilderness as you can get'. Needless to say, Marcus will be doing the driving.
We've booked ourselves on a boat out into Milford Sound in the afternoon which includes a drop off for kayaking. Apparently they measure the rainfall in metres there, so we're expecting to get wet! Then tomorrow night we're hoping to free camp in one of the free camping designated areas (oxymoron?) in the Milford area. Can't wait!