Just over two years ago, we arrived in New Zealand not really sure what to expect or whether we would settle in this strange country where it’s not uncommon to see people walking around with no shoes on and where speaking the native language sounds like you could be swearing a lot of the time. Whatever we imagined, we didn’t expect to fall in love with New Zealand or to make so many amazing friends and wonderful memories. In the two years we’ve been here we’ve seen some of the most beautiful places on earth, we’ve lived beach-front and enjoyed the most amazing sunrises, swims and general beach living we could ever have hoped for. We’ve hiked on glaciers, volcanoes and mountains, been campervanning, camping and car camping (!), swam with dolphins, surfed at Piha, SCUBA’d at the Poor Knights, been whale watching (and inflatable whale rescuing for Lizzy), celebrated with the rest of the nation as the mighty All Blacks won against France in RWC 2011 (thank goodness!), enjoyed several trips to nearby Waiheke island with all its vineyards, had lots of BBQs, nights and days out and in short have made the most of every opportunity we’ve had. Whilst our time in New Zealand has been some of the best years of our lives, we’re both really looking forward to seeing family and our UK friends. We’re also looking forward to cold Christmases, proper pints (that’s for Alex not Lizzy), the BBC, good chocolate (thanks to all our dealers that have kept us supplied whilst we’ve been away 🙂 ), shorter days (none of this 8am start business), affordable decent clothes and shoes and generally seeing all the places that we used to go.
And have we changed much? Hmm… we don’t really think so but I guess it’s hard for us to tell in some ways – you’ll have to let us know what you think. One of the biggest things would have to be that Alex now knows what he wants to do for a career and has proven to himself that he can find work enjoyable and rewarding. That and we probably know quite a bit more about wines, say “sweet” often, call flip flops “jandals” and may have become more slack in our driving 🙂
So, here ends our time in New Zealand, now starts our time travelling back (and yes we really have time-travelled. We had a 40-hour 10th March) through South and Central America. Please let us know if you are on the blog e-mailing list from our travels over here and would like to be removed, otherwise we’ll keep sending you our blog entries as we go. If you’ve seen this on Facebook or on the blog itself and would like an email each time one comes through, also let us know. They won’t be as nostalgic (or probably as long) as this entry- we promise 🙂
Here are a few final photos of our last few days in NZ… we’ll be putting all our photos here on Picasa.
Famous for whales, dolphins and Albatros, Kaikoura must have been a tiny village no-one had ever heard of before they realised that close to the shore, there’s a deep ocean ridge which brings all the ocean’s big stuff within easy reach. After debating for several hours, we chose to swim with dolphins rather than to go whale watching. The dolphins are of course wild and the boats aren’t allowed to do anything to attract them so after a sickening few hours (oh yes it was rough- but fortunately we’d both taken the Kaikoura Cracker beforehand so no buckets were required by us) we spotted around a hundred. We jumped into the water and were straight into singing mode to attract them- Don’t think I’ve ever sung anything so badly but the dolphins seemed to like it and would appear a few feet in front of us out of the murky water, circle us and then swim off. It was a bit surreal because the water visibility was so bad that it was a bit freaky seeing nothing and then suddenly being within touching distance of a few big dolphins- still pretty cool though. Wonder what else we were close to that we couldn’t see!!
So, whale watching is on the list of things to do in the future… although we’re reliably told that Orcas (killer whales) circle the bay where we’ll be living, so maybe we won’t even have to pay to see them!
The Marlborough sounds have such a convoluted coastline (think fingers of coastline pointing out to sea) that it took us a pretty much a day to drive half way up one of them. We collected another hitchhiker en-route who’d gotten so disorientated by the sounds (because until you can see the end of them, both directions look the same) that after one day walking, woke up and walked back in the direction he’d come from for 4 hours by mistake- oops. Having said it’s disorientating, he didn’t seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed as he was carrying an 80kg rucksack with him including a four person tent…
Anyway, the next day we spent cycling round the vineyards in Renwick and after that, we weren’t too sharp either (no comments about Lizzy never having been sharp please!). We’d managed 12 vineyards in 5 hours- tasting about 60 wines (Don’t worry parents- they really were only little tastes!) . A small vineyard called Gibson Bridge was our favourite- everything we tasted was amazing and no, it wasn’t the last one we went to!
We spent the night at Robin Hood Bay – it didn’t remind us of Nottingham in any way other than the name.
We spent two days and nights in this northern coastal area, mainly walking parts of the coastal route and taking in the views- which of course where stunning (starting to sound like a broken record I know but it’s true). Unfortunately, due to the camera having an impromptu swimming lesson, we had very few photos from our first day’s walk as we left it to recover (it didn’t seem to like swimming much as it gave us all sorts of funny pictures after it’s little dunk). Fortunately, it decided to forgive us and the next day it was back to normal working order, and we were able to avoid getting camera number 3! (yep- we have got through 1 waterproof one and 1 normal one already). Abel Tasman is probably the place we’d most likely go back to for a summer hol. as there’s just so much to see here and it’s all beautiful!
My birthday started with breakfast in bed and some pressies, including a parcel from the UK which had a very convoluted journey to the camper van and which involved numerous secret phone calls to DHL, my recruiter (Annie), Annie’s cousin, Annie’s cousin’s secretary, Alex, and of course Julie who it was from. Needless to say, I felt very very spoilt 🙂 I felt even more spoilt when I returned to the van to find it filled with balloons and a cake with candles. I think Alex nearly passed out trying to blow the 10 balloons up in the five minutes I’d been gone! All of that meant that I wasn’t too disappointed when our heli-hike planned for later that day was cancelled because of the rubbish weather. Instead we decided to move on further up the coast to Hokitika. We went on a short walk to a gorge there and for a treat we spent the night at a campsite with a spa and, after a run across the car park (the showers weren’t hot in the spa block) had our first hot shower in several days due to Queenie Simon not having one (we’re not admitting to how long it had been!).
From Queenstown we headed north to Fox & Franz Joseph Glacier, stopping only a few times to admire the views, pick up a hitch-hiker and to fill up with fuel & water. We spent our first night at Lake Matheson. It was here we discovered that our little camper ‘Queenie Simon’ leaks on one side when it rains heavily. Fortunately, a plastic bag and repositioning seemed to keep us and the inside pretty dry. Our poor Canadian neighbours in their ‘jucy van’ with its rear boot access cooker, were not so fortunate. Feeling pleased (and a little bit smug) we invited them to eat with us in our now rain-proofed van. Either the thought of eating what we cooked horrified them, or they didn’t trust our rain-proofing efforts as instead they opted for re-plumbing their cooker to work from inside their cramped little van. We stuck our heads out a few times to check they hadn’t gassed themselves and when they joined us later for drinks they seemed fairly coherent (at least initially) so I guess they avoided gas poisoning.
The views on the walk round the lake the next morning where as stunning as ever and we managed to also fit in a walk to Fox Glacier and plan for the next day- my birthday when we hoped to do a heli-hike to Franz Joseph Glacier.
We spent day 3 driving towards Milford Sound, enjoying the stunning scenery changing as we headed into Fiordland. We stopped en-route at a couple of places for lunch and for some short walks and eventually arrived at Milford Sound in the evening. Unfortunately, there’s no-where to camp in Milford Sound is itself (which the Lonely Planet unhelpfully fails to mention) so when we arrived in the cafe car-park/Ferry Terminal area, we spent a while debating whether we should ignore the ‘no overnight camping’ signs or drive 70km back to the nearest campsite with spaces… we chose to risk the $400 fine on advice from a helpful bar tender who told us that in the 18 months he’d worked there, the wardens had only moved people out once and without a fine. It turned out to be the right decision as we were able to get the first boat out the next morning which was not only cheaper but also very quiet.
The views were spectacular as you can hopefully see. We were also incredibly fortunate as the weather was unusually dry and sunny. The fjord has an annual rainfall of over 7m and there are over 200 days of rain here per year. As well as that we also saw three different schools of bottlenose Dolphins! If it hadn’t been so cold, I’d have been very tempted to jump in and swim with them- they’re amazing :). We also saw some seals but having been brought up predominantly in Norfolk near Blakeny, they didn’t wow me as much- though they are pretty cool.
After a slight mix up with the campervan (we’d mistakenly put to pick up from Christchurch city not airport- oops!) we set off towards Timaru where we were planning to spend the night. Not a particularly picturesque place but it was en-route to Mt Cook where we were heading toward the following day. After waking up with cold faces the next day, we headed out. En-route we stopped at Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki- both incredibly beautiful even in the gusty wind. We’d planned to spend a couple of nights at Mt Cook and do some treks but unfortunately the weather was terrible and forecast to remain bad for another few days. Instead we settled for a short walk up to Lake Tasman where we saw our first ever Icebergs, and decided to move on and get a bit ahead of our planned schedule so we continued southwards. We stopped overnight at a Lake Dunstan, which reminded us both of the reservoir near Snake Pass en-route to Manchester. It was stunning waking up in the morning and having breakfast overlooking it with not a soul in sight.