It was a nice short flight to Christchurch, our first stop in New Zealand. All we saw however, was the airport, as we picked up a pair of twin Toyota Yaris cars in different shades of blue and hit the road……in convoy. Dad’s baby blue following up the rear, a sight we have become accustomed to, like a little baby blue blot on the horizon. We were about to undertake the Great New Zealand road trip, which is obligatory to any visitor.
I was fortunate enough to visit this beautiful country a little over 10 years ago, when I headed for the hills in a very basic camper van with my bestie Aimee. We were here in the winter/spring of 2004 but it was cold and very dark. I always said it would be somewhere I would like to visit again in the summer. However, if I had known the summer was little different to the winter, I may not have bothered! All the kiwis are complaining of an unusually bad summer, I’m sure all you back in miserable old England will be pleased to hear we’ve had our fair share of bleak weather here. The only difference is New Zealand is blessed with perhaps the most stupendously beautiful scenery in the world, so it’s not all bad!
New Zealand is a funny old place, especially the South Island where the total population is just over 1 million. So, there’s a lot of room, which is great, but not all that much going on.
Time has stood still here and you come really for one thing, the scenery and maybe extreme sports, just scenery for us! Mum and dad didn’t fancy a bungy.
First stop, Oamaru, a strange town down the east coast.
Most people come here to see penguins, we failed in doing that, but had a nice time anyway. On the way there we stopped at a Wallaby sanctuary, run by an eccentric lady, who told us to take some food and wander around the field shouting “hey wallaby we’ve got some food for you!”. Following her advice, we proceeded to do this and with her top tip of scratching their bottoms, which seemed to work, we made some wallaby friends.
As we were leaving, the mad old lady pulled a blinder, quite literally, out of a bag, and produced two Wallaby joeys for us to give milk to and cuddle.
Unfortunately, in New Zealand, they have a lot of animals that are not native to the country, wallabies being one of them and they need to watch their backs. It seems anything that’s not native is fair game, Possum wool is very popular here, and people cheer when they see road kill. It’s all done to try and save some of their very rare and unique native wildlife, so its all good. Our road kill total is zero, but we will keep trying!
Back in Oamaru, some Lincoln folk may be interested to hear it has a large Steam Punk following, with a rather quirky Steam Punk HQ and a Steam Punk themed playground.
Although one local I talked to said the town had had enough of them filling it with junk and the movement, after being there for over 10 years, was dying out. Well Freda loved the playground! Going back to the weather, I am English after all, we were quite shocked when we had to light a fire in our lovely little town house, both nights!
The next day we left on our first long drive of many, to Te Anau, our gateway to Milford Sound. This is where the scenery really begins to wow, and summed up by one of my favourite authors Douglas Adams, much better than I could.
“Fiordland, a vast tract of mountainous terrain that occupies the south-west corner of South Island, New Zealand, is one of the most astounding pieces of land anywhere on God’s earth, and one’s first impulse, standing on a cliff top surveying it all, is simply to burst into spontaneous applause.”
From here onwards you really feel like you are in the Lord of the Rings, it is almost other worldly. The whole place can be a little overwhelming, from Mountains, thundering rivers, fiordland with dolphins swimming by, lush rainforests, snow capped mountains mirrored in deep cold lakes, wild flower meadows, rolling plains, everywhere the view is magnificent.
We drove to Milford Sound, the creme de la creme, to catch a boat. It was a miserable day, but gave us a magnificent moody Milford.
Freda made a friend on our boat, which kept her entertained, completely oblivious to the scenery, even when a pod of dolphins swam by, she said she was too busy playing, kids, you take them around the world, do they appreciate it!! The view however was slightly impaired by a pair of very large, green, ‘juicy’ folk.
Next drive, on to lake Wanaka. The drive as usual was breathtaking.
We stopped in a small gold mining town called Arrowtown, where local folk tied up their horses outside the pub for lunch, it was very quaint. A day spent by the lake was just what we all needed after our long drive and our impending mammoth drive up the coast of New Zealand’s Wild West.
I overheard Mitch telling his family that we just need to get that long drive over with, then it would be ok. Mitch its all about the drive! Silly boy.
En route, we passed through national parks gushing with waterfalls, however, get of the car at your peril, sand flys are waiting. My dad got severely munched on when mum brought a bunch nestling in her jumper back from the bog. We stopped at the glaciers, and drove up the very wild coast. 7 hours later we rested our weary heads in Hokitika, in a very strange log cabin.
Down the road was a glow worm dell, which Freda got to stay up late to go to, although she was quite concerned about the deep dark forest.
The next part of our epic drive was along the coast, once again NZ didn’t disappoint. We were on our way to the not so promisingly named Cape Foulwind. We passed by Pancake Rocks, an unusual and thrilling rock formation, where blow holes and crashing waves soak an excited audience. Freda, however was a little disappointed to find out they weren’t pancakes, and were completely inedible!
Cape Foulwind didn’t live up to its name, it was lovely. There was a pub, so the men were happy, our first motel was a success and even had a hot tub, a great restaurant with a unbelievable view of the sweeping bay and lots of seals.
An amazing chicken like bird called a Weka kept us entertained at dinner as it kept trying to steal Freda’s chips, no one takes Freda’s food without facing the consequences!
Freda had been causing a few problem of late and she’d been particularly difficult with Mitch during this stretch. It took her 5 days to finally tell Mitch she loved him and had been cross with him. I asked her why and she told me because he had called her dirty 5 days before, during a little argument the two had had. Who’d have thought a four year old could hold a grudge for so long, anyway things have been a lot better since she forgave him, that will teach him, who could call this dirty! Mean man.
2000 km later we drove into Nelson, for a long deserved rest in a beautiful hilltop retreat. Dad said Nelson was his ideal town and I have to say it was pretty good. The journey there was a bit problematic, as Mum and dad took Freda in their car for the first time, and after a few two many peaches for breakfast and a very windy road, they found themselves in a layby cleaning up peach yoghurt sick. Mitch and I turned around when we saw that the baby blue blue blot wasn’t up our rear anymore, but unfortunately turned up just too late to help with the sick clean up, gutted!
The hilltop retreat was also a little problematic as no one was expecting it to be up such a steep gravel track. Once Mitch and I had reached the top, the baby blue blot was no longer following us up the rear! Mitch set off on foot to find them them stuck, halfway up the hill! After this, I think some people were a little reluctant to go anywhere, and face the hill again. Luckily the place was like a mansion, with the best view in town, so we managed ok.
Nelson is a great town, apparently with more artists per square meter than anywhere else in NZ, with a great beach and a national park on your doorstep. There is a great vineyard just over the hill, and the green lipped mussel capital of the world next door, what else would anyone need?
On leaving Nelson we had a bit of a upset, when Mitch realised he’d lost his wallet. After unpacking all of our bags and nearly calling up and cancelling his cards, we, in the nick of time, located his wallet in dads pocket! After repacking we were just about to leave when I noticed I couldn’t find my sunglasses, but without much looking I spotted them on dads head. But then dad realised he’d lost his sunglasses, these were located in the end on a branch of the plum tree he’d been picking fruit from earlier on!
We were sad to leave finally, not only Nelson but the beautiful south. The North Island awaits, wish us luck.