Bye Bye Nz.....
Trip Start Jan 08, 2011
261Trip End Dec 20, 2011
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The first week we were holed up in a wooden cabin in south new Brighton not far outside Christchurch central, a few hundred metres to a beautiful, if a little scraggly around the edges beach, near deserted most days, on one side and an estuary on the other side of the camp,
Then came the long awaited, even longer awaited than when the girls came out, arrival of Claires mum and dad, she was literally bursting at the seams, waiting on the seats at the arrivals in Christchurch airport!!
After that it was back to living in a campervan, and the freedom of your own vehicle again.
We stayed just one night in Christchurch and did the flyby visit during the next day, where we parked and walked around, saw the destruction and got the see the temporary shopping area they've built using shipping containers so that was a one off.
South from there we went to Akaroa, against us, there wasn't a lot to do there but the views and pictures we got from the roadside stop of the basin and old crater area were impressive and worth it just for that
South from there and we spent a night at Ashburton.
South again and we visited the Moeraki boulders on the coast which was pretty cool, in a pretty setting, where on our long walk through the green rolling hills full of sheep we had a chance viewing of a pod of whales, from a distance mind you, but close enough from our height that we could see them off the coast, see them breaching and the huge splashes of water they were throwing around and the whirlpool effect they were creating by swimming around and around.
South again and we spent a night at Palmerston, unofficially the worst value for money campsite we encountered , only offset by the beautiful beach just a few minutes walk away.
West and basically coast to coast we travelled from Palmerston to Te Anau where we did a tour to the doubtful sounds in the fjiordland, unfortunately again the weather wasn't on our side and instead of the inevitable rain seeing as that part of New Zealand expects uptown and in excess of, 4metres, yes metres! of rainfall per year, we got snow!! So instead of seeing the sounds in all there glory we saw them in perhaps a little different light, with snow down to almost sea level, and rain and fog and mist and rough waters, we definitely got a different feel of the place, it definitely felt as remote and as rugged as it looks, the back of beyond, the edge of the world!! Unforgiving and pretty much impenetrable terrain its a strange ol' place. It was very strange to see the difference in climates, even with the snow covering, divided only by a few fjiord peaks, and wilmot pass, down into the sounds and your met with sub tropical vegetation.
It was worth the visit just to see the Manapouri underground power station, if you like the engineering feats, which I did enjoy. New Zealand's claim to their biggest engineering project.
North and east from Te Anau to Queenstown, and onto Wanaka, which turned out to be a favourite for everyone and we even got to see the sun!!!
North and west we hit the "rugged" west coast and it was pretty damn beautiful, raw natural beauty, fox glacier was great and all along that coast we got experience the shanty towns that now felt like ghost towns, borne from the "gold rush" so that was cool, north from fox glacier we stayed in Hokitika, a gold rush town now more into jade, full of workshops and outlets selling jade in all its crafted forms, where we saw a glow worm dell!! Not that exciting for most, but for us was a little highlight, amazing to see, but depends what you like I guess, nothing extravagant, but still a little natural beauty.
From west to east and again coast to coast , via Arthurs pass, unfortunately for us.... again... the weather was not good so didn't really get to see the engineering of the bridge that spanned the valley and creates an important part of the pass, though we did get to see a mountain parrot where we parked up after we crossed the bridge so that was s little bit of a consolation prize a least, we got to within a few feet of!!
On the east coast, just north of Rangiora we found a beautiful beach and were a bit confused at just how much it changed within the few kilometres we travelled north along the coast to where we settled at Leathfield, from beautiful, soft, yellow sand and dunes to a black stone and grit beach at Leathfield
Leathfield, north and west and on one of the many scenic drive routes we were headed towards Hanmer springs, with a completely unexpected stop for adrenaline, in the form of Jetboating and bungy jumping and the slower paced rafting, followed by quad biking the next day, much fun!!!
Hanmer to Kaikoura on the coast where we'd planned whale watching but it wasn't to be, though we saw seals and some beautiful coastline.
Again north to Blenheim, west to Picton and in one day we crossed from south island to north island and drove on late into the evening almost reaching Taupo, the ferry crossing through the queen charlotte sounds and the cook strait happened to be for us, a beautiful day so couldn't have asked for more, and the surrounding views were just as beautiful.
Viewed Wellington from the sea, and in and around the Taupo, Rotorua area we visited thermal areas which when you look at the surrounding areas, really are quite something to see, straight out of a film or plucked from the prehistoric era, boiling mud pools, hissing geysers, smells, sights and colours like wandering through a history book, rainforest included all hemmed in by the green covered hills, strange stuff and interesting to see it all up close.
We swam in thermal pools and dug holes on the lakeside sand that heated up your feet, at a little over a foot, the heat was enough to burn you quite easily, and we definitely sampled the sulphur smells that it all has to offer!! Mmmm!!!
Rotorua, north and west and into the Coromandel Area, not before stopping at Waihi beach which made for a nice break, we stopped at and saw a lot of nice beaches along the way, Cathedral Cove was very beautiful, worth the walk and Hahei was again a very beautiful beach.
Luckily for us the very last day but one came out super sunny, all day so actually felt a bit like summer!!
To sum up the roadtrip, we saw mountains, rolling green-tellytubbie landscapes and rugged coastlines in the south island, all different kinds of flora and fauna that you can imagine, from different climates, from green grasses and normal shrub and plants you could expect to see at home, to alpine foresty and woodland, to sub tropical rainforest - from mountain level to coast, where the fox glacier is clad in rainforest... Then you'll see a daisy in the grass by the roadside... Peculiar is the word.
We saw desolate deserted coastline, and made mountain passes and never really came upon anything that resembled a town or city as we know it, and as for the weather.... We saw sun, rain and snow, and all of this that we saw, the weather the landscapes, was so unpredictable and interchangeable that literally you can be in one surrounding in one minute, blink your eyes and its changed completely.
The north island definitely felt more modern day, more civilised, more I suppose how you expect it to be, but even there you still get that lonely feeling, kind of like its been deserted, other than trucks or tourists you kind of wonder where everybody is. I think the answer is, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch or in some other country!!!!!
We did see rain in the north, don't get me wrong, but in by comparison we saw the sun, a hell of a lot more, and a whole lot less rain, and no snow!!!
It seemed to be a little bit bleak of a morning or an evening, but the best part of the day the sun was out, if cloudy, but we even got to do some sunbathing and the t shirts came off daily so that says it all!!!
Driving in New Zealand is a whole different beast to, for example Australia or home,
It's windy, its hilly, its undulating, and the majority of it is passing or crossing or skirting mountains or lakes, a straight road is hard to come by, and the condition of the roads is something else, more so on the south island, where from what we saw its the local farmers that do the road building and maintenance or that's at least what it looked and felt like!!!
That said, fun to drive, and a good car and plenty of fuel and you could have some great fun on the roads!!
North or South??
Well, pretty undecided. Some people told us south, some say north. More often than not the answer was south, but its a tough one to be honest
The South is beautiful, more so than what we saw of the north, that said we never saw the "rugged" east coast of the north, supposedly similar to the west coast south island, or the northland, or anything other than the arterial route that took us from Wellington to Taupo.
The south has the glaciers, the sounds, lakes, beautiful vistas, the adrenaline central of queenstown,Hanmer springs and way more varied views and landscapes than we saw in the north. It offers rafting, skydiving, bungy, whale watching, dolphin watching, in the right season skiing and snow boarding, walking, cycling, and a whole lot more.
The north has the thermal areas, the maori cultural and historical centre of rotorua, though of course that can be found anywhere, it has the lakes, it has the volcanic regions, it has the Coromandel which in places is stunning, it offers the skydiving, the bungy, the rafting, the walking, the cycling, the whale watching at the right time of year.
Blow for blow it seems that they almost match each other, though the south offers just a little more, and at the right time of year the weather must be superb in the south, but the north is smaller, therefore easier to get around quicker, with better road conditions with a sub tropical climate as opposed to an antarctic one.
So?? The south seems more backward and with more, natural rugged beauty, the north slightly more sophisticated, it really is tough to call.
In fact, just do both, its easier!!
New Zealand is, unequivocally, beautiful. Stunningly so in places, and the people are friendly, bubbly and straight talking which is refreshing, they say exactly whatever it is that wants to come out of their mouth during that sentence. Whether that's someone working in a shop, a garage or a campsite, if they want to swear they'll swear, if they want to be offensive about somebody they will be, they don't beat about the bush and political correctness is unheard of, and it is, refreshing to see and hear. It's just gone that step to far everywhere else.
It's definitely got a bit of a backward feel that we hadn't expected so much and of the flipside of the straight talking pro, a couple of times in the south island you heard the offensively rascist comments which were not meant light heartedly and the men are men and the women are women , hence the bit backward statement. North island not so much, but all that aside quite an interesting position to be in as a country to have two very different islands and the contrast between them you see as a visitor, in all aspects.
Down to personal opinions,
Well, can't really explain it in few words but New Zealand was a weird one for me,putting aside natural beauty,Just felt a identityless'. If that makes sense without sounding offensive, which it isn't meant as.
A little bit American, a little bit Australian, a little bit English, a little bit Maori,
You see its a little difficult to put your finger on, but its just very weird.....
On another thought, they claim to be a multicultural country - all living hand in hand and all that rubbish, and proud of it, yet when your here and you see and hear the underlying tones its a little different, well it seems the same here as Australia have done to the aboriginals, "integrated" them into "society" through housing them etc etc.
As for integrating them, well there's a massive divide, plain for all to see, and if you listen , plain to hear as well, and if you call integrating them, making sure they have all the "lower" level employment positions, fast food staff, general labour, drivers, bus drivers, general airport staff and dogsbodies' then yeah I suppose they've succeeded in breeding a beautiful multicultural society living in perfect harmony!! Pah!!
I loved the country and the time we spent in it,sure wont be something we forget.
In Fact Let's Turn Around And Drop The Van Back Off In Christchurch.....!!!!!!