Posted in New Zealand, Travel

The heart of NZ – Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook and Wanaka

Lake Tekapo

We’ve bought ourselves a guidebook, Rob’s made a play list, there’s pretty much only one road in NZ so we shouldn’t get lost, I think we’re ready, time to start the New Zealand road trip! Our first destination is Lake Tekapo. Only about 2 and a half hours from Christchurch, with a few stops along the way to make sure Susie didn’t over do it. The views along the way were amazing, huge rolling hills kept Lake Tekapo hidden until right at the last minute, what a sight! We were camping right next to it as well. We’d opted for a campsite with showers and a kitchen for our first night, got to enjoy the luxuries whilst we can because we’ll soon be making do with an empty field a drop loo. We set up camp, got out our flash new camping chairs and took in the view. Think we’re going to like New Zealand!

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We went for a walk round the Lake edge and into town, honestly you can’t get over how blue the lake is, it practically sparkles. The Church of the good Sheppard provided a nice photo op before we picked up some supplies and headed back to the tent. In Australia some nights I wouldn’t even get my sleeping bag out the car, it was just too hot, definitely don’t think I’ll be having that problem this time round though. As soon as the sun set it was FREEZING. Joggers, jumper, socks and hat was just about enough to see us through the night but boy was my nose cold when we woke up.

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We set the alarms nice and early so we could watch sunrise over the lake but the clouds were so thick we didn’t even realise when it finally rose! Back to the site we needed a bowl of porridge and $2 hot shower to thaw out enough to tackle the day. After that we took on the Mount John walk, a nice 3 hour loop along the lake and then up to the observatories. This part of New Zealand has some of the darkest skies in the world so makes for a good place to stick a few observatories, unfortunately entry into one was about $200 so we’ll just have to make do with admiring them from the outside. The top of the hill did give a cracking view over the lake though.

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Sunrise was much more exciting before the sun rose
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Top of Mount John, bit cloudy to see stars anyway!

With the rest of the day we went for a drive, saw some more cool views and chilled out by the lake. When the sun finally came out it was a scorcher of a day, warm enough to make us want to try a dip in the lake. Now the lake water is so blue because it’s melted straight off the glaciers, which are ice, which are very cold. Even when I dipped my toe in it took my breath away, but after 5 minutes of umm-ing and aah-ing I was shown up by a 5 year old kid so decided to take the plunge. Think my dip lasted all of 2 minutes but I did it and we even jumped in off the pontoon, head under and everything!

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Mount Cook

After another bitter night’s sleep it was time to say goodbye to Tekapo and head on in search of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook. The first half of the drive was painless, the second half Susie decided she wasn’t fixed after all and started coughing and spluttering, a little poking around under the bonnet seemed to do the job but it’s only day 3 of the road trip, not ideal! Our campsite for the night was a field at the bottom of the mountains run by the council, you pop some money in an envelope, put it in the box with your reg on it and you’re good to go. Basic but good, they even had flushing toilets!

The sky was one big grey cloud when we arrived and we’d been warned that some people go to visit and never even see Mount Cook but by the time we’d had some lunch the blue skies were out and the sun was shining! We took the 3 hour Hooker Valley hike across the swing bridges and through the mountains until we reached the Hooker Lake, what a view. The grey glacier lake sits right in front of Mount Cook itself. Even though Mount Cook is the tallest at 12,000ft there’s about 20 other mountains in the same range that are over 10,000ft so they’re all pretty impressive.
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After our hike we were feeling hungry so we took the hour walk into town to grab supplies ( we’re very reluctant to use the car unless we absolutely have to), turns out there isn’t actually much of a town. There’s no shops, no petrol stations, no pubs, just a few hotels, a school and a youth hostel. The hostel did have it’s own version of a shop, basically some reject tins of soup and some meat in the freezer. After living the previous day on a vegetarian diet (rice and beans, we’re on a budget!) we were determined to have some meat so we picked up some suspicious looking sausages and took the risk. They made a damn tasty tea actually, we cooked them up with beans and eggy bread, what a feast!

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Because we were camping in a field there were no annoying campsite lights to ruin the stars and what a sky it was! Rob finally got his star picture! He’s been trying to figure it out since we started travelling but he’s finally cracked it, that’s his evenings sorted from here on out.

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It was another bitter morning, too cold to even get undressed so we chucked everything in the boot and hit the road in our pj’s. We stopped via the 600 stair climb to the Tasman glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. With it being the middle of a kiwi summer the Tasman lake was pretty melty and only a few blocks of ice were left, but you could see the start of the Tasman glacier in the distance where it had carved through the mountains. We took another stop at Lake Pukaki and then hit the road on to Wanaka!

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Wanaka

About 2 and a half hours from Mount Cook is the lake side town of Wanaka, we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite with showers again and pitched up at the Lake outlet campsite for a couple of nights. Once we were clean and fed we went to explore Wanaka. We found the most amazing vineyard perched on top of the hill over looking Wanaka and better yet they did free samples. We got to learn about and taste 6 of their most famous wines. I even drank some red and didn’t find it disgusting, travelling has changed me! We took a stroll round the gardens after it, honestly you can’t get enough of the view, it was amazing!
 Wanaka is such a pretty town, it’s set right on the Lake front which was absolutely buzzing with people taking a dip, I was still traumatized from my Lake Tekapo swim so decided to give it a miss! We wandered around the town for a while before heading back to the campsite to try and top up our tans by our lake front.dsc_0240

Finally we got a night warm enough to sleep all the way through! We planned to take a hike up to the Rob Roy glacier but soon found out that the whole track there was a gravel road, after a bit of quick maths we realised that averaging 10km an hour with 30km left to go was a bit of a waste of time so we settled on climbing Roy’s peak instead, much closer to town. We were oblivious to the sign on the way up that suggested it was around 6-7 hours return trip so we set out with our one bottle of water and a biscuit each. It was a bloody tough hike too, luckily we weren’t quite as slow as the sign suggested and we made it to the peak in 2 and a half hours. Our legs were in tatters by the top, fitbit reckons we’ve climbed 450 flights of stairs, not bad for a Saturday afternoon! The views at the top were worth it though, we could see across the whole lake right to the glaciers and it looked beautiful! After staggering back down the hill that was us done for the day, we had achey legs and I had the world’s biggest blister to now look after, a hot shower (heaven) some tea and we were ready for bed. Off to Queenstown in the morning to try our hand at some down hill go kart racing!

 

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Posted in New Zealand, Travel

Welcome to New Zealand! – Christchurch.

After some slight issues in the airport including a major bag repack to get under 32kg (yep we’ve acquired a lot of stuff), we made the 3 hour flight to Christchurch. Time to see what New Zealand has to offer! Lucky for us, Alisha, my childhood friend, had moved to NZ when she was 10 and even though I’d only seen her once in the last 13 years we’d been in touch and she offered us her spare room and a lift from the airport, what a belter. She also offered us a free salsa lesson! Times have definitely changed since we were 10, neither of us could dance then, turns out only one of us can dance now! Alisha teaches a beginners salsa class every Wednesday so me, Rod, Alisha’s boyfriend Steve and her mum and dad, Diane and Andy all went along. My coordination is not good at the best of times but add some music, give me Rod as a partner and ask me to count to 8 without saying 4 and it was a bit of a disaster. Good fun though! We all went for a post dance pint to commemorate our first salsa experience had a good chinwag, so nice to catch up with everyone, it’s like they never left!

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Diane showing us how it’s done

Both Alisha and Steve are real grownups with jobs as teachers so whilst they were out educating the young minds of New Zealand me and Rob went car shopping. We need some way of getting round the country and campervan rental fees are a bit out of our price range. We had an unsuccessful day scouring the local car dealers, note to self, never trust a car salesman. On our second day of looking we found Susie the Suzuki, great car, low mileage, enough room to sleep in the boot and the guy was flying out the country the next day so we got her for a bargain. Or so we thought. Life lesson to be learned here, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Even though it drove like a dream on the test drive come the next day it was stalling, juttering and altogether acting like a pile of crap. How convenient that they guy we bought it off had left the country and was unreachable! Never buy a car off a backpacker! Took us 4 trips to the mechanic and almost half as many dollars as the car cost us but they finally found the problem and it only took a bit of super glue to fix it, typical!

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Mongo was about as impressed as us with our car fiasco

When we weren’t at the mechanics we spent our time exploring Christchurch. It’s still in a bad way from the 2011 and last year’s earthquakes. We went on a free walking tour round the city and learnt about all the damage and work to rebuild. The old cathedral had been ruined but they’ve made a pretty cool replacement out of cardboard, sturdier than you’d think as well! Parts of the city are beautiful like the botanical gardens and the park, and other parts are still pretty ruined like you’d expect after a major earthquake.

With all the last minute car selling in Australia we’d only been able to give poor Alisha 2 days notice before we rocked up in Christchurch so we couldn’t blame her for already having plans for the week, Steve had already arranged a nice romantic Valentine’s night out for them both on the Saturday but they were kind enough to let us crash it! We started our night with a punt down the river Avon through the botanical gardens and back again. Next up was a meal at the rather fancy Curators house, it overlooked the gardens and the food was top notch. After that we headed to Hagley Park to look round the Chinese lantern festival, any animal you can think of they’d turned into a paper lantern, impressive! We finished the night off with a stop at SoYo for a desert of frozen yoghurt. Good work Steve!

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Sunday we all went for a drive about an hour outside of Christchurch to the seaside town of Akaroa. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side so the beautiful view over the bay that Akaroa is famous for was actually just one big grey cloud for us! Still it was a lovely town to have a walk round, we stopped for the world famous fish and chips, I even tried the fish and didn’t spit it out, must have been good! We spent a few hours looking round the town and walking the harbour and then headed home, Diane and Andy were cooking us Sunday dinner! Definitely one of the things I’ve missed most whilst travelling is a good old fashioned family Sunday dinner. We got to try our first New Zealand lamb and had all the trimmings, we even had pavlova for desert, so good! Felt right at home!

Our last day in Christchurch was spent gathering all the gear we’ll need to live out of our car for the next couple of months! Tent, airbed, pots, pans, gas cooker, we even treated ourselves to camping chairs, we’re going to be camping like royalty. We were treated to a home cooked meal by Alisha and then we had just enough time to go round and use Diane and Andy’s spa, good way to finish off the week!

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