A month on the road
Our flight from Sydney landed in Christchurch on the south island where we picked up our sizable camper van. We headed South straight away to the Mount Cook National Park region. This would be the first of the many impressive national parks we visited in the country. The weather was bright and clear and the autumn colours were absolutely amazing. The photography began in earnest as Jim was seemingly determined to get to triple figures with pics as soon as possible (watch out - there's a lot of mountains to look at when we get back!).
We were now in complete control of our culinary needs. Supplies were bought. Much can be achieved with a tin of tomatoes and some chilli and garlic.
Quite a view from the campsite
Another "fresh" morning.
The south island is rugged to say the least. A spine of mountains seperates the landmass that is evidence of it's position above some serious tectonic action. Our plan was to drive through these areas stopping to walk whenever we felt like it. Firstly it's free and secondly we were both in dire need of some exercise. Walkers are very well catered for by the Department of Conservation with loads of tracks running through the parks plus there are campsites with "basic facilities" (a composting toilet hidden behind a bush - gets a bit spooky in the dead of night).
Us and Mt Cook
We gradually made our way to Milford Sound - one of the gems of the South which is in the Fjordland, an enormous national park that takes up the entire south western corner of the island. It was unfortunately surrounded in mist when we got there. The good thing is that the journey is always just good as the destination in this place. We walked up a mountain instead!
Our route took us along the South coast Via a place called Bluff which is famous for its oysters (jim ordered one with our fish and chips and it came deep fried - nice). We made lots of stops along the way to look at things including a petrified forest, some penguins and a sealion asleep in some long grass.
A place that Jim had been to 10years ago on his first trip was the Fox Glacier. We made the journey to the north west coast and spent an afternoon hiking up to the terminal face and walking on the ice! From here we made our way to Picton and caught the ferry to Wellington.
On the Fox Glacier - Mint ;-)
After a rocky crossing over the Cook Strait (8m swell - that's big) we arrived on the North island and the rains greeted us. Apparently we had just arrived after their hottest summer for 100yrs! Anyway this did not deter us...much. As you can see from the pics below, it wasn't all rain and the ridiculously rolling green countryside is great fun to drive through. As the driver for most of this Jim perfected a swift jerk of the neck movement to take in the many views as safely as poss.
We dropped in on quite a few Lord of the Rings filming sites as they are all over the place and marked on the map. The most spectacular being the site of Mount Doom which is a volcano in Tongariro National Park. We would have put a pic in but we've now exceeded our monthly upload limit.
We pretty much limited ourselves to one decent activity per island. Rafting in Rotorua was top of the list in the North. We did this on the Kaituna river that flows through gorges and plantlife, it was pretty swollen due to the amount of rain they'd had. The rapids include the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7m!
One of the finest days we had on the North island was in a place called Raglan on the West coast but two days ago. It's a pretty bohemian town by kiwi standards and is one of their best surfing venues. The weather was great and the main beach called Manu Bay is staggering with chocolate brown sand. Jim managed to hire a surf board and wetsuit and spent five hours(!) trying to surf (with some success) and Han spent the day relaxing in peace!
We say goodbye to NZ tomorrow and head to Fiji for a few days (!) to try and regain some tan before the last leg of the journey.......
Us x x