Day 9 continued
The ferry journey did'nt seem to last long as we began to sail into the South Island and the stunning Marlborough Sounds with its lush green hills rolling down into the clear blue waters. If this was the norm for the south island then bring it on!
Arriving at Picton we disembarked and sped west towards Havelock, home of the Giant green mussels.
After deciding not to have mussels we stopped for lunch by the waters edge. Fried eggs it was for me, thats what we loved about the camper, everything you need is right behind you! After some recomendations we headed for Ruby bay for the night. This place was lovely, we parked up next to the water (as close as we could get, after 3 failed attempts at driving a camper up a shingle beach, yes we did get stuck!) and settled in for the night.
After a great meal Rob couldn't resist anymore and collected driftwood to make a fire. The stars and the moon were out which topped things of nicely.
In the morning we drove to the Abel Tasmin National Park, with lush forest walks and secluded beaches. With no roads we jumped on a water taxi up the coast to Bark Bay, we would then be picked up further down from Anchorage and taken back to Marahau where the camper was parked.
The walk lasted 3hrs and took in some amazing views, all though we were unlucky with the weather! One tip though, never go bear feet in walking boots! The combination of sand and moisture led to Rob having huge blisters on his feet which took months to heal!!!
View from the walk
Rob trying to be arty with the camera on the beach at Abel Tasman National Park
After a bite to eat we headed south but stopped at Lyell for the night. We arrived late and it was dark so quickly knocked up some pasta, however we began noticing what started as a few little flies and turned into hundeds of sand flies! We had been warned about these by other travellers, you will find no mention of them in any brochures! They are worst on the west coast but are further inland as well! What we didnt realise was that the little buggers bite! After a brief stand outside the van they got the better of us so we retreated to inside the van, and killed off the flies who dared to venture inside!
Head tourch came in very handy for the killing process!
In the morning our van was covered in them so we left at great speed! Our tales between our legs! Dam flies!
We headed for the famous west coast, first stop Westport to stock up on defences against the evil sandfly. Now we had heard that locals use a mix of Baby Oil and Dettol, and this apparently works a treat. So after buying the ingredients, and after one local telling us that the sandfly was in fact an endangered species and it was illegal to kill it, yeah right, we were off to the coast. But now with a lovely shine to our body and smelling of dettol! Yummy!
Our West Coast perfume!
First stop Cape Foul Wind and our first seal colony, and no this was named after me(Rob)! We saw only a few seals but had breakie and drove south. The road was amazing, clinging to the cliffs with the rough ocean next to us, it really is as the guide books say one of the best drives in the world.
Typical view, wild and wet.
The longest one way bridge across a river.
Next stop was Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. We headed breifly for one of the caves and a little look around and then went to see the blowholes. They were amazing, the rocks were all layered like pancakes and with various blowholes. You just had to wait for a big wave to hit and then watch the huge rushes of water spurt into the air. Really good attraction and free!
After Emily's attempt at cutting my hair, I decided to let it grow!
That night we camped by Lake Mahinapua, a surprisingly fly free zone! Was our new perfume working?
The next morning we drove south again, we tried to stop for lunch on the beach but within seconds of stopping we were being savaged by flies. Now at this point we must mention Em's defence mechanism when it comes to fending off the flies. This basically involved having what looked like a fit, and hitting herself all over. Needless to say it didn’t work and so didn’t our babyoil/dettol perfume! We decided there and then to get away from the west coast that day, as we sped inland towards the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Emily walked to a good view point of the Franz Josef glacier on her own as rob's blisters were still raw so walking was out! But he was kept amused by the local parrots having cars for lunch!
Not quite as impressive as Glacier Moreno in Patagonia.
Queenstown was our next stop, arriving rather late we headed into town for a meal of mussels and pizza! The green mussels in NZ are huge! Now they are not the prettiest foods to eat and to be honest when you have to chew on them for more than a few seconds it gets quite nasty, however they did taste amazing!
We awoke early to check out Queenstown. First impressions were good, the place lives up to its name for the thrill capital of NZ with nearly a whole street devoted to selling you near death experiences!
The place itself is also really nice, with a great vibe and lots of bars and restaurants, and all located on a really picturesque lake. Now being both slightly chicken we didn’t go for the bungy jump or sky dive but instead booked ourselves onto the Shotover Jet Boat.
Now this was no ordinary boat trip, these boats carry up to 14 passengers, at very high speeds down very narrow canyons, in waters sometimes only centimetres deep. I (Rob) was very excited, and we even managed to get front row seats……wicked! It lasted about 30mins and how we missed some of the rocks, who knows!
Even better were the 360º flips and the feeling you were going to go flying out of the boat!
The whole experience was great and there was only one way to round of the day, and that was to get pissed! So we did, and after a few games of pool and many drinks we finished it off with not your usual kebab, but a nice deer burger…..yummy!
Naturally we woke with a lovely hangover, but that soon was forgotten as we jumped in the van to our next destination, Milford Sound. This was quite a long drive but we stopped in a place called Te Anau, before we hit the last 3 hr leg to the Sounds which was supposed to be stunning and also to fill up with petrol as there was nothing from there onwards! For the following morning we booked ourselves onto a kayak trip on the sounds.
We stopped for lunch at McKay Creek which was lovely and only a few sand flies showed up! From there to the Sounds was an incredible drive through vast lakes and mountains along some very twisting roads. The best bit has to be the Homer Tunnel, which is 1.2km long, has no internal lighting and a very steep gradient down towards Milford. Emily was driving when we entered the tunnel and was doing well until she started shouting ‘I don’t like it’, this did nothing to help Rob relax with Ems driving!
It was quite dark in the tunnel!
Anyway we made it and in no time we had arrived at our destination. The weather was perfect, and the sounds looked magical. However we had heard the sounds are best seen soon after a heavy rain shower due to the many waterfalls which suddenly appear and poor into the water creating an incredible atmosphere. So for the first time we went to sleep praying for rain!
Oh and I nearly forgot we were in the birth place of the sandfly so naturally they were everywhere……Em loved it!!!!
We were picked up at 6am and taken down to the water for quick safety chat and then kitted out in a wetsuit and paddle, and off course a 2 person Kayak!
There was not a cloud in the sky, so it looked like our prayers for rain had gone unheard! But the water was incredibly still so we got the next best weather.
Before entering our kayak Emily and I were warned that these double kayaks had been called the ‘Divorce Kayaks’, which we laughed at! But soon realised why as there was some disagreement with my steering and Em’s paddling, which we resolved by splashing each other in the face!
Rob not impressed when i got him wet! woops
The kayaking lasted about four hours in which time we paddled next to seals, stopped for some hot brew in the middle of the sound, and paddled up to the massive waterfall.
It really was a magical morning and was only slightly ruined by the 100 light aircraft take-offs and landings that happen everyday from the sounds airport.
One thing we forgot to mention was that we passed the supposed birth place of the Sand fly, now we know Milford Sounds is a national treasure but really we feel they should nuke the whole area! That’s how much we now hated the little buggers!
That afternoon we drove back to Queenstown and stayed the night. Watched a great live band in a pub and where Emily tried her best to sing along to every track, not a window in sight had its glass intact!
We had decided to now head towards the east coast, and not drive through the middle (this was a mistake). Our first port of call on the coast was a place called Shag Point!
We had lunch there and were attacked by seaguls, we also saw some seals and a couple of penguins.
We now realised that there was very little along this part of the coast and we should have gone through the centre.
Next stop were the Moeraki Boulders, some very weird round shaped rocks which were slowly being uncovered as the land was eroded. It was amazing just how perfectly round they were, as you can see Emily was very excited by them!
That night we stayed in Temuka and tried to work out where we going next.
After a tip from my dad we drove slightly inland to Rakaia Gorge, where we had a quick dip in the freezing cold ice blue water.
Then off to Waikuku Beach in Woodend, which we had been tipped by another couple that we could free camp there and the beach was amazing. Unfortuantely when we arrived the 'No Camping' signs were everywhere and it had begun to rain to not really beach weather!
Kaikoura was next up the coast, a place famous for its sea life and in particular, Dolphins! Just before we got there we camped overnight at Goose Bay, it was a perfect spot right on the sea and we had been told that if were up 6ish we would see the dolphins swim by!
The view in the morning waiting to see dolphins
Em was up at 6, but didn't see a thing! Ah well we had heard that you could go an organised tour and swim the dolphins so we stopped at Kaikoura and tried to book ourselves onto a trip. Our hearts sank when we were told it was booked out for at least a week! But not to beaten we put our names down on the cancellation waiting list just in case!
Not sure what to do next we headed up to Marlborough sounds and camped at Portage for free! That night the weather turned and in our haste to jump into the camper we wedged to rocks in between our boot lid and the body....with alot of hammering we got them loose with only a slight modification to the body work!
With the forcast not looking good we drove to Blenheim, a town well known for its wineries. We arrived at what we thought was perfect timing, there was a wine festival on with live music...cool. But after alot of running around we realised that all the tickets were sold out, doh!
So we went to the cinema instead and watched 'Blood Diamond' which turned out to be a great film! After which we had a spa in the campsite we were staying in cooked a yummy meal.
Up early and on the road again to Hanmer Springs, a place set in the hills with surprisingly, natural springs to revitalise in! We arrived just after mid day and decided to do some mountain biking in the afternoon through the surrounding forests, we rented some wicked bikes with all round suspension and disk breaks!
However during our bike ride we received a phone call from the Dolphin Centre saying that there was a space on the 6am slot to swim with the dolphins tomorrow! So not wanting to miss this great opportunity we sped back to Kaikoura on the same day we had left! That night we camped in town close to the Dolphin Centre for our very early start. We both went to sleep very excited at the thought of meeting 'flipper'.
5.30am the alarm went off, but it didn't matter we were up and raring to go!
Arrived at the Dolphn centre at 6, and were given a quick briefing on safety. Then were suited up in thick wetsuits and given snorkels and fins. It was only a 5min bus journey to the harbour and our waiting speed boats that would take us out to sea and the Dolphins. That day there was very strong winds which had meant the sea was very rough, this compiled with an overcast sky meant that the captain was not to confident in seeing the Dolphins! We crossed everything and hoped we would! The journey out was rough, and a few people were going slightly green, Em and I were loving it though.
Half and hour in we hadn't seen anything and we were beginnig to loose hope, but then we saw one, then two and within minutes there were dolphins literally everywhere. At least 500 of the Bottle Nose Dolphins were in sight!
The boat manouvered around to get in front ot the swimming dolphins and then we were instructed to slowly put on our masks and fins and enter the water.
It was incredible they were everywhere, and so close to you. A couple of times you would get hit by a fin, but you were told not to reach out and touch them! I was so excited I forgot to breath and had to come up for air! Em and I swam along with our snorkels on and marvelled at these great creatures who wanted to play with us, they did this by circling you and you trying to keep up with them, which offcourse we couldnt! One way of getting them to come to you was to sing through your snorkel, we found that Old Lang Syne worked very well!
We had three swims with the dolphins, and tried to get some photos using an underwater camera but unfortuantely it was too dark for the camera.
Look very closley and you will see a dolphin very close, nose and eye on right side!
We boarded the boat and headed back to the mainland knowing we had one of the best experiences or our lives, to swim with dolphins in there natural environment was incredible!
This experience could only be topped of nicley with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, which we had back at the dolphin centre...yummy!
In the afternoon we drove to Christchurch and stayed with my cousin Charlie and his wife Irma and two great kids, Tamara and Zane (thanks again for having us to stay xx).
Emily's new man - Zane!
The day was only slightly ruined by a massive rock flying up and cracking our windscreen on route to Christchurch. Em was driving at the time and was covered in glass but managed to keep the van on the road. We didn't take the no excess option when we rented the van so we had a lovely bill of 200pounds!!!
Next day with the windscreen temporary fixed we drove to the Banks peninsula and the french village of Akaora. After a quite a few days on the road we decided a day of drinking was needed, and Akaora was perfect. Loads of nice beachfront bars for Em and I to drink at!
In the evening we eventually got to use the bbq I had bought up in Auckland, and cooked a lovely rack of marinaded lamb, followed by some marshmellows. Em thought it would be good idea to melt a few at a time but ended up with marshmellow soup...yuk!
I then put hot wax on the fire and smoked out half the campsite, clever rob!
Em also in her drunk state tried to nurse the broken camper back to life!
Windscreen taped up! woops!
We spent the day in Christchurch, and had a lovely Valentines lunch (Rob had remembered). That evening we stayed at my cousins and had a lovely bbq at Irma's sisters.
It was great playing with the kids and Emily impressed Tamara with her old trampoline routine! She was really good! Emily spent some time teaching Tamara the routine (keep practicing Tamara!).
Our last day in New Zealand, we spent the morning in Christchurch. Em got her hair cut and for the first time in nearly 4 months her hair was straight! We both agreed that he buff looked better though, and it returned the following day! In the afternoon we said goodbye to the camper and Charlie lent us some bikes and we headed for the hills overlooking Christchurch for some great views of the city.
Our flight left at 5am in the morning and Charlie very kindly gave us a lift to the airport. It was great to catch up with my cousin and the family and we were sad to say good bye to New Zealand!
Off to Aus now, and hopefully some sun!
1. 0-60mph = 10mins (go faster red stripe reduced this by 5mins)
2. Smell rating (0-10) = 10, mainly off milk smell thanks to previous traveller no doubt!
3. Comfort Rating (0-10) = -2
3.1 Rob slept with feet on fridge and Ems feet were under the cooker
3.2 Only fetal position possible in passenger front seat
3.3 Slightly damp!
4. Sound System = What sound system!
4.1 Ems singing did not help
4.2 Aerial was used as a pointer at other cars on the road, manual function only.
4.3 Background farting!
5. Camouflage rating = High
5.1 Bottom half of camper in green
5.2 Front covered in dead flies
6. Road Kill Scores
Em = 1 Bird, 1 Stone + Windscreen
Rob = 4 Birds, near miss dog, and 2 butterfdlies (rare species)
7. "Cool" factor = Bloody High
- two tone body and go faster red stripe made the beast the coolest box on 4 wheels.
8. Originality = like no other on the road
9. Inferiority rating = off the scale, we were dwarfed by other campers
10. Kitchen = 2 hobs and grill, what more do you need!
Fridge (warm), this meant high milk costs but made good cheese!
11. Off road capability (0-10) = 8
- not good on shingle beach (we got stuck twice trying to get the best spot fot the night)
Rob driving - LOW
Em driving - HIGH
- Overall, windscreen smashed, rocks jammed in boot, and damage to the front when we tried to get the van airborn!
- After the initial shock and change of vehicle we grew to love him and it was a sad goodbye.
Couple of pics of the camper and its setup! Now dont be jealous!
Ous is the massive one in the middle!
We had our own bar too! Thats a vodka too many I think!
The cupboard over the bed!
What the camper was turned into during the driving (the fridge on top of the bed!)
Not sure what this sign on the camper meant but it looked cool!
We had to have a travel companion - a New Zealand Kiwi