New Zealand was going to be a total change of pace for us as we wanted to see as much of the country as possible in a month. To do this, we needed a car! We picked up Maggie Mae from the rental place at the airport and set about learning her automatic controls. This was a blessing for the two of us who have a combined qualified driving experience of one month!
We'd arrived in Christchurch and it took us a few days to get sorted with a map and decide where we wanted to go from there but Christchurch is a great little city, very quaint in an Oxford like way with punting on the river, big weeping willows and traditional British architecture. We didnt expect to be able to go conker collecting on our trip, especially not in March! We managed to prolong our cultural overload from Melbourne with trips to the Canterbury Museum and the Christchuch Arts Centre (where we bought the best tasting fudge known to man).
A wuick mention of where we're staying, we've dumped hostels in favour of camping in a tent to keep costs down and see more of the natural beauty. We took the camping kit option with the car hire but quickly returned that for a refund when we unpacked a manky tent and found 'undesirable hairs' in the sleeping bags. We kitted ourselves out with a nice and simple pop up tent and some cool sleeping bag/bed inventions. We're mostly staying at government owned (often free) camp grounds and the Top 10 Holiday Park chain (a bit like Haven back home but without the big tiger!) Its all a lot cheaper than dorms and the facilities are much nicer too (plus we get to meet real Kiwis!) We had a bit of luxury at our first park with a heated swimming pool and spa, all for the princely sum of 5 pounds a night.
From Christchurch we headed up to Arthurs Pass, mid way on the route from the East to West coast - we weren't going across to the west (just yet) but took the trip to the summit for the great scenery and some good walks. The drive from Christchurch was fantastic, giving us a taste of what was to come in NZ (the photos will tell it better than I can). The great thing about driving here is the stop off points at the side of the road, where you can just pull over and explore. We'd already realised that you can have a great time here just by paying camping fees and petrol - a big departure on Australia. We took the Bridal Veil and Devils Punchbowl Falls walks in Arthurs Pass to break us in gently, the falls were spectacular and our government campsite was in a really great position.
After a morning walk the following day we set off down the 'scenic inland route' to Lake Tekapo and the landscape changed from dramatic mountain ranges to fertile agricultural lands. We stopped for the night at Fairlie Top 10 Park but were in for a rude awakening.......