Were the Germans back to their old ways? Was it an airstrike? or maybe there was an escaped prisoner on the loose? These were the questions running through our head at 3am when we were awaken by the most piercing siren either of us had ever heard. Turns out it was nothing that exciting, in fact it was the alarm at the fire station ringing out to wake up the firemen and tell them to go fight a fire. Obviously beepers haven't made it to this part of the world. This gave us our first taste of how old fashioned NZ can be.
That day we set out to explore Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki with the latter being especially beautiful. As we drove along State Highway 8 the views just got better and better. I swear tourists must be responsible for so many road accidents the way campervans just slam on their brakes and veer into laybys to catch a view. Later, as we headed towards Queenstown the drive through the southern alps was pretty special, the roads were really challenging but the views made it more than worth it (especially when you're in the passenger seat!)
Queenstown was a total contrast to everything that we'd seen over the past few days: bars, shops and a plethora of tour operators wanting to assault your body in as many ways as possible. Nat succumbed to some white water rafting the next day, but I'd better let her tell you about that....
The whole thing started off rather perilously with a trip on a rickety bus down the Skippers Canyon road, one of the two roads in NZ that you cannot take hired vehicles on! I suppose it could be some light preparation for the roads in Bolivia I've read about! When we got to the Shotover river, the guides explained that although the river was quite low and not very fast, there are loads of bits of rusty old mining equipment on the bed, so it was an absolute no no to stand up, reassuring words! The first 45 mins were pretty much rapid-free, and even the first rapid wasn't particularly big, but on the second rapid the raft hit a rock at the wrong angle and flipped. This wasn't so good. I ended up being dragged under the boat, not able to get my head above the water until the boat hit another rock and flipped back over. By this point Nat was her own raft, flying into rocks and basically half drowning. Don't worry though, only gained a few slight injuries (big black bruises everywhere, some scratches and a headache)!We were told if we went over to grab someones oar to pull ourselves aboard another raft, after the exertion of trying to stay alive, I could not be bothered doing this and simply flapped around until someone rescued me! Aside from that it was amazing and I've seen some cool places to do it again in Argentina!
Crazy Girl! All of this happened whilst I was on a slightly more calm trip to Glenorchy, about 40minutes outside of Queenstown. Id seen photos of it before arriving and it didnt disappoint,unfortunately I can't make it sound as exciting as a near death rafting experience, mainly because it wasn't!
The drive from Queenstown up through Wanaka was interesting, or should I say treacherous, our scariest road to drive on yet, only enough space for one lane for two way traffic means that you need to horn before going round every corner and there were rather a lot of those. Later on it was more fantastic scenery along the shores of Lake Hawea although this was tainted by Nat's realisation that she'd left her beloved new bikini in Queenstown. The pain of this would continue for days to come! That night we stayed at what must be the best positioned campsite in the world and best of all it was free! Our tent was pitched on a grassy verge a few metres from the edge of Lake Wanaka with beautiful turquoise waters by day and then as it got darker the moon reflected perfectly off the water and the stars shined brighter than either of us had ever seen before. There can't possibly be a better sight to fall asleep and wake up to!
The next part of our adventure took us to the Fox Glacier on thw West Coast and then up to Greymouth for a night where we had the best meal EVER. After days of bread and awful tinned foods we splashed out on steak and lamb dinners that I don't think we'll ever forget. Turned out to be good fuel for the epic drive the next day. We set out along the coastal road towards Westport which is supposed to be NZ's equivalent of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. We didnt get to see that in Australia but we're reliably informed that these views are better and we weren't about to argue. The road parralleled the rugged coastline for what seemed like hours and passed by the spectacular Pancake Rocks & blowholes. After reaching Westport we cut inland for the drive to Takaka in Abel Tasman National Park. We didnt quite make it as darkness set in and neither of us are particularly keen on mountain driving in the dark (especially when NZ drivers are easily the worst in the world). We stopped for the night in Motueka where the most happening place in town was the veterans club but we weren't complaining as we got to relieve our weary bones in the hot tub the following morning.
We finally got to Takaka and Pohara Beach a little later than planned. Abel Tasman is a fantasically scenic place and once again our campsite was right on the beach and this time the beach went for miles and was totally abandoned. This was made even better by the glorious weather that we've been blessed with since we arrived with temperatures rarely below the mid 20s. The Maori population call NZ 'the land of the long white cloud' and we see that every morning before about 10am when its cloudy and chilly but almost like clockwork the sun comes out and saves our frowns. We spent our day here relaxing on the beach with brief interludes for iced coffee. What a life we have!