We woke up on Monday morning very excited for our flight to New Zealand. We felt like little kids going on holiday - probably because we'd been in Australia for so long it was beginning to feel like home.
Arrived in Christchurch and were met by Michael, our friend that we'd worked with in Brisbane and had got on really well with and happened to be home in Christchurch at the same time we were there. He'd offered to show us about and it was great to have local guide, although his guided tour was a bit crap, considering it consisted of his old school, and a big park! He said that the three of us could stay with him (we found out later that he'd told his mum the day before that we were arriving!) and his family were lovely and let us stay there for the two nights we were in Christchurch. This was very much appreciated as it bought us another two nights where we weren't sleeping in our campervan.
So. The campervan. Some of you may have heard about it. We went for the cheapest option which was available - a wicked campervan. We don't know if people have come across these before but basically they're small VW type vans (half the size of Laura's van at home) decorated in the most random ways, with bizarre sayings and pictures spray painted on the side. We caused a bit of a stir in the depot. It normally only takes half an hour to pick up a car and drive off. We were there for 2 hours and had a few problems along the way, particularly with insurance. Ended up having to pay another 150 dollars each because the only credit card we had wasn't accepted.
We didn't get to choose our van and the one allocated to us was named cocaine. So we are now driving around in a van that says 'enjoy cocaine' and 'sniff more coke', with 'hugs not drugs' written on the back. We get smirked at everywhere we go and had a slightly awkward experience driving past the school where all the kids had just been let out and lined the pavements pointing and laughing at our van. Despite this, it was still really cool to have our own little van and we've grown very fond of her - she's done us proud so far!
Our first day in Christchurch was spent stocking up on food (most of it dry food as our 'fridge' in the van was actually a cool box). Also got some terrible cheap haircuts and got horribly lost on the way back to Michael's house, as we ventured out by ourselves while Michael had his graduation ceremony.
We had been promised a big night out in Christchurch and it was certainly interesting. Kind of like going out on a Tuesday in Durham. We had to make our own party! It was good to meet Michael's friends though as they were all really friendly and put up with us taking the piss out of their kiwi accents.
The day after we went to Hanmer Springs. It was only about 2 hours drive from Christchurch so Michael and 2 of his friends came along as well. On the way there they pointed out some famous kiwi landmarks, including the 'frog rock' which looked nothing like a frog to us. Hanmer Springs has a natural thermal spa and we decided it's the best way to nurse a hangover sat in a hot pool all day. It was bloody freezing when we got out though - walking around in our bikinis. It was nice to sit in the warm pools and look at the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was our first opportunity to appreciate how beautiful New Zealand is. When we said goodbye to Michael and his friends who then drove off and left us at the side of the road, we were feeling quite lost and apprehensive about our first night in a camper. Had a bit of a frantic search for somewhere to camp as it was getting dark and ended up spending our first night parked in a lay-by at the side of a main road. Despite this, we all slept quite well and decided that although it was quite cold it is quite cosy in the back. We woke up the next morning to find snow on the ground outside which made the scenery even more stunning.
Our first full day on the road and we sampled the delights of our only CD, which was nabbed from Michael's younger brother - the weirdest collection of songs we've ever heard with hits such as S Club 7 in amongst Monty Python, rap and our all-time favourite - Stole my car (a homemade Kiwi classic). We must have listened to this last song a hundred times and can now do a full rendition complete with kiwi accents which we're quite proud of!
We drove to the west coast, which is absolutely stunning with really amazing mountain ranges and is pretty much uninhabited. We didn't realise just how wild it was going to be until we pulled up in the biggest town on the west coast, Greymouth, which basically consisted of one line of shops.
Our second night was greatly improved on the first as we came across a beautiful little lake where we sat on the banks and listened to a guy playing his guitar on the roof of his car.
We gradually worked our way down the West Coast (which didn't take very long as driving distances are much smaller here) until we got to the southern Alps and Glacier country. We'd been recommended by pretty much everyone we'd talked to in New Zealand to do a glacier walk, so we booked one on Franz Josef. We had images of strolling along the ice, appreciating the scenery. The reality was slightly different. On arrival, we got presented with Crampons to attach to our huge army style black boots and oversized rain coats. Our guide carried a massive ice axe which she kept hacking at the ice with to create some steps for us to climb up the massive ice slopes. It was very surreal doing it. It was another moment where we couldn't actually believe what we were doing (we've had a lot of them over the last few months). Totally amazing and Becca was in her element with all her geography facts.
We also had another experience in Franz Josef….our first shower in 3 days!
That night we decided that we couldn't be bothered to cook a meal on the gas stove, which is our only cooking instrument (something Hannah and Becca have been taught to use, which they are very proud of!) so we caved in and bought fish and chips so sat on the beach to eat them with the snowy mountain range behind us.
We've had many arguments with kiwis about whether New Zealand or British fish and chips are better. After that, we have now got to admit that they are pretty damn good. Laura's Gran would have been very impressed!
The next morning we stopped at Lake Matheson, which is the most photographed lake in New Zealand as it is so clear it gives a perfect reflection of the Alps and Mount Cook. Typically, it was cloudy the day we went, but it was still pretty impressive.
As it was Easter Sunday, we had a lavish breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans - cooked and eaten on our granddad fold-out chairs in the car park.
After a long drive along the windy roads through the moutains (these are great fun to drive on although Cocaine does tend to struggle up the steep hills) we arrived at the first big town we've been to all week - Wanaka. This is where Hills, who is Jen and Lochie's good friend, is from and we can totally see how she misses it so much living in Brisbane because it was totally stunning - we loved it as soon as we arrived.
Went to the cinema that night as another Easter treat and because it had been recommended by Alison. It was great to get out of the campervan for a night and not have to go to bed at 8pm again (it turns out campervanning sorts aren't all that wild and are definitely the 'early to bed early to rise' types). The cinema was really quirky - with mis-matched sofas instead of normal seats and home-baked cookies in the interval. That night we had our first experience of being woken up at 6am by an angry council official banging on our door. We'd parked on a residential street as we'd been told this was OK. It turns out it's not OK with the residents of Wanaka, who apparently 'don't pay millions of dollars for their houses to see the side of a wicked camper'. Laura was ready to punch him when he said this. We sleepily had to drive out of town to find another lay-by to continue our sleep.
The next day, after lazing about, we decided that since we were in a normal sized town again we should probably check out the nightlife. Turns out this was not Wanaka's strong point, especially on a Monday night! It was definitely the weirdest getting ready session we'd ever had before going out as we had to use the car wing-mirrors to put our makeup on. We did find a nice backpacker bar with log fires, where we sat and talked to some other backpackers. We made a swift exit when guitar hero (a karaoke game) was brought out, and lots of enthusiastic Americans started joining in.
From Wanaka, we headed to Queenstown, via Arrowtown. Arrowtown was like stepping back in time. We were easily the youngest people there by about 20 years but it was really nice and it reminded us of a village in the lake district.
Queenstown is basically the adventure sports capital of New Zealand and maybe event the world. We're currently trying to decide which activities to choose. All three of us want to do something different - varying from Laura wanting to throw herself off waterfalls and Becca wanting to go horse trekking. Hannah is going to go hang-gliding hopefully (if she can conquer her fear of heights!).
Went on a night out last night in Queenstown. Can't really tell you much about it because our memories are a bit blurry but nevertheless it was a good night. Definitely a lot more happening than Christchurch or Wanaka. Also, we splashed out and got ourselves our own room(!) in a hostel before going out (we had a real mirror this time and even a shower!) Got talking to some other backpackers who we'd actually met when we were in Brisbane. This resulted in drinking games and the blurry night.
Today we've been mostly recovering. We did manage to muster up the energy to go for a ten-minute walk around the lake, but we have spent most of the day lying on our beds in the back of the camper.
Becca is very excited because her Dad (who is coming over to visit Becca for 2 weeks) is going to arrive in a couple of hours. To be honest we're all very excited that we have a new person to talk to (our conversation is wearing quite thin). He's not going to know what hit him.
Really enjoyed our first week in New Zealand and are all excited for what else it has to offer. We'll keep you updated on the extreme sport front (although we might wait to let the mums know after we've done it).
Lots of love, The Chickybabes (this is a New Zealand thing)