Our second day of the campervan took us from peaceful Akaroa over the 'summit road' a very steep and twisty route over the hilltops high along the backbone of the Banks Peninsular. It offered spectacular views of the inlets and villages below but did make me feel a bit queasy :-S We stopped for lunch by Lake Ellesmere which was home to a vast array of black swans, shelducks and various other birds.
The drive south from Christchurch took us past the bottom of Mt Hutt. It felt a lot like driving through Northern England, including the low cloud which meant we sadly couldn't see much summit-wise. At one point the road opened out to a huge, wide river gorge, with steep steel-grey cliffs and lots and lots of grey pebbles. The water was turquoise and very clear. We parked up and walked up the riverbank track a little way where the slight gain in height made the blue of the water even more stunning. Although not very high at the time, it was clear to see how powerful the river must be in full flood. It was good to have such a dramatic change in scenery to remind us we weren't in the Pennines!
We drove on to the town of Methven where we stocked up on food and quizzed the tourist info lady about free campsites. NZ is still quite confused on its freedom camping laws so it's easiest to seek local knowledge! The rain and darkened skies has tricked the tourist info lady into thinking it was closing time so she'd locked us in! She was disappointed to learn it was only 4pm. We drove on to a little campsite which we had to ourselves for the night and cooked dinner before getting an early night - it's too dark, cold and wet to do much else in the evenings!
The next morning we drove to Geraldine, a slightly bigger place that had some interesting shops. We sampled some local cheeses and fudge and I found a shop selling Maori print fabric so bought a piece for my quilt (the one I'm hoping to make with a piece of fabric from every country we visit, only Fiji left to get now!). They had a little museum which we had a look around; a slightly odd collection of artefacts but it's nice to read about the lives of people in the past. New Zealand seems to be quite good about preserving its history which is a nice change to some parts of Australia.