Our next leg on the journey through NZ had us crossing the Haast Pass, described as a trecherous section of road with steep turns, sharp cliffs and several one laned bridges. All that we had read about this crossing had us both a little nervous and anxious.
We drove for about two hours wondering where the dangerous section was and decided to look at the map again, realizing we had already driven through the Pass! I guess being from BC we have a different sense of what is a 'dangerous' road. It was similar to the Naniamo-to-Tofino drive, no worries mate!
The drive had us again travelling through stunning landscapes with endless snowcapped mountains, aqua blue rivers and waterfalls, and majestic forests with rocky cliffs. The drive was an unforgettable adventure on its own! If you've ever watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy you'll have seen these landscapes before. In fact, many of the places we passed through were marked as sets for the movies, which was exciting for Cameron because he's always been a big LOTR fan. We seen Mordor!
We ended our day's travel in a lakeside city named Wanaka. The campground, the most impressive on the road trip, was situated right on the water with snow capped mountains in the backdrop. It was a surreal setting and great place for us to camp out for the night. We hung out in the city of Wanaka and replenished our food and beer supplies, deciding we should have a nice meal to complement the fantastic campground landscape. We elected to have lobster tails (okay it wasn't real lobster meat, but we pretened that it was) with a spring salad and seafood dumplings. This was of course coupled with a nice bottle of NZ red wine and followed by a movie on the mini computer; camping in style!
We had another frosty evening and thought back to our first night in the campervan in Rotorua. At that time we had the roof vent open and the temperature was mild and crisp. After travelling south about 1,500 km, we now could not sleep without a powered campsite because we needed the portable heater blasting all night!
Our year long trip around the world is meant to see and experience all that the world has to offer, so rainy days don't really fit into the agenda. With that, we set off on our final days travel before completing the 17 day journey to Queenstown. In case you hadn't picked up on it, it was a miserable rainy day (much like a February day in Vancouver).
Nicole was very keen to do a proper wine tasting tour and we were told that the Central Otago region was an excellent place to do just that. When we had gone wine tasting in the Napa Valley several years ago we just drove up to wineries and chose where to go, and when to go. We had hoped we were able to do that in Otago as well, which was something that we were unfortunately unable to do in Mendoza Argentina. We visited four very different wineries and one cheesery while driving through the valley. The region is famous for its white wines and Pinot Noir and the landscape and climate reminded us of the Okanagan back home.
That night was to be our final night in the campervan before returning it in Queenstown. We enjoyed our final evening in the van and reflected on the road trip that was now behind us. It was such a great way to see the island and blaze our own trail. It was fun waking up and planning the days travel over a cup of instant coffee and scrambled eggs. Cruising the open road gave us a great sense of freedom and adventure and it will stand out as the highlight of our brief stay in NZ.
If you're ever considering making the long journey to this remote and beautiful country, we would say that renting a campervan is the best way (and probably the only way) to really see islands. And with that, we said goodbye to our campervan and hello to Queenstown!