Arriving in Auckland we were pleasantly surprised that the sun was shining and we felt pretty warm! It was hasslefree to get into the city and we had the added bonus of being upgraded from dorm accommodation to our own room at our hostel! A rare treat.
We spent our first morning in the city investigating our campervan - whether we should buy our own and try to sell or rent one instead, and due to winter deals it worked out a better deal to rent a Wicked campervan - which is technically a converted people carrier not a campervan but it's easy to drive (even for Lara) and does the job.
Auckland seemed a pretty quiet city but was cool.
Luckily we could pick our van up the next day so we headed out of the city. Firstly, to get used to the driving, we went in search of a secondhand book shop in a suburb over the Auckland Harbour bridge - which was really cool to drive over for views of the city. Then we went in search of a free site to spend our first night, and ended up staying the night on a site overlooking the Firth of Thames which happened to be a bird migration area - we were surrounded by other proper selfcontained campers filled with bird watchers, was interesting though.
After our first day's driving we realised how easy driving in New Zealand is and how most places are pretty close! The main highways are usually only two lanes wide and larger, slower vehicles will pull over when they can to let you past because of this! So our second day driving we headed down to Rotorua (on Lake Rotorua). Rotorua was a nice little town and we spent a couple of nights in the area doing some walking and managed to stock ourselves up on thermals and extra clothes - we were getting pretty cold in the camper!
We also got to go Zorbing in Rotorua which was the most fun and absolutely hilarious. Wanted to do it twice but they charge abit too much!
Then it was onto Lake Taupo where we walked up Mt Tauhara for the views before continuing into Tongariro NP. Here we spent a few days walking in the shadow of Mt Doom but were unable to climb it as it was covered in snow. We stayed in a DOC site which kept it cheap and met our first NZ friends.
Reluctantly leaving Tongariro's amazing scenery we headed to Wellington, via Wanganui, to reach our next capital and meet up with our pal Ainslie who we met in Halong Bay. In Wellington we visited Te Papa museum, watched some rugby at the pub and spent some time enjoying the sites, and cool Cuban cafe, in the town centre.
The ferry from Wellington took us to Picton on the South Island. Ainslie had arranged for us to stay with her mum, who lives in Picton, so we had a comfortable few nights while we explored a part of the amazing Marlborough Sounds. We were lucky to have fantastic weather and got some great pics of the views.
We had to get moving if we were to be in Christchurch in time for the Super 14 rugby final so we left the comfort of Ainslie's mum's house to travel down the coast and stay in the pretty, but smelly, Kaikorua. There are lots of seal colonies in the area (hence the smell) and we got to see them close up as well as off the shore diving and catching fish. Very cute! Unfortunately whale and dolphin watches were abit pricey so we decided against a trip for the time being.
Onto Christchurch for the Super 14 final which was an awesome match and the atmosphere in the stadium was buzzing - especially as the home team, Crusaders, won! We didn't spend long exploring the city as we'll be returning at the end of June for the second All Blacks v England test! Can't wait!
Bringing this to a close we are now in Dunedin - which is a uni city, and so far we're enjoying the laid back atmosphere with plenty of pubs! Plus it's the home of NZ's Cadbury's World which might get a visit! Outside of Dunedin is the Otago Peninsula and over the next few days we're hoping to go penguin spotting before heading over to the west coast (where apparently there's lots of snow! brrrrrrrrrr).