New Zealand is immense, we had already spent the two days in the ever so English Christchurch when we picked up our first camper van from the hire company "Backpacker" it was a basic "Breezer" model Mitsubishi L300. We hit the road before us our 12 day epic South Island whistle-stop tour travelling in total 3083km and sleeping 11 nights in the back of our little camper in the great outdoors! Before I gush about how glorious New Zealand is and truly it is wild, untouched and unspoilt with the most breathtaking picture perfect scenery surrounding you, I'll have a little moan!
Now in Australia it was the needless expensiveness of everything, in New Zealand it was the kiwi drivers, very in courteous and impolite I would describe them comparable to someone wandering into your home uninvited on the coldest winter day and urinating on your coal fire. We think the drivers are bad in England and that people tailgate you trust me when I say Elton John has never had anything as far up his arse as a Kiwi driver. I enjoyed the actual driving as the scenery is so magical that the journey does not seem so tedious. Snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, spectacular waterfalls, pristine forests, rugged grasslands and rolling hills yet the roads themselves are shocking! On the main highways equivalent to the M1 or M62 there is 100km per hour speed limit (62.4mph). Fair enough, yet it is all single carriageways except a bit of dual carriageway/motorway into and out of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. Often the road will have the sharpest hairpins and corners in parts with speed limits as low as 15kmph (9mph!) imagine that on the M1! Ridiculously steep climbs and drops, sections of unpaved road that you can only drive at about 30kmph and endless twists and turns! Also unbelievably over every river or valley they have a one lane bridge with give way signs! I know there isn't a great deal of traffic in New Zealand but why not just make the bridges wide enough for lanes in both directions!! Every so often there is needless roadwork's which reduce the speed limit to 30kmph. In addition we have encountered people herding sheep on the roads. Quad bikes with entire families clinging on and remember these are the MAIN ROADS I'm talking about! Off the highway the roads are a maximum speed limit of 30kmph (20mph) in second gear not because of traffic but because the roads are extremely rough gravel and like hiking up and down the Himalayas! The drivers themselves are too impatient to overtake you they will almost touch your back bumper before swerving out to pass you on a corner, up a hill or anywhere else they fancy! If it isn't just boy racers either, women, old men, and lorry drivers they are all the same! In the towns the speed limits is 50kmph (31.4mph) and once whilst driving to this limit through a town a woman with young children in the car passed me at about 100kmph, twice the legal speed limit, imagine that ever happening on Tadcaster Road! It just wouldn't! These aren't isolated incidents either it happens all the time, the amount of flowers left by the roadside mark what I believe will be very high amounts of road deaths. Without knowing I would bet that despite the UK having a population of almost 20 times that of New Zealand there is less road deaths on the UK roads than the New Zealand roads. Also Kiwi drivers are allowed on the road at age 15! (A very stupid law!) And everyone drink drives it seems common practice, probably like the UK in the 1970's. Also you don't need to have any insurance (mind bogglingly stupid) so people drive the worst most unroadworthy cars imaginable. I have seen a great many with no front ends, Nissan Bluebirds, Nissan Sunnys , Mitsubishi Lancers (Evo 1!) Daihatsu hunkajunk and Daewoo Mikariss***e are all the rage. Overall Kiwi drivers are crap, full stop! P.S We visited some places and had an amazing time I'll let Franki talk you through!
After Jimmy's rant I will just let you know all the nice things we did in the South Island of New Zealand! As I put in our shortened version on the NZ blogs all the places we visited I will just let you know a bit about each place to give those of you an idea of what we got up to!
On our first day on the South Island we did quite a long tour to Lake Tekapu a beautiful bright blue freshwater lake and small town called Twizel before heading onto town called Oamaru to see the wildlife! The town is renowned for the wildlife and especially the Penguins! We got there quite late in the day (takes longer than you think to drive round NZ as Jimmy has mentioned regarding the roads! We arrived late afternoon and just managed to see some seals and Yellow Crested penguins at the first penguin colony, the next colony was for the world's smallest penguins I think the Blue Penguins but it was dark by this point so didn't actually see any! We also visited sights suck as the Moeraki Boulders (all pictures to follow), these crazy boulders that were covering this beach on the East coast of the South Island , like giant eggs everywhere! The Catlins was another beautiful coastal area with crazy forests and boulders in the sea with views for miles, in particular a place called Nugget Point where you could also see loads of seals just resting on the beach below you! Highlight for me in the South Island was visiting Cadbury World in the Scottish type town of Dunedin (Celtic for Edinburgh) was actually quite like Edinburgh, really pretty buildings and quaint but cold and rainy! Cadbury Factory was great fun, got lots of free samples as you will see from our pictures lots of different chocolate bars we don't have in the UK and was just something fun for us to do in the town as not much else there! Other than visited the world sleepiest address ( has to be done- you literally visit anything when you are a tourist!), pretty steep climb to the top of the street and photos don't really show the scale of it but basically cars struggled to get up it and god help the postman who has to deliver their post everyday! One place definitely worth missing is Invercargill, one of only two days of rain we had here and it chucked it down solidly the whole time we were there and the town was a bit of a dump! I don't think the sun would have helped any!
Massive highlight for the South Island was the town of Te Anau and road to and cruise on Milford Sound, the drive itself up the winding road to Milford Sound was amazing with breathtaking scenery and then the cruise was something else! Apparently on 75% of the cruises they have rain and the day we went it was glorious sunshine buy as we had loads of rain the days before the waterfalls were still running so we got some amazing pictures and saw yet more seals too basking in the sun, really amazing place! We also went to the cinema in Te Anau before we went up to Milford Sound to watch Fiordland on Film a film made by a local guy on the breathtaking scenery and views from his helicopter over Milford Sound done to a specially made soundtrack of music so we had a taster of what to expect but was even better in the flesh! Funny part of the cruise was a poor man than looked like he was actually dying (never seen anybody the colour he was!) who had a very bad case of sea sickness or some bug (as the water was like a millpond!) and couldn't stop being sick the whole cruise with his poor wife having to stand over the piles of sick on the floor to try and cover it up!! Not very funny for him I can imagine though!
The towns of Queenstown and Wanaka were also great little places like little Alpine towns as they are used for skiing in the winter, Queenstown especially just had a really nice atmosphere and we can see why Rowan spent a season working and mainly partying here!!
A food highlight of the South Island was our trip to the really Wild West style town Arrowtown on the route to Wanaka, apparently the best place in NZ for pies and they were certainly were! We had lamb and mint and it tasted good! For a complete none pie lover I was definitely converted for this one!
Another highlight which again is something we don't have in the UK was our full day Glacier hike, we visited the Fox Glacier (the other more commercial one is Franz Josef which we later found out is a lot easier than the Fox!!) Our hike lasted a full day and was pretty hard going there was a pretty steep climb and over 800 steps up hill just to get onto the glacier and then once on the ice we trekked around in our lovely crampons (not the easiest things to walk in) seeing all the amazing ice caves and crevasses!
We then continued our loop round up the West Coast of the South Island, pretty amazing scenery, not so amazing towns!!!Greymouth and Westport to name two that you shouldn't even drive near! Sight called Pancake Rocks on the West Coast was definitely worth the trip, layers of rock formations that look like lots of pancakes!
Next we headed north to another not so nice town Blenheim hoping to find a wine tour but ran out of time and town not so nice so didn't spend too much time here!
Kaikoura was another highlight (sorry there are quite a lot of highlights!), famous for dolphins and whale watching and here we went on a whale watching cruise and saw the famous resident whale 3 times (once more than the average cruise apparently!) And also tons of dolphins that were swimming super close to the boat it was pretty amazing to see! We naturally got the money shot of the whale's tail fin as he dove back into the water! We also tried some lovely fresh seafood from a roadside cafe, whitebait pate and seafood chowder another reason why we liked the town so much, was delicious!
Our last stop in the South Island before driving and dropping off the van back in Christchurch was the dreaded Hamner Springs... where I had my little near fainting incident! Hamner Springs has a series of different natural thermal hot pools and you get to wander round jumping in and out of whichever pools you fancy and we of course tried quite a few including the hottest at 41 degrees and despite the warnings and me not spending too much time in the pool a combination of the difference in temperature and dehydration I felt horrendous when I came out, never felt so dizzy and sick (worse than any hangovers I have ever had!) I managed to get to a bench we was only about one metre from a water fountain, however I knew if I got up I would faint, so despite Jimmy being the most unsympathetic boyfriend and going on in my ear about how I should get up and the get some water and that I was my own worst enemy for not doing so despite me explaining the situation if I did get up I managed to stay seated and was eventually saved by a female lifeguard who came over to see if I was ok! She then proceeded to make me lie down and put my legs in the air while she held them to get some blood back to my head! Worked a treat but was pretty embarrassing with a whole group of people in the thermal pool next to me having a good stare whilst I was sat in just my bikini with my legs up in the air!! Funny part was trying to make me feel better she commented on what a beautiful bikini I had on, which was in fact a £3.00 Primark pink number that I have had for years!!!!! I eventually started feeling better and she kindly got me a cup of water and after filling out a first aid form you have got to love Health and Safety rules of the world today I was free to go get showered and put some clothes on!!!
Overall really loved the South Island and the amazing sights, quite a lot cooler than Australia and even to different to the North Island (they are like two different countries!) which was the next and penultimate stop on our trip!