Another new country awaits us after an excellent flight on Emirates who really know how to look after you . Arrival into NZ is a troublesome affair with customs taking an age and everybody's luggage being x ray'ed , luckily we were not selected for the full body search , yes some 30% of passengers were .
After a night in the excellent Peppers resort near the Christchurch airport we went to collect our Mighty campervan. A word on campervans in NZ , they are everywhere and seem to constitute nearly all of the traffic. Our van is based a Mercedes Sprinter and contains a shower and toilet, allowing us to stay overnight where we want , it's called Freedom camping. The van is easy to drive even if it's 7.2 meters long. The bed, cooker etc are all easy to operate. Less easy to operate is her indoors whose reputation as messy does not compute with campervan life. I feel a little like The Odd Couple - I am Jack Lemmon.
First day we drove some 630 Km to a place called Kaka point and just stopped on the side of a road overlooking a deserted beach and fields inland. Free and beautiful. We (meaning I who had driven) managed to creat a curry for supper. Next day we visited Nugget point before going to the Caitlin area and completing the Caitlin's River walk which was like Exmoor but on a much grander scale and no people ( that's zero we saw all day). On the advice of the local tourist office we camped at Weis beach, which I challenge you to find on a map, with fantastic views again of the ocean. Onward and around the bottom of South Island via Waipapa point where we found sea lions and birds that like attacking her indoors. That night we camped in the south of the Fjordland district by a lake called Monowai and guess who decided to swim in the sub zero waters and then felt cold thereafter !!!
At this point in our travels the dreaded midge arrived! They are everywhere and I suspect resemble Scotland's in the summer. Unfortunately it means you cannot cook outside or even open the campervan. One of us has been bitten more than the other and is in need of surgery in that no drug has worked to date on the horrific injuries suffered on her feet, the moaning never stops and includes 3.00am assessments of the ongoing situation which everybody must attend.
To Manapouri for two nights on a established camp site where we could shower (you only use the campervan shower in emergencies as it takes all your gas and water , so you just smell!). The Possum lodge was excellent and I met a new friend , Patch the cat who was really friendly almost to the extent he went for walkies with us along the beach. The reason we went here was to go to Doubtful Sound. This was a full day trip which included crossing Lake Manapouri, a coach journey over gravel for 22 km and then the cruise itself. We were lucky in that in rains 2 out of every 3 days in this area (upto 10 meters of rainfall a year) and often clouds over . We saw the magnificent 2000 feet (I know I flip between ft and meters for effect) cliffs, sea lions, penguins and can conclude it righty earns it's reputation. We concluded the day by visiting the hydro electric station and going underground 200 meters or so to view the turbines in operation at 3.30pm ( pay attention here ).
The next day we drove to Milford Sound along the 120 km highway of the same name. Nothing can prepare you for the sight of mountains, waterfalls , trees and just scenery that is out of this world. We were lucky, again, in that it did not rain until the afternoon as we were walking the Gertrude valley who her indoors said would only be a 40 minute loop but turned out to be a 12 hour loop. Luckily we read the signs.
Arrived at Milford Sound to our campervan park (they provide power as well as showers which helps keep the fridge etc working well). I started to read the newspapers to see that an earthquake registering 4.7 on the Richter scale had happened 10 km from Milford the previous day at 4.00 pm. Just think where we were at 3.30pm !!!!!!!!
Next day we kayaked Milford Sound. We had to use double kayaks and I had a vision of me going into the freezing water. We however survived to have a lovely day viewing the Sound (it's actually a Fjord but who worries). If anything it is better than Doubtful in that it is closer to you and more personal if a little smaller.
The schedule never ends and a driving day to just north of Wanaka and another excellent Dept of Conservation campsite for the night aside a lake.
This brought us to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. We had intended to ice hike these but weather conditions would have impacted the experience. It's the price of 2 out of 3 rain days. The glaciers themselves are both accessible via short hikes which we did and like nearly all glaciers found them in full retreat, in fact Franz Josef will be gone as tourist attraction in a few years.