New Zealand was everything we had hoped it would be! Beautiful scenery at every turn, friendly people and an amazing family reunion. The first six weeks were such a dream with everyone coming together for Christmas it really was brilliant. I was pleased to finally meet Kiwi face to face without the normal abusive language I normally receive when he rings James on a night out! Travelling with Monique was so much fun and every journey was interesting with something exciting around every corner. The bungy jump, caving, learning to waterski, doubtful sounds and scuba dive were definitely highlights and the sky tower walk was certainly memorable but I don't think James would say a highlight as such! I am really sad to be leaving here but I think we did a good job travelling around and managed to see a lot of what this gorgeous country has to offer. I will never forget the Christmas as being one of my favourites for a long time. Sweet as… New Zealand.
I thought, instead of writing about each night in the various campsites (mainly due to laziness) we stayed in I would write a summary of some of our experiences here. Unfortunately sand flies and long drop toilets are two of the major things that will stick in my memory when thinking of DOC sites. The amount of sand flies at some of the sites were truly unbelievable but James and I soon became ninjas at killing them off, there were so many dead ones in Monique by the time we handed it back. One DOC site in Arthur's pass had a sign stating do not feed the Keas. We didn't feed them, well didn't mean too. They were squawaking in the early hours of the morning just outside the door, one tried to escape with my hula hoop and there was a group of them picking apart our camping chairs. We both tried to scare them off but they weren't scared of us at all, I even ran at them screaming and they flapped their wings once and just stared!
The winner of the most beautiful DOC was the site in Abel Tasman, we never would have ventured that far deep into the national park if Anna and Mike hadn't recommended it to us. The beach was just outside the site and had lovely day walks heading in every direction.
At Lewis pass we think we encountered a strange phenomenon where bumble bees think that Monique is not a campervan but a highly pollenated flower. We have never seen so many bees they just surrounded us. We had heard that New Zealand maybe giving the UK bumble bees as we have a diminishing population. I can certainly verify that NZ definitely has enough bumble bees and most of them live in Lewis Pass at the DOC site!
You heard about the kea bird attack, well the following night we stayed in the next DOC we could find, just by a lake, that of course James swam in despite its freezing temperature. The long drop here was pretty grim but the location was fantastic.
If you have seen our facebook pictures you would have noticed the picture of the ducklings sat by my feet. This was our first night in the South Island (with Monique) and we were in Marlborough sounds. We parked up right next to the water and a Mummy duck came along with her two ducklings. They were so sweet and cheeky we fed them loads, well so much they fell asleep on my feet! The Mummy duck also kept a scary looking Weka bird away from us so we appreciated her company.
Just outside the bay of islands we stopped at a large scenic DOC called Uretiri. James and I went for a stroll along the beach and began to notice an emerging pattern, there were a lot of naked people! We didn't know where to look, and did not get naked ourselves but I did find a section about the area in our book and it did say that this was a nudist beach-bit of a shock to us. We did stay another night on our way back down to Auckland, so we weren't put off too much!
Just after our naked campers experience we found a very out of the way DOC and managed to get ourselves right onto the small beach. James thought this was the best one as we could see and hear the ocean right out of Monique's windows.
We did have two experiences that were not so positive. It wasn't the long drops or the lack of showers that gave us these negative experiences but the occasional annoying campers. In one site in the middle of nowhere in Northland we shared the site with a group of loud, sweary and undisciplined students. They weren't even the worst group at the site, a family who looked suspicious played loud music and kept staring at us! The second negative experience was along the West coast where we stumbled across the busiest DOC site due to some sort of fishing competition. People kept walking past staring into the van and stumbling past very drunk late into the night, we didn't leave Monique for a second!
Overall the experience of the DOC sites and private campsites was very positive, so much so we are now travelling around Australia in Monica!