29.10.07 - Arrived in South Island with high expectations after everyone we have met so far has raved about how great it is....and we were not disappointed. The scenery is unbelievable! As we drove along we went from driving next to the sea, to snow capped mountains, to rivers and waterfalls, not to mention the seal and penguin colonies right at the side of the road.
The weather is crazy, but all adds to the charm of NZ. Some mornings we woke up and it was quite mild so would put a t-shirt on, but by lunch time there would have been a thunder storm with serious rain and hail. One day as we were relaxing in the outdoor hot springs in Hanmer it started snowing, which was just beautiful as we were sat in these boiling, bubbling pools with snow flakes falling down and the view from the pool was the most idyllic snow capped mountains! NO words can explain just how utterly beautiful the south island is!
And the roads are so quiet and peaceful it actually a joy to drive, only passing another vehicle every 20km or so and its almost always a fellow camper which you must give the courtisy 'camper van wave' to.
We have done so much in so little time....been swimming with dusky dolphins in the pacific which was bloody freezing but absolutely fantastic!! We were suited and booted in some VERY thick wetsuits then taken out in a boat to find a school of dolphins and when we did the tipped us all into the sea (which took your breath away it was that cold) but as soon as we saw the dolphins swimming under and around us and jumping out of the water and doing tricks we completely forgot how cold it was ...it was utterly amazing!!
Queenstown was easily our favourite place, it unbelievably beautiful and has all the bars, shops and restaurants you could want. Not to mention the fact this was the setting for our skydive which was the most amazing thing we have done so far. And the most delicious burgers on the planet - FERGBURGERS!
Each camper was always stocked with plenty of Export Gold (beautiful kiwi lager) and food, so most nights were spent just sat in our home on wheels, cooking tea then drinking plenty of beers whilst filling the camper up with our cigarette smoke - and plenty of games of cards have been played. If we decided to have a night in the pub we would park up in the pub car park, go in and get wasted then just walk back to the carpark and go to bed! Its fantastic living outside a pub! Seriously thinking about living in a camper when we return!
Our one regret in NZ is not having long enough to spend there. We traveled down the east coast to Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs then crossed over to the west before heading down to Wanaka, Queenstown and heading up to Dunedin and Christchurch...not to mention loads of other places we went to but only had time to spend one night in each place (except Queenstown where Ed had planned the itinerary for three nights - and it was well worth it) We also visited Milford Sound, and stopped off at Fox's Glacier but everything was very rushed so we have already decided that we will definitely be coming back to New Zealand at some point for a very long time!!
The tale of four campers: It's gonna have to be the short version and the full tale will be told in the pub sometime when we're home (so sick of telling people) but to cut a seriously long story short...the first one set on fire, the second one had a gas leak, the company tried to replace the second one with a newer van for us but it was about half the size, so after some serious 'kicking off' we landed ourselves with camper van number four...a luxury four berth cruiser (not to mention almost 200 quid compensation!!) so it all worked out well! (woo that's a very short version of the tale!)
We also came to a total count of SEVEN road kills during our roadtrip (all achieved by Mr Thompson of course) one even got stuck in the grill and ended up traveling with us from Kaikoura (east coast) all the way over Lewis' Pass to Westport (on the west coast). Ed was made to try remove it several times to no avail so whilst at one of our many garage appointments Kate told the mechanic and he just slipped his hand into the grill and pulled the poor mangled thing out, throwing it in the bin - no big deal to these Kiwis!
When it came to handing back the campervan and preparing to leave NZ we were most upset - we absolutely love this place and have already decided after returning to England we will start making plans to move here (for a year at the very least!!)
Our depression soon disappeared once we boarded the plane to Fiji with the promise of two glorious weeks doing nothing but lying in the sun (which will be bloody lovely as we've spent the last two months wearing our thermals!)
WOOHOO Fiji here we come!!