Hello.... we're back!!!
So here we are back on the road again!! We spent the previous five months in Brisbane, I wont cover our whole time there but give a quick review, we arrived off the plane from Malaysia and quickly found our way into town and the hostel we had booked for our first week! We ended up staying here for three weeks in the end, while we both found jobs, and somewhere more permenant for us to live, and cheaper, we were paying over 400bucks a week for two buck beds, our flat only cost 280! Towards the end of the 2nd week in Oz we were starting to panic, no jobs seemed to be coming, and we couldnt commit to any flats without knowing we were going to be earning and soon, we gave ourselves a week before we had to change plans and try sydney! Fortunately in the third week our phones didnt stop ringing with job offers, we both secured jobs, and with a letter from our agency we also managed to secure a flat, and our home for the next 4 1/2 months! I got a job working for the local housing agency, and Chloe for the local Health services, and we picked up a small studio flat which was 5mins walk into the main city!! So that was set, we worked the weeks, and saved as much as we possibly could, this meant we kept the activities to a low but we still had enough fun to stop us going insane with boredom. We went whale watching, took a trip to steve irwins zoo, took several trips out to the coast and various coastal towns, watched the local rugby and aussie rules teams, and had a few nights out with friends from work. Anyway i think that pretty much covers our time in Brisbane, the main aim was to save enough money for the rest of our trip, and that we did... so onto the trip!!!!
We flew into Christchurch last Friday, landing mid afternoon local time, we had a free transfer into town with our camper booking and got dropped at a hostel for our first night. We were both shattered as we'd been up since 3am, so we took a quick walk around the city centre, grabbed some dinner and headed back for an early night. The hostel had taken some damage in the recent earthquakes, and the ceilings on our floor were falling through in the hallways, but other than that we hardly noticed any affects, in fact that night there was a large aftershock apparently, but we both slept through it!! We woke up nice and early the next day and headed off to pick up our camper and home for the next 31 nights whilst in NZ!! We had decided to go with a company called Spaceships, we played a few companies off each other and they finally came back with the best deal. We found the depot, completed the paperwork and were introduced to our van who is called Armstrong, Chloe doesnt like me calling it Neil, so its staying as Armstrong for now The van itself is a converted Toyota people carrier, with the back chairs removed to make way for a bed, theres also loads of storage under the bed, a cooker, a small fridge and a DVD player which flips down and has proved handy already! And the kind fella at the depot also gave us a tom tom which has also been extremely handy, and has also made my role as map reader extremely easy, i just repeat what the tom tom says.... "turn right in 200 meters".... "errr chloe, i think you want to go right here"..easy!!
We did plan on spending a day in and around Christchurch, however the weather was awfull, non stop rain and freezing cold, so we decided to try our luck elsewhere, so we headed towards Kaikora, a coastal town about 250kms north of Christchurch. Due to the continuous bad weather we didnt really make any stops and arrived about 3 hours later in Kaikora and got our first glimpses of the beauty of NZ! We were shadowed by huge snow capped peaks, and right on the coast with fur-seals sleeping on the beach! Sadly the rain persisted, and this made setting up our van for the first time a little awkward but we got everything shifted about and got the van comfy for the night. Van set up we headed of to the peninsular where there was a great view back towards the town over the water, and where the majority of seals come to rest, we grabbed a few photos then headed up a near hill to a viewpoint, due to the rain visibility was low so we decided we'd come back in the morning and hope for clearer views. Back at camp we had a supper of soup and bread and then went for a small stroll through town before turning in for the night....when we returned from the stroll though, now the sun had gone down we realised we had left the lights on....and yep the battery was completely dead!! We pondered for a while...realised we both didnt have a clue what to do and went and asked at reception, we were told to come back in the morning and get a jump!! So we turned in for our first night in the van, snuggled up under the duvet and watched an episode of 24 on our DVD player. It was a very cold night and we both didnt sleep too well due to the cold! For some reason we hadnt used the heater we were given with the van so vowed to use it the following night!!
Following morning we grabbed a brekky of peanut butter on toast and headed back to the view point, this time the clouds had cleared and there were even more seals around, we didnt dare stop too long incase the battery didnt start again so grabbed some pictures and headed off. Our destination was a town called Hanmer Springs, and was only about 100k's down the road. The drive there was beautiful, i think i might be saying that a lot, it took us a couple of hours due to the windy mountain roads, and stopping off for photos. Once we reached the town we found a camp, rustled up some beans on bread and chilled for a while, it wasnt raining and the sun was out so we used this opportunity to fully organise inside the van!! Hanmer springs is a small town with just a small strip of shops, some scenic walks through the forest and a hot springs which is where we headed. On the walk there the sun was blazing and we were down to tshirts, we spent a couple of hours soaking in the hot pools and relaxing (after 2 days holiday!! we needed it right?!). As we were in the pool looking up at the snow capped peaks around us we could see some darker clouds rolling in, we jumped out and headed back for some dinner just in time, within half hour it was raining again, and heavy!! With the rain we couldnt be bothered to cook so drove into town and grabbed some cracking fish and chips, ate them in the back of the van then turned in for a couple more episodes of 24! We used the heater and hot water bottles this night, and though still not overly warm, it made the cold bearable and we both had a great nights sleep!! We woke in the morning to SNOW!!! The mountains all around were covered, and when i jumped out for my morning wee i was hit with freeeeeezing winds and sleet!! We hadnt decided exactly where we were heading next but checked the roads were ok and set off in search of somewhere warmer!!!
We decided to head to Lake Tekapo, it was quite a drive, but again an amazing drive, we stopped for a can of beans on the side of the road halfway, and the further we drove the better the weather got, we arrived to clear blue skies and views over a perfect turquoise lake with huge snow capped mountains providing the back drop! This was, and could well be the most beautiful place we've seen on our trip, we took a long walk into the town along the lake, grabbed some supplies and headed back to camp for a few bottles of cider and a dinner of pasta! We met some fellow Astronauts (Spaceship drivers) who were from Norwich, compared vans and stories and settled down to a quiet evening admiring the views, we were lucky to have got to the camp early enough to nab one of the sites with great views over the lake!! This was our first night without rain and was nice to finally be able to sit outside in our camp chairs and really appreciate where were are. We sat by the lake for sunset then watched some 24 and turned in! We would have loved to have stayed here another night, but felt we should push on, there wasnt much to do but gaze at the lake so we headed off towards Mount Cook the next morning!!
This was only a short drive, but by far the most amazing we had done, following turquoise lakes and rivers, and dwarfed by huge mountains all around, the tomtom estimated the journey would take 45mins, but we took over 3hours as there was so much to stop and stare at. We stopped at a local Salmon farm en route, fed the fishes and picked up some fresh smoked salmon for next to nothing. The weather today was the best we'd had, and this just added to the views. We arrived at Mt Cook town and parked up at the nearest camp where we tucked into our fresh salmon, sadly we couldnt find any cream cheese or champagne so made do with half stale bread and some hot tea, but it was still delightfull! Once fed and watered we set off on our first hike of the trip so far, a 3 1/2 hour round trip down Hooker valley, the walk was fairly easy but stunning! Within 15mins we were walking alongside the mouth of a glacier, we then continued and hiked through the valley, over a couple of swing bridges and eventually ended up at a lake, with a huge glacier feeding it from the far end! The lake was perfect turquoise again, and filled with large Icebergs, well worth the trek, we soaked our feet in the icy water and headed back through the valley to our van!! It was nearing dark when we returned, and the camp we were in didnt have hot showers or any electricity supply, and we could feel the temperature dropping again, so we drove back 20km's to a fully powered site we had seen on the way in. It would have been nice to camp under Mt Cook but its still far too cold our here at the moment when the sun goes down. We got to the site, cooked up a real mix of canned food, we were both starving after the walk but hadnt been able to refill on food, and got in Armstrong for some more 24!!
We have a big drive planned for tomorrow, right down to Dunedin where will hopefully meet some penguins and sealions!! Right now im off to find something hot as my fingers are about to freeze off, till next time....happy camping!!!!