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Our Trip We've left our jobs as banker and teacher in order to see the Southern Hemisphere. Why not?

Southland and East Coast Roadtrip

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 31 January 2009 | Views [730]


We started the roadtrip in Invercargill the day after what has become known as "My Incident".  Erin drove us to the "Niagra Falls Cafe" where I dropped off the wet suit I had borrowed the day before.  We had a cup of coffee and then made our way towards Dunedin.  The drive was rainy and we only made a fraction of the stops we had planned. 

When we arrived in Dunedin we were caught off guard by the size of the city.  It was huge, with a freeway and everything!  We had some trouble finding a room, but, by our second try, we got a double in a nice old style Hostel.  After settling in we wandered around the city until making dinner.

The next morning we walked to the museum which was supposedly one of the better ones in New Zealand with a "must see" butterfly exhibit.  I am not a huge fan of butterflies, but I figured, what the hell, you only live once, right?  I would continue on with this story, however you can probably guess the excitement of a butterfly exhibit.

Drive to Mt. Cook

After two days in Dunedin we decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Mt. Cook.  We figured it would take us about two days to get there so after checking out some round rocks (see photos) we found a DOC site to camp out.  We were the only ones at the site other than locals using the swimming hole.  One of the locals came by and talked to us for a while and told us all about sheep farming. 

The week before we had read an article where two travelers were robbed while camping.  We (Erin) were still kind of freaked out by this so when the teenagers showed up driving through the campsite and honking their horn at midnight, Erin made us retreat to the car for the evening.  Sleeping in the car actually wasn't that bad.  Turns out the Maxima is roomy and comfortable.

The next day we drove to Lake Tekapo.  We set up camp with an awesome view and went for a swim.  The water was heart stoppingly cold, but well worth it as it was over 30 degrees outside.

Mt. Cook

Mt Cook was awesome.  We got there around noon and set up camp.  Then we took a walk to "Hooker Lake" where the wind was so strong it nearly knocked us off our feet.  The walk was good, but when we got back to camp the sun was so hot we had to find some shade.  Luckily there was a bar in town (with happy hour) so we spent the next few hours hydrating and checking out awesome views of Mt. Cook. 

The next morning we woke up early and took the incredible walk to "Sealy Tarns".  The walk was only about an hour, but it was straight up hill.  You literally had to use your hands on most of the steps becuase it was so steep.  It was well worth the effort though as the views from the top were magnificent (again, see photos).

After the walk we were planning on staying another night, but since it was so hot and we really didn't have anything else to do around Mt. Cook, we headed back to Lake Tekapo.  Once again the water was cold, but was nice to jump in and cool off.  We spent two more nights there before heading off to the Peel Forest

Peel Forest 

The Peel Forest is one of New Zealand's oldest and most well-preserved forest, with the main attraction being "The Big Tree" (about 9 feet wide).  Not sure why we chose The Peel Forest as a camping stop, but it turned out to be a great idea since the swimming hole was one of the best around (a woman in the information center told us this and she was right).  We spent a warm evening swimming then cooking dinner in the shade of the campground's kitchen area.  The kitchen area was nice for shade, but it was also the only place free from sandflies.  The next morning it was pouring down rain, so we decided to go have a look at The Big Tree then get back on the road.

Arthur's Pass

We drove through the pass in heavy clouds and temperatures MUCH cooler than the previous day.  No need for a swimming hole - we were in NZ's town with the highest elevation and it was chilly.  When we pulled into the DOC campground it turned out to be more of a rest stop: next to the public bathroom across from the visitor center, and right along the train tracks.  Oh well.  However, a few minutes out of the car and we spotted the kea, also known as the alpine parrot.  These birds are very smart, and the ones we saw at our campsite were ripping apart a bicycle seat and yanking rubber off cars.  The DOC had signs warning that keas can open zippers.  After that there was absolutely no chance of me (Erin) sleeping in a tent.  We spent another night with the front seats back, wrapped in our sleeping bags.  But no keas bothered us!

Hanmer Springs

Another day of driving and we found warm weather again in Hanmer Springs, a community that is a weekend escape for Christchurch folk.  We stayed two nights, and on our second day we gave in to the hype and visited the famous Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools.  OK... so imagine a water park with just swimming pools.  Imagine that park smelling of sulphur.  Now pack that park full of 200 people and you have Hanmer Thermal Pools!  And while the pools and the crowds were tolerable, we did get to feeling kind of weird about the general hot pool experience.  I mean, how long is one to stay in a thermal pool?  It's a place for relaxation, so do you chat with the other bathers?  We decided the thermal pools were a good experience, but not something we'll make a habit of.

Banks Peninsula

Feeling refreshed after a night at the pools, we hopped back into the car for a long and winding ride to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, just outside of Christchurch. It turned out to be a really cute village originally settled by French, and it still has a French feeling.  The sun was out strong so we strolled the waterfront and enjoyed the cool breeze from the bay.  It was hard to leave, but when we did, we arrived in Christchurch - our camping and roadtripping days are over for now, but it was a good trip!

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