NZ South Island -‘pains and gains’

It’s been ten days since we returned from our NZ South Island adventure and I just wanted to do a blog to share our holiday ‘pains and gains’ (as you can see my pains are very serious). I can safely say we had a holiday we will not forget travelling the full circumference of the island and travelling a grand total of 4491km!

Gains
1.  No car drama– Hughey baby made it the whole way! This is definite obvious success for us as I was slightly paranoid the entire way that he was going to blow up or something similar.
2. No bites – Neither of us got one sand fly bite, if you had seen the swarms of tourists running around after being chased by swarms of sand flies you would feel smug like us too!
3. Seeing a whale – it speaks for itself and it’s an experience we will never forget.
4. Writing my blog of course – I was so honoured by the amount of people that have followed our journey around. I was determined to keep up to date with my blog all the way through the South and this was an achievement in itself with all the travelling we did!
5. Meeting Victoria – I had heard so much about her off my mum, it was nice to finally meet and compare notes.
6. The views! – The views of South Island were amazing everywhere you turned there was another beautiful view to admire.
7. Chocolate waterfall – Speaks for itself it’s not every day you get to see 1tonne of chocolate drop from the roof
8. Wildlife – We saw so much amazing wildlife whilst we were there and it sort of ties in with seeing a whale but I want to add in – Sea lions, Seals and Albatross’.
9. Dolmio chicken – The food extravaganzas you can concoct when you are staying in the middle of nowhere and can’t be bothered to drive 30km to the shop are pretty impressive. A favourite has to be chicken cooked in lasagne sauce all the vegetable bits we had left whacked on a sweet potato.
10. West Coast – This is a bit of an obvious one but the West Coast is beautiful and we were told by so many people how lovely it was! Highlights include Glaciers, Milford Sound and the Pancake Rocks.
11. Christchurch – As everyone who read my blog will know Christchurch really touched me, I really loved my visit here for many reasons and I would love to go back.
12. Patch hunting – We collect iron on patches for every place we visit and it has become mandatory that everywhere we go we HAVE to find one its fun picking out all the designs and then seeing where you have been on a big blanket at home.

Pains
1. Uploading pictures – Selecting and uploading pictures to my my blog was a definite pain, worth it but with the horrendously slow internet at times it was VERY frustrating. I started the holiday by taking separate pictures on my iPad and camera, but ended up buying a devise that could take pictures off my camera onto my iPad (amazing I know) and it made life so much easier!
2. Seasickness – Chris has an episode on the whale trip! It was nice for it not to be me for a change but I felt his pain, I had a similar episode on the ferry back where I was icing my neck. It is safe to say I have more Stugerons on the way for us both for future travels (3 packets to be precise).
3. Rooms without bathrooms – the rooms we opted for in the backpackers were not en-suite (the whole point I know). I have slowly been getting better at the whole back packing thing but traipsing down the corridor in your PJs to have a wee or get a shower before anyone else gets a bit old after a while.
4. Ripped trousers – hilarious for me but a pain for Chris. We still haven’t found him a replacement so work pants or shorts it is then!
5. Food labelling – I am glad we finally have a fridge of our own, and we don’t have to label everything we own so it won’t get thrown out.
6. Breakfast biscuits and wraps – I don’t think me or Chris could face anymore breakfast biscuits or tortilla wraps for about another 3 years. These convenient and easy foods soon got old to us, I think we overloaded on these a little too much.
7. Booking disaster – Arriving in Nelson to no accommodation was not ideal and pretty stressful for me, but it worked out we got somewhere to stay and it was better!
8. Hangover jet – The Shot Over jet was great and so much fun, but after a heavy night in Queenstown I did seriously well not to be sick – self-inflicted I know but it was very close at some stages.
9. Sleep problems – I love the weather in NZ and I am really not complaining but one big struggle (still is now) is the heat at night and trying to sleep. It’s a battle between leaving the window open or not -but if you do you will wake up with loads of bugs flying around, and hearing a sudden buzz or flapping when its pitch black isn’t ideal. When my friend Kaley who lives in Australia, said she had to sleep with ice packs I thought she was joking (turns out she isn’t).
10. Patch hunting – This is also a pain as well as being a gain, I have become obsessed with finding a patch before we leave anywhere, so it can be a bit of a bind trying to find one. Chris makes us find one first everywhere we go so I don’t natter (saddo).

We have a few exciting weekends coming up and our friends Stacey and Zach have just left Napier after a weekend visit so I will have lots to tell you in my next blog.

Lucy

Picton

Our last stop of the holiday (sad face) saw us heading back to Picton to catch the ferry back to the North Island.We checked out from Kaikoura as late as we could on the Saturday and the set off for Picton.

We stopped off in Blenheim which is about 30 minutes south of Picton as we wanted to visit the famous Peter Jackson war plane museum called Omaka. We stopped off for a light lunch (pie, mash and gravy) and then headed to the museum. The museum is his personal collection of World War I planes and it’s pretty impressive, as he has displayed them in scenes of their stories. So for example one of the planes crashed into a tree in the snow so he has created a beautiful scene in which the plane can be shown in a snowy backdrop. The figures were so realistic and were made by Weta Caves – the workshop we visited in Wellington.


When we arrived in Picton we headed to the backpackers called Tombstone – sounds ominous but it is named as it is next to a graveyard but it was probably one of the best we stayed in! It was more like a hotel. That night we just sat and chilled and drank wine on our last day of the holiday before our detox!

The ferry crossing the next day was an early start (I had ran out of Stugerons –uh oh). I was pretty seasick I was slumped in a chair the whole way with an ice pack on my neck, it wasn’t a rocking motion that got me it was moving around in a circle.

After this it was the 4 hour drive back to Napier – shopping, washing and ironing done by 7pm (boring). What an amazing three weeks exploring the beautiful South Island! The picture on the cover just shows how many brilliant places we visited.

Lucy

Kaikoura

Our main reason for going to Kaikoura (as is everyone else’s) was to see a Whale! We were booked onto a whale watching trip on the 14th at 12.15pm, we arrived in Kaikoura at around 11.30 so set of straight to the whale watching terminal. Kaikoura reminded us a lot of Napier with its beautiful coast line, little gardens and cafes, shops and bars!

When we arrived at Whale Watch Kaikoura who were brilliant by the way, our trip was cancelled due to rough seas (as you have to get quite far out at sea for obvious reasons). A lovely lady on reception – I wish I had taken her name booked us onto a new trip for 6.45am,we were disappointed but it couldn’t be helped and we were still optimistic for the next day (Whale Watch Kaikoura see a Whale on 95% of their trips – which I think is amazing).

For the remainder of the day we visited the seal colony and had a few drinks in some of the local bars followed by fish and chips.

The next day we arrived for our tour I was so excited at the thought of seeing a whale, we had been warned about sea sickness (I took my Stugerons, Chris didn’t). The trip set off on a Whale Watching Catamaran with big comfy seats and the guide told us lots of facts about the area and the Sperm Whale (largest toothed mammal in the world). The Sperm Whale is the most common whale in the area and the whale we were most likely to see.

As we were the first trip of the day we had to keep stopping to see if we could track the whales and it was getting towards the end of the trip, I was starting to feel a bit disappointed but then -we heard a whale! Now this is the point which I found amazing about Whale Watch Kaikoura, they actually extended the trip so we could see a whale!

As we approached the area we were asked to keep an eye out for him to surface as they stay underwater for (45-60 minutes)! All of a sudden he appeared and there was a stampede to the top deck! It was amazing, the whale was huge and we were so close. It kept spouting from its blow hole (technical term) and we got about 10 minutes viewing him swimming along. The guide said they would warn us when he was about to dive and there was on a 50% chance he would dive with his tail showing – and he did! It was so special and made our holiday!

On the way back the catamaran was going at full speed to get us back over the waves (which were quite big at this stage). It was so much fun the boat was bumping and dipping and my stomach kept going on the dips! A few people were seasick (including Chris- didn’t take his sturgeons) but I was having a whale of a time (ba bum Ching).

This trip absolutely made our trip and I would like to thank Whale Watch Kaikoura for making it happen!!

One more night left in Picton then it’s back to Napier.

Lucy

Christchurch

‘In recovery from chaos comes creativity’

Our time in Christchurch really affected me, not necessarily in a bad way but it moved me in a way I never thought it would. I knew the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 were bad, but I suppose in my ignorance and as the media coverage subsided I assumed that as a developed country ‘everything would be OK’. The second earthquake in 2011 basically reduced the city centre to a flat mass of rubble and dust killing 185 people, and it was completely cordoned off for at least a year whilst building integrity was checked for safety. The worst hit of the city centre wasn’t reopened again until 2013.

Arriving two days ago on the 12th I don’t think we knew what to expect really, the first thing that I noticed was the amount of cranes and flat empty areas of land. As we ventured further into the city centre the scale of the effects of this disaster really hit home, five years later and streets are still closed, buildings are being held up by shipping containers and the majority of the city is still being rebuilt not to be completed to another 20 years. You could turn 360 degrees and there were buildings being constructed all around you.

The beloved cathedral, once a tourist attraction is now a tourist attraction for another reason- because the spire and half the cathedral completely collapsed. It is still there in ruins due to disputes of whether it should be demolished or restored. Bus tours (we went on on of these) traverse the city pointing out the buildings that survived (not many) and proudly highlighting new earthquake proof buildings as the tour continued. One of he most touching things I saw was a memorial for the 185 people killed, a white unique chair for each, some donated by loved ones, maybe the loved ones favourite chair. This unique memorial stood in the city centre, next to the CTV building where the majority of the deaths occurred.

In Quake City, a new museum, which opened to relay the stories of survivors and show what happened is a touching display of how this really affected the people of Christchurch – some who now still do not have proper homes.

The thing that struck me the most though through all the disaster and sadness is the resilience and strength that the people of Christchurch have shown through all of this. Their city is still being rebuilt but they have done everything they can to carry on with their lives using some amazing and quite genius ideas to get their lives back to normal. A shopping mall made completely out of shipping containers sits in the middle of Christchurch and it is so busy, so artistic and full of cool shops and pop up restaurants. Concrete pipes have been used as planters and a children’s play area has been made by painting a replica of the game ‘Twister’ on the ground with a ruler as the spinner.

Another thing that struck me was the amount of artwork and little gardens and sculptures set up in areas around the city to brighten areas up and take away from the empty shops (you wouldn’t know they were there if you didn’t look closely). A group set up called ‘Gap Fillers’ dedicate their time to filling the urban spaces under construction with innovative and quirky things – such as a dance floor or a cycle cinema powered by you pedalling your bike.

I really loved Christchurch for all the energy and positivity I mentioned above and I just didn’t feel like a jokey blog fit the bill on this one for obvious reasons- so people of Christchurch keep doing what you are doing because you and your city are amazing!

Another part of our time in Christchurch involved meeting a friend in Rangiora (about 20 minutes outside of Christchurch) for coffee. A month after me and Chris moved to New Zealand the daughter of my mums friend moved out stay with family in New Zealand. As the mothers work together they are always comparing stories about our adventures and telling me and Victoria what each other have been up to. So yesterday we finally met – so Victoria it was really nice to finally meet you 🙂

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We are really excited about our next stop – Whale Watching in Kaikoura (fingers crossed).

Lucy

Lake Tekapo

Our time in Lake Tekapo was quite short due to a change in itinerary to spend more time in Dunedin (so glad we did). The drive from Dunedin was 3 hours and we arrived at about 4pm, as we had another stop off along the way at the Moeraki Boulders. These are large round shape boulders that were originally formed in the cliff face and as the cliff has eroded this harder rock has been left on the beach it’s pretty impressive. As you can see below there are some pretty impressive photo opportunities too!

When we arrived in Lake Tekapo we had a look around the lake which is a beautiful blue glacial lake and few other features in the area such as the famous church. We were originally going to go to the hot springs that night (11th) but we found out that the area was one of only a few Dark Sky Reserves in the world due to its no light pollution and very clear skies. Chris loves star gazing so we booked onto an observatory trip for that night.

In the time between arriving and our star gazing trip we took a trip to Mount Cook. It was beautiful it was such a clear day and the scenery was lovely. We set up our cameras on a rock and had a photo shoot- Chris split his pants climbing over a rock to get in the picture in time (I think it was all the Cadburys from earlier in the day).

After a salad tea (we needed something light after all the chocolate) I had a nap before our trip as I’m getting old. At 11 o’clock we made our way to the Earth and Sky office for our trip, we were transported by bus to the observatory (no white light was allowed so we had to take lasers). We were shown all the constellations by a guide with the coolest laser ever it was like a light saber and it looked like it was touching the stars! We also got to look at some things such as stars and gas clouds through telescopes as they weren’t visible to the naked eye. The sky was so clear it was amazing to see it was also a new moon so no moon was visible making the conditions darker (perfect for star gazing).

Our time in Lake Tekapo was short but we really felt like we made the most of it and we got to see stars in one of the only Dark Sky Reserves in the world which is pretty special!

Up next is Christchurch.

Lucy

Dunedin

The next stop on the agenda was Dunedin the Edinburgh of the South, due to its Scottish heritage. The drive from Milford Sound to Dunedin is a long one but we chose to make it longer to detour through the Caitlin’s and it was so worth it! We set off at 8am and I think we arrived in Dunedin at about 6pm but we were stopping along the way. The first beach we stopped at was renowned for having lots of Sealions and you could get within metres of them. We didn’t hold much hope out for this as it was really windy but just as we were about to leave Chris spotted one just below us and it was huge! We were stood right next to it (Chris ran away a few times when I was taking his photo with it as he thought it was going to chase him).

The next stop on the drive was a view point called Nugget Point (the Caitlin’s is renowned for its views and wildlife). This also didn’t disappoint as the view was amazing and there were hundreds of fur Seals swimming beneath the cliffs and playing in the water!

We arrived at our backpackers called Hogwartz (my letter finally arrived) and it was great, it was really quirky and had a warren of corridors you can really see where it got its name from! It had alot of nice little touches like a Gringotts room, a platform 9 and 3/4 and they called the laundry Dobbys Room ( if you don’t get these references you are missing out!)

Our first proper day in Dunedin (10th) was really full on and probably one of our favourite of the holiday! We started off looking around Dunedin which has some really lovely old buildings such as the train station which is really special. We then moved onto the museum to add a bit of culture (it was really to take some silly photos).

Next up was where the fun really began, Dunedin has the steepest street in the world according to the Guinness World Records – it’s called Baldwin Street and its incline is 38 degrees (very steep). It doesn’t actually feel that steep but trust me once you walked to the top it feels it, and as you look down you can really tell how steep it is. As part of the Dunedin Chocolate Carnival (I know I’m gutted I missed it too) they have a Jaffa rolling competition down the street (Cadburys orange balls – they are amazing but only sold in NZ). After the climb we thought we would treat ourselves to a certificate to prove we had done it (fatties).

We were booked in at the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsular at 3pm for a tour. This location is the only mainland Albatross Colony in the world and a significant conservation area, if I’m honest I was a little dubious about going but really glad we did. When we arrived we saw lots of people down at the bottom of the cliff so we went to see what the fuss was about -there were hundreds of Sealions on the beach it was amazing (Video here). They were everywhere and as you thought you had seen them all you would see another camouflaged on the rocks (a bit like where’s wally).

The Albatross tour lasted an hour and we really were lucky, normally we would complain about a windy day but this was perfect for seeing them in flight (apparently quite rare). They were massive and have a wing span of 3 metres and it was so impressive to see them gliding around (we also saw them sitting on nests). I’m not normally into bird watching (Chris is) but this was really interesting.

As part of the tour was could add on a tour around a war bunker underground so obviously we did this!

After this we were back to the backpackers for a quick double carb tea (risotto and fancy bread) and then to Speights Brewery for a tour. Speights is a NZ beer that originates in Dunedin so it’s a bit of a must when you get to Dunedin. We were showed around the Brewery and all the brewing processes and then got to go and try some beers in the bar (now for the good bit). You could try as many beers as you wanted in the time you were in there (about 30 mins) so we really made the most of it – some more than others (cough Chris).

On Monday we woke up early as the fun still wasn’t over we were going on a Cadburys tour at 9am (no breakfast was consumed in preparation). Dunedin have a large Cadburys factory which we were told is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere – the tour was nowhere near as good as the one in Birmingham but we still really enjoyed it! You don’t actually get to go around the factory so they just tell you about chocolate making and show you some videos. The fun bits included- free chocolate bars all the way around and a serve yourself melted chocolate machine with toppings – Chris ate too much and felt sick for the rest of the day (it didn’t stop him eating the other 9 free chocolate bars though). At one point in the tour we were taken into an old storage silo and the whole thing lit up and out of the roof came a chocolate waterfall and 1 tonne of melted chocolate came pouring down from the roof (I was like a kid it was brill). In the gift shop afterward we stocked up on some Jaffas and set off for our next stop- Lake Tekapo.

We really enjoyed our action packed time in Dunedin 🙂

Lucy

Milford Sound

Today’s blog is a short one about our brief stop in Milford Sound, we spent a lot of the day travelling but the journey was amazing!

We set off from Queenstown this morning and it took us about 2 hours to reach our backpackers for the night in Te Anau called Rosie’s backpackers and homestay and we are actually just staying at someone’s house!

The drive from Te Anau which is the main base for Milford Sound is about 2 hours south of the Fjords, it is really out of the way and there is no direct road across from Queenstown (I think if there was it would take about an hour). On our drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound we stopped at a few places that had been recommended to break up the journey such a the Mirror Lake and some waterfalls (once again waterfalls feature heavily in the blog). Along the way we spotted a sign to say that we were 45 degrees south latitude which is the same as France if we were on the same latitude north (Bonjour- see mum I’m basically home). As we got nearer we had to pass through a tunnel and they had basically just blown through a huge mountain (Chris was in his engineering element).

We arrived at Milford at around half past 2 as our trip was at 3, we were with a company called Real Journeys for the trip and we checked into the boat which was really nice with big comfy chairs (free tea and coffee always a winner with the Brits).

We set off sailing out through the Sound and within about 5 minutes of sailing a pod of at least 50 dolphins came swimming past the boat. The captain sailed up close and they put on a show jumping and playing alongside the boat it really was an amazing start to the trip.

We sailed out to the Tasman Sea at the end of Milford Sound and it was beautiful and a lot bigger than you would ever imagine! As we sailed there were waterfalls on either side and the boat would sail right up to the rocks and you could stand right under the falls as they sprayed you like rain (it was like being back in England). As we sailed back there was seals lazing on a rock aptly names ‘Seal Rock’.

The water was deep blue colour and a mist had formed over at one point which I think gave it more atmosphere! We spent a lot of time up on the told each when we could taking pictures but it was a bit windy at times and one lady ended up taking a picture of the floor as her hand got blown taking a picture (one for the family album).

Milford Sound really was beautiful it reminded me a lot of Norway. The sides were high and rocky covered in trees and there were glacial features all the way along. It’s a must do for people travelling to New Zealand! It is really hard to do it justice so I hope alongside my pictures you can get the feel for it!

On the drive back to Te Anau we stopped off to see some Parrots in a car park and then headed back to cook up a Chilli (glad I autocorrected that it came up as child).

Off to Dunedin tomorrow, I will have lots to write about as its a full day to get there!

Lucy