New Zealand – North to South

From here we go from the North to the South but first we need to pay tribute to Her Majesty The Queen. It was her birthday while we were in New Zealand and they do not mess around. New Zealand apparently celebrates the Queen’s birthday properly, every year. We only seem to do it when it’s a big one. It’s probabbly done more here because it is a national holiday.  We were near a cute town called Grey Town on the celebration weekend. They had pulled out all the stops with a “Royal Knees” up weekend. We met a lovely elderly volunteer who had no idea where in the world Emma was from with her northern accent. There was also a dog photography competition for the most royal pooch. Famous director James Cameron has a vegan shop here which made Roddis happy as the food was delicious.

Kaitoke Regional Park was a great place for some camping within a rain forest. It was the filming location for Rivendell and the Fords of Isen in the The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Early Maori walking routes passed through this area, linking the fertile plains of Wairarapa with the port of Wellington. Emma was the same height as Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore… (That’s the right wizard?) I think I just made it past the dwarf. They have left some of the set in the forest and lots of pictures around so you can try to imagine the sets when they were set up.

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We arrived at Wellington and the weather was exactly what we had been expecting in New Zealand. Rain, strong wind and more rain. Here we became the fully fledged members of our first (and probably last) caravan club. Something we never thought we would say. Top 10 caravan parks had a great offer for the time we were here and saved us loads of money and had really decent facilities.

We did some exploring of Wellington, there are loads of bars and shops and managed to catch some live music since there was a jazz festival going. Emma became good friends with a drunk older gentleman who offered us to sleep on his sofa and gave us his business card. He also phoned his cousin in the next town we were visiting so we would have somewhere to stay there. As much as we appreciated the generosity of this lovely Kiwi, we politely declined.

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The Te Papa museum not only was the perfect activity for a very wet Wellington, it was an awesome experience and free. This place is a must for any visit to Wellington and museum lovers. They have an exhibition called The story of the Gallipoli which is about the campaign in World War I through the eyes and words of eight ordinary New Zealanders. It was very moving and fascinating to hear another side of the story especially surrounding the racial divide of the Maori and their role within WW1.

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It was an early start to the morning to get the ferry for the Cook Strait crossing. The weather had been so bad during the night we’d hardly slept, Pam felt like she was going to tip. The 2am ferry hadn’t been able to leave due to the bad weather, so we were going to be put on that one as soon as it was ready to go. Our friends and family had told us how bad the cross can be for travel sickness but was hilarious to see. Well, not for Emma as she suffered real bad and ended up taking the travel sickness tablets that knock you out. There were families sitting there retching and vomiting together.

We stopped over in Motueka and found a beautiful view over to Nelson where we had just driven from and definitely a contender for “bench with the best view”. Our plan was to make it up to the furthest part of the north and explore along the way. There are loads of “hippy” towns and endless view points to soak up. It took longer than expected but so worth all the little stops to explore.

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One of the several beaches we visited on the way up was the split apple rock or Tokangawhā. According to Māori legend, the boulder was split by two feuding gods who were fighting to possess it.

We made it to the Fairwell Split which is the northern part of the golden bay.

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Nelson Lake National Park is huge, the lake is full of Eels and thankfully due to the colder climate there were less sand flies than normal. We found another awesome campsite with a view and here we discovered we had left our hose pipe connector at the last campsite. This would be the 3rd one now we’d need to buy.

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This is why it’s worth stopping at nearly every look out in New Zealand, the views are just incredible.

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On the way to Kiakoura we stopped off in Hanmar springs. It is a super cute town but it rained so much. The hot springs were great there and they have a hidden freedom camping spot as the town hates freedom campers. From here we headed to Kaikoura which we needed to get to for a certain date. We were really excited as we were meeting Steve and Callan our friends from home! We hadn’t seen a familiar face in real life for months and hadn’t see these two for ages. It was Steve’s 30th and what better way to celebrate than a tour of New Zealand. Fortunately we were able to meet up and just in time for the whale watching tour. The town of Kaikoura is very tiny and basically derelict in the off-season. It is still affected and being built up again after a 7.8 earthquake in 2016.

We got woken up at 2am to the sound of whirling siren, the type they use in all the World War 2 bombing films. We were a little concerned as our camp site was right by the sea and everywhere has information about tsunami. Even the couple next to us were straight out with looks of worry. Turns out the loudest siren which wakes up the whole town, is to get the volunteer fire fighters to come to the station because they are needed.

rod2 (6 of 24)We got to see three different whales, which was lucky as you never know if you’re going to see any. We were amazed with the Albatrosses, we got to see the Southern Royal Albatros, they were huge. The tour was really well run and informative and the people who run it are so passionate about the whales and ensuring their protection.

There are so many Seals along this coast! Unfortunately there was a dead one. It did get to feature in a James Blunt video so its memory will live on forever.

rod2 (24 of 24)Our time with them was short but very sweet we had to part ways because of different schedules. Next stop Christchurch…

Christchurch had such an eerie feel about it. We knew that there had been a huge earthquake a few years ago, but that’s as far as our knowledge went. It was in 2011 and there is still so much destruction visible from it. The centre is a huge construction site that is still trying to function as a city. So many buildings abandoned awaiting demolition. Some they are trying desperately to save, especially the cathedral. There is still lots of vibrancy especially around the arts. The art gallery was brilliant and Emma got to visit the moon.

We also visited the earthquake museum to find out more of what had happened. It was moving and fascinating. It showed the way the communities had to survive afterwards, to the video accounts of some people who were affected that day. The inspiring stories of people desperately trying to save members of their community to the heart-felt accounts from those who had lost loved ones. With the distructions of the main cathedral they have created a cardboard cathedral. One of the most moving earthquake memorials was the 185 white chairs. Each chair representing someone who died that day with the child car seat being the most poignant. A very thought provoking and powerful exhibition.

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From here our journey continues further south on our new mode of transport.

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