Christchurch and Akaroa:
Our plane landed safely at Christchurch ten minutes before midnight. It took us almost fifteen hours because we had to fly from Cairns to Sydney first and then with a connecting flight to New Zealand. One thing we know by now is that it takes some time going through customs. New Zealand is doing strict custom controls to protect their plants and animals from any parasites or diseases. That means you are not allowed to bring any fruits, nuts, honey or any packaged food. Further your hiking shoes or any outdoor stuff like tents etc. will be looked at in detail. In our case we had shoes and also swimming gear with us, that’s why our shoes got a quick scrub and disinfection. We booked an accommodation close to the airport because we had to pick up our Campervan from Jucy the next morning. After a short night we woke up freezing! It was a temperature shock having only 15° and grey weather, arriving from Australia with 40°! We went to the rental car station and after a short introduction to the camper van we were already hitting the road. We first headed to Akaroa where we spent the first night in our campervan right next to a bay. The following morning we went for a snorkeling tour with hector dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world. In the afternoon we hiked up the highest hill around the area and got a stunning view over the scenery. Akaroa has a French touch (you’ll find boulangeries and boucheries) and even though you don’t realize, it is located right in the middle of an old volcano that erupted a very long time ago.
After a long drive north with a stop in Christchurch (we replaced a broken camping chair) we arrived in Kaikoura. We walked near the coast and spotted some seal colonies. When it was getting late, we drove our campervan to the beach and were already preparing for a nice dinner with sunset. But in the end we didn’t have any dinner and didn’t see the sunset.
The reason we drove north was because we booked a kayak and hiking tour in the Abel Tasman National Park with friends from Switzerland. So we had to be there two days later. When starting to prepare dinner, we checked google maps for the the route on the next day and detected that the coast road got damaged by a cyclone a few weeks ago. Our initial route to Blenheim would have been close to 2 hours. But because the road was closed we had to drive the inland road and around a mountain which took us eight hours! So change of plans… we drove 3 hours that evening and slept at a picnic area close to the road. Nearly as good as a sunset dinner at the beach!
Renwick and Blenheim are known for its vineyards. We hired a tandem bike (first time!) to do a wine and bike tour to visit the different vineyards and enjoy some wine tasting. Luckily, the weather was beautiful and so were the wines.
Moutueka and Abel Tasman National Park
In Moutueka we met our friends from Switzerland to buy food and camping equipment for our two-day hiking and kayaking trip to the Abel Tasman national park. Afterwards we went for a dinner, which tasted really good, especially since we were only cooking in the campervan the previous days. The next morning, we got up early to drive to Marahau where we got our kayaks. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not good for the following days and the sea was quite rough. We were recommended not kayaking the whole way. So instead of 3-day trip, we kayaked only the first day and hiked the second day. We had a cozy tent, but had 2 school classes as neighbors on our campsite. Overall, it was very crowded and we were unlucky with the weather. But the national park and the hike on the second day was through some nice landscape and beaches and we can imagine how nice it would have been with better weather.
After the trip we headed down the west coast of the south island.
We first visited the Pancake Rocks which are a special stone formation. It’s one of the main attractions on the west coast and such also very touristy. We didn’t find anyone who was not continuously taking pictures of rocks from every angle… If you go there, try to go at high tide, as water will be splashing through the rock formations.
While it was only clouded at that point, it started to rain later that night. And it didn’t stop for 72 hours… And we’re not talking about a quick rain shower, but raining cats and dogs so we were scared that the roof of our campervan would break at some point.
So together with all the rain drops coming down, our mood also went slowly downwards.
After Pancake rocks, we drove down to one of the main attractions of New Zealand, the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. And we would love to tell you more about it, but with no more than 50m sight for 2 days this would be quite tricky
But we can tell you one more funny story: Since sleeping in a caravan is not allowed in the city Fox glacier, we slept near to the road a little bit outside of the city and close to a forest. Because of the rain, we only left the van for a very quick stroll to the bush, before going to sleep. Afterwards we went back under our cozy duvets, but were woken up after some time from a buzzing noise. When it didn’t stop, we decided to switch on the light… when Patrick’s biggest nightmare became true: We seemed to have been parking right next to a mosquito nest and in the short moment we opened the door, more than 40!! mosquitos (not lying!) got into our small van. We both armed ourselves with Antimosquito sprays and after an hour we finally won the battle.
So can we recommend Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier? No idea, but definitely avoid camping close to the forest…
One final remark to the west coast: Be prepared for heavy rain. Even though brochures and pictures of the main sights always pretend perfect blue sky, it’s in fact the region were it rains most in New Zealand.