Published: December 17th 2011November 22nd 2011
Overall, we have to say that the north island had been pretty awesome. If what people were saying about the south island was true, then we’d really be in for a treat! There really wasn’t a whole lot to see right off the ferry in Picton other than go check out some wineries. The only problem was that we really weren’t here at the right time of year for this as many of them we tried to visit were actually closed. Of course, we were also trying to visit some of the ones with free tastings being the cheapos we are. So with the wineries a no go, we ventured down Queen Charlotte road to check out the sounds. Now these sounds, although very beautiful are just large water filled gorges. The road was extremely windy and our gas hog was proving to kill the pocket book. Needless to say, we drove a few hours and turned around. Next on the list was heading up to the farthest northern point of the south island on Farewell Spit. On the way, we stopped to check out Pupu Springs. And no, these springs aren’t brown and full of poo, they actually produce some
of the cleanest fresh water in the world. It was unbelievable just how clear the water was. Jessie was ready to get out her coffee mug, dip it in and see just how clean the water was!! After a short walk and some pics, we were on the way to Farewell Spit. Now according to NZ Tourism Radio it is supposed to be the longest sandbar in the world. For us, we hear sandbar and we think, hmmm, must be something like an island in the Philippines. WRONG! Not only was the wind blowing at around 30-40 miles per hour and sand was pelting us as hard as could be but we had to tramp through some sheep pastures to reach the beach. This was true for both Farewell and Wharaiki Beach. Don’t get us wrong, it made for great pictures but in all honestly, it just wasn’t all that fun to be in, it felt like we were in a tornado on the beach!! After our fun in the sand we made our way to our campsite, yet another DOC site instead of spending the money to have a power site AGAIN. You might be asking yourselves, how do
you shower then if you stay at sites that are lucky just to have an outhouse toilet? Well, you’ll see the pictures of us washing our hair with water from a bucket outside of the van, using water sometimes from one of the perfectly clean lakes and mixed with water we heated on the stove in a kettle. As for the rest of our body, believe it or not, there were PLENTY of awkward sponge baths using our little sink and a sock for scrubbing. Hippie? Mmm, maybe. Cheap? Maybe, but then again it was hard to stomach paying 5 dollars for a 9 minute shower at a lot of places, too! We won’t traumatize you with any disturbing mental images, seeing Nate trying to maneuver in the van to get clean may have been funnier than watching a dog with one of those cones around his neck trying to itch his ass with his teeth!
Next up was the famed Abel Tasman National Park. We decided to go for a long hike when we arrived in the far north of the park in the hopes of seeing more wildlife. Now when we first started out, it was warm
and sunny. Actually, it was nice enough to make Nate debate for a few minutes whether or not to put on some shorts instead of some hiking pants. Keeping on his pants instead of switching to shorts proved to be a very GOOD decision. After our first 4 hours, we were a bit winded but feeling pretty good overall. We got to see our first seals at Separation Point but then, we looked around us…noticing the DARK, grey clouds moving in…and in a hurry! There were 2 very appropriate words for this as we were half way through a trek that took 8 hours to complete roundtrip, an easy 18 Km hike. The first was “Oh”, and the second was “SHIT!” Were we overreacting? When the front rolled through, cooling the temperature down a good 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rain started to fall as we were wearing thin hiking pants and thin t-shirts…we’re leaning towards NO! Although Nate loves to work out and stay in shape as much as possible, Nate has also said “it will be a cold day in hell before I ever run unless my life is in danger.” Well, we’d like to report that there
was ONE other alternative to that statement…freezing cold rain pouring down on your goosebump ridden body as you shiver intensely and whimper “I’m so f%#&ing cold” was MORE than enough to light a fire under his ass and make BOTH of us sprint like a damn Olympian trying desperately not to let their country down. By the time we reached the van, Nate just couldn’t hold back anymore. “I’m never going on a hike that f&*@ing long here again I swear to God!!!” Jessie could only agree as we sat still in the van, begging for the heat in the front to get cranking as soon as possible. Hiking in New Zealand this time of year without proper gear is NOT a good idea…CHECK!! Don’t ever forget your rain coat, it amazed us how fast the weather could turn.
With dry clothes and underwear, we were making our way south towards the Franz Joseph Glacier, but not before passing the Buller Gorge swing bridge. We made a quick stop to check out the bridge suspended over the raging rapids. Now, this may have been more impressive but some of the bridges we have been on in Asia, especially Indonesia,
beat it for scare factor hands down! Along our scenic ride south, we made a few stops: Cape Foulwind to see a seal colony, the famed pancake rocks that didn’t impress and Hokitika to try our hand at finding some jade on the beach. So, it was finally off to the Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers to freeze our asses off and see the biggest piece of ice we had ever seen! As beautiful as it was, Nate was still ready to get back to the van where he could have the one thing he was craving more than anything….HEAT!!! We contemplated going on a tour on the glacier but paying $109 each to touch ice seemed ridiculous when we grew up with frozen lakes, icicles and snow more than knee deep at times. The glaciers had been great, but we were ready to make our way south to Queenstown. The one thing we were looking forward more than anything was something we had been looking forward to for a very, LONG time…SKYDIVING! Sure there were plenty of places we looked into and choices we could have made along the way, but in the end…we signed up with Nzone to
have our major experience with. We had 3 choices on how high we were going to jump from, 9,000, 12,000, and 15,000 feet. Since this was about to be a once in a lifetime experience for us, we decided on the 15,000 feet option. We kinda figured, hey, go big or go home right? Why not?
We can still remember sitting on our couch at home in Orange County, California, reading other people’s blogs and thinking to ourselves, “How awesome would THAT be?! Could you imagine skydiving in New Zealand?!” Well guess what? This was our chance to make another dream a reality, and you bet your sweet ASS we weren’t about to let it pass us by. Ya know, it’s funny...we really thought we would be really scared to go skydiving. After all, jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet with a full 60 second freefall? Were we out of our damn minds? Oh no, we weren’t! We were perfectly within them and we were going no matter what. It couldn’t have really worked out better. This was literally the first (and unfortunately one of the ONLY) day it was actually NICE outside. We’re talking clear blue
skies and warm weather with NO wind! How could we possible back out now? We had a nice, leisurely walk around the quaint town of Queenstown for a few hours while we killed time before it was time to hop out of that perfectly good airplane. You’d think we would be just about filling our pants by the time it was time to get into the van that would take us to the drop zone, but we really weren’t. In fact, as we suited up, we were only getting more excited and before we knew it we were climbing higher, and higher…then sliding to the edge of the door in the plane and….BAM!!! You were freefalling at 200K/HR in seconds! We were LOVING it. It was by far the most intense roller coaster ride you could ever ride in your life! Nate’s guy even took him for some hard core spins in the air on the way down both before the shoot opened and after as Nate screamed in pleasure through every moment! Was it worth it? OH F#@* YEAH!!! We would do it all over again in a second if we could! The fact that we had just had
such an amazing experience on the exact day of our 10 month anniversary on the road was like the icing on the cake. Happy 10 months to us!
Feeling pretty satisfied with our accomplishment, we would leave Queenstown and make our way to Milford Sound. Too bad for us, by the time we got to Te Anau (gateway town to Milford), the weather had definitely turned for the worse! With the rain pelting down on us, we definitely weren’t going to be heading out on any lengthy hikes. Instead, we would make our way down the windy road and through a somewhat scary, new tunnel that was created not all that long ago in order to continue to the sound. We waited it out for about an hour and decided since we couldn’t even see the mountains around us while in the parking lot that maybe sitting here forever wasn’t the best of ideas. So with a few misty photos we were off and onto the next attraction. One of the other major things we wanted to see on the south island was the marine life. Our quest to see what the south island was about to take us
to Surat Bay in search of some seals. The bad part was that this little venture was a total failure. The GOOD part was that Nugget Point wasn’t far away, and we would find what we were looking for on the WAY there. Thank God for J’s eagle eyes! Then again if Nate was the one doing the looking along the coast, we juuuuust might be trying to fight our way out of the van as it was filling up with water after pulling an Even Kin Evil stunt flying off the side of the road. Yeah, probably NOT the best idea.
Anywhoooo, she spotted a couple of sea lions chillin’ on the beach and the best part was that there wasn’t a single tourist in sight! We could pretty much get as close as we wanted, but obviously we also kept a safe distance and didn’t want to disturb them. Needless to say, J got some pretty amazing shots! After our visit to Nugget Point (which honestly wasn’t all that incredible to us), we noticed a local farmer’s dogs taking off after the sea lions while going for a walk on the beach. They went after the smaller
female just as any dog would, wanting to play with a new found friend. The farmer was finally able to coral his dogs and lead them away but not before a small group of tourists stopped to see the MASSIVE male up and moving about to protect the female. Let me tell you, he was definitely NOT afraid to charge at anyone dumb enough to get too close to the already agitated sea lion. It was probably a good thing for the tourists that they were standing at the top of the side of the ditch so they weren’t eye level with that big boy. He was no joke either. I think I’d rather square off with Mike Tyson than wrestle an animal that could throw you around like a dog’s chew toy! The one other thing we managed to see that same day was A yellow-eye penguin, yes…a single yellow-eyed penguin. We just didn’t feel like standing in the freezing cold rain with heavy winds blasting us to wait for the POSSIBILITY of seeing a few more. Once again, we had our chance to pay $25 each to see some little blue penguins but paying that amount of money
and sitting in the dark waiting for them to come on shore just wasn’t sounding too good.
With such crappy weather chasing us away from a lot of the things we were hoping to do, we were actually getting into a situation where we had MORE time than what we really needed here. In fact, we were even starting to get a little frustrated as we tried to figure out what to do with the time we had left. Then, we decided to make a detour inland to the opposite of Mt. Cook where we found the most beautiful lake we have ever seen in our lives…Lake Tekapo. The water was literally NEON blue from what’s called rock flour, suspended rock sediments that look absolutely STUNNING when the sunlight hits it. We were eating our words right then and there. “A lake is a lake.” Apparently NOT! That is, not if you’re at Lake Tekapo! You truly could not create a more beautiful mountain and lake setting. In all honestly, we still feel this was the most beautiful scenery we had enjoyed in the entire country! Nothing like a jaw dropping view to bring your spirits right back up.
There were a couple more stops we wanted to make as we were working our way to Christchurch, and one of those was Kaikoura. Now, Kaikoura is north of Christchurch but we had a few days to kill so we had high hopes we see some more wildlife before heading back to catch our flight. Just a little drive outside of the town of Kaikoura, in Ohau, we would find seal pups who made their way up a small river way to a waterfall where they played just like any little baby would do. They were playing with their fins as babies would play with their feet. We have to admit, we were having a good time watching these little guys goofing around in the waterfall. We couldn’t even believe how nimble they were even when they were OUTSIDE of the water and hobbling over rocks lining the small river. Around Kaikoura, there is a huge seal colony with hundreds of seals lining the coast. Even though we had already seen seals before, the amount of seals lying around and sunning themselves was pretty impressive! Granted when you have that many animals you’re bound to scrunch your nose up
and squint your eyes as the distinct smell of seal shit enters your nose and fills your sinus’s, but it’s totally worth it.
There was one more crazy little experience we would have before finally getting to the city, and of COURSE it would be something that had to do with the weather. The clouds that day were as grey as ever and moving faster than we had seen the entire time we had been here. As we expected, once they got above us, it started raining…HARD! In fact, a little TOO hard. We took a little closer look at the drops hitting the windshield as they got louder and louder only to find out that this was no normal rainstorm. Oh no. It was freezing rain that turned into an all our hail storm! Within 2 minutes we were driving like the slowest Sunday driver in their favorite oldies car you’ve ever seen in effort to avoid the vehicle getting dented up. It literally looked like there was snow on and around the road everywhere you looked while gumball sized pebbles of ice bounced off of the road. Then, it stopped just as quick as it started. Well,
at least for about 5 minutes until the whole process repeated itself all over again. This happened 3 separate times before we would finally get away from the bad weather. We couldn’t help but think of all of the hardcore cyclists we had seen riding through rain or shine throughout this entire country as long as we had been here. Can you imagine getting caught up in THAT crap? You’re body would look like 100 people fired paintballs at you at the same time! Now if it was raining skittles like in the commercials and you could “taste the rainbow” maybe it would’ve been a different story! Yes, we know…we’re getting weirder by the day.
We finished making our way to Christchurch where we were thinking we’d be able to do a LITTLE bit of sightseeing, but that just wasn’t going to happen. In reality, a good portion of the city was completely quarantined off. After having suffered a fairly large earthquake not many months prior, many of the buildings were in pretty bad shape yet. We can only hope that the people who were affected are making it through such a difficult time.
Overall, our time in
New Zealand was truly enjoyable. We saw some incredible scenery, went skydiving from 15,000 feet, and Nate got his tattoo he wanted so badly. The biggest thing we wished we had was better weather, but that’s what happens when you visit the country in the spring of the year. Hey, either you pay higher prices and enjoy nicer weather, or you maybe you end up dealing with 18 days of rain out of 25 but you get better prices. Even with the incredible sticker shock of paying prices higher than those we were paying when living back in LA, we had a lot of great memories from our time here and would still definitely recommend the campervan route. We were glad we were leaving with so many amazing memories, but we were looking forward to our first stop home in close to a year where we would visit family and re-group for a couple weeks before heading off to Central and South America. But before we left, last thing we did was hand off all of the “groceries” and necessities we hadn’t used yet to a family just starting their holiday. Travelers help travelers and we need all the good
karma we can coming our way to ensure a safe journey in the coming months. Then, it was off to the airport and back to the states…already? Yes, already! How is our time in this part of the world over already?
Traveler Tips Information
As we said in the North Island post, there is no need to buy a guide book. Pick up free maps and brochures from any i-site location. You will get an overview of the highlights of each area as well. As usual, we did NO research before arriving and managed just fine. You may need to pick up a small atlas though, it was worth its weight in gold. You can also find the best tourist attractions by following the brown signs along the road. They normally point you to something neat. Staying
You have a few options, DOC site which are cheap and basic cost is normally $6-$12, motor parks which have facilities run from $20-$50. We stayed at DOC sites 3-4 nights in a row before needing a proper shower and laundry. That helped us save a significant amount of money. In total we spent close to $250 USD on campsites. Eating
We didn’t eat out once while in NZ, Jessie cooked all our meals. Minus the cost of wine we spent about $450 USD on food. Keep in mind, we didn’t eat pasta all at (more rice and curry). We tried to eat as healthy as possible and we ate vegetarian. Meat was soooo expensive! Transportation
Our camper ran us around $60 per day. Petrol killed us, we spent around $1400 USD on gas alone. Our van was manual but we drove 3000 miles or (4600 Km).
**Let us know if you need more specific details**
There are more photos below