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Published: June 26th 2018
We arrived in Christchurch and headed straight for the botanical gardens to park up and stretch our legs. They were really beautiful and lots of the plants and trees were in full flower so the place was bright multicolours. We walked through past a pavilion greenhouse come afternoon tea spot and found ourselves at the main city museum. In comparison to some of the other museums in NZ this was pretty meh. It had some interesting displays of Maori culture and the 10000 kids running about the place seemed to be enjoying themselves but we soon left. We walked down a pretty road along side the tram tracks and investigated what was planned for the up and coming street performance and busker festival. We then had a brisk wonder around the art gallery. Neither of us felt in the mood for a super art appreciation moment so instead we walked on further through the city. It was quickly clear that the earthquake rebuild still had many more years before they would have restored it to its former glory. However, there was a great summer vibe and lots of people out enjoying the city. We found a shipping container park that apparently sprung up soon after the quake selling various crafts and food. Out of our budget but still very lovely. After this we began the 2 hour journey to Akaroa. The poor old mother ship was really put through her paces on the very steep roads but when we got close the views were amazing! We stopped at a pub at the top of the hill overlooking the beautiful countryside and the bay. The water was, again, a stunning turquoise and looked very inviting. We continued down into the tiny town and found the “freedom camping” area to be full. A good thing really, it was super cramped and stuck in a tiny corner or the car park. The signs up showed other areas where you weer able to camp for free and so we headed up one of the steep country roads until we found a perfect lay-by over looking the bay! We had been carting a disposable BBQ with us almost since day one and so decided this would be the night. We chucked on the bangers and sat back with a glass of wine to enjoy the sunset in yet another paradise.
We woke up in the beautiful spot we found ourselves in and savoured one last look at the panoramic views before heading down into the town in Akaroa. It was a very peaceful and chilled seaside town. The harbour was quiet with only a few boats coming in and out for some fishing. All the fishermen coming in and out said there was excellent fishing in the bay but said that the majority is all deep sea fishing and agreeed there wasn’t too much luck to be had from standing on the harbour walls which made us feel a little better. We had a wonder through the town and grabbed a bite to eat on the way. We had heard from the village shop that there was a classical quartet playing in the village that night and we debated staying in Akaroa to hear it. Unfortunately we couldn’t find anywhere to camp and didn’t want to run the risk of spending another night where we were not supposed to so instead decided to cross over to Okains Bay. Due to the whole area being so beautiful and clearly a popular spot for freedom campers from Christchurch we had to pay for a campsite that night. However, there was lots of space and it was all hidden in a pine forest so it still felt pretty private. We had some beers and made use of the campsite facilities and real showers before heading in for
Char woke up early that morning as the car was heating up like a tin can and went to explore the area we were staying in. Through the pine forest you could follow a path which led straight onto the beach. First thing in the morning the sun was out, there was almost no wind, and the huge sandy beach was totally deserted apart from one woman walking her dog. It was very peaceful and extremely beautiful. Back up the beach towards the sand dunes there were some caves in the cliffs and people had made totum poles and whichcrafty structures from drift woof and other items washed up on the beach. Once Jack was awake we made our way back to Christchurch as we had an informal interview booked with the head of housekeeping Marie at Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park.
Marie met us in reception, she had a strong kiwi accent and an instantly likeable personality. She got us to hop on her golf buggy and drove us round the park to see the different rooms and meet some of the team. Everyone seemed really friendly and gave off a great first impression and we agreed to start work in 2 days time (once again scoring a job in NZ was the easiest thing ever!).
We drove on to a place called Huruni mouth where there was a great little campsite hidden in the trees by the mouth of a river leading into the sea. We went for a dip in the river which was extremely fast flowing and ended up taking it in turns to be washed down the river towards the sea splitting up laughing.
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The final few days before starting our “proper jobs” and ending our NZ van life we spent in Kaikora. We arrived at about midday and walked through the town where we found the tourist information centre. They advised us that the best way to see Kaikora would be to come,eye the peninsular walk where we had a final chance to see some penguins, possibly some dolphins and an almost certain chance of seeing seals. As we walked through the town there was still lots of evidence of the devastating effects the earthquake had had on Kaikora. Unlike other places it had not recovered in the same way and the majority of shops along the high street were still closed with no sign of being opened any time soon. We set off on the 3 hour walk peninsular and it was absolutely beautiful. The bay was sparkling turquoise and the green peninsular and large beaches made it look like paradise. We kept our eyes out on the ocean to hopefully catch a glimpse of some dolphins but we had been told that they would almost always be being followed by tourist boats and we didn’t get to see any. However, at the end of the peninsular you can walk our across the rocks whilst the tide is low and there were heaps of sunbathing seals round every corner. We managed to get quite close to them and some had little pups with them which were super cute. We continued on our walk and were pretty tired by the time we made it back into Kaikora and headed straight for the first place selling beer. This also happened to be the company that took you out to see the dolphins and do the whale watching. This was something we later decided we would have liked to have done but unfortunately was already booked up for the following day. We found a really cool spot along the beach in the dunes where lots of other campers were staying and settled down for the night.
The following day we decided to hike up the mountain overlooking Kaikora called Mount Fyffe. It was an 8 hour walk, steep up and steep down and so we set off at a reasonable time. As we arrived in the car park a man pulled up next to us from Sheffield. He was a fell runner and told us that 20 years ago he was here to complete the annual race up and down the mountain. He was returning now to walk it for one last time as it was a fond memory of his. We were obviously initially very impressed that he had attempted to race this peak but had we had known quite how steep it was going to be I don’t think we would have even believed him. It must have been possible though because 30 minutes into our walk a younger lady ran past us! The climb was really tough but at every view point the views were becoming more and more spectacular and this spurred us on. Half way up there was a DOC hut for people who were taking 2 days to do the climb and we stopped here for 30 minutes to fill up our water and continue on. The day was really hitting up by this point and towards we were getting sweatier and sweatier with every step but soon enough the peak had come into view and we were standing on the highest point for miles. Behind us were enormous jagged mountains with steep sides and little vegetation and in front was the entire Kaikora bay in all its differing colours from dark navy to light blues and turquoise. We sat for ages soaking up the views and eating our lunch before descending back down. By the time we reached the bottom and packed up the car we both already felt like we’d been run over and had seized up like 90 year olds. We carefully drove the car back to the campsite with jelly legs barely being able to hold the clutch. Smoked up for one last night in the van and passed out.
The following morning we drove back to Christchurch and moved into our new abode which quickly was known as “club house” due to its wooden furniture and dated curtains. We went to an Eco Store to by some shelves and also found ourselves 2 push bikes for $10 each. Once we had unloaded everything from the van and settled into the clubhouse we were ready to begin our 3 months work the next morning.
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