South Island: Float like a butterfly; Sting like a bee

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Queen Charlotte Sound
September 25th 2012
Published: October 4th 2012
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This is a hard entry to write; to encapsulate the sheer beauty of this stunning island as we travel around in our camper van, awe inspired to the scenery backdrop we are enticed with. To call what we have seen so far as beautiful is such an understatement. We heard on the tourism radio, that people will scour the dictionary for dramatic superlatives to describe the views and it's no wonder. However, dictionary aside please allow us to do our best. The main viewpoint we would like to get across is; despite the obvious landscape being very easy on the eye, it's the geology and geography behind this. The view one easily becomes accustomed to reminds us of what was present hundreds of thousands to millions of years ago. Up until recent history this land, roughly the size of the UK was uninhibited and the landscape represents this in most parts largely untouched. One must also put into context the size versus population, our island has some 60plus million, here only 4 million people. Of course the number of sheep makes up a little bit with an average of nine sheep per person! The sheep just add to the perfect panorama, long winding roads where your gear stick is your noble friend, fields aplenty with alps decorating the skyline fringed with fresh powder, rivers trickle through valleys and hedges and trees symmetrically line boundaries.

Our journey started in what seemed like yesteryear but was in fact thirteen days ago. Arriving late at Christchurch airport we checked into our prebooked airport hotel. Note the lacking 's'. We can't seem to recall the last hotel we stayed in, in it's true form with lobbies and an elevator it must have been Laos at the end of June. The real shame was not getting to really enjoy this luxury as it was a late night with an early start, however the tv was switched on, a bath was had and complimentary Cadbury choccolate and port was a great reminder of what luxury can be defined as!

We picked up our camper the next morning and had a little sulk. Our big adventure that is this round the world trip, was based around this country, being the mid way point and getting back behind the wheel, the open road creating our destiny. Yet our van was going to cost considerably more than we budgeted for. Ben only had one job back in the UK in terms of bookings and it was the van. He found a stellar of a deal, no $500 one way fee (to drop off in Auckland) and a free ferry crossing saving roughly $450, it had a $5000 deposit but we (wrongly) assumed that was an authorisation. Of course it meant it was charged only being released after the vehicle returns undamaged which can take up to a week, and we knew our cards would be due and interest payable on outstanding balance and also they charged 3% on the transaction- non refundable plus any incident at all is charged at $5000 each! We didn't have the money for that or enough credit cards! So to reduce this we had two options pay a surcharge of around $25 per day and a $2500 excess or $44 per day for no excess, no other charges or surcharges. We knew the latter was the only option but still deliberated for a while. Our van had more than doubled in price per day in less than ten minutes! We took the sting when we were advised we had a new camper with no marks and the ferry can get rough causing a van like ours to "tap" another. It would mean we got the cost out of the way totalling $880 which is less than what we still have saved and not have to worry about any scrapes and prangs.

Begrudgingly credit card handed over, we set off to our first destination, driving through the badly damaged city of Christchurch. We chose not to hang around here, as our journey through the two islands was more about nature than the city. We saw remnants of the devastation of the two earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 and everyone talked about the fear of a third. A lot of the city was levelled out and the views mainly comprised cranes and fork lift trucks. We left the city for our two hour journey East to the Banks Peninsular on a beautiful sunny day. The Banks is well known for its volcanic activity creating the harbour and surrounding hills. We were treated to our first stunning drive taking the scenic route with the Southern Alps peeking like clouds on the horizon. The town of Akaroa was the first French settlement before Captain James Cook led his men and succeeded in creating a British settlement. The township still resembles its French history with gorgeous bakeries and colonial style houses. It was a beautiful place and had a fabulous boutique shop with the best homemade fudge, with free samples! We spent the night here, freedom camping along the bay. This basically means sleeping in the van with no electricity and Lauren got pretty cold! At night it was getting down to freezing and boy could we feel it.

We awoke to a beautiful sun rise before taking to the water, yes the time had come to get even more cold and try our luck swimming with wild dolphins. Hector's dolphins are the smallest of dolphins and only found in a few places in New Zealand, and nowhere else in the world. We booked a trip in the UK and Pam thanks again for contributing to this! We headed out on the boat with four other people, and our guide, Steve, put into concept the point of view that these little guys are 100% wild and you cannot go near Sumatran tigers or silver backed gorillas etc so to do this is pretty incredible. We headed out to the South Pacific Sea and having passed a swimming seal and penguin we spotted the dorsel fin out of the water. We waited to see if they would interact with the boat, the test to know if they will play with humans as they are curious creatures! They did so it was into the water for us! At 8 degrees the water was so cold and the wet suits were not enough! Lauren got in last and as she swam to the group a little dolphin swam past and touched her! It was incredible as we are not allowed to touch them as endangered species! They circled and interacted with us for a little bit but we must have been boring as they left a bit later, we got on the boat to try and warm up with hot water put down our backs through a hosepipe and drank hot chocolate! We were taken to cliff edges to show the volcanic activity remains and watched a seal colony and even saw one of the worlds rarest penguins on a rock! It was an awesome experience perfectly ended with a hot shower!

Our onward journey was a long one so we set out to cross country to Lake Tekapo in the centre of the country. Known for its pure blue waters we arrived after dark taking in a grey sky drive across the Canterbury Plains again flanked by snow capped mountains. We didn't freedom camp that evening as someone informed us the whole area is restricted (rules are pretty tight) but got a powered sight and had warmth! An awesome dinner of sausage and mash with gravy satisfied us before getting an early night- there isn't that much to do in a van and you exhaust card games that two people can play pretty quickly! Still we had a sunrise to wake up for! Lauren succeeded but Ben turned over and missed out on a stunning light spectacle with pinks, reds and oranges dancing over the water as the sun rose to another less than spectacular day of grey cloud! At least it meant snow for the nearby ski resorts. The water still resembled the bright blue waters we were promised as we viewed them from the most photographed church in the country and from atop St John's Observatory.

We drove quite a lot that day passing another large lake, driving through areas of Lord of The Rings set locations and under the impressive Mt Cook national park. Here 22 of the country's 29 largest peaks are housed. The snow had fallen thick and fast on these and added to the beauty with low lying clouds creating a mysterious layer mid way up. We drove on through Wanaka and onto Queenstown our next destination. To get here we took the shorter road but longer travel time as it afforded views over the lake surrounding Queenstown and involved a cool drive around six hairpin turns, Jeremy Clarkson would have a field day here! We got a place to stay in the centre knowing freedom camping is strictly prohibited here and headed into the southern hemisphere adventure capital. Any risky activity you can think of is undertaken here and yet we hadn't planned one, Lauren soon put an end to that! We tried to book the Shotover Jet but the banks of the river had overflown making it at present, closed. We were advised to check on all activities tomorrow as heavy rain had yet again been predicted. Starting to curse NZ's spring we headed to one place we knew would be packed with fellow travellers- Ferg Burger. Something of a national institute quite literally a burger joint with little seating and always a queue for its 21 hours a day opening! Advised it was the best burger yet we had to give it a go, and amazed at the very reasonable price. Even more so when we saw the size! Lauren had a bambi burger while Ben went traditional beef! They were awesome but just too much as Lauren admitted defeat and Ben had his first venison! We treated ourselves to NZ's finest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and retreated to learn more two person card games!

We were pleasantly greeted by Sunday with blue skies! So we happily ventured to the tall peak to get a good view over the town. We decided to be cheap and not pay for the gondola taking the one hour trek through the forest which in hindsight wasn't our best plan! It was hard and the result was two very sweaty people with no real knowledge of when we would next shower! The view peeking through the trees was awesome and at the top the view over the mountain ranges was 'Remarkable', also where more scenes of LOTR was filmed. We hung around watching more extreme sports up here from bungy jumping, to paragliding and two luge tracks! We could not face the hike back so jumped on a gondola going down, and we're treated to a complimentary ride and more stunning vistas! We headed back to the jet boat office and handed over the card to pay for two people as it was back open and even more rough (which adds to the experience) than usual due to the previous days' rain! We were taken out to the site through a road that rental vehicles cannot go as the whole canyon is pretty volatile and unsteady! We got kitted up and delighted in the heated handrail as we took to the water. NZ have created several of the sports showcased, bungy, zorbing (big inflatable ball rolling down a hill, add in water and it's the effect of being in a washing machine) and also this jet boating. In a nutshell, you are in a boat spitting out 1000 litres of water a second, with two five litre V8 engines guzzling five litres a minute of petrol, travelling along a canyon at 80 kilometres an hour in water as low as four inches in very tight areas, add in some 360 degree spins and you have one hell of a ride! Plus the fact you do this for thirty minutes on a gorge only reserved for this company you have one good value for money sport!

Back in Queenstown we had a voucher for free cookies at the infamous "Cookie time" shop, a brand bought at all supermarkets. They were delicious and hot and had milk on draught which impressed Ben who munched and chased with milk, a very satisfied boy! We went to the harbour and took someone's advice to head 50km to a place called Glenorchy. We are glad we did, complete LOTR territory with fantastic lake views flanked by mountain ranges and gorgeous afternoon sun baking the van. There wasn't anything to do or any place we wanted to stay so we decided to head back the one way out to Queenstown, grab a Ferg for the road, this time beef for Lauren and felafel vegi for Ben, and make our way to tomorrows destination. We drove through more incredible ranges through the other side of Queenstown but didn't stop as we knew we would be back here in two days. This southern scenic coastal drive as it is known, is one way in, same way out. It's heading to the Southern Fiords and the largest national park so only been allowed one road to take you to Te Anau and the mesmerising Milford Sound. It was getting late so we freedom camped at a picnic site about 50km south of Te Anau.

The only problem we encountered with this was not knowing the exact rules, despite research, you cannot park up and sleep at night despite being able to park and sleep in the same place in the day! Yet as with the beauty of this country you don't want to drive through the dark! You have to be 200m away from a no camping sign but whole towns can be "no camping" and you have to drive to that town before finding out! In this instance the town prior was no camping allowed although we had parked up, initially unable to find the sign! So we travelled just outside and after a thorough investigation with a torch found no sign, of course we could have missed it so we both slept with one eye open! To be honest, since then we have both slept the same despite mostly being within the confines of a camp, it's great to drive around your own bed but it's never a full night sleep (in spite of average 8pm lights out, we are often awake at dawn, having tossed and turned- Lauren more so than Ben) especially as most places tend to have a slanted parking area so one person normally rolls into the other at some point!

Our day at Te Anau was a glum day something we were averaging with alternate sunny days! So we spent some time chilling out in the van and getting some shopping and lunch before heading across the country's second largest lake to the glow worm caves. This was something we had intended to do in the North Island at a more notorious spot but we would be having a shorter time there and it meant a 250km detour so this won hands down and came with the added boat trip and the sun perked up in time. The fiords flanked the lake beautifully as we headed to an isolated island home to the bright little fellas that have people parting with some cash for! The cave is "young" at 12,000 years old so doesn't house the usual stalagmites but did have a tomo- a hole created through years of forced gushing water, there were also low bits we had to virtually crawl through and fascinating loud waterfalls, this was before we boarded a small boat and zipped our mouths before entering the glow worm cave. We were both mesmerised mouths open (!) at the thousands of worms sparkling blue and green in complete darkness. It reminded Lauren of the room she had always wanted, you know, when you buy a hundred glowing stars to attach to your room ceiling to get a starry night indoors at your bedroom! Well she should have just acquired these guys! They shone more brightly if they were hungry as this is how they attract insects with long strings below that they use to suck them up with. We saw examples of these further along the cave and also at the informative museum the main entrance housed.

We stayed at one of the many Department of Conservation sites that are flanked around the country where you can park safely, has a toilet in the form of a pit and set you back around $6, but have no showers! We made our way along the infamous Milford track, shared with trampers (walkers) who walk the 54km track to the sound over four days. The country is known for its great walks, this being one of the famous nine, and had time permitted we would love to have done one of these having found a joy in walking over the last few months, but as three weeks to tour this island was planned it left little room for manoeuvre. The next morning we took in sunrise at the nearby "Mirror Lakes" before heading to the Sound itself, a name given by the discovers who didn't know the word "fiord". It was a stunning drive with the morning mist rising amongst the high mountains covered in fresh snow. The sun was appearing amongst this and we knew the forecast had said we were in for a treat. The road had been closed due to landslide only a couple of days before and the avalanche threat that hit this often was very much alive and well as we passed several falls of heavy snow and Ben instructed to have Lauren ready to film if we get taken! We saw some spectacular waterfalls and drove through a huge mountain at one point, a tunnel built by five people with only only pick axes and shovels over 18 years! We zig zagged through avalanche areas before the fiord presented itself in all it's stunning glory. The cruise itself was worth every cent with fantastic views of the fiord, the smallest in the area but the most accessible. Mountains literally jut out of the water from millions of years ago volcanic activity. Although shallow the under water conditions rival the deep sea and marine life out here is what you would expect in the ocean. We passed seals frolicking on rocks and we were treated to many waterfalls, of which only two are permanent but thanks to the recent rainfall we got plenty. One such, the fairy falls were impressive with rainbows dancing, the height the same as our future falls of Niagara. One other falls we got so close to we put coats on and Lauren was fully pelted by the water completely drenched!

The afternoon was drenched also in sunlight so we took advantage by leaving the sounds pretty quickly to make our way back to Wanaka via Queenstown so we could get some amazing vistas. This worked to our advantage as we saw some stunning sights as well as seeing the full panorama of Queenstown from the same mountain range as a few days previous but in a totally different manner. We checked into a camp ground in Wanaka and revelled in wifi for the first time, enjoying a chat with Lauren's mum and sister and Ben's folks. They also had free hot showers and hot tubs, we were in heaven, we are sorry to say but it was Tuesday night and we hadn't showered since Sunday morning!

The next day we headed to Puzzle World a mind blowing attraction that Sioned, Lauren's friend at home recommended (amongst other things, thanks again Hun). It consisted of a huge illusion room with 3D images and mind boggling rooms full of slants, gravity defying objects and a room of faces! The outside was just as good, using the building to make funny pictures and a maze, the biggest outdoor one we are led to believe. We challenged each other but both conceded defeat in reaching some corners but on the way out we raced and Ben ate Lauren's dust! We enjoyed our stint in the outdoors as the sun shone brightly again and we headed over to the West Coast to make friends with the most accessible glaciers in the world. The drive was one to rival the Great Ocean Road in Australia we stopped for a few picture breaks and also took in an hour walk to a beach through a rainforest. We undertook this understanding there to be a penguin colony but the tide was coming in so we timed it wrong but the walk was good nonetheless!

We reached Fox, the first of the two glaciers in the area and as it was getting to sun set we headed to the beach some 20km West to a DoC site to camp for free. It was an unsealed road and made for some fun with all the bits in the back bouncing around, but definitely worth the trip! We caught the most stunning sunset on the beach flanked in the background with the Southern Alps. We intended to go to another mirror lake for sunrise so another early night after a couple of games of cards! The weather had turned overnight, well the glaciers are formed due to the well above average rainfall in the area. It meant a no to the sunrise at the lake so instead we undertook the four hour return journey to a supposed seal colony. Now most time we saw time indicators we normally halved it so with an ice walk booked for lunch time we knew we would have enough time. What we didn't count on were the conditions we were walking in, the rain although light was present and had been for several years at 300 days a year so the walk wasn't just to the beach as we thought. No, it was through a huge mountainous rainforest with big soggy muddy puddles underfoot that needed to be negotiated with wooden planks etc. It made for some fun as Lauren conceded defeat as she slipped in one puddle but regretted it remembering her trainers were not waterproof! We eventually got to the beach having really gone around the houses so to speak and saw one lonely seal on a rock! We were so disappointed as he fled into the sea rapidly! Still Lauren insisted we walked to the end of the beach which took about fifteen minutes. As we crept up in anticipation we stumbled upon a huge colony of seals! They were all bathing in the tiny amount of sunlight through the fog and clouds. We tried to be quiet but a lot fled into the waters which we felt incredibly guilty about- in our defence they do advertise for people to come here! Ben climbed on a rock and got some amazing photos, some seals just looked at us and clearly were not bothered by our presence especially the bigger ones, it was the babies that were scrambling to the water, and unfortunately made us giggle in the way they do scramble! Time was creeping on and after a thousand photos we had to make our way back on the horrible journey that neither of us wanted to undertake! As we did so a baby ran past Lauren which made her squeal (you think she would be used to these things by now!) and another baby hidden in the rocks obviously too frightened to move! We made it back up to the glacier area with little problem but our clothes were now not suitable as all muddy to go to the glacier so we were now wearing less warm clothes and felling pretty miserable!

Luckily the good old folks of Fox gave us waterproof trousers and coat as well as our hiking boots and woollen socks so disaster averted! The walk to the glacier took around an hour but with so many photo opportunities and watching your step due to fallen rocks and rivers from the frozen ice melting it didn't seem to take that long. At the face, reserved only for those in tour groups, we attached our crampons and took to the ice. It was incredible thought to walk on a glacier and at 13km long it's an impressive one at that, but to look at it, well it isn't aesthetically pleasing on the eye. Lauren expected glistening sparkly ice, but in fact it is covered in rocks where landslides bring them down, and quite dirty due to the amount of human contact and the ice melting as its in a period of recession, and bringing rocks and pebbles down with it from the surrounding mountains that the glacier kept up. Now the glacier is melting, some say it will be gone within the century, the rocks have nothing to keep it up. Still it was remarkable as bits shone bright blue, as it is in fact compressed snow and the light that gets in is absorbed but the blue cannot be so it's reflected. We crawled in some ice caves and trekked back after a couple of hours.

Another night back at the beach and another day without a shower! Still we couldn't think of that as the next activity was finally upon Lauren. Yes you guessed it, she couldn't come traveling the world without putting her life in danger jumping out of a plane strapped to a stranger! She booked it for Fox as its voted the second most scenic in the world behind Everest which costs the earth so this won! 12,000 feet was cheaper so this was booked but at the office after a restless night sleep (but not due to the dive she insists!) we decided she should do the 16,000ft, when in Rome eh? We also geared her up for the video along with photos. Ben still couldn't be persuaded so Lauren set off to be kitted up. At this point she still wasn't nervous about the jump, just of the freezing cold temperatures of around minus 14 degrees! Although Paul, her instructor, insisted it would be the last thing on her mind! The plane seated 6- 3 jumpers with our instructors, and we sat backs into the instructor as we set off! All being filmed Lauren was in her element looking out the window at the incredible views of the tallest mountains in the country and of course the glacier looking incredibly beautiful with the early morning sunlight- yes she prayed to God it would be sunny and He came through! Paul had said we were jumping first as it meant we were at the front where the windows were and Lauren only got nervous when he told her what to do, she had to tilt her head back, wrap her legs under the plane and let go of the harness when he tapped her. A lot to remember when they say you get sensory overload and can't focus! At 11,000 ft we were given oxygen masks as Paul sat me on his lap to secure us together deliberately showing the clip clasp to assure me and advising it can hold the weight of a car! Suddenly the door was flung open and my legs were pushed around by Paul, a quick smile at the wing camera and we were off! The feeling was surreal hurtling through the sky at goodness knows what mile per hour, twisting over and waiting for my arms to be tapped! It was surprisingly easy to let go of the harness, all the trust in Paul! But surprising hard to move your arms, Lauren had said she would make a heart shape as a symbol to Ben! We hurtled through the sky and my god did I feel the cold! As the parachute pulled out we lurched upwards which kind of brings you back to earth (sorry for the pun!) we then casually floated around the fields high above for a few minutes, and I was even given the reigns to pull the parachute to make fun circles. And most people will know I love theme park rides but this did actually make me queasy! All I could think about now were two things, would we land on a cow/sheep and my ears hurt! I couldn't equalise and it was actually pretty painful! We landed after a while in a clear field! I struggled to my feet and waited for the other two to land. We then got some more photos before driving back to the airfield and Ben. Would I do it again? In reality no, it was an amazing sensation and one I feel you only get once, although I'm sure many will tell me I'm wrong! But my ears and head hurt for days after, Ben thinking I may have suffered altitude sickness. Still very glad I did it and the adrenaline junkie in me calmed - for now! The video was awesome and we are still awaiting to see the photos as we had to get going!

We made our way North that afternoon upon one of the worlds top ten coastal drives and again we understood why, it was stunning. Still craning for photos despite being a wee bit ill, Lauren handled it well! We arrived in Greymouth, the main town of the West Coast and had a cheeky McDonald's - for the wifi of course! There didn't seem anything to catch up on, and after buying some groceries we planned our onward route which we hoped would comprise finding a site with a shower as it was Friday and yep we hadn't showered since Wednesday morning and we had been through a rainforest, a glacier and Lauren through the sky! But as we had spent extra on the dive we agreed we should free camp at a DoC site heading inland making our way to the North parks.

We set out on Saturday on another beautiful day after trying to pan for gold! We had unknowingly stayed at a gold panning authorised site and Ben wanted to try his luck, obviously we found nothing but it was fun seeing Ben get that excited! Most of this area was famed for gold along with Australia in the 1800's gold rush and most towns were formed based on the influx of gold prospectors! Someone did find a nugget worth $40,000 last year so you just never know eh! We made our way to the Abel Tasman National Park, a beautiful place up North. We passed many a vineyard and got excited about the next few days adventure. We went to the icon of the Park, Split Apple Rock, a rock formation slightly off a golden beach. As we took to a walk the wind of the Tasman Sea rocked Lauren's ears and she could not proceed. Instead we headed back to the nearest town and found a site to rest our weary bodies and shower, finally! We went into town and got some afternoon dinner and wifi before having a very early night, Lauren clearly finding it difficult to function with her ears! We took in a local produce market the next day, treating us to some more homemade fudge and marshmallows before heading to the main town of Nelson an hour away. Here we planned to chill out for the day before having two full days left in the South. We got to Nelson and discovered two awesome parks. The first was a heritage park with a model village that was really cool with a working bakery and we had homemade pizza slices before seeing some interesting bits based on a town from late -1800's complete with a fire station, hospital and barbers! Ben sampled some local beers before we went to the other garden. A Japanese garden that was holding its annual cherry blossom festival as they had just come into full bloom. This may sound boring but it was anything but. Lots of stalls and traditional Japanese food and artefacts plus martial arts demonstrations and traditional Japanese drums and dancing!

We sought out the main town and rewarded the sun shine with award winning ice cream! With no plan we decided if we stepped on it we would make the one winery we were looking forward to the most before it shut, Cloudy Bay, some 90 minutes away. We passed literally thousand of hectares of vineyards as we moved from Nelson to Marlborough famed for its Sauvignon Blanc wine amongst others. We had decided we didn't have enough to do for two full days before our Wednesday lunch ferry and we called up and switched it to Tuesday morning. We arrived at the cellar door an hour before it closed and very much enjoyed our delicious sample before making some hard choices about the ridiculously expensive shipping charges back home! Dinner was calling and we drove to three different places, the first two were closed that claimed local ale, to counter the wine you know! The latter was a traditional old English pub and it really was! We had ale and apple cider supped with hot pot and Yorkshire pudding! There was even a printed poster donated by a guy in Blackpool of Lancashire's pubs, which made us feel so at home, along with the cat that purred in front of the roaring fire! We headed to a local DoC site having showered that morning although it felt a million years ago! We were surprised to see this was one of few sites where you could get power and Lauren had a hot nights sleep, which with her ears starting to return to normal was a blessing!

We took in three wineries the next day, Ben taking it easy as he was still behind the wheel! The first was ran by three German brothers and we both agreed on a Stirling bottle of Reisling to sup later in the van. We went to one called Highfield, renowned for its views of the valley from its viewing tower and also as Lauren's house is called that! She sampled some traditional bubble and Rose, both uncommon for this area of the world but rather tasty indeed! We had tried to go to others that had restaurants and platters but a lot were closed as it was still classed as Winter and also many were prepping their 2012 releases which tend to be in these two weeks and at all we had sampled them, despite not being available in the market yet! We did find a winery with a restaurant some way back towards Picton, our destination to get the ferry the following day. It was beautiful, the food was simply delicious, we both had a pumpkin risotto cake with root vegetables and one of the nicest meals we had tasted since we left the shores of the UK! Followed by an extremely tasty passion fruit and white chocolate cheesecake with mango sorbet, our mouthes still water at the prospect of eating that again!

We drove out to the area of the ferry departures and spent one final night at a DoC site on the beach of this fiord area called Queen Charlotte Sound, a stunning area again famous for its walking options. We headed out after a one eye open sleep to the ferry for a 10am departure to Wellington having spent 13 days on the South Island. We felt we had seen everything we wanted to, but it was more of a drive through rather than experiencing it all, we drive through many a town that could have entertained us for a day, or we could have undertaken many a walk but when you have forked out for the camper the way we ended up we felt we should spend as much time in it as possible. Plus most things we would want to do encounter a fee, the sting amongst the beauty that has been the South Island.

Things of note:

Road safety is rightly so, very important, there are signs every couple of kilometres saying to take a break, watch for ice etc but the drawings are often amusing, our favourite was one saying, don't count sheep with sheep jumping around a field!

We went to a sheep shearing cafe in the middle of nowhere and it was very backward but so fun and interesting!

With regards costs yes NZ is expensive but cheaper than Australia for groceries and petrol, which we were having more interaction with! Most things were the same price but NZ $ is half of the pound whereas Aus $ is two thirds so better for us.

There is a camper van code like motorcyclists have, the wave as you pass each other is fun and keeps journeys entertaining!

All highways are generally single lane and 100kph and you rarely pass a sole, it is by far the easiest country to navigate through!

Signposts are outstanding for accurate information and follow a brown sign it usually takes you somewhere good, but don't underestimate driving times, it takes a while to get anywhere.

Petrol prices vary enormously depending on how touristy the area is, it ranged from NZ$ 215.9 a litre to NZ$ 245.9 a litre! The latter was at Franz Josef Glacier.

It's no longer a country renowned for its sheep, every field seems to be either sheep, cows or deer and every type of bird interspersed playing with them, the lambs were all born and running around cute, the best thing about Spring!

We passed many a tractor showroom but no car showrooms which kind of depicts the average resident of the island!

The NZ accent is fun and quirky, sounding a bit like South African accent, you pronounce an "e" as and "I" as in "The bist a man can git"

Queenstown is a great place, only 7000 reside here permanently but it is the ski resort and the town has a great apr├Ęs ski feel which made Ben get giddy for our trip to Canada.

With our rental they gave out a free tourism radio- a great concept that uses gps to track where you are and tell you what to do, where to go and where you are! Theory problem it plays music and good driving music at that, but it's on a loop and after two days it was all repetitive. Luckily we realised Lauren's iPhone would play through the USB attachment in the radio!

Wherever you go there are I sites that give you all the information you cold ever need in one place usually with some offers! You would never need to plan as its only really a day in advance to even book high adventure stuff like sky diving.

What would we do differently:

We could have spent a day longer in Queenstown and taken in some skiing for the day but the cost of hire equipment and Lauren needing a lesson it would have been too expensive, we want to do skiing as a separate holiday rather than within this trip!

Thefts: 0

Near misses: 0

Fallouts: 0 probably the biggest surprise of it all! We normally have a few choice words whenever we are out driving with maps but we tried hard and have done far!

Additional photos below
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