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Published: August 12th 2009
On Thursday 30th we continued our roadtrip to Wanaka which is a lovely little skiing town towards the south west of the South Island. We quite literally drove up the side of a mountain to Treble Cone ski resort, had a hot mulled wine and some lunch and watched the skiing!
The following day we decided to take the 'scenic' route - or the more scenic of the routes - through the mountains via Cardrona to Queenstown. En route we had a light snow shower which turned into a heavy snow storm which would have have if in the UK ground the country to a halt for at least three days! We popped outside into the blizzard and fitted our snow chains and pootled off through the snow. Fitting snowchains isn't as straightforward as it may sound as it was bloody freezing we could hardly move our hands let alone crawl around the wheel passing bits of chain here and there! We stopped in Queenstown and went for a walk up Mount Creighton then had another cracking drive around tight and windy roads. As we were quite literally in the middle of nowhere we parked up next to Lake Wakatipu
with panoramic views of snow capped mountains, and stopped for the night.
The following day was the longest drive we've done in one day - 430km (260 miles) - which may not take long up the M1, but when you´re winding around tight bends, it takes a long time! Thankfully Gayle's driving licence had arrived in Wanaka so we could do long days and share the driving/sightseeing.
We arrived in Dunedin that evening and spent the following morning wandering around the town. We then took a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway and were taken through the mountains to see some amazing scenery and otherwise inaccesible sights. That evening we headed off driving in the direction of Herbert. After finding our campsite, we were the only people there so struggled to decide where in the whole site to park. It was dark and we got well and truly stuck in the mud! We eventually managed to get ourselves out by going down to the road with a bucket to collect gravel and making a little path under each tyre. We parked up somewhere a little more sensible for a late dinner.
We were now on a bit
of a countdown to the end of our South Island adventures and with a few days left to spare we embarked on the 'scenic' and lengthy route back to Christchurch via Mount Cook. It's one of 'The' mountains to climb if you are into that type of thing (or stupid enough, when you the see the countless memorials to people that have tried - most of whom are still up there somewhere). The weather wasn't particularly great around Mount Cook with fog and mist and avalanche warnings on high so we decided that it would be sensible to avoid being British and heading off into the mountains anyway. We chose to take advantage of the local hotel facilities - the bar and the pool table!
Another long but enjoyable drive the next day landed us at another Department of Conservation site right next to a stream in a forest. We parked up close to the stream so we could almost open the side door and dip our toes (had it not been far too cold!). The following day we headed for Christchurch - having enjoyed ourselves so much in the South Island campervanning, we had decided that we were
not quite ready to give up our wheels so we booked another campervan for when we arrived into Auckland. Our last night in south Island was spent with Caroline (who went to Uni with Dave) and her family - lovely evening!
After a straight forward flight to Auckland we checked into an airport hotel for the night, and the next morning picked up our new home on wheels, which turned out to be exactly the same as our last one! We headed straight out towards the Coramandel - found another DOC site and parked next to a river laden with rocks. After spending some time walking down and through the river rock hopping we made a nice big fire and sat outside next to the river drinking beer and wine - what more could one want?
We had a long drive the following morning to Rotorua, where we spent some time walking around the town and the thermal areas. It's really quite fascinating to walk through what appears to be just a park, and all the puddles and lakes are steaming - a little on the smelly side too. We got a little lost that night thanks to
not the clearest directions (honest) to the campsite but eventually found ourselves asleep next to Lake Rerewhakaaitu.
We drove to Orakai Korako on what was a very misty morning to what the Lonely Planet described was the most spectacular thermal area left in New Zealand. Surprisingly, this turned out to be one of the few occasions the Lonely Planet had it spot on! It was truly like being in antoher world. We spent a good hour walking around thermal pools and geysers. That afternoon we visited the buried villlage of Te Wairoa (buried by a volcano in the 1880s), which was very interesting.
On the 10th August we headed back to Auckland and headed into the city centre that afternoon, for some retail therapy. That evening we went to the Sky Tower - the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Thanks to our friends in Brum we had lots of vouchers to spend so we had a few drinks and a lovely dinner at the top of the Sky Tower looking out over Auckland. Really top night thanks guys!
On the 11th we packed up van for the last time and headed for the airport - next
stop South America, hopefully remembering some of the Spanish we learned before we came travelling! We will travel back in time and land in Santiago 4 hours before we left Auckland!
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