Me Mum and a campervan

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Feb 28, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Having been very sad to say goodbye to Katharine I couldn't wait for mum to get here! She arrived to a very hot day which was blissfully spent in the Botanical Gardens catching up.

The next day we went on a Lord of the Rings tour, literally into Middle Earth. We drove for a few hours out to Mount Hutt Station where the city of Ministirith, Edoras was filled. The scenery is stunning (there’s that word again) Massive mountains surround the hill where the city was built. We drove out in a 4x4 as the terrain gets very rough – it was fun if not a little bumpy crossing the river and climbing the steep hills. We played around like kids with movie replica items for a while and took about a thousand photos. I’m sure fans of the film will recognise it! We had a champagne lunch overlooking the mountains – a perfect day!

We then collected our campervan and headed south. There is practically only one route south, which we followed through town after town, pulling over into campsites when we had enough of the road (or it was wine o’clock). We stopped at the Moreaki Boulders, which are rocks on the beach that are over 60million years old that nature had pushed from the hillside, very cool! The first big stop was Dunedin (no, not Scotland although the street names suggest otherwise). It was a really nice old town with some interesting old buildings. The highlight though had to be seeing the new Harry Potter in the nicest cinema i’ve ever been to.

The next Day we entered the Catlins region, which is just beautiful. It is mainly farm land mixed with tiny coastal villages and the most dramatic rugged coastline. We had lots of lovely stops along the way and saw lots of seals, not to mention little lambs which I have formed quite a love for (as you will probably tell from all the pictures – they’re just so cute!) Nugget Point was a favourite; you’ll see the pictures of a lighthouse and lots of massive rocks in the water. We stopped for lots of walks, mainly to waterfalls, which were very impressive, not to mention noisy! We saw some petrified trees that have been fossilized by water for over 170million years, it’s hard to compute that timescale, a very old place.

We left the Catlins and turned north towards Fiordland. I was especially excited about this given how amazing the trip to Milford Sound a few weeks ago had been.  I wasn’t disappointed.  We drove through some incredible scenery, immense mountains and just fantastic views everywhere. We even went past the Clifden Suspension Bridge. I was surprised that it was just a coincidence and nothing to do with Bristol. It was a very old bridge used to get farming equipment over the river. It is not used anymore, which was reassuring given it’s condition, still it was very impressive and very old for New Zealand, it was built in the late 1800s. We stayed on the edge of Fiordland National Park which was amazing! We had some lovely walks up steep hills and old forests. However, the sandfiles are the reason I will not be staying too long in New Zealand. They are vicious, unrelenting and I am covered!

Next on to Manapouri, the gateway to Doubtful Sound. I think it probably goes without saying that the drive was.... amazing! More hills, more lakes, more sheep. The times on the road don’t feel like travelling, they are almost the best part of the journey. And there is no one on the road. We often went an hour and only saw a couple of campervans and a tractor or two, I think coming home is going to be a shock!

Doubtful Sound, well I could write a book about the next 24 hours. It is the highlight of the last few months without a doubt. In summary, we caught a boat across Lake Manapouri, which is beautiful in itself, then a bus across a very steep road down into Deep Cove where we boarded the Navigator, our home for the night. It rained and rained and rained some more on the first day, but that didn’t matter, it only added to the atmosphere. We got into a little boat to get up close to all the fauna which was lovely. The edges of the Fiord are so steep it is a wonder anything can grow. All the plants lock together and grow without soil from the moss. Which is amazing when you see the size of the trees that aren’t routed (a little unnerving when you’re underneath one that is 300 years old). We cruised along for a couple of hours taking a million pictures and headed out into the Tasman Sea to look for penguins and seals – which we found. The sails were put up and we had a bit of a choppy ride out on the ocean.  We docked for the night in a lovely calm cove and had the most enormous, delicious meal ever!

The next day started early. Very early.  But it was worth it. By 6.45 we had sailed in eerie fog making the most amazing shapes appear on the mountains and had seen a pod of bottlenose dolphins swim by – that all before we’d even had a cup of tea! I knew it was the start of a good day!  We cruised some more and amazingly the rain stopped! We sailed to the end of the Sound and turned all of the engines off to listen to, well nothing really, it was the sound of silence only pierced but the waterfalls nearby and native birds (and sadly the odd annoying tourist) but it was a really special place and lovely location to stop for a few minutes quiet.  The boat, the crew, the experience was superb! It couldn’t have been a better trip and certainly gives memories to last a lifetime!

Back on the campervan for a whistle stop in Queenstown, lovely sun drenched evening with far too much Sav Blanc and we drove north heading towards Mount Cook. What a place! Our campsite sat at the end of Lake Pukaki, the most brilliant blue you could imagine and the other side looks straight at Mount Cook, or the Cloud Piercer as the Maori call it. For the next three days though we were lucky, it was uncharacteristically clear and hardly a cloud in sight. We went for a wonderful walk, saw the face of the mountain up close, a massive glacier and lots of snow!  Which felt very odd given how hot it was. On our last day in Mount Cook we went on a boat ride, but a boat ride with a difference! It was on Lake Tasman, the end of The Tasman Glacier, NZ’s biggest glacier. Floating around this 6k long lake were icebergs, big ones! The tiny boat we went out in spent an hour or so cruzing around these enormous icebergs. We managed to get close to some of them and touch the ice, so cold!!  Some of them were so big it is hard to comprehend that only 10% of the berg can be seen above water. A bit un-nerving when they can flip over in seconds. It was such a different experience and so much fun!  I enjoyed the geography lessen too!

On the last day we had the long drive back to Christchurch. It was odd being back here after what felt like such a long trip away. Its amazing how much we managed to fit in, all the sites and experiences have been just fantastic. It was a truly wonderful holiday with my gorgeous mummy, my only complaint was that it had to end.
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