When you look, you will see
A country that throws everything at you and leaves you wanting more
After 6 months of what had been a rollercoaster ride in New Zealand, the time was fast approaching to leave, I know it was hard to come to terms with. So, I couldn’t think of a better way to say goodbye than going on a road trip. So that’s what I did. I packed my car/home and drove. First stop, Oamaru. After driving from Wanaka through Lindis Pass and the mountains I arrived in Oamaru, a town known for its eclectic mix of English styled cobbled streets and steam punk. What’s not to love…!
The steam punk museum was an interesting place full of weird and wonderful pieces of art, my favourite being a mirrored room with lights hanging all around, designed with the idea of time travel. Going inside the room music started to play and the lights changed colour in a psychedelic display. I went into this room twice, it was mesmerising. Leaving the steam punk museum I walked around the corner only to be greeted by a very English looking street that had antique shops and tea rooms scattered along it. Had I just been transported home, I know the psychedelic room was good but…?
After wandering around Oamaru taking in all it had to offer I didn’t quite realise the time, it had somehow got to 7pm and I had no idea where I was going to stay for the night. Heading back to the car I drove up the coast, finding a cute campsite run by an elderly couple that were so welcoming. After a good night’s sleep and a warm fair well from the couple, I headed on up to, what was by now a second home, Christchurch. I had decided to call into Christchurch as it was on route and it happened to be St Patricks day. It would have been rude to say no! Nothing quite beats arriving into the hostel and seeing the familiar faces of friends. I knew it was going to be a good weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Holi colour festivals, dancing, Guinness and a whole lot of laughter. So, the day saw us getting covered in powder paint whilst dancing to Indian music in a park surrounded by people from all over the world, to an evening of Irish celebrations topped off with a constant flow of Guinness. Oh travel, you are forever in my heart for allowing me to witness moments like this.
After a busy weekend it was time to relax and what better place to do so than Hamner Springs. The thermal pools did the trick, with a selection of natural pools ranging in temperatures from 32-42 °C, the sulphur pool being the hottest at 42 degrees, along with the heat the sulphur also provided an egg like smell. It wasn’t my favourite pool. Not only did I feel like I was cooking alive, my nostrils weren’t smelling sweet roses either. Its ok through the other pools were fabulous.
Leaving Hamner I drove along the Lewis pass, stopping at a free campsite, in the middle of nowhere. Normally I wouldn’t have stayed somewhere so remote on my own, but I must have been feeling brave. Surround by the mountains and only a couple of other people on the site I felt like it was me and the mountains. I wasn’t scared through, surprisingly I felt rather relaxed and had a great night’s sleep. The only downside were the sand flies and composting hole of a toilet, ah well. The view made up for it.
Moving on up I found myself at the top of the south island, in Nelson. Exploring Nelson I had a grand time, the cherry on the cake came when I stayed at a hostel that served free chocolate pudding, who doesn’t love free chocolate pudding! Definite bonus. Although the weather had been unpredictable, sun turning to heavy rain showers at the blink of an eye I got lucky with my time spent in Abel Tasman. Catching the boat to Anchorage then walking back down the Abel Tasman track to Marahau. Turquoise is the word I would use to sum up the national park. The water was the most incredible blue. It was good to walk through nature again, around every corner I was presented with an incredible view and beaches that had no one on. Unspoilt. Waking up on the campsite I just had to lift my head and I could see the sea, there’s not many places where I could wake up to a view like that. It’s a shame though that the sun soon disappeared, and wow did it rain. Heading down the west coast, which is one of the wettest places (I found this out first hand) it was like driving through a jungle. Greenery everywhere, giant ferns and trees but then beaches too. I loved it. At one point I found myself high in the mountains, pulling over I stood amongst cloud, I was surrounded by it. Feeling like it was just me and world. New Zealand was good at doing that, the vast impressive landscape left you feeling small, the world so dominant and yet beautiful too. There’s peace to be found alone among the mountains. Rain although annoying made everything seem so much more alive and green. I stopped at a campsite, parked up and whist deciding what to do I saw 5 children in rain coats and wellies fully embracing the rain. I may not be a kid, but I thought I can embrace the rain too, I wasn’t going to shrink! I think the positivity worked too as the rain didn’t seem to affect my trip after that, stopping every time I wanted to do a walk. For example, I wanted to see the pancake rocks, it was raining when I got there so I decided to treat myself to a breakfast and whilst sat looking out the window the rain stopped, I even got a bit of sun, perfect.
I can see why the west coast drive is one of the most famous, nature at its best. Driving from spectacular beaches to Glaciers and mountains all within a few hours. Fox and Franz Josef glaciers were my next stop and although the weather was definitely not the same as when I had visited in November the walk to the glacier was a dry one and the cloud cover lifted so I had perfect views. I must have done something right. Walking around Lake Matheson, the still lake creating mirrored views of the mountains amongst a damp sky. I felt the atmosphere was summed up by this quote, “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein. It was good to just stop and think for a while.
Driving back down familiar roads I had a strange sense of déjà vu, I had been to these places, travelled down the same roads and yet it was completely different. A melancholy feeling came over me and thinking about the laughter from the first trip I suddenly felt very alone. Time to find some company.
Arriving back into Wanaka I picked up a friend and fellow traveller and we headed south to Queenstown. Oh hello tourism! Although busy, visiting Queenstown did have its plus points, supermarkets. So as we stocked up on food, looked around the shops, watched people feed the ducks by the lake, feeling part of society again for a little while before driving around the lake to Glenorchy, a tiny town at the top of Lake Wakatipu. The campsite we stayed at was so rural we had to drive down a road enclosed by trees and even cross a river that had flooded the road. It was worth it though. Cooking noodles, drinking wine and catching up on gossip whilst watching the sunset over the mountains, camping at its finest.
Moving further south we experienced the sights and sounds that Te annu had to offer and stayed at one of the best campsites. Costing only $10 NZ for the night we had hot water showers and even a kitchen, it was basic but you couldn’t complain. The site was run by a man who looked like he belonged in an era from 60 years ago, oh but he had alpacas so I was happy. We were lucky with our choice of campsites over the next few days staying at another gem on the road to Milford Sound. Being so rural the electric was powered by a generator and was switched off on an evening. This meant going to the toilet at night was a fun experience, as was getting up early and having a shower in the dark. We were lucky that the water was still hot as it was heated by wood. Back to the dark ages!
Milford Sound, you mysteriously moody and magical place. Choosing to go on the 9am cruise was defiantly a good idea, the clouds swirling around the mountain as we sailed through observing so many waterfalls. What I didn’t expect to see was a pod of dolphins, so when they announced that the pod were just to the side of the boat I was elated. A perfect way to finish the road trip.
Making our way back north we stopped off at many picture-perfect places, my favourite being the Chasm, where we wandered off the main path and came to a turquoise blue pool, yes I did feel like I was in a fairy tale. Having company for the last part of my trip meant It ended on a high and I didn’t feel so sad as I returned to Christchurch for my last few days before flying to Australia. How had 7 months gone so quickly? The saying really is true, time flies when you’re having fun!! I really didn’t expect saying goodbye to be so difficult, in a way it felt as if I was leaving home again, but don’t worry Australia you won’t see me in a sad mood, I have your glorious beaches to explore. Show me the way to the surf.