New Zealand: 3/12 – 3/18

(New Zealand) Mount Cook >>> Geraldine >>> Christchurch >>> New Brighton >>> Kaikoura >>> Wai-iti Domain >>> Wairau Diversion

3/12- Hiking in the Mount Cook Area
3/13- Christchurch Museum and Enticing Ice Cream
3/14- Mini Golf, Frisbee Golf, and Yummy Food
3/15- Touring around the Beautiful Banks Peninsula
3/16- Sea Kayaking in Kaikoura!
3/17- Enjoying the Beach in Kaikoura and lots of Driving
3/18- Driving along the northern coast and the Marlborough Sounds!

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3/12:
Hiking in the Mount Cook Area
+ In the morning we enjoyed some bowls of cereal while watching the rabbits and paradise ducks playing around the area.
+ Hiked the Hooker Valley Track which is listed as one of the best day hikes in all of NZ! Saw a Kea at the far end of the hike! This one was way more vocal than last one we saw in Arthur’s Pass. We also saw icebergs in Hooker Valley lake. Overall the hike was nice but not great because all of the amazing scenery we would have had with snow capped mountains and glaciers was completely grayed out and covered with clouds. Boo. Oh well. Something to add to the list for our next NZ visit 😉
+ Before we left the Mount Cook area, we hiked to the Blue Pools which they should rename to Boring pools. They were actually green and hadn’t been getting any new water in them for years due to other rivers and lakes no longer emptying into them.
+ Hiked up to a viewpoint for the Tasman glacier. It was grey and cloudy yet again and offered only limited views. We did see some icebergs floating in the lake although only a fraction of what we’d see on a clear day or in winter. There were a lot of stairs though so at least we got out workout in for the day!
+ Drove east toward Christchurch. Cooked dinner in the town of Fairlie. Then continued on and slept at Arundel bridge just outside the town of Geraldine. Crappy cloudy, rainy weather all day. Very cold too!

3/13:
Christchurch Museum and Enticing Ice Cream
+ Drove through the rain and awful weather to Christchurch. We were glad we didn’t wait around at Mt. Cook because the weather was supposed to be like this for a few more days.
+ Christchurch was where we originally bought the van and left from so now we had officially made an entire loop of the South Island!
+ Arrived into town and basically went straight to the Canterbury museum for about 90 minutes until they closed. The museum was really interesting and it was a great bad weather option!
+ Grabbed a quick dinner at Subway then met up with Rosie again! We had delicious ice cream at a spot right in town and talked about all the fun traveling and adventure activities we’d all been up to since we left.
+ After some late night grocery shopping at Pak and Save we slept at Jellie Park in Christchurch. This place wasn’t officially listed on the Campermate app for Self-Contained campervans, but Liz had read the district rules and found us a spot that would work. We were the only ones here though! It had a bathroom but was surprisingly loud and lots of traffic even late at night!

3/14:
Mini Golf, Frisbee Golf, and Yummy Food
+ Woke up at the park and were happy to see we had no ticket. Thank you self contained!
+ Went and played a round of Pirate mini golf at a course we’d found on BookMe. Maybe it was because we were playing at noon on a Tuesday but there were no other players there and we had the whole course to ourselves. Liz was winning until hole 14 and then Corey took the lead and won!
+ There was a cat living on the course and once we stumbled upon him, he followed us around for the rest of holes! He was super friendly and by the end he would even sit in front of the hole in typical cat fashion so we would have to pet him before we could putt! He definitely made the game more fun! Liz would’ve probably won if the cat hadn’t distracted her so much.
+ Quick lunch and wifi at a KFC. These were all over NZ but this was the first time we’d gone to one.
+ Corey went to a Physio (NZ term for physical therapy) appointment we had made for him to check up on his knee. Although he felt fine and hadn’t worn the brace in a long time, we just wanted to check things to be sure now that the swelling had gone down. The doctor said everything looked fine but it wouldn’t be 100% for a few more weeks. The ACC case number we got at the ER helped to get these Physio appointments at a reduced rate. We were again so grateful for the ACC.
+ Played frisbee golf at Jellie Park. (Yes the same Jellie Park where we parked the van last night) It was a really pretty park with nice landscaping around a small lake and even a small waterfall and fountain with ducks.
+ Used WiFi in town at a Spark box and then had dinner at a place called Engineers. Corey had found this restaurant on BookMe and it was a little more upscale and fancy than the restaurants we normally went to. But with the discount we decided to splurge a little and try it out. We ordered 4 different plates of tapas and were pleasantly surprised with the generous amounts of food. And they were all really tasty. Yum!
+ Slept at Jellie Park again in Christchurch but this time we found a quieter side street.

3/15:
Touring around the Beautiful Banks Peninsula
+ In the morning we had a nice breakfast next to the park and then drove over to a nearby auto center.
+ Got the van checked out and the tires rotated and realigned. (Thanks BookMe!) (Corey was seriously addicted!) We had noticed a slight rattling ever since that bad road out to Rob Roy Glacier. Hopefully this will help!
+ Drove through the Banks Peninsula to the Akaroa I-site. Drove up a really, really steep hill to a small town called Okuna. There we hiked a short path to a small waterfall and explored the lush forest.
+ Drove back through Akaroa and started back toward ChCh but this time we took the scenic summit road that rides along the ridge of the volcanic crater. We had great views of the bay first, then the south side of the peninsula, then the northern side to our right and finally, both sides at once!
+ Took a detour down from the summit all the way back down in elevation to Okains Bay where we walked around exploring the little cave and looking for sea shells on the beach. We saw a group of Quails running around and watched as the males chased around the females.
+ Then drove on the winding roads up and across to Little Akaloa. Admired the bay area there and then drove all the way back up the mountain to the Summit Scenic Road and returned back to ChCh after another hour or so of driving. This Banks peninsula was much larger than the Otago peninsula down near Dunedin!
+ For some reason NZ will often have American programming on the radio. We listened to the opening of the 125th season of NY philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. They opened the season with the USA national anthem so as we finished the Summit Scenic road back to ChCh, we had the Star Spangled Banner blaring! lol.
+ Back in ChCh we went to a restaurant we’d wanted to try when we were here the first time but never had time called Bootleg BBQ. Tonight was their wing night so we got 20 wings and enjoyed them. They were tasty but weren’t quite as good as the ones in Scotland or even the frozen ones we’d bought in the Gold Coast!
+ WiFi time again at a Spark box for a while and called Liz’s brother Chris.
+ After that we drove north just a little and slept in New Brighton right near the beach.

3/16:
Sea Kayaking in Kaikoura!
+ Woke up early and drove up to Kaikoura! The road closures and delays from the earthquake damage were not as bad as I had imagined them to be. At least not in this section.
+ Caught our kayaking tour just in time. The guide gave us all our gear and drove us out to a spot along the beach where we could put in. We had really nice double sea kayaks with rudders and spray skirts and everything. This was Liz’s first time sea kayaking and the waves were really intimidating! She doesn’t even want to imagine a really rough day!
+ We saw seals, glimpses of a little blue penguin swimming, and dusky dolphins swam right underneath us! They actually jumped in the air a few feet in front of some of the other kayakers’ boats!
+ We kayaked for about 2 or 3 hours and even though we didn’t cover that far in distance (due to our guide having to literally tow one boat of ladies who weren’t paddling), we still saw a lot of wildlife. At one point a cormorant bird surfaced right next to us and seemed to be very surprised to see us! Then he quickly swam away.
+ The seal colony we visited with the kayaks used to be very isolated and just offshore from Kaikoura town and only reachable by a boat or kayak. But now since the earthquake the sea floor has basically risen in some areas so now tourists can just walk right over to the seal colony along the rocks when it is low tide. Our guide was upset about this as it was obvious the seals were not as relaxed as they usually are and he said there are even much less than there used to be.
+ After the kayak tour we walked through the small town. Corey got a beer and Liz got a coffee to warm up . We took our drinks out to the rocky point and sat in the sun scanning the horizon for wildlife.
+ Made a quick stop at the grocery store for ice then we made it to our campsite called “Meatworks”. (Not sure how it got its name) It’s a really nice stretch of land riiiiight along the beach near Hapuku. We couldn’t be any closer or we’d be in the water!
+ Our kayak guide had recommended we make sure to see the moonrise tonight. What a great suggestion! Although sunset was around 8 something, the moon didn’t rise until just before 10pm! It rose out of the ocean just like a sunrise! The moon was huge and orange tonight and illuminated the whole campsite!
+ I wonder why we don’t have a moonrise like this at home? Our moon seems to be up already sometimes by the afternoon?
+ With the van parked parallel to the ocean we had great views of the moonrise. We rolled up our side curtain and fell asleep to the sound of the waves with the moonlight shining in the window.

3/17:
Enjoying the Beach in Kaikoura and lots of Driving
+ Woke up early in the morning to see the sunrise. When we had gone to sleep last night we left the side curtain rolled up so we could watch the huge moon continue to rise over the ocean. It was nice to fall asleep in the moonlight with the sounds of the waves right next to us! And no sand flies! Hooray!
+ Because we left the curtain up, Liz woke up to the extra light around 7am. The sky was yellow and orange and the sun would very soon be rising out of the ocean. She woke up Corey and they enjoyed the views for a few minutes. Then we both decided to snooze a little more since we had been up late and it was still early. Liz made sure to roll the curtain down this time because the sun would be up and shining full blast soon enough!
+ Sure enough an hour or 2 later Liz woke up as she was being slowly baked by the heat beaming in around the curtain. Corey thought she was just starting to smell good though and probably needed a few more minutes of baking time.
+ Corey the 5 star chef cooked hashbrowns! And did the dishes! While Liz had coffee, read her book, and enjoyed the views. We also looked at some neat sea shells on the beach and found some bones of some type of animal. A seal we think. Liz kept one of the vertebrae because she’s a bio nerd and finds it interesting. Weirdo.
+ While enjoying the breezy day at the campsite, we even saw a seal surfing in the waves! It swam by some surfers further down and they didn’t even seem to notice or care. What a fantastic campsite! and all for free!
+ Drove back into town. Liz endured her caffeine overdose while we used WiFi and booked upcoming activities. Corey got ice cream! (Gold digger and salted caramel) and again got it all over his beard since the scoops were humongous!
+ Drove up to a few lookouts in Kaikoura along the cliffs which gave us some really fantastic views over the ocean and bay!
+ Drove the Alpine pacific triangle route inland and then the Lewis Pass route as we traveled the long long journey up to the northern part of the island. Due to the earthquake, the coastal road that usually connects with the north was closed and so people were forced to drive a huge route shaped like a “C” to get up north and what could have taken an hour now took 6 to 7 hours. Ugh.
+ On the drive through the hills we came around a corner and right next to the road we saw a big llama standing proudly on a rock looking off into the distance. Hair billowing in the wind! Lol!
+ Cooked dinner in Murchison and then continued our drive late into the night.
+ Eventually we reached a good stopping point and slept at Wai-iti domain.

3/18:
Driving along the northern coast and the Marlborough Sounds!
+ In NZ you can save 6 cents per liter when you fill up in certain places, provided you spend at least $40 on the fill up. So throughout our travels, Corey has been spending $40 and saving up that 6 cents each time and now we were up to a whole $2.00 saved! So when we filled the car up today, instead of paying $2.04 per liter and spending $98 to fill up, we only paid $1.40! Finally cashed in those savings! Sweet As!
+ Stopped at Richmond Mall (yes the same mall from the first days in our van) to visit the pharmacy and fill some of the prescriptions the doctor had written for Corey’s knee.
+ Drove through Nelson and started heading towards Picton. We broke off the main highway to drive the renowned Queen Charlotte Drive! The drive was INCREDIBLY winding and yes it was pretty but not as mind blowing as we were expecting due to the grey skies. Plus we were starting to get a little spoiled from all the beautiful sights we’d seen in NZ (and the rest of the world!)
+ After grabbing some dinner in Picton, we headed south a bit to a free campsite Liz had found so we could again avoid paying $40 to sleep in town at an expensive holiday park.
+ Slept at Wairau Diversion and got ready to wake up early tomorrow to hike the Queen Charlotte Track!

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