The flight from Sydney to Queenstown wasn’t a long one, but once we reached the mountains, it got a bit turbulent.
Apparently, that’s normal though.
We were already very impressed by what we could see from the plane window. People usually expect us to not admire New Zealand’s landscape that much because we’re from Switzerland. But trust us, every mountain looks different and the land of Lord of the Rings was unmistakable.
We survived the landing and New Zealand’s bag controls, though the latter was a bit extreme.
They cleaned our shoes and they searched our bags. We’d said we didn’t bring any food to New Zealand, but Nici had totally forgotten about the Thai curry, she had stowed away somewhere.
Normally, not declaring something costs 400 NZD, but Nici apologized and since we had already declared the dirt in our shoes and the tea bags from Sri Lanka, they knew we hadn’t meant to hide anything from them, and the nice border guard let us pass without a fine.
Our poor friends Sinchan (Who we had met in India) and his girlfriend Vera were still waiting patiently, when we got out of the airport.
They picked us up and drove us to our hostel, where we dropped off our bags, before going to a restaurant and enjoying good beer, vegan burgers and catching up with our friends.
Unfortunately, Sinchan had to leave for India on the next day, but he helped us pick up our new rental car from Wicked Campers (We named her Hanni this time) and in the afternoon, we went to get Nici’s sister, Lea, from the airport.
New Zealand offers free campsites as well, though not as many as Australia.
Since Queenstown was very busy and Lea wanted a shower after her trip around half of the globe, we treated ourselves to a rather expensive campsite for the first night.
A welcome beer was needed as well, though we had pledged to spend most of our road trip alcohol-free, just like we had already done in Australia.
It was Lea’s first time this far away from home (well, it’s basically on the other side of the world, so that’s not very surprising ;-) ) but she adjusted fast to Queenstown’s beautiful Lord of the rings-scenery and we chose a DOC (department of conservation) campsite for 13 dollars per person for the following night. The campsite was called 12 mile creek campsite and it was right next to a very clear and very beautiful (and also very cold) lake.
It was raining all the time and our hopes got crushed.
After the rain in Vietnam and Indonesia, we began to think that all our visitors have bad luck, like we’re cursed or something.
The first thing on our list was hiking and so we packed all kinds of clothes to be prepared for New Zealand’s weather shifts and started our way up Ben Lomond.
The trail was quite busy- comparable to the Trolltunga hike in Norway and a group of girls who played annoying music loudly got on our nerves. We soon decided to leave the main trail because of them and instead walked a smaller trail where no one else was around.
From there, we had a great view of “Mordor” and parts of “Rohan”, while we played Lord of the rings and ran down the mountain like Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli.
By the way, while hiking, the weather was really nice and we got a bit of a sunburn. Later, however, the rain started again.
Despite the rain, we took a bath in the beautiful lake.
The next thing we wanted to see was “Isengard”.
Hanni brought us through the curvy and breathtaking landscape and we had to stop to take it all in.
Isengard itself wasn’t marked or anything, but the shape of the mountains in the background made it clear that we had reached our destination.
The rain continued but Hanni kept us warm.
Our next campsite was another DOC’s, Henry Creek Campsite, and again, it was right next to an incredibly clear lake.
Again, we went bathing and enjoyed walking through the magical forest with the moss covering everything.
We then brought our table and chairs down to the lake, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a magnificent sunset.
The next day, René had to drive quite a long time, through constantly pouring rain, until we reached Milford Sound. We didn’t plan on staying there, but the way through the forest looked very mystical due to the rain.
Once we reached the Fjord, we walked around with umbrellas and rain coats and enjoyed the view. It probably looks way better when the sun is shining, but it was nice anyway.
The campsite that followed was Lake Monowai Campsite, finally a free one, but it was also the weekend and so it was crammed.
It lies in the middle of a forest, next to a lake (this time not soo clear) and we managed to find a spot.
Still, it was raining, but we cooked vegan hot dogs with Sauerkraut underneath the trees and washed our dishes with lake water.
Our rooftop tent kept us dry, but similar to Australia, New Zealand’s youth likes to use free campsites for parties on the weekend and so we didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
The Ocean was calling.
So, we headed south down to Monkey Island, where we built our camp on another free campsite, right at the beach.
The sun even made an appearance during the afternoon and we donned our bathing suits.
A couple of dolphins came to play with the tourists, but we had already left the water, unfortunately. We saw them from afar though.
After another delicious dinner, we witnessed an incredible sunset. It was the most beautiful sunset we had seen in quite a while.
Monkey Island made us want more, but heavy rain destroyed our mood the next day and so we decided to drive on.
We stopped on the way for a quick walk through a rain forest.
Then we reached Hillview Campsite, a private campground set up like a hostel. It had showers, a kitchen and cute sheep and a kitty to play with :)
Looking for penguins, we stopped several times to take a walk at New Zealand’s east coast.
There were no penguins to be seen, but we spotted seals and since Lea had never seen seals before, she was quite happy with the outcome of our day.
Before we reached Dunedin, we visited the Royal Albatross Centre, still hoping to see penguins.
Instead, we saw more seals and of course- albatrosses.
Warrington Recreation Reserve was another free campsite, again right at the beach.
Again it was quite crammed, but since the weekend was over, people were more or less quiet.
The beach was very inviting and we still hadn’t given up on seeing penguins, so we went for a long walk.
A very long walk.
The beach seemed endless but we saw neither seals nor penguins, just birds.
When high tide approached, we got a bit scared and walked back.
Lea and René got up early the next morning to see the beautiful sunrise. Nici was too tired and stayed in bed.
A pitstop at the beach to look at perfectly round rocks was cut short, because we all needed to pee and didn’t want to pay for the toilet there.
The next night was spent at Milford huts campground, a beautiful spot on the beach.
We caught some sunrays on the rocky beach while looking at the weirdly brown sea.
A local warned us about the high tide, since we had parked quite close to the sea. It did come very close to our car, but not close enough to pose a threat.
Milford huts campground was the last stop before Christchurch. Since we don’t like cities, we had booked an Airbnb for two nights. It was about 26 kilometers away from Christchurch and it was right on the countryside.
Our host was really nice and her dog, Savannah, was gorgeous and needed a lot of attention.
We had booked an Airbnb to escape the rain, but ironically enough, the weather got really nice during our stay there.
A trip to Akaroa and its Peninsula gave us a chance to enjoy the weather and we considered doing some activity there, but the trip had taken a lot of time and it was too late to do anything.
René really wanted to see the stars and we had planned to drive to the west coast, so we had to get ready for cold temperatures, since our way led over Arthur’s pass.
Our first stop there reminded us a bit of the Stonehenge. Lots of l rocks gave the landscape a mystical appearance.
The place is called Castle Hill and attracts many tourists, so after walking and climbing up some of the rocks, we escaped to our next campsite.
Hawdon Shelter Campground was stunning.
A huge meadow surrounded by forest offered so much space to camp, it gave us the chance to avoid human interaction (almost).
The afternoon was sunny and warm and we went for a hike.
When the sun set though, it got extremely cold.
We put on everything we had and still shivered.
Nonetheless, we stayed up until midnight, because René wanted to take pictures of the breathtaking night sky.
The milky way was clearly visible and we ended up having a lot of fun- despite the temperatures.
A very long day with a lot of driving awaited us then.
We stopped for lunch on the beach and then in the late afternoon to see the Pancake rocks.
Again, there were way too many tourists for our taste, but the rocks did look like pancakes and made our stomachs rumble.
Still we had a lot more driving to do and once we reached Lyell Camping Ground, it was already dark.
The campground lies next to old mines. There was a cemetery and a trail called The Old Ghost Road. Very creepy indeed.
When daylight came, we went to explore the cemetery and the forest.
It was magical!
Our group got split up though. René wanted to keep a faster pace, so Lea and Nici stayed behind and soon left the main track to look at a mine.
Nici was busy absorbing the energy of the forest, while Lea followed a bird deeper into the woods and Nici got lost looking for her.
The bird led Lea back to Nici though and a worried René, who had already gotten back to the car, walked all the way back to find them.
We were now in the North of South Island and soon our ferry to Wellington was going to depart, so we had to do a lot of kilometers a day.
Exhausted and a bit sick from driving through curvy mountain roads, we arrived in Elaine Bay, where we set up our tent right next to the sea.
You could actually see huge rays swimming around, without having to get into the water!
A couple of interesting birds visited us as well, though no Kiwi was among them.
To get some exercise after sitting in Hanni for hours, we took a walk to a secluded beach. There, we enjoyed lunch and swam with the rays.
Our last stop before taking the ferry was Rarangi Campground. It was another DOC’s and we had to pay a small fee, but it was absolutely worth it.
The sunset on the beach was magnificent.
When it got dark, we went to explore the glowworm caves and were not disappointed.
What we saw there is impossible to get on a picture.
It was pitch black in the cave but all around us, the glowworms shone their light like thousands of stars. It truly felt as though we were out in space rather than in a cave and we stood for about an hour, without saying a word, taking in the beauty of our surroundings.
The next morning, we were a bit too worried we might miss the ferry, so we arrived way too early in Picton.
That allowed us to take a look around though.
At 2pm, the ferry departed and carried us through the beautiful fjords towards the North Island…