This summer, my partner and I went away for the holidays. This was our first major trip together, and we discovered that New Zealand is a great place to visit on a budget like ours. The country is similar enough to Australia; we drive on the same side of the road and observe the same kinds of laws and courtesies. We never felt too far from home, yet the landscape is exciting and the minor cultural differences funny and peculiar. The start of our trip was a big grind, but once we got settled in - there were a lot of magical moments.
Our itinerary - cutting through the mountains in search of a cooler climate
I have previously travelled around on the North Island, and found that the scenic countryside makes for the perfect for a driving trip - so we did the same on the South Island, stopping for photo-ops at various well known spots along the way. I made small trip notes along the way, for our own amusement mostly - but also to look back on in a few years time, or to show friends and family some highlights now that I’ve (mostly) quit social media :)
Evening (still in Australia)
We get a ride-share to the train station. they try to haggle us into cancelling our Skybus.
We get into the train station and E’s Myki doesn’t work.
We get on a train headed in the wrong direction.
We get a pretty sick Japanese curry dinner.
We get Skybus to airport
Airport escalators are down
Airport doesn’t announce a gate change until midway into boarding so we have to sprint from one end to another
Our flight suckssss
Next morning since it’s basically a midnight flight. We land in NZ and I snap this pic.
Kia Ora - early morning Christchurch
We can’t figure out any ride sharing stuff with our Australian sim cards, so we get an expensive $60 taxi, then realise it’s NZD (so that’s basically free).
Taxi driver’s EFTPOS is down so they hand-write a CC/check thing
Taxi drops us off at completely the wrong spot so we walk
Can’t find our cafe, so we sulk
(Sense of calm)
Find a diff cafe
Walk back to sulking area
Find address of car rental place
Walk 15 mins, not open so we sit out front and sulk
Drive to well known American fast food restaurant, and nap in car park for about 3 hrs - while BnB is being prepped
Drive to Countdown (Woolworths) and laugh for a while about how they call trolleys “trundlers”.
pickup supplies for dinner/breakie and head to the bnb. sleep.
Wake early + make coffee
Drive slightly out of our way so we can take the inland scenic route 72 to cop views of the southern alps and Canterbury plains either side of the highway.
The 3-4hr scenic drive exposed beautiful rivers and hillsides. We saw deer, cows, horses, donkeys and alpacas.
We stopped at a lookout overseeing a giant valley and river.
Passing through Lake Tekapo, with its purple and pink flower (lupins) lined shores. We stop for some photos, and make plans to revisit in the following days.
We have a pub dinner in town once we arrive in Twizel, and rug up with a movie.
We sleep in and get ready to check out Aoraki/Mt. Cook.
We drive an 45-60mins to the visitor center and decide on the Hooker Valley trail. A 3 hour return trip.
The trail is fairly easy, but we rack up 20,000 steps in about 3.5hrs, and some impressive sunburn.
At the end of the trail is a glacial pool, which I stand in for about 5 seconds.
We head home for a shower and some more pasta, before retiring early.
First of four scheduled days off, and the timing is perfect because we’re so sunburnt and tired and sore.
Literally sit around, just indulging in air-con in the bnb. V good.
Check out, early, drive to Manapouri. “4 hrs” says the GPS, but it takes us all day.
It’s a beautiful, scenic drive but it really takes it out of us.
We hit up the local grocer and head home to smash a huge plate of vege nachos that we cooked on a barbecue on the deck of our bnb. 👌🏻
Kayak tours are all booked out, and kinda seem too intense for us anyway, so we booked a glow worms tour for the afternoon. We spend the morning walking around Te Anau, finding cafes and playing Pokemon Go.
The glow worm tour is fantastic and we learn all about their nesting, cannibalism and habitats.
It’s Xmas-eve and we have booked in a cruise tour.
another early morning rise,
This time a 2 hr drive to Milford Sound (actually not a “sound”, but a fjord according to our cruise guide). Some stunning views and photo ops, coffee and some snacks and then we return back to home base, picking up some supplies for our Xmas.
Merry Chrimbus. (We drove to Wanaka)
Wanaka bnb ends up being a very small converted garage with poor ventilation that can’t seem to exhaust any heat - and our host is out of town. E spends a few hours on the phone to bnb provider and we become very annoyed when none of our problems are resolved.
Defeated we return to the garage and just lay on the ground in front of the door.
A much needed day off!
In the evening we checked out the food caravans and the Wanaka tree - a tree growing in the middle of the lake, close to shore. 🌳
Driving toward the Franz Josef Glacier area (4hr)
We finally arrive in Franz Josef, eat lunch and stock up on supplies.
We’re staying about 30 minutes out, so head toward Whataroa, a very small country town, famous for its cow’s milk exportation. Awesome.
It is pouring rain.
Break day #3
Lunch in town, watched tv. Very chill.
Kiwi Conservation sanctuary
Saw an emu (NZ emu)
Visibility is unfortunately too pour due to ongoing rain, so we don’t get to check out the glacier :‘(
Christ church bound, via Arthur’s Pass.
We get supplies
We drink cider and eat yet more nachos
We go to bed at 9pm
Fire works wake us up. Happy new year!
Orana Wildlife Park - open plain zoo, where animals are hiding in boxes and seem really sad.
Morning: We are still in New Zealand.
Evening: We are not in New Zealand anymore.
Returning home feels amazing. I think I kind of understand why campers camp - living with very little for a short time, you come to appreciate all the little things that make your home all the more. I am rejuvenated and excited for the new year.