After uummmming and aaaaahing about the best way to travel the south island we decided that another camper van was probably the best idea. That way you can cover as much distance as you want during the day and pull up anywhere you want to sleep. It also saves heaps of money on eating out as you can do all of your cooking on the gas cooker.
This time we went with a company called Spaceships as they gave us the best quote on the market and even threw in some freebies (I'm getting good at negotiating). We picked up our little rocket "Casper" from Christchurch and set off for our first destination Akaora.
The roads were narrow, bendy and at times had a sheer drop off the side. Also it was really foggy so visibility was poor. As we got closer to Akaroa the sat nav took us down a steep gravel road (first red flag) where we got stuck behind another car which was waiting for a huge camper van to be towed out of a driveway (second red flag). Once we had started moving again the tow truck man suddenly appeared waving his arms at us. We wound down the window and he shouted that we had to turn around, the road was no good and that the car just in front of us had just skidded off the road and into a water tank! If we were one car ahead that could have been us!
Unfortunately, the weather stayed pretty grey and miserable. We walked around Akaroa briefly but had to take cover in the camper when it started to rain. I don't know if it's just me but when the weather is like that even the prettiest of towns can look glum. We then moved on to Le Bons Bay to check out the coast but as the weather was rubbish there wasn't much to see or do.
We spent the night by a lake in Little River. We had the place to ourselves apart from a family of wild chickens. Did you know they sleep up in trees?!
The next day we headed back to Christchurch to watch Fat Freddy's Drop play at Hagley Park. Luckily the sun came out and we didn't need to wear our emergency gumboots (wellies).
Feeling surprisingly hangover free we headed to Timaru to check the waves. There weren't any, so after a quick breakfast we headed towards Mount Cook Village. We stopped at Lake Tekapo to freshen up in the beautiful turquoise water. It was FREEZING, but so worth it!
On the way we stopped at a pretty lavender farm which smelt glorious and was full of happy bees.
We also checked out Lake Pukaki briefly and decided we'd come back to sleep there after our hike at Mount Cook
Driving towards Mount Cook we were surrounded by breathtaking scenery. We were so lucky it was a gorgeous clear day and we could see the snowy peaks. Our plan was to walk the Sealy Tarns track as recommended but after some confusion about where the track started we ended up on the Hooker Lake track. It turned out to be a blessing as the walk was amaaaazing!
When we arrived at the lake we had clear views of the glaciers, the snowy peak and the beautiful lake.
Sam was straight into his swimming shorts and into the lake. It was so cold there were huge bits of ice floating on the surface!
I put my bikini on with the best intentions but only managed to get my toes in before retreating as they throbbed with pain!
That night we lay in bed watching the sunset over lake Pukaki.
The next morning we woke up really early and had a delicious, nutritious breakfast of super noodles. The best way to start the day ahead of a hike...
Sealy Tarns is a steep uphill climb that consists of 2200 stairs! It is nicknamed the "stairway to heaven" but I think "stairway to heaven via hell" is more fitting.
The views at the top are definitely worth it though.
After the hike we rewarded ourselves with another swim in Lake Pukaki before heading off to Queenstown.
On the way to Queenstown Sam spotted a pretty river just off the main road. We pulled over and found an amazing bright blue/green river that even had it's own little sandy beach. We jumped straight in to cool down and found a cool jumping rock.
We're not really city people and as we're travelling on a budget just driving through Queenstown was enough for us. We headed straight for Lake Wakatipu and found a quiet spot right on the lake to sleep.
The following day we did a lot of driving! After waking up early to check out Glenorchy we headed for Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. There is a wall on the way which is covered in bras!
We decided to keep going towards the coast and stopped at Fantail Falls. It was kind of funny because all of the other tourists stopped on the pebble beach and didn't cross the river. But we were straight in the river, on the other side and climbing up the steep rocks so we could get in for a swim. We must have ruined lots of peoples photos.
We also stopped at Thunder Creek Falls and then continued on to check if there was surf at Haast Beach.
The next day we checked out Te Anu, Blue Cliffs and Orepuki. There was a cafe on the side of the road where we treated ourselves to some vegan hotcakes. YUM.
Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay in the Catlins were next on the list and we spent a couple of days there so Sam could surf. Porpoise Bay is home to Hectors Dolphins which are one of the world's rarest and smallest dolphins. You can see them pretty much everyday in the bay! We also walked the penguin track and were lucky enough to spot baby yellow eyed penguins!
After a look in Dunedin we took a long drive to Arthurs Pass and spent the night at Lake Pearson. The following morning we walked the Devils Punchbowl track to see the waterfall and then drove a bit further on to hike Temple Basin.
Temple Basin was a steep rocky track and we both nearly slipped and rolled our ankles several times. Getting to the hut at the top and seeing the views made it worth it. It was cool to see Kea birds flying above us!
We then made our way to Hokitika on the west coast. I collected greenstone (jade) on the beach while Sam surfed.
We also went to Hokitika Gorge which was so beautiful! The water is the bluest i've ever seen! This is due to rocks in the mountains being ground into a fine powder by the movement of glaciers. The grounded rocks become a white powder which is suspended in the water creating a vivid blue/green. (I just googled that)
That evening we drove all along the coast as far as Westport and found no surf much to Sam's disappointment.
We spent our last night by a river in Arthurs Pass before heading back to Christchurch to drop our Spaceship back.
The south island was so beautiful! I loved swimming in the fresh water lakes and rivers and the drives we took through the mountains were awesome. The only downside to the south island are the sand flies which bite! There are millions of them and they fill up the car as soon as you open the door. We went through heaps of repellent.
Our Spaceship was by far the best camper van we have rented so far. The staff were super friendly and the van itself was clean and spacious. The lovely staff even dropped us back to the aiport for free as Sam's boardbag wouldn't fit in the taxi we had ordered. Definitely recommend them!!