We’re back on the blog, finally! And thanks to everyone who wrote to ask if we are still alive and to remind us we are long overdue an update!! It really does seem like last year since our previous post – our pre-Christmas update from Nelson. Since then we have slowly made our way South, sightseeing around the spectacular Southern lakes and doing lots of day hikes, before arriving in the Wanaka region and making this our new base. We have safely survived the crowds of the silly season and are again enjoying the quietness as the Kiwis and Aussies are back at school / work, and the bulk of the tourists have returned to the European Winter. The Summer weather has outlasted the tourist season though, with little rain, and temperatures still in the 30s (so warm in fact that we decided to invest in flip-flops!). And indeed we are making the most of the fine weather; as i write this we are sipping cool drinks by the pool … BUT before i explain our dramatic change in lifestyle, here’s a quick summary of the past 5 or 6 weeks.
We spent Christmas in the lovely backpackers in Nelson that we had started to call home, having been deterred from our planned hike by severe weather in the mountains (since then, bar 2 bursts of bad weather, every day has been warm and sunny). After this we drove South to Christchurch and Akaroa to rendezvous with friends who were in NZ for 3 weeks (Tiphaine & Serge, it was lovely to see you and thanks for picking so scenic a spot as Akaroa to meet up!). Akaroa is a pretty hilly peninsula East of Christchurch, with volcanic peaks and quiet inlets, and maybe because we were stunned by finally having friends to hang out with, we didn’t take even a single picture! To Daniel, that means we will have to go back, but with the long and torturous winding road to get there, he might have to go alone!
We had hired a car on reaching Christchurch and after a couple of nights in Akaroa we used this to tour West and South through the South island visiting a series of lakes and the highest mountain in NZ, Mt Cook (we visited the bottom, not the top of that mountain!).
We camped every night, sometimes in a campsite, but often very basic camping (free, but without water or facilities of any kind). Some of our fellow free campers washed themselves in the lakes, but as the lakes are fed by glacial streams and are a frigid 10 degrees Celsius, we didn’t join them! Luckily a few of the towns we stayed in had public showers, with hot water available for 1$ a minute and we learned to master the art of the 1-minute hot shower. I was thankful the meter wasn’t available in 30-second intervals as no doubt Daniel would have suggested we try it! One night we slept in the car as the rain was torrential, and awoke in the morning to a beautiful dawn. The early morning light revealed mountains all around us, which had been invisible in the previous evening’s cloud, and a fresh coating of snow lay everywhere. Absolutely beautiful. The sun returned that day and melted the fresh snow, and for the next few days we burned under its relentless heat. We made sure of early starts for our day walks so that we would be finished and out of the sun by 10am. Beyond that time the heat and the intensity of the sun were unbearable. Finding shade until evening was our priority and it was hard to believe that only 2 months before we were freezing!
After a few weeks of touring we arrived in the town of Wanaka, whose lake shore surrounded by mountains was chief among my memories from my NZ trip 12 years ago. The lake and mountains are just as beautiful as i remember, and the town just as charming. We found a fantastic campsite here equipped with a large comfortable kitchen and lounge, and wifi throughout (what a bonus!). While resting in Wanaka we decided that we definitely want to spend many more months in NZ, and set about preparing the information needed for our visa extension. Thanks to our years in Hong Kong this included having chest x-rays to prove we don’t have tuberculosis (no doubt our poor lungs suffered from HK’s pollution but at least we don’t have TB!), as well as sourcing financial documents plus some lengthy form filling! Anyway, it was all worthwhile, as our visa has been extended to August, meaning we are now just half way through our NZ trip. Just as well, as we still have a long list of hikes we want to do!
While deciding whether to extend our visa we spent some time reflecting on our trip to date, and whether we are up for another 6-months of the same kind of travel. We decided that we aren’t – while we do miss some home comforts like easy access to a shower, a kitchen, or having a bed and a change of clothes, these are pretty minor. What is a big deal for us is the constant sharing of our space with others. We are truly tired of this. And we are totally sick of the sight of camper-vans, with their sliding doors being slammed shut at all hours and their occupants loudly chatting or skyping home to Germany or Israel late at night (these are the majority of our fellow budget travelers). So while our tent affords us a measure of our own space, it unfortunately doesn’t block the noise around us and we get frustrated at being woken throughout the night (& our ears hurt from constant use of ear plugs!). We are also fatigued from our pace of sightseeing, and recognise that we need to intersperse travel with rest-stops in order to regain our appetite for the next leg of the journey. So all of this led to a change in approach for us, which is why we now find ourselves sitting by the pool with not a single camper van, or German or Israeli tourist within a 10k radius! But before i get on to what we are doing, it’s time to cool down with a dip in the pool …