Happy Thanksgiving! I am so grateful to have you all in our lives. Enjoy a day full of Family, Friends, Food, and Football (or Rugby if you're on this side of the world).
Onto the blog! It's been hard to keep up with writing since we've been on the road and driving every day or two. But we are visiting my cousin Ken's house now in Kakanui and we have rooms with doors, space to not run into each other, and reliable internet. So here goes!
Three weeks ago, we jumped into a 6 Berth (6 person) Apollo Campervan (used to be a Maui but is falling apart so it's now been downgraded to an Apollo) and hit the road. We started in Christchurch on a rainy, windy day and we found out the windows leaked- EEK! We've had many adventures on the road including: traversing windy, two lane highways driving on the wrong side of the road; spotting more sheep/lambs and cows than humans; crossing one lane bridges with blind curves; and seeing the most spectacular scenery!
Here are some of the highlights of the places we've visited. The South Island is full of cool geography and animals!
First stop was Kaikoura, a cool beach town that offered Sea Kayaking to see seal colonies. We had to get bundled up because it was not a warm day.
I wasn't able to capture to many pics of the NZ Fur seals for fear of dropping my phone in the Tasman Sea. However, they are really cool animals that love the rocky coastline of NZ. See if you can find one below:
Next stop was Hanmer Springs. The town of Hamner has natural hot springs that were used in conjunction with a hospital for people with certain illnesses and for WW1 vets. Now it's an amazing public pool where you can soak in all different temperature pools.
Luckily they were hot because it was chilly outside.
Fay loved the water slides the most, which were fun but so cold since you had to get out of the warm pools to get there.
We drove through the mountains and to the West coast of the island which has all the spectacular stuff. Including these crazy Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
The rocks are all layered and resemble pancakes. In the nearby town of Punakiaki they serve stacks of pancakes without maple syrup, so we didn't try them.
We saw lots of cool animals along the way including the Weka bird, a flightless bird like the kiwi but with a much shorter beak.
Fay made friends with the local goats and alpacas at one campsite.
The alpacas weren't nearly as friendly as Gary the goat and they peed for sooooo long I actually was able to capture it on film.
Fay even got to feed Long Fin Eels which are native to NZ. All of these in the tank were around 80-100 years old, can live on land for up to 5 days, and travel 1,000's of miles from the river to the ocean to lay their eggs. Fascinating creatures!
We also got to see our first Kiwi bird live!! They are nocturnal but at conservation centers, they have special viewing areas where they keep it dark so the kiwis will come out. They are also unusual but cool creatures. They're more like mammals- they have bone marrow in their bones, can't fly, and burrow in the ground so they don't make nests. Fay was in love! We had to go to another kiwi center so she could see more!
We were lucky enough to see most of the above animal friends in the coastal beach town of Hokitika.
While driving to our next town, Fay got some chill tablet time.
Next stop was Franz Josef- a town with a Kiwi center and a glacier! We got to see two more kiwis and a bunch of Tuataras-a rare reptile found only in New Zealand. They are the last survivors of an order of reptiles that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs. They were fascinating to learn about but didn't do much moving since they are cold blooded and conserve energy. Unless a cricket was fed to them and then they moved!
Tuataras can live to be over 100 years old, they have a 3rd eye, and can go without eating for a year if necessary. What?!?! More crazy NZ creatures!
We also got to catch a glimpse of the Franz Josef glacier (it's that white patch in the back between the mountains that's quickly receding). Glad we got a glimpse because the next few days were rainy and cloudy and it may not be there in a few years. NZ has a number of glaciers in their tall mountain range called the Southern Alps. Mt Cook is the tallest mountain at 12,220 feet.
On our drives, we'd come across sheep and lambs with all the prime real estate- next to mountains, lakes and beaches. How do I get to be a sheep? Well maybe not. We ate a lot of tasty lamb on the road.
We walked through beautiful old rain forests and met great climbing trees.
And found waterfalls made of fresh glacier water meaning it was freezing!
We made it to a cool town called Wanaka. Nearby was horse back riding. We got to trek through orchards of stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, and peaches) and up to a windy hilltop with expansive views of nearby mountains, lakes, and the town of Cromwell. We didn't realize how much fruit and unique vegetables grow here since the climate isn't like, say California. They have some of the best avocados and of course Kiwis here. Fay ate at least one Kiwi a day!
Horse back riding might of been Fay's favorite activity but after two hours I was sore! Who knew you had to be in horseback riding shape to just sit?
After riding, I needed a drink so we headed to a nearby winery that had tasty wine and scrumptious food (don't worry- no underage drinking took place-Fay just wanted to smell it).
Fay also got to hold up the leaning tower of Wanaka at the Puzzling museum. We really like Wanaka- they had a crystal clear lake, fun playground and baby ducks floating by.
Awww spring time in the Southern Hemisphere!
After hanging out in beautiful Wanaka, we made our way to Queenstown. Everyone raves about the town and it was a must see on people's lists for it's natural beauty and mountains. But the city was very hectic with a marathon happening the next day and most of the roads being under construction. There was nowhere to park the Apollo campervan so we had to drive it outside of town. We made it back into Queenstown and made it to the Ice Bar via Uber.
The Ice Bar was a wild spot where literally everything is made of ice inside from the bar to the chandelier to the seats. It's kept at -12 degrees to keep all the ice sculptures from melting. We got a few drinks in ice cups and we wore the provided parkas, gloves, and boots.
To keep warm, we dressed up for pictures and even played air ice hockey.
They had fireball shots you could take through a frozen goat head sculpture. A really "cool" experience!
Next we took a gondola up to the top of Queenstown mountain which had fantastic views and had a Luge to ride down on.
Unfortunately it hailed on the way down and all we got was a rainy shot of us trying to stay warm. With all the rain and sun we saw a rainbow!
After the cold of Q town, we headed to a quaint nearby town called Te Anau where we hung out by the beautiful lake before seeing Milford Sound.
We took a boat trip through Milford Sound, which is actually a Fjord formed by glaciers. We saw...
Waterfalls that splashed us and made us very wet!
A bottle nosed dolphin that loved swimming by our boat.
And the rare Fiordland Penguins which were hanging out on the rocks. It was a wonderful way to see nature and the fjords of NZ. But we were destined to head back to civilization and the East coast of the country.
We ended the day in Dunedin, the 2nd biggest city on the South Island.
It's known for it's Victorian era architecture and it's cool 1906 railway station. Fay was looking for platform 9 3/4 (from Harry Potter) but we never found it.
Then we headed north to Kakanui and Oamaru stopping to see these cool Moeraki boulders along the way. They were interesting boulders along the shore that were spherical and had crystalized cracks in them. Of course we wanted to jump on them and we triednot to get wet!
In Oamaru, we got to watch the tiniest Penguins in the world, the Little Blue Penguins, come in from the sea, go through these tiny gates, and into their nests.
It was so cute and amazing to see them waddling around up close and hanging out with their colony. They made sounds like donkeys and waddled as if they were going to tip over. We couldn't take pictures because the flash might scare them since it was at night but we did get to enjoy them and signs like the one below.
They really do cross the streets so drivers have to be careful. We had to check under the campervan before we left to make sure there weren't any hiding under there! Plus they bite so we wouldn't be moving them ourselves.
Tomorrow we head to our final campground in Lake Tekapo, which has hot springs and supposedly the clearest night skies in the world.
It'll be our last night in campgrounds with views like this.
(This pic was taken near Queenstown in Frankton. Wonderful view but noisy since the marathon ran right by us starting at 7am!)
Then to Christchurch to return the campervan and say goodbye to our road trip. The last few days will be on the north island where we'll visit Rotorua (the Maori capital) and Auckland (where we'll fly back to the U.S. on Dec. 4).
It's crazy that this world adventure is coming to an end. We're all ready to get home to our own beds (and rooms that have doors!), friends, and families. Thanks for following the Traveling Trio through 6 countries on 2 continents! See you soon!