Well I was ever so wound up before we got onto the ferry and then the wind has died down and we had such a quiet and calm crossing - that's the reason why I'm a pessimist - you can actually only be pleasantly surprised ....
Unfortunately, however, it has already gone dark and we have no idea where to head for. Well, it’s only today we don’t have a plan after that we know where we want to go: in the direction of Abel Tasman National Park, but that is tomorrow…. Not a chance of getting anywhere this evening though. So now I get the GPS out and look for campsites nearby.
There are a few DOC sites along the coast here, so we feel our way in the dark and around hairpin bends until we reach one of them and now we have no we decide if this is it for today.
After an uncomfortable night’s sleep in the car we head for Nelson where we stop to buy some supplies, as there will certainly be little opportunity to do so in the national park and then we even find a launderette. There is also a shower here and while we wait for our laundry to be washed and dried we both make good use of the offer of a hot shower. Immediately I have to think of the old MasterCard ads:
"A load of laundry - $ 4, charge for the dryer - $ 4, a hot shower - $ 2….. smelling like a human again - priceless"
From here to the National Park is just one hundred kilometers, so no problem at all, just a shame that the clouds hang so low and we can’t see much of the views on the way there but it seems as if we will at least land on the only sunny spot in New Zealand for this weekend when we get to the other side of the mountains if the weather forecast is to be believed.
The last 10 km are gravel road through beautiful rainforest scenery and it goes up and down - I think there is no flat land here at all...
The campsite is situated in a picturesque bay almost on the beach – we love it and so we look for a quiet spot on the very edge, and are happy to be lulled to the land of nod by the sounds of the ocean and enjoy the views on a clear starry sky before snuggling into our comfortable tent.
We quickly decide to spend an extra night here. The beach is full of shells they must have been washed up in the recent storms many of them are still alive. So Kev forages for the right shells and collects a bag full of bait for fishing, which means that he will be pretty busy for the rest of the day. I go on a treasure hunt and collect some shells, go for a little walk and laze about.
The sun is shining from a clear blue sky and the sea is crystal clear. Kev doesn’t catch a thing - well, we have plenty of supplies – thank god... It|s a good thing that he is happy just to dangle some bait in the water and catching a fish to him is a bonus, because if I was standing there all those days with the fishing rod and no fish I would have thrown the whole lot into the sea by now.
In the evening we sit in front of the tent and look at the starry sky for a long time and when we finally creep into our sleeping bags we are chilled right down to the bones and even inside the tent all is damp from dew and cold. I just can’t get warm at all and my legs feel as if they are stuffed with ice cubes - only after I put on my motorcycle pants and then get back into the sleeping bag, I start warming up a bit so eventually I fall asleep. I do not know how Kev always manages to be fast asleep within minutes, no matter how cold it may be ...
In the morning I am stiff as a board again and only after defrosting for a while in the sun I slowly get going.
We pack and head north for the Farewell Spit, which is the longest natural sand bank in the world and sticks out from the northern tip of the South Island. From here we want to drive to the west coast. This means we will have to trace our steps back almost all the way to Nelson (well not quite), which is a long way, but there are not many roads, and certainly none that follow the coastline around the northern tip and then down the west coast – shame that. Another reason for taking a long time to get anywhere is the fact that we have to stop all the time.
After just a few kilometers the radiator boils over again. Good thing that we always make sure that our water bottle is always full these days and we pour almost the entire 3 liters into the hissing reservoir. Now we make it to the Spit without further problems.
The wind is blowing hard and it looks as if the sandbank is about to fly away. The views in every direction are gorgeous. There are newborn lambs jumping around everywhere and magnolias and daffodils in full bloom, spring is in the air.
Today, we’re at least able to see some of the views - for a while that is, but when we reach the mountains thick rain clouds are looming in front of us. It does not take long and it is pouring with rain again. They have a saying here which has proven to be true most days: “if you don’t like weather just wait half an hour but unfortunately this is also the case, when you do like the weather.
We reach Westport and thus the west coast in the pouring rain and then take the road north again. To our dismay there is more mist and rain coming and no improvement in sight which does spoil our moods and the views too… Kevin is mumbling, that someone did tell us not to bother with this coast as it is boring. The campsite is at a dead end, it’s rather crowded with campervans and also soaking wet. We have no desire to stay here, the beach however is worth seeing - an angry sea throws itself powerfully onto the beach and rocks - one can understand why people once believed in raging sea deities.
On the coast and the estuaries we see al lot of people fishing with fine-meshed nets, they are trying to catch whitebait (fish babies with not much more to them than a piece of string), they are regarded as a delicacy here (we have tried it once .... it does not necessarily have to be on our menu again). There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of them around however, because all we see everywhere is empty nets.
After another night in the car nicely tucked away on a dirt road and next to a river we finally wake up to sunshine again, which improves the views as well as our moods. Now we drive through pretty little towns and the rocky shores are just beautiful. The Tasman Sea foams and gives its best to chew at the rocky coast. The results of that can be seen at the so-called Pancake Rocks which consist of stacked limestone layers (They really look like stacks of pancakes somehow). The sea has eroded the rocks from below and whenever a particularly strong wave comes fountains blast out of the holes.
Since arriving in this country we drive slower and slower because we have to stop and take pictures or just stare at these unbelievable views.
In the evening we find a nice small campsite by the sea with the wild coast in front and the snowy peaks behind us. If there were not so many sand flies, the world would be perfect. At night it is so cold that I still shiver even with motorcycle pants, wool sweater and a fleece jacket in the sleeping bag.
We follow the coastal road to the two glaciers, one of which is named after the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. After the first hike I am already footsore but I persuade myself anyway, to make it to the second one - a pity that you can not really get close to them which is only possible if you take a guide (which we don’t) but even the guided groups won’t see an awful lot more , because the glaciers have shrunk quite considerably.
From here, we want to go back a little, and then take a pass through the mountains to the east coast and while we have to keep craning our heads at all the natural beauty we swerve a tiny bit with one wheel across the center line - nothing dramatic, but just this minute a police car comes towards us. Of course they turn immediately and stop us. Kev has to count into a breathalyzer (yes, count, not blow and of course he does it wrong first time) - without result, but the (rather young and keen female) police officer is not willing to let us go without something in her pocket and since it won’t be a driving license we get a lecture that one has to stay in ones lane at all times in this country and we receive a fine. The fun will cost us a proud $ 150! After 100000 km on the road the most expensive fine of the whole trip and for such a stupid thing! We are outraged at the way the officer handles this situation but the way she speaks to us makes it unmistakably clear that we better not discuss it with her (she probably has watched too many NYPD episodes). She pushes Kevin the ticket in his hand and says goodbye with a "See You" - I can not resist to reply: "I hope not".
The interlude with the "friendly" police officer dampens our mood somewhat. This is the stupidest and most pointless fine, we could have ever received - something we would have expected in countries where the police have a reputation for being corrupt but here …?
We turn onto Arthurs Pass without really seeing much of the area - well, it is still gray and foggy (matching our mood). The mountain peaks are hidden behind thick clouds and the weather forecast gives us little hope for anything better. When we arrive almost at the highest point of the pass we stop at a lookout and then there is a first patch of blue sky in front of us.
In the parking lot are a few Kea hopping around. They are not the least bit shy and inspect every new vehicle immediately in search of titbits. One sits on a car roof and is busy trying to undo a strap on a roof rack, another is waiting outside my door in the hope that he can climb in here. We quickly shut all the windows and get out. Of course, armed with the camera because one can’t miss the opportunity to take photos of the only alpine parrot in the world.
The car had to toil hard, to bring us up here - again it is steaming from the bonnet which, however, doesn’t alarm us any longer we just have to wait until everything has cooled a bit, before we refill he water tank again - since we do have to take photos of Keas in the meantime this is not a problem ...
From here on, the skies clear and it does not take long until we have forgotten our bad mood and admire the high mountain views, which exceed everything we have seen so far and that around every corner. It takes 5 hours with a lot of "oohh how beautiful" and "wait a minute, I have to take pictures here " until we have crossed the 150 km mountain road, then we navigate around Christchurch on to the Banks Peninsula. It is already getting dark, so we can only admire the sunset before we find our way in the dark down the narrow winding roads to Pigeon Bay, where want to stay.
The next morning we take the tourist drive, a scenic route which goes all around the peninsula. The area is full of steep hills and mini fjords. In Akaroa, a small town with many beautiful old buildings and French street names, we stop at the promenade for a yogurt with Wheatbix breakfast. Then we look for the inland tourist route back towards Timaru.
Shortly after Christchurch we suddenly hear a loud noise, it sounds as if a helicopter is trying to land on the car roof. We stop and see that the rear right tire has burst. Now we have to unload the whole boot and stack everything on the roadside, to get to the spare wheel (now what does this remind me of?). After some searching we find everything except a wheel nut spanner. A small consolation in this situation is that you're never far from dwellings here, and soon I'm on my way to a nearby farmhouse where I find a nice man who helps us out with tools and advice. The spare wheel is on in next to no time and we drive back to the next larger town where we do not get a used tire (as advised), but at least they have a new matching tyre (the last one) and the whole affair is sorted fairly quickly.
The next morning we’re back in Timaru and spend the weekend with Mark and Rebecca, telling each other what we have experienced in the last month and explore the local surroundings together.
On Monday I work hard on the translation of the blog article for the North Island and on Tuesday morning after restocking our supplies and a visit to a local Maori tattoo artist who asks us all kinds of questions in order to create a unique design for us and after we make an appointment for the day when Kevin is going to get his first piece of skin art ever, we want to get back on our voyage of discovery. First e have one more task - we try renew the car tax at the post office which Mark has asked us to do but unfortunately, we are not successful on this quest, because the MOT has also expired. As we do not know how and where this is done we send Mark an email to get the required information on this matter and then decide to move on – we will be back before the current tax runs out anyway.
We need to stop at many special sights .... like the Moeraki Boulders for example. These are stone balls made up by deposits around a core - similar to the way pearls are formed but on the seabed. These giant balls were once embedded in the sediment. The seabed was pushed up to form cliffs, which weathered with time and broke off exposing the boulders which then in turn fell down into the sea again. You can see them really well only at low tide. We're lucky the tide has only just turned and we can still see the giant boulders.
After that we actually want to move to a campsite in a ravine, but it is closed for seasonal reasons unfortunately so we continue until we’re past Dunedin and then drive along the coast. Where we finally find a campsite at Kaka Point. Although the place is quite expensive we're lucky, there is a real kitchen, Internet, TV and hot showers. We are being warned that for tonight stormy conditions are forecasted so we look for a cozy place under some trees and also tighten all guy ropes.
It is indeed quite stormy, but thanks to all our precautions, we hardly notice it.
For the next few days we explore every bay along the south coast, wandering along on the beaches, watching sea lions, which are surfing the waves onto the beach at high tide where they then then make themselves comfortable and sleep until the next high tide. The weather is changeable, but we have sunny periods as well as rain and wind – but when the sun is out everything is twice as beautiful.
We are especially looking forward to visit Invercargyll, because here we want to see Burt Monroe's world's fastest Indian. A must for every motorcyclist who visits this country ... My GPS finds the Museum immediately and it even tells us the Munro Indian will be found here but when we arrive there is just a big hardware store with everything from tools to household goods called E. Hayes and sons.
We stand in a parking lot scratching our heads until we finally ask a passer-by and he actually without hesitation sends us in all seriousness into the shop. Oh well, we’ll see - and indeed: next to wheelbarrows, tools, pots and housewares are old racing motorcycles, cars, antique tools, pedal operated lathes ... the assortment is indescribable. Between Customers buying a drill or a tea towel "museum visitors" are wandering about taking pictures and of course she's here - Munro's Indian Scout, with which he has broken all speed records in New Zealand and also on the salt lakes in Bonneville (if you haven’t seen the movie "The World's Fastest Indian "with Anthony Hopkins, do it now!)
It's a beautiful sunny day so we wander around the city which is really nice and relaxed and even find the Munro bronze monument before continuing. Now, we have done our "pilgrimage" we head towards the Fiordland and Milford Sound - the alleged scenic icing on the cake. It starts to pour down again and the next day is stormy wet, and gray. One sees from the countryside next to nothing and so we decide that this is the perfect day to finally be taking the car for its MOT, this way at least we do not feel cheated out of time where we could do something better. We have relatively quickly found a shop that advertises WOF service (warranty of fitness, the MOT is called here). Mechanics in all countries seem to work in the same way - you do not know exactly what they are doing the whole time, but it definitely takes hours - here too ... Well, as there is nothing else for us to do anyway, we don’t mind that much sitting around in the waiting room apart from the draft. In the end we get both, new MOT and tax - mission accomplished!
Slowly we dawdle towards the Fiordland and now the rain even turns to snow. Sometimes camping really is not much fun.
We wake up to a mountainous landscape with icing on the tops (it is bloody freezing) but at least it has cleared up and we can admire views which once again I haven’t got enough words to describe, because we have exausted the most enthusiastic word choices already for the rest of the country. What can I say: In the clearest lakes that you can imagine are reflected snow-capped mountains and trees "amazing, beautiful, indescribable, more beautiful, most stunning ... ..!". One can see the trout that Kevin unfortunately is not allowed to catch, because at the moment it’s closed season – and poor Kev is itching to get amongst them.
We seem to be slowing down more and more and it is also getting more crowded here - probably because the Milford Sound is no secret (even if you want to walk the trail of 54 km, you have to book it half a year in advance). In most places, due to the cold season there was not much going on, but here rain, snow and cold doesn’t detract the flow of visitors.
The last free campsite before Milford sound is ours (we think) - we could not have expected that it would actually be possible to squeeze yet another 3 campervans between us and the view (the last one I think has at least 2 wheels in the lake)
We wake up quite early again, which is also good, because we want to be on time at the Milford Sound to take the first boat tour, because that one is the cheapest. From our nice neighbours, a young Dutch couple, who have been on their honeymoon for 2 years, going around the world we get a coupon, with which the 2nd ticket is half price. The way is longer than we thought, and there is a tunnel where we must wait for quite some time for the traffic lights to change and then we still can’t hurry, because it's icy. In the end we arrive just in the nick of time, find the right tour office for our reduced ticket and then everything works as it should, and also the couple from Holland are on the boat so we have an interesting chat with the two and they give us a few good tips for South America We repay with advice for Thailand.
The Milford Sound is definitely more beautiful as the pictures of it, we are most definitely out of superlatives describing the scenery by now. After one and a half hours we arrive back at the jetty and absolutely loved every minute of the trip. We are looking forwards to taking lots of photos on the way back for which we had no time this morning. Now however, we can suddenly no longer unlock the car and when we finally find a way in, we discover that the battery is completely dead (again). While we still try to understand what is going on a man with jump leads and a big smile appears: “You’ll need these, I think – you left the lights on this morning”: says the hero of the hour. I'm really overwhelmed by so much kindness - the man actually has been waiting for us with the jump leads, because he suspected that our car would not pass the Bosch test and when I want to show my appreciation, he waves us off and jumps into his pick-up truck and with a "Have a nice trip" drives off.
On the way back out of the fjord we pull into a lay-by with a particularly nice view. As soon as the car doors open 3 Keas land on the roof in search for food. We and a lot of tourists who flock from a bus take photos of views and birds, but even after we are back in the car they are still trying to find a way into it. Initially that's pretty funny, but then they start to demolish the door seals and even when we leave it takes quite a while, until the last one finally decides to fly off - so now we have to explain to Rebecca why the door seals have chunks missing.
In the evening we arrive at a campsite on a lake, where firstly we believe we are on our own, until just before it gets dark a man with his dog comes by. He tells us that he is camped a little further away and thought he should greet his neighbours. He is a possum hunter and spends many hours and kilometers laying baits, which he must again check in a few days to collect the poisoned animals (no, I will not comment on this). He expects 150 possums, which he then skins and sells the furs for $ 10 a piece - the dog gets the meat - well, he is still alive, so that must be ok.
In the 19th century there were so-called acclimatization societies in the colonies, which had the intention to improve nature in the new lands. All kinds of plants and animals were imported from trees over flowers, herbs, livestock to birds and fish everything was in there, and not just from their own home country - no one has cheerfully jumbled everything together and then waited what would happen. Often the new plants and animals spread furiously, they repressed ancestral flora and fauna, and finally became the plague. Regarding Possums: they are hated by New Zealanders and one is not squeamish in the methods of getting rid of them again. I once saw a sign on the roadside it said: "if you see a possum, act like a Kiwi" (which means press on the gas and run it over).
To us the man is certainly very nice and I can not make the world better but I certainly find this insight very interesting.
We have already the second day with bright sunshine and head towards Queenstown.
We imagined the town to be quaint, but it's crammed with tourists and very modern. Almost every house is a hotel, motel, backpackers hostel or one of the huge apartment blocks, which remind us of over-sized rabbit boxes and so we just keep going. The area is amazing. Around the turquoise lake, which is so clear that you can drink it (Kevin also sees plenty of monster trout) tower snow-capped mountain ranges, which are reflected in the calm waters. The road winds along the shore and again we stop and simply marvel at this beauty. At the very end of the lake we find a camp which is located right on the shore and lots of driftwood so we quickly light a campfire which we share with our neighbours, 3 young Mexicans.
Then we find a local radio station, which plays really great music nonstop. Glenorchy is smaller than Waldaubach (our home with 470 inhabitants), but has its own radio station and what a gem it is. We snuggle into our sleeping bags, turn on the lights off and enjoy the starry sky, the music .... and life!
When we depart in the morning our Mexican neighbours are still asleep. We have our first traffic jam in NZ - a huge flock of sheep is being driven along the road. Then we see a sign which leads towards Paradise - that we need to look at.
Here, I can now do away with prejudices about paradise. Much is true, but some must be added: that is, the way to paradise is narrow and stony and a dead end. It climbs up a valley and leads through riverbeds. There are no pearly gates at the end and St. Peter also is not waiting for us (he probably is busy with lambing) and we are also quite high up into the mountains, not in or above the clouds. There is a crystal clear lake, a lush green valley, a few houses that are fabulously beautiful and all you can hear is birdsong.
Whoever gave the place its name, he was right.
We are glad that we took the detour and when we get back to Glenorchy we meet the Mexicans again who especially turn around to say goodbye to us can and give us a few places for South America and Mexico that we need to visit when we are there.
We are looking for a way through the high mountain lakes plateau and both the weather and the environment could not be better.
The only problem in this country are the sand flies - they are not picky, as Kevin discovers to his dismay, because they bite him also, with the small difference that I'm used to it, which means among other things that the bites heal faster (sand fly bites are actually a lot more unpleasant than normal mosquito bites - they itch a lot more, longer and scratching makes it even worse). I can ignore them better and it actually seems as if sand flies like Kevin's blood more. For the first time since we are traveling I have the impression, as if he is bitten more often. I must confess in all honesty, that I am a bit gleeful (eh delight), because until now he has always and everywhere boasted that I am his best mosquito repellent ....
We stop at a lake shore for the night and the little bloodsucking monsters are waiting for us as soon as the doors are open at least a hundred of them are in the car and while I'm cooking supper Kevin sits in the car and tries hard to crush every mosquito, he sees, because he is afraid that otherwise they will completely suck him dry at night.
Crossing the Haast Pass we stop at lots of viewpoints and from one of them we hike along a path that leads to the Blue Pools, a series of water basins in the crystal clear glacial river, of deep blue colour. You can see right down to the bottom and spot trout hovering in there, We have to cross two of the hated suspension bridges, but they are built stable and don’t wobble quite so much.
In Haast there ain’t much to do and see so we enjoy fish and chips before we drive back. After all the spectacular scenery we have seen so far we are both a little disappointed from this alpine pass, but I think for one we are a bit spoiled by now and the many mosquito bites especially where Kev is concerned have dampened the moods a bit too.
This evening we look for a real campsite the first time in a long time, because we really need to do some washing and have a shower – it’s only so long you can do without.
The mountains here are relatively sparsely populated, which is explained by the stony dry landscape. The few farms that we see all have irrigation systems so that at least the Grass grows on some fields for agricultural animals. Everywhere are trenches in the golden earth and soon it dawns on us that this could once have been gold country. In fact, we find signs later that tell about the gold rush in the 1860s when the area was swamped by fortune seekers digging for the precious metal everywhere in central Otago.
We pass a sign for Naseby and remember that a friend of Mike who we have met in Tasmania lives here and decide to see if we can find him. Naseby reminds me in a way of our home. It is also a small village on 630 meters above sea level, where everybody knows the other (so it's easy to find Eric) and where people have time for a leisurely chat. Most of all we like the sign: Naseby - 2000 Feet above worry level.
We meet Eric and his wife in front of his workshop, he is just working on his Weston (a motorcycle that has been assembled from a Weslake Speedway engine and a Norton frame), he’s preparing it for a race weekend. Of course, we talk a while, Eric shows us his projects in the workshop, his wife invites us for supper and we show the two of them a few pictures from our website and tell the corresponding stories. Eric and his wife in turn tell us interesting details about life in New Zealand in general and in Naseby in particular. Thus we learn, for example, that the place also has gold mining roots and because was here no water in winter (the line was frozen), they had to do something to fill the time so they practiced curling and now the small town has a year-round curling rink and even international championships are held here. They also have a bob sleigh track and Erik tells us with a grin that it’s not recommended to try it with the natural reflexes of a biker as you lean the wrong way and tend to hurt yourself……
The next day we drive back towards Timaru, because Mark has organized tickets for the weekend so we can all have a night out together in Christchurch, where one of his friends is playing with a band.
This is actually a long drive for a concert, but still a nice change. As Rebecca has decided not to stay overnight but return after the concert because of the kids we are all quite knackered when we come back at half three. We stay the whole weekend, watch the 3 parts of the Hobbit movie together. Although we have seen some of the movie locations now in the flesh we can if at all then only recognize them with a lot of imagination.
We also drive to the next town to visit a market and it seems to us quite a long way. At home you would probably not even consider the idea to accept a one-hour drive for a market - that's the disadvantage of sparsely populated countries, everything is always connected with a lot of driving.
After a few days rest at the Whitley’s we make one last discovery tour. First, we plan to stay on a DOC campsite just below Mt Cook. On the way we stop at a - well, what should I call it? - combination of museum and gift shop, which is very nice and if we were only here on a holiday, I could really be tempted by a lot of things that I like ... ..then we continue along Lake Tekapo from where you can already see Mount Cook or Aoraki (the highest mountain in the country) as it is called in Maori language, in all its glory. When we get there, however, the weather has closed down, the mountain is hidden under thick blanket of clouds and its pretty cold up here. The campsite is very exposed, has no spaces for a tent and also everything is full with large motor homes. So the decision is taken quickly to continue until it is almost dark, and then we stop much further south and closer to sea level. Although the campsite is right next to the street and stretches along a river bank it is still not noisy as there is not much traffic here.
I'm so used to all the waters being crystal clear that I do not even check it as I fetch water to cook potatoes directly from the river. After dinner I also get the dish water there and only now I see all the dirt and larvae swimming around in it... oh well, it's too late to worry about that now anyway, we had a few extra proteins in the meal, so what - us poor globetrotters have to take what we can get.
The next days we wander along the south eastern coastline along roads that we've left out before. Kevin plays his role as an animal researcher and takes videos of pubescent sea lions, practicing to fight and we find many new bays and beaches. It is quite windy and often pouring with rain, so as we arrive at Slope Point, the southernmost tip of the two main islands of New Zealand. We wait for a pause between two rain showers and then run as fast the old legs allow along the path to the lighthouse - or better to what's left of it and make our photo of the point at which we are farthest away from home. Bente lets us know that if we had dug ourselves from Waldaubach diagonally through the earth we would have come out about 460 km further south - from now on, we are therefore as good as on the way home!
The weather keeps deteriorating and for tomorrow the forecast warns of storms and now we have to find a sheltered campsite.
We remember a DOC site with many shrubs and sheltered coves where we passed a few weeks ago and decide without further ado, to try our luck here.
We reach the campsite in the early evening and put the tent up. As a precaution, we use all guy ropes we have - hopefully that will be enough - if not, then at least we know that we need to come up with something better for Patagonia.
There's even a toilet block with kitchen - although no cooker, you have to bring your own, but at least it is closed and quite cozy and I am happy to be able to cook here rather than outside or even in the tent awning which would just not be possible today. We have bought a kilo of fresh green mussels at the supermarket, and all the ingredients for a white wine/cream sauce all served with fresh baguette. It is absolutely delicious and once again we feel like kings (except for the white wine which at $ 10 a bottle is not very kingly even if you are as little spoiled as we are by now because it tastes like vinegar and burns in the stomach – it’s not even fit for making a sauce really).
Wind, rain and hail are hammering on our tent all night but it holds up well (Patagonia here we come). The weather is still no better - on the contrary, it’s blowing even be worse, so we decide to stay another night.
After a leisurely breakfast we go to the nearby beach. The waves are amazing, we walk up to the Picnic Bay, where it’s possible to see fossils in the rocks at low tide. Although it is low tide, the sea is so rough that we do not dare to venture out on the rocks. Instead, we sit on a bench in the shelter of the trees and have our ego reduced to its rightful place among the wild nature’s forces. After a while we drive to a lookout point on the cliffs and discover that there are actually surfers out there?!
2 hours we sit in the car and watch the insane suicide candidates with excitement - it storms, hails and rains. Again and again I try to brace myself against the wind and to take a video or photos, but you can not keep the camera and yourself calm enough.
Back at the campsite, we check whether our tent still stands and retighten the ropes, all is well.
We now meet Johannes, a young German who enjoys a year off here. He works as a chef with a work and travel visa.
We talk long about our respective experiences in the wide world before we all disappear in bed.
The storm is still raging for many hours, but in the morning it seems at last the sun has won and so we sit on a bench in front of the kitchen for hours talking again until we finally decide to drive towards Dunedin together because Johannes is heading that way too. Again, we find a new "scenic route" and admire the coves that lie in the haze of the still roaring waves and the exceptionally beautiful sunset at Brighton beach (by the way this Brighton beats it’s British rivals hands down) then we find a really nice campsite, which has among other things a cozy kitchen / lounge and here we learn now that Johannes has in a few hours his 27th birthday - well that calls for a party doesn’t it?! We all decide quickly, to spend an extra night here. The two men want to spend the next day with drinking beer and fishing. I look forward to spend a few hours sitting on the beach and finally have some time to myself and read a book - for both I rarely have had the opportunity in the last 27 months and so I enjoy it immensely.
The birthday boy catches a little fish and an eel (Kevin goes empty-handed again) - both fish are released back into the sea by the men and everyone enjoyed the day.
In Dunedin we then say goodbye to Johannes - with the mutual promise to stay in touch. It's nice that among young travelers we meet again and again people who give us the hope that tolerance and humanity will not become extinct.
We now make a detour on the Otago Peninsula - there are New Zealand's only castle and an albatross colony to visit. Again, we have talked so long that it is already quite late when we arrive at the end of the peninsula. Of course, the cliffs with the albatrosses are closed in - the ticket prices are peppered and we too stingy. We find a bank and wait until we see every now and then one of the giant birds circling in the air - of course, much too far away to make a picture, but still .... On the beach we find the skeleton of a spoonbill - I would have preferred to see a living one from a distance though.
The drive to Larnach Castle is a bit hard to find as many roads have been closed thanks to fallen trees and suchlike. In the end we still don’t see it, because we do not think it will be worth $ 20 per person just to take some photos of a miniature castle and also we have to hurry up now, because today we have get back to Timaru – funny at one moment you seem to have all the time in the world and the next minute it’s gone.
Tomorrow is our appointment at the tattoo shop ... after Kevin waived his great desire to bungee jump from the famous bridge in Queenstown for financial reasons, we both want to treat ourselves to a genuine Maori Tattoo as a souvenir at least.
On the way we stop in the old port district of Oamaru and stroll through the many art and antique shops. Oamaru is the capital of Steampunk, a cultural movement that links science fiction with steam engines and Victorian period costumes - a bit a la Jules Verne. There are plenty of shops selling art and clothing in steampunk style – it’s a lot of fun to browse here.
In the evening we arrive back in Timaru at Rebecca and Mark’s place. It is our last weekend here and a glance at the speedometer of the car that the two have lent us shows us that we have traveled 7645 Km on the South Island alone - WOW.
Now the time has come and we are at the tattoo shop and negotiate prices for the decorations that will remind us for the rest of our days of our adventure. The needle artist is both very nice and understanding and we agree on a price in the end, which we all can live with somehow.
After 5 hours Kev has a tattoo that extends from the wrist up to half the upper arm (so much to a small Tattoo) and I a much smaller one on the upper arm. The artist tells us that we are represented in the symbolism of both Tattoos as well as our journey and this country – we think the result is very beautiful and like it a lot.
Now we have to prepare for departure so we wash and pack our belongings. Tomorrow Rebecca will drive us to Christchurch, where I have booked a motel room for 3 nights as our flight from here to Sydney / Santiago is early in the morning of October 14 and apart from the fact that we would like to see a bit more this city and we don’t want Rebecca to have to spend half a night in order to bring us to the airport once again.
I have tried unsuccessfully to find a couch surfer place for the last few nights in this country instead of staying at comparatively expensive motel, but at least there is a kitchen here, so that we can cook something for ourselves and it will at least save a little bit and I look forward somehow to be able to spend the last days for us - sometimes privacy falls short when traveling and 4 walls with a private bathroom and kitchenette come pretty close to "my home is my castle ...."
For our last night in Timaru we invite the Wheatley family out to dinner to at least show a little appreciation for all they have done for us like providing us with one of their two cars for 2 months with which we could roam the country for nearly 13,000 kilometers, with 3 stopovers by them where we could take a shower, do laundry and sleep in a comfortable bed (the youngest son of the family had to give up his room for us every time – poor soul).
So now the time has come, everything’s packed we check around the house at least 3 times, to make sure that we have not forgotten anything and what is not now in the suitcases now, we won’t need!. We make our farewell photos with the family, the kids and the dogs and I do one of my swaps with Rebecca. For those who don’t know what this is all about: when we had to say goodbye to Johan in Thailand 1 ½ years ago, having to part ways after six months of traveling together I had this idea to swap something with people along the way that meant a lot to us. The subject had to be small, not valuable, but have a symbolic character for the person concerned and / or their lives. We then had to take it with us, sometimes for many thousands of kilometers and then to pass it on to the next person. The whole thing has become a fascinating story. I would like to write it down someday and then hopefully send it to the people who were involved, and then they shall know how it went on ... For us, this whole thing symbolizes in a special way the up - and downsides to traveling, the give and take, hold and release, subject to very special people who we will never forget.
Well, anyway - the printed cloth that Kerry has bought on Australiaday and has considered as symbolically is now passed on to Rebecca who in turn gives us an egg cup with a picture of a Pukeko on it. A species which, in contrast to the kiwi exists in many countries but that we have only seen in New Zealand. Pukekos are no rarity here, beautiful and for us a good symbol when it comes to this country.
Then the moment has come when we must say goodbye to Mark and the children and let Rebecca bring us to Christchurch.
The next day we spend walking our feet sore in the city. It is incredible to what extent the series of earthquakes almost 5 years ago has devastated everything, because the consequences are still evident.
Everywhere you see even now ruins, buildings in various stages of decay and reconstruction, cranes that tear down skyscrapers and pull new ones up. Throughout the sprawling urban area gaps prove that there once was a house and there are also a lot of abandoned houses with cracked walls and empty windows, reminiscent of people who have fled and often struggle to this day with insurance companies. They have lost everything, their livelihoods and in some cases even the courage to rebuild their lives, and if so then not here, but in a different place, which appears safer to them.
The city shows not only the sad picture that arises when humans lose the battle against the forces of nature, but also the positive. Working with cohesion and inventiveness those who have remained have started to reinvent this once beautiful city (it’s former glory you still can recognize in spite of everything).
In the center we find the ReStart market, where shops, restaurants and even bank branches are housed in colorful containers and everywhere in between we find works of art that have been made from the rubble. The whole thing somehow conveys a beautiful and even cheerful "now-more-than-ever-feeling" and somehow we hope that the container market will remain.
The earthquakes have destroyed both old and new buildings, the Cathedral lies on the ground, but also the new Millenium skyscraper is uninhabitable. I think the reconstruction is so slow, because they are trying, among other things, to make everything better now. One is making quite an effort to save what can be saved, but with the latest technology. Historic buildings are subsequently sat on springs and rollers to make them earthquake-resistant. New skyscrapers are built according to best possible standards, and attempt to be aesthetic. Many artists have embellished the town with paintings, sculptures and ideas that only artists can have. We would like to do a tour with one of the historic trams, but then we decide in the end to save the 20 dollars per person and walk instead – which is healthier anyway and even manage to fit in a visit to the museum and botanical gardens, because they are free. In the end we are completely footsore and we can hardly move anymore when we are finally back at the motel.
Our last day we spend lazing around recovering - we had planned to go back again and see some more of the city and museum, but the old bones don’t want to so we give in and have a rest instead in the hope that this way it will be easier to get out of bed and to the airport at half past three in the night...
Unfortunately we have no phone, and thus no alarm clock and when we ask in the motel, if they can provide us with an alarm clock we are causing unexpected difficulties, because in the age of modern communications our request represents a seemingly new requirement for the owner. It takes until the evening until they find a spare mobile phone that they lend us for this purpose and even preprogram it for us and now we have a problem: on the one hand we are completely illiterate where mobile phones are concerned and secondly we have the problem that we fear it might either not function properly, or we might not hear it - with the result that both of us get as good as no sleep and thus indeed hear the cell phone alarm clock, but are so tired that we almost sleepwalk when we have to get up.
With the shuttle bus, we and our luggage, which now feels as if it weighs half a ton we are being transferred to the airport. My fears that there must be something wrong with our Ticket (I found the special offer on the internet and we paid less for two than anyone else wanted to have for one ticket) dissolves at the counter (I told you so says Kevin), but then comes yet another problem: Kevin is picked up by customs officials and has to open one of our bags because they stumbled upon our petrol stove when X-raying the luggage. After an eternity, he comes back with a long face. Even though the cooker was empty and left to air for a week it was confiscated! While we sit brooding about our loss the customs officer comes back - Kev must open the same bag again, now they believe that there is also a gas cartridge in the luggage. Our objections that you need no gas cartridge for a petrol stove fall on deaf ears and so my husband disappears once again. By now I am getting nervous because the boarding has started… It turns out that the gas cartridge is our totally harmless kettle! Literally at the last minute Kevin arrives back and we can get on the plane. Now of course I have something else to fret over for the next 24 hours: will our baggage arrive in Chile too? Although it is painful to have lost our stove the loss of tent, sleeping bag and motorcycle clothes would be a disaster!
The views of the snow capped mountains of New Zealands Central Alpes in the first sunlight are really beautiful but our mood is at rock bottom and that after we have loved land and people so much.
Overall, we have driven almost 13,000 km. Summary: One of the most beautiful countries that we have visited so far!
Kiwis as fruit taste nowhere better than here!
Kiwi birds - there are more of them than we thought even if their survival is not secured one hundred percent. We have only seen one subspecies and apart from that they were only on street signs and we saw a few stuffed specimens in museums.
The remaining kiwis (if one disregards policemen and customs officers) were extremely friendly, humorous and weatherproof. You can recognize them by wearing shorts and wellies (gum boots for some of you) in all weathers and if they do not wear wellingtons you may see them barefoot instead (also in every weather). They live mainly from agriculture, are restricted by sheep in their natural habitat, are more British than the British, and especially on the South Island more Scottish than the Scots.
We leave the country with a laughing and a crying eye, because as usual there is still an awful lot we would have liked to see here but then again it is a relatively expensive country and also we miss our Liza very much. In addition, after 10 months in Australia and 2 ½ months here, we look forward to some more adventure and a taste of the exotic in South America.