The next day we took the ferry to the South Island. In about 4 hours we were on, what is geographically titled ‘the other bit of New Zealand’, and took the scenic route, named Queen Charlotte, to Nelson. We stopped off at a little town called Havelock which is famous for its greenshell mussels. They were monstrous! We had found a quiet (and free) place to sleep for the night, by the river in Nelson. However, we were woken at about 4.30am to a brutal storm swaying the van! We thought it was going to tip over, so had to drive somewhere with a bit of protection from the brutal wind. This was our life now, a #camplife.

The boat to the South Island

Greenshell mussels!

We headed further south to Greymouth. On the way, we stopped off at Buller Gorge to walk across the swing bridge over a white-water river. At the other side of the swing bridge we went on a hike, and a little Piwakawaka Fantail bird followed us all the way around our trek. We took it to be a curious, overfriendly bird who clearly loved our company. I felt like Snow White. Alas, the Fantail follows humans because we disturb insects when we walk, and the Fantail snaps it all up. Clever little bastard.

Ednora definitely not nervous on Buller Gorge

Fortunately, we had signs to help us distinguish natural phenomena

We tried to find something Reefton was famous for. This was it.

After stopping at Reefton, a cute little town straight out of a Spaghetti Western, we stayed overnight at Greymouth.

The next day we visited Shantytown. It was an old gold mining town put together to show you what it was like during the rush:

  • There was a Chinatown. Even back then, the Chinese had cornered the world with their Chinatowns. When the Chinese first came to from Australia they were a huge spectacle. Like celebrities, many people went to see them come in on the ships from Australia. However, some feared them, their culture, and the way they looked, so many of them were treated with discontent.

  • Robert Hannah came to New Zealand in 1866 after an argument with his dad. After a few years, he opened a shoe shop. He married a woman called Hannah, so her name became Hannah Hannah. His brand still survives, and his shoe shop is the biggest in New Zealand.

  • We rode on a 121 year old steam train and even got to stand in the engine room/front/cockpit.

We were clearly in the gold rush region of NZ because every town we stopped off at was a former gold rush town. We found 0% gold. That night we visited a glow worm dell which was stunning. It was like being transported into the film Avatar.

That night we slept by lake Kaniere. In the morning, the scenery was breathtaking. The full moon was still high in the sky, blipping a clear day. As the sun overpowered the sky, steam perspired off the lake. The meditational sound of birds and ducks speaking with each other, along with the gentlest of flows in the lake, offered the calmest morning call. One fish jumped out of the layer of flat water to create a ripple, but it didn’t take long to appear untouched once again. We drove further south and stopped at Hokitika Gorge, also with a swing bridge. The water was a powerful turquoise, and we learnt how: it is made by mixing glacier ice, river water, and rock flour.

In a very rural town, somehow, this very niche shop survives.

Ednora looking for gold…

Bronze water at this waterfall just off the main road. There were so many waterfalls on this journey

Hokitika Gorge. I lost those trainers about a day later. It still hurts

We hiked to our first glaciers – Franz Joseph and the Fox Glaxier, which were like frozen avalanches. These glaciers were particularly impressive because they are some of the few that can penetrate temperate rainforest. That night, when shopping, and seeing three peppers for $15, I learnt that this country is expensive.

Franz Josef Glacier

The beast! Mt Cook

Fox Glacier

Ednora getting stuck into her gluten free wrap

We learnt that our camera has a timer on it, and that you can put cameras on the floor

Ednora looking for gold, again

Our next big trek was Roys Peak. It was a six hour trek, and a difficult trek at that. It was a steep climb, and windy, so just when you thought you were getting close, you would find yourself turning away from the peak. On the way down, we sat and ate at a quaint little graveyard (can I say that? Can you do that? Answers are encouraged), when a lady started to take something huge out of her backpack. It was a parachute! A few minutes later and she was flying to ground zero. I asked her whether she was scared, and she said no because she does it all the time. In fact, she was on her lunch break, so came for a fly. She’s the first person I’ve met who goes freefalling on their lunch break. Most people just check Facebook. Only in New Zealand it seems.

After descending from 1578 metres, we stopped off at the cutest little village, called Arrowtown. Much like Reefton, it was like a throwback from the American West gold rush. If you removed the cars, you could easily feel as though you had stepped back in time. I wondered whether I would ever like to live in a cute little photogenic town such as this, and then I decided I wouldn’t. I just wouldn’t.

Climbing Roys Peak

The summit!

Our parachuting friend

The quaint town of Arrowtown

Our next stop was Queenstown. This bustling tourist town is a playground for adults. If you want adventure (and have an infinite amount of money), you can pretty much do whatever you like, from paragliding and white water rafting, to drinking in an ice bar and throwing yourself off mountains (with a parachute). For lunch, we went to Fergburger, which was apparently a famous restaurant. It was pretty packed, but it was worth the wait. They were, and excuse my coarse language, darn good burgers. The buns were baked fresh next door in its sister shop, Fergbaker. We left Queenstown and headed for New Zealand’s biggest beast, Mt Cook/Aoraki. The road into Mt Cook was truly stunning. We were surrounded by the pillars of the planet, cutting shapes into the sky. We couldn’t wait to hike around here.

There’s a glitch in the Matrix at Queenstown

Approaching the beast

The next morning, we went on a couple of treks to the glaciers, and learnt why the glacier ice manages to be so blue:

  • The ice absorbs light at the red end of the spectrum, leaving only the blue light to reflect back to our eyes. Although snow is made out of water, it looks white because it is full of air. Air bubbles reflect the full spectrum of light, which we can see as a white colour – like the foam of ocean waves, or the head on a glass of beer. Glacial ice has compressed under its own weight, squeezing out the air, so it looks like blue water.

We also witnessed our first avalanche. Admittedly, it may not have been regarded an official avalanche, but it was loads and loads of snow falling down a mountain, so I guess it’s kind of an avalanche, right? The other trek, called Hooker Valley, was funny because it has a naughty name.

We were now on our way back up towards Christchurch, and stopped off at Geraldine on the way. It had a nice little museum where I played a few tunes on an organ over 100 years old. Christchurch was a bit of a different city. It was still going through rebuilding itself after the series of devastating earthquakes it had suffered, so was under construction. The cathedral in the middle of the city had been ruined, but it looked as though they were working hard to repair everything.

Ednora touched the bark

Auckland was hit hard by its recent earthquakes

Christchurch was our last stop before we flew out. We had spent 18 days in this stunning country, and for me, the highlights were the treks up the mountains, seeing Mt Cook, and simply looking out of the window at the views. Every corner we turned just grew more impressive. The country is truly stunning, and hosts the kindest of people who not only understand their native past, but encourage it to be at the forefront of their culture, which makes for a happier society. I would love to go back there, though not necessarily for $15 peppers, but certainly for more wineries. Definitely more wineries.