September 4th - We got up and checked out of the camp by 10am, we parked up in the car park for a bit and got showered making the most of the facilities there and had our breakfast in the van. We then drove and parked up in the town by the lake. We decided to get on the Skyline Gondola today so caught the cable car that took us up the mountain. We decided we would try the luge ride at the top as well so bought a combo ticket for the cable car and then 3 luge rides at the top. At the top we looked out across Queenstown from the viewing platforms and got some good pics and then walked up to the entry to the luge rides. We picked up a helmet each and then caught a seperate lift up to the start of the tracks.
The luge's were like go karts with handlebars which you pushed forwards to go and pulled back on to stop. We had to go on the 'scenic' slower track first to get used to it and then for our other two rides we were able to go on the fast track which we both loved. When we first got up the mountain it started to snow and gradually got a bit harder which made it more fun as the tracks became quite slippy. From there we caught the cable car back down and just chilled out in the afternoon walking around the town and using the internet etc. We then went to the supermarket before driving out to one of the two campsites out of town, the other one to the one we couldn't find the night before last. We found this one fine, and it was very dark so we just parked up and closed the curtains, nobody else seemed to be around so we got away with not paying!
September 5th - We drove back in to Queenstown in the morning and checked back into the same campsite we had used before for this night as we were going out drinking so needed to be near the town.
We parked up and plugged the powercable in and went to play minigolf which was right next to our campsite. Neil went round in 52 and Emma in 62 but she was the only one of us to get a hole in one! It was realkly nice weather so we just spent the afternoon chiilling out, we were going to go wine tasting but it was a lot more than we thought so we just chilled out in the van. We had planned to meet Liam, the Irish guy we had met in Iguazu, back in Argentina at 7.30pm in a bar in town and we went on a bar crawl around Queenstown. It was a good night and good to catch up with him and by about 2am we were very ready for our beds and both slept very well!
September 6th - We were again checked out at 10am and left Queenstown for the hour and a half drive to Wanaka stopping on the way to buy some local fruit which this area is known for.
We arriaved in Wanaka which is another skiing town, a lot smaller than Queenstown but really nice and right on a lovley lake with and we went to the tourist information centre. We got lots of information about skking etc and then spent the afternoon sat down by the lake and chilling out. We drove out of town a bit about 6pm and cooked dinner in the van as that night we had bought tickets to go to Cinema Paridiso. This place is recommended by Lonely Planet as a 'must do' and we found out why. It is a one screen cinema which shows about 3 different films each day. We booked for the 9.15pm showing of the newest Batman film. The cinema is so unique, it is filled with sofas of all different shapes, colours and sizes, armchairs, recliners and even a yellow Morris Minor car which you can sit in.
We got a nice leather two seater couch right in the middle and really enjoyed the film. Halfway through the film is stopped for a 15 minute interval where you can eat whatever you want, they do main meals if you pre order before but we tried the recommended home made ice cream and cookies which were really good. We walked out of the cinema about midnight and drove 6km out of town to a Department of Conservation campsite which was very basic but a lot cheaper than all the others and only about 2.50 pounds each.
September 7th - We slept in a bit until about 10.30am and Neil spoke to Dan and Ross on his mobile as they were out back home on saturday night. We drove back in to the town and went swimming at midday. We swam for about an hour and then had a shower. We then drove back to the information centre and Emma booked her shuttle bus tro the ski fields for the next day, Neil decided against going skiing in case of his knee.
We then visited Puzzle World, another recommended place. It had illusion rooms, holograms, mirrors etc which were all really good and then an outdoor maze which was excellent. There were two challenges, the first was to go in the maze and find the four coloured corners in any order which we managed in about 40 minutes. We then went inside and had a cup of tea before attempting the second challenge which again was to find the four coloured corners but in specific order, we split up for this and both really struggled to find the first corner and after about 45m minutes and still looking for the second corner we gave up!! We drove back into town and went to a ski rental shop where Emma got her trousers, gloves and mask for about 9 pounds, she decided to wrap up and use her own waterproof jacket.
We then went to the supermarket before driving back out to the same campsite to cook dinner and chill out for the evening.
September 8th - Emma woke up at 7.30am to have a shower in the campervan for the first time. She then woke up Neil to take her to the bus stop for her shuttle at 8.45am to Cardrona ski fields. Emma was very excited! The shuttle took about 40 minutes and when she got there she went straight to the reception to buy her beginners lesson and day pass which was NZ$95. She then went to get her skis, boots and poles before meeting her group for the first lesson. There was about 30 people which were then split into 3 groups. Luckily the group that Emma was in had nice friendly people in it, which was 3 couples and a family of 3.
The lesson started with the right basics and then gradually started to go higher and higher up the mountain which Emma preferred! By lunch time Emma was going to go off on her own for the afternoon but after speaking to the instructor she was told she would go into the higher group so we could go on the chair lift up to a proper slope! The afternoon was so much fun and was so pleased that she was the only person who didn't fall over all day. very proud! at one point an old man ploughed into her but still managed to stay up somehow! At about 3.45pm it was time to go and get the shuttle so reluctantly I went to take my skis back etc (wanted to stay longer!) and then got the shuttle back. A couple of people were late for the bus as a chairlift got stuck up the mountain for over an hour but we set off about 4.
15 to get back to Wanaka at 5pm where Neil was waiting for Emma. He was very pleased that she hadn't broken anything! Neil had had a bit of a chilling out day and also went to the golf driving range where he had 80 balls. He also checked us into the campsite and did the laudry. We went straight to the pub for some apres ski drinks - the best bit Neil said! Emma took back her ski stuff and then went back to our campervan to go to bed.
September 9th - We got up and had our showers before leaving to go to Franz Joseph. The drive took about about 5 hours through some amazing scenery. When we got there it was chucking it down but we still booked our Franz Joseph 1/2 day glacier tour for the next day.
If it rains we'll just get wet! We first stoppped off at Fox Glacier
town but as the freecamping was nearer Franz Joseph we decided to go there. After booking the trip we went for a quick drink before driving to find the camping spot. Luckily it was easy to find and only10 minutes away from the town. The toilets were a bit scary though as they were just a very deep drop....didn't want to go in the night in case we fell down it! We made our tea in the campervan, opened some wine and then went to sleep.
September 10th - Emma got up first to have a run around the lake where the camping spot was. She then had a shower in the van and we both had brunch as it was quite late and we had to eat before our glacier walk.
At 12.30 we went to meet our tour guide and group for the afternoon. There was about 30 of us put into 2 groups. We were given a tag for around our necks which showed that we could hire some waterproof trousers, hat, gloves, waterproof jacket, boots and crampons. After we were all kitted out we got on the bus for the 15 minute drive to the glacier. It wasn't raining luckily but you could tell it was about to! When we got off the bus it was an hour walk to the ice. The walk was through forest, and along and through rivers. We were gald we weren't wearing our own boots! It was very rocky terrain but a nice easy walk. When we got to the ice we put our crampons on our boots and then split into 2 groups - we were with the advanced group somehow! Straightaway we pulled ourselves up a rope up some steep ice steps, the guide was just infront of us with his pick axe hacking away at the ice to get a pathway for us all.
We followed the guide all the way to the half day point through tunnels and up and down steps, it was amazing that we were walking on ice, it was fantastic. We were on the ice for about 2 hours and it was chucking it down but it didn't matter as the rain was warm! The guide was very informative about how the glacier formed and how it is receeding but doesn't blame global warming as he thought this was a myth! We were also shown how to make steps out of the ice which was very difficult hen Emma tried! We then made our way back to the bus to go back to the town but as there had been an accident with an earlier group we had to wait for ages as a helicopter was picking someone up from the ice. When we got back we went to the pub to warm ourselves up and then drove to the same camping site as last night to park up.
September 11th - We got up this morning and drove to Christchurch which took about 6.5 hours. The drive was the best yet for scenery as we went through forests, by lakes, round snow capped mountains and through lots of fields full of sheep, cows, venison and lots more. We were glad as initially we were going to drive through the night last night which would have meant we would have missed it all. When we got to Christchurch we went to the supermarket and then checked into a site for the night. After showers we walked to the nearest pub which was packed and had a few drinks before going back to the campervan to sleep.
September 12th - We got up this morning and went swimming at the local swimming pool.
We then got some lunch and headed into the centre of Christchurch. We walked around the city for a little while and found a cheap internet cafe and spent the next couple of hours in there. Later on in the afternoon we got back in the van to make our way out of Christchurch as we had decided to make our way to Hamner Springs. We drove about an hour outside of Christchurch and found a nice campsite off of the main road, we went sure if campers were allowed there but took a chance.
September 13th - We got up early and left the site at 9am and managed to get away with another free night! We drove for about 45 minutes before arriving at Hamner Springs. This is a complexx recommended by all the travel guides and the place with really nice. We were virtually the first people in there and were in the water by 10 past 10.
The springs were really nice, lots of different pools of all different temperatures. We spent a couple of hours there before having some lunch, it was a really nice sunny day so we sat out in the park. We then made our way back to Christchurch stopping off at a 'historic pub' recommended by the Lonely Planet and had a quick drink. We were back in Christchurch by about 3pm and drove around the city looking for somewhere we might be able to park up for the night but there wasn't really anywhere and a lot of signs were around. We found a road that was quite quiet that would have to do but it was only still early so we didn't want to park up yet so we parked up back in the city so Emma could call her bothers friend Ben, who had moved to NZ last year in Christchurch. Emma spoke to Ben's wife Fiona and she invited us to there house straight away and said we could park the van on their drive for the night.
We drove about 20 minutes out of the city to Sumner which is a little town on the coast, and found their house. It was really great to see them and felt really strange being in someones housse for the first time in ages! We decided to go out for a few drinks and some food as they had a friend round for the evening. We went to a bar just round the corner and after our first drink all the lights went out in the bar and all along the whole street, luckily the drinks were still flowing so we decided to stay in there and drink by candelight. We left after another hour when the power was back on and went to another bar Ben had recommended we try, it was such an experience! As we walked in it was packed and basically we walked in to a Rugby clubs presentation night, we stood at the bar and watched four different teams have all their awards presented, it was quite rowdy and a good laugh.
We then went for a curry, the first of our trip before going back to Ben's house and watching the All Blacks beat Australia to win the Tri Nations.
September 14th - We were up quite early and went for a walk along the beach with Ben, Fiona and his friend and his two kids. We then left them and just chilled out on the beach on our own for an hour or so before heading back to theirs. Ben's a keen surfer and had said he would take us in to try it out, Emma didn't fancy it and wanted to wait for Australia but Neil hired a wetsuit from the local shop, borrowed a board and other clothing from Ben and was soon in the waves. After a very quick lesson Neil was absolutely loving it and spent about an hour and a half trying to surf! He was pleased that he manged to stand up once (and fall off very very quickly) but really enjoyed it and felt really good about carrying it on in warmer waters in Australia! We then went back to Ben's house for a cup of tea before saying our good-byes and driving into Christchurch.
When we got to the city we had a quick walk around the botanical gardens and then went to find a campsite for our last night. We could have stayed on Ben's drive again but we needed to empty our toilet before taking the van back. We went to a different site than last time and it had a real friendly feel about it and we got chatting to lots of people giving us advice on Australia and what to do. We cooked our last tea in the van (beans on taost) had some wine then went to sleep.
September 15th - We got up early and Emma went for a swim while Neil packed his stuff in the campervan and then we drove to take it back. Luckily it didn't take long to take it back and for them to check the van over (no problems) and we then got a bus back to the city centre to catch our 2.30pm bus to Picton. The bus was small and quite cramped and took 5 hours to get to Picton, we were glad when we got there! We got dropped off at our hostel which was really near the ferry terminal for our 8am ferry in the morning. After checking in we made our tea and watched a movie, it was strange being back in hostels again after spending over 3 weeks in a camper.
September 16th - We got up to catch our 8am ferry to Wellington which took 3.5 hours. Once we got to Wellington we walked to our hostel which is where we stayed last time we were in Wellington, and dropped our bags off before having a wander round the city and then going for a swim in the local leisure centre. We then went back to our hostel to have our free meal for our tea in the hostel bar and had a few drinks there too. We had quite an early night as we had to be up quite early again.
September 17th - We caught our 8am bus to Auckland which took 12 hours. The journey didn't seem too bad as we're used to long bus journies now and there were lots of stops as well. We got to Auckland at 8pm, Neil picked up his birthday cards from the restaurant where we got treated to and then we rushed to our hostel to get ready as we were meeting Paul and his fiancee at 8.30pm at a mexican restaurant. We made it and they were late! We then had a lovely meal with them and realised we will probably never see them again which was strange. After the meal we went back to our hostel to go to bed.