New Zealand

I always knew that I would enjoy this part of the trip. We have been to New Zealand before albeit 11 years ago BK(Before Kids). That trip was a great experience and it often made us wonder about emigrating there, although we obviously never got around to that. This time it was about sharing with the kids some of what we had seen before and doing some new stuff. My son had been promised some time in a camper van around his birthday and this was the perfect opportunity. New Zealand is still the fantastic place we always thought it was. We have always found it difficult to put our finger on exactly what it is that makes it such a great place. Partly it has to be that it is very familiar. There are none of the language difficulties we had just experienced in Central and South America, and the climate is also temperate like the UK. Ultimately, we decided the key factor is the fact that it is not overcrowded unlike home and so many other parts of the world, and having gone quite quickly afterwards to Vietnam, which is crowded and hustling and dead busy, I’d have to say that is probably it.

Rotorua felt different to how I remembered it. Last time we weren’t there long and didn’t spend long in the city. This time was different. Although we did some great stuff, going to Rainbow springs, visiting Hells gate spa and going to a Maori village, this time there was more time to look around.  It’s a beautiful place, despite the Vulcanic smell.

This time around we did some HelpX to aid affordability. HelpX is where you agree to help out someone via a website in return for food and lodgings. The first one was in Taupo helping with some house clearance, however we did get some time to look around at the magnificent Huka falls and go down to the lakeside. We also helped out at the weekly market which was a lovely experience. Logistically getting to Hawkes Bay was tricky but we pulled it off and spent a week on a farm helping a family tidy up their letting accommodation, which we stayed in while we did it. That was really comfy and great with lots of space, and Boots the rabbit to look after. Next stop was Wellington. We had been here on our previous trip, but again had not stayed for long. This time we did it justice and it was one of my favourites. It’s a big city (the capital) but doesn’t feel like it. We had a good walk up to the Victoria viewpoint. Spent lots of time in Te Papa, went to the WW1 museum and visited the latest attraction. Peter Jackson’s Weta film workshop.

Wellington is the crossing point to Picton and South Island. Although Picton is OK, there is not huge amounts to do. After a lovely days walk up Queen Charlotte point, the next day we hired a car and went wine tasting around Blenheim. The logistics for the next step, getting to Christchurch to pick up the van was scuppered by the recent earthquake ear Kaikoura which had shut highway 1. Instead we took the long way around. I dropped the family at Hamner Springs, while I went on to Christchurch to stay the night with a friend and pick up the van. The next 2 weeks were a great tour round South Island taking in Kaikoura, where we did the famous whale watching, and went to a Seal colony. Omarua to see vert cute Blue Penguins, Queenstown and Wanaka to enjoy the beautiful scenery and finally majestic Mount Cook National Park, which we hadn’t been to last time. A fantastically great place to enjoy the outdoors. Finally we dropped the van back at Christchurch and spent few days there awestruck by their earthquake damage, but still able to enjoy exploring the city and going to the museums, including a revisit to Rutherford’s lab.