Day #195 The Kiwi Road trip
We had decided to shorten the time we would spend in each country by this point so we only had 2 weeks in New Zealand. Therefore, we decided to focus on the South Island, which many locals told us was more beautiful in terms of nature. We had heard and read so many incredible things about New Zealand that we were prepared for paradise. Nevertheless, New Zealand still managed to overcome our expectations!
You might expect beautiful nature spots but it is hard to imagine the depth and dimension of each of these sites. Also, how perfectly explored they are in terms of tourism. New Zealand is very much aware of its nature gems and preserves them with great care. Each visit or trip we did, we felt we could still appreciate nature at its purest state and not be bothered by plenty of tourists. But then again, doing day trips in India and the rest of Asia for so long clearly had not set the best example for us :)
Because we wanted to have a bit more comfort during this trip and because New Zealand has less camping facilities than Australia in general, we decided to go for a better campervan for those two weeks. We upgraded to an Apollo Mercedes car and were so happy with it. It was comfortable, spacious and even had a romantic roof tent, which I had to beg Antonio to camp in for most of the trip until he gave in on the last nights! We had a great fridge and kitchen space in the back and by now, we were both very experienced campers. We knew how to quickly set the bed, the curtains, when and where to wash ourselves (aka the freezing lakes) since there was no showers in the free campsites. We also knew what food to buy and how to easily cook it with the camper stoves. We continued eating healthy and going to the organic shop for groceries during this road trip but our dishes became even more elaborate as if we were at home. We would laugh saying that we probably were the campervan cooking the most exquisite food of all considering we had a chef and a health coach on board.
We started our trip in Christchurch and our first stop was the impressive Castle Hill with its thousands of limestone outcroppings. Dalai Lama called it the “Centre of the Universe” back in 2002 and we couldn’t wait to soak in some of its energy. The boulders took many shapes and forms and it was only a matter of time until we had chosen one rock to meditate on. There is no doubt that a beautiful landscape in nature is very inviting for spiritual practice and this was the case for us many times during this road trip.
We went on to visit Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. There was not a soul in Lake Tekapo, it was us and this shining translucent lake again, inviting us to dive deep into the centre of our being. We found a beautiful wheat field overlooking one of the lakes where we just decided to lay down while the sun came down. It was magical. But along with great silence and wide landscapes came deep introspection. I feel this trip is to be made if you are looking for a time to look within, if you are ok with spending time with yourself. Time stops here and there are no distractions so you really have to be willing to go within.
In general we thought people in New Zealand were welcoming and nice. However, we encountered a few people in the more isolated areas that didn’t seem too happy to have tourists around. We were frightened a few times unfortunately. In one of those times, we were about to go to sleep in a free camping site when locals approached with their big truck with their headlights on and slowly came closer and closer until they bumped into the back of our car before they ran away… We had been warned. There was not a big damage and fortunately we had insurance but we felt it was not the correct way to communicate…
Despite those “hiccups” we were having lots of fun. Visiting the beaches and playing with its huge algues, going for deep forest treks in the Te Anau Fiordland and kayaking in the spectacular Milford Sound. A magical experience we had, was visiting the Te Anau caves which are amazing in terms of geological structure but that are also filled with its mysterious glow-worm creatures. These are pretty much like worms that live in the ceiling of the cave and that have a tiny light to attract food. When you are in the pitch-dark cave it feels like you are looking at constellations up close. It is absolutely breathtaking. Another of the highlights was Queensland of course. Queensland is considered the capital of the world in terms of outdoors sports / activities and we were looking forward to get involved in some of them. We had so much fun doing luge down the tracks, experienced gravity with indoor skydiving and tested speed by going on a speedboat ride and doing 360º multiple times. Antonio who was the most excited at first felt the most sick in the end :) . Still, we absolutely loved seeing how much was available and we know this was only a very small glimpse of what they have to offer considering we only had a day there.
We were heading to Wanaka Lake next and the Fox Glacier and although the landscapes continued to surprise us we weren’t able to enjoy them as we wished unfortunately. In fact, we got caught in heavy rains for 3 days that left us no choice but to stay in the car for the whole day. Even if we wanted to proceed in our itinerary we couldn’t because rains had washed away bridges and cars so the main road we needed to take was closed. At the beginning, I couldn’t understand how the whole island could come to a stop just because of the rain but we quickly understood this is common and because the South Island is so abundant in nature there is quite a high chance of landslides or such.
With this, we ended up having to change our plans and cut our trip short. We had to go back from where we came which involved long hours of driving straight and we would have little time left. We decided to go up northeast, stopped in Kaikoura to study the seals and ate delicious crayfish on the grill. We also visited Marlborough and its delicious wineries, and took 2 days to relax in the peaceful bays north of Nelson. There was no one to be found there and it allowed us to make up for the days we had spent in the car.
We are heading to Japan next, a much-expected country for Antonio because of its cuisine!