We’ve started to get a hang for this campervaning business. A couple of things we’ve learned; grab the Department of Conservation (DOC) camping leaflet. It’s available at most i-sites, which are info centres in most towns. It’s super helpful for finding less expensive sites than holiday parks. They are usually more rustic (but not always), the scenery is usually better and prices increase as the amenities do. We also recommend checking out Jucy’s website for campsites. It’s really helpful!
Also, unlike driving in Canada, the route is very rarely straight. It’s more often narrow and curvy. Take your time. It will take you longer to get to your destinations because you have to constantly slow down to accommodate the curves.
Day 17 – Pelorus Bridge – Give Me Mosquitoes Any Day! Yeah, You Heard Me!
In the Nelson region, we chose the Pelorus Bridge Campground ($30/night non-powered) for our first stay. It’s only a 45-minute drive from the town of Picton, where the ferry is located. The campground is hidden in the forest with the sites along a shallow river. Fun Fact – Remember the scene in The Hobbit where the dwarves are going down the river in barrels? It was filmed here! The water is pretty cold, but for $2 you can rent a tube and float down. There is also a tree that is home to Weta. What’s Weta? Well this is how you find out, you will need to lie on your back with a headlamp and look up the trunk of the tree through a hole in the base – it’s a little freaky as we weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. Weta is a type of insect species and they are HUGE! Afterwards, we took a night hike to a waterfall where you are rewarded with some glow worms at the end. So cool! It looked as though the soil was lit up with clusters of tiny stars. Be sure to have a good bug repellent, especially one that is made specifically for sand flies. Sand flies are much smaller but pack a mean punch in terms of their bites, which last much longer and itch way worse than a mosquito bite.
Day 18 – Hamner Springs – Um…Aren’t You A Little Old For Waterslides?
And on we went to Hamner Springs. We weren’t sure what to expect here but we set up shop at the Pines Holiday Park ($39 CAD/night- powered site.) It was a decent campground, close to town with a rugby field and a few outdoor exercise machines beside it. This was the first place where we really saw evidence of the recent earthquake in Kaikoura. Buildings all had to be inspected and designated safe here before they could re-open. This town is kinda like a small Banff with cute coffee shops and a nice spa/small water park. There are numerous walking/hiking/mountain bike trails along the river here, and we took advantage of them! We planned on hitting up the water slides after a sweaty hike, unfortunately the cost to enter was $80 CAD/person. It was so bloody hot out that we were only interested in going down the water slides and not the hot pools, so we had to skip this one. It would’ve been totally fun and worth it if we would’ve planned to spend the whole day there but we needed to get back on the road to Christchurch. Pro tip – Hit up libraries in NZ for free Wi-Fi. The one here was accessible from the parking lot.
Day 19 – Christchurch – A Warm Welcome
We were excited to spend some time with friends over the Christmas holidays knowing that this would be a hard time for us being away from our families. Kara, Ross, Courtney and Sam welcomed us with open arms…and open beers. They set us up in their spare room which was certainly a nice break from the confines of the old rust bucket. It didn’t take long for everyone to get to know one another, especially when you play Cards Against Humanity. The first night started off with a bang, oh…and Clair being handcuffed by the police. Did we mention they’re both cops?
Day 20 – Touring Christchurch
The next morning we all popped two extra strength Advil and headed into the city. First things first. Hangover food. Then we toured. It was really interested to see how the city is still rebuilding after the 2011 Earthquake. The city constructed a temporary mall (Re-Build) out of rail carts after the original mall had been destroyed. It received such a good response and was very popular that they decided to make it a permanent structure. Some areas are permanently “Red Zoned”, meaning the area is unsafe and restricted to rebuild on it. You’d see entire blocks wiped out, with only driveways as remnants. The tour continued into the supposed slums (pfff…), the beach, a very beautiful and expensive suburb known as Sumner, and finally a beautiful mountain viewpoint of Christchurch. The night ended with us making tacos for supper for the entire family.
Day 21 – It’s Rainy and Windy. Let’s Go Jet Boating!
The next morning, the roles were reversed. This time it was Ross’s turn to babysit us and Kara needing to work. Ross is the proud owner of a jet boat. He was pumped to take us out for a spin at nearby Rakaia Gorge. Although it was a little rainy, it wasn’t going to stop us. This boat is freaking fast! It’s a little two-seater capable of gliding along shallow waters, up/down rapids, you name it. Of course, Clair was first up. You know you’re in for a ride when the operator hands you Earphones and Goggles. Just like that…ZOOM…off they went. Kik nervously went next. On our way back home, we stopped off at a the Darfield Bakery which is best known for its custard pies. So well known, that they were sold out when we got there! If you’re in the area, let us know if they are really that good.
Day 22 – How much Nog is too much?
Skipping winter has been nice but honestly, it’s really not Christmas without snow. And it’s especially not Christmas without Egg Nog. Which they don’t sell in NZ. This pretend Christmas has gone on for too long! This meant we’d have to make our own to bring to the Christmas dinner. Thankfully, we have just the person to contact back home for such recipes, Keir Johnson. Now with the instructions and all the ingredients, it fell in our hands to put it all together. Let’s just say the last time Clair baked, her Cinnamon Buns were as hard as hockey pucks. So much pressure! Once it was all put together, everyone was hesitant to give it a try. That batch was drunk so fast that Clair had to whip together another one. She ended up quadrupling the recipe for the Christmas Dinner.
Day 23 – I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
We woke up on Christmas Day wishing everyone Merry Christmas back at home while they celebrated Christmas Eve. Kara and Ross once again went above and beyond to make us feel at home by wrapping gifts for us under their Christmas tree (By the way, the tree was decorated with Shotgun shell lights. Nice touch Ross!). Later that night, we were invited to join them at a friends place for Christmas dinner. Now feeling confident in her baking, Clair promised to not only make more Egg Nog, but Nanaimo squares as well for the party.
Kik – I can’t look! She’s going to ruin Christmas by poisoning everyone.
We all filled a chilly bin (Kiwi speak for cooler) with wine, beer, Egg Nog, Nanaimo squares, pavlova (it’s SO popular here), and White Bait. What’s white bait you ask? It’s these small minnow like fish that you batter and cook into fritters. Pretty delicious! Christmas was awesome and we are so thankful that Kara, Ross and family were willing to take in two Canadian orphans. With plans made to meet them again for NYE, we knew we had to get back on the road to explore the South of the South Island. So, on Boxing Day we checked the oil and hit the road for Wanaka, Queenstown, and Milford Sound. But that’s for next time:)