We picked up the camper van, promptly named her Nessa and stopped at a supermarket for supplies before hitting the road. Our first stop was Hammer Springs, a couple of hours away from Christchurch. Once we’d “checked in” to our campsite, we drove into the town to visit the natural thermal baths. There were so many different pools at different temperatures, our favourite was the adults only, aqua therapy one, which pummeled us from all directions but was essentially relaxing! That night, we were both eaten alive by mosquitoes as we were parked next to a forest and neither of us got much sleep as there was a bit of a storm in the night… not a great first night in the camper but we kept our chins up!
The next day, we drove to a place called Motueka, which was meant to only take three hours but ended up taking about five?! We still have no idea how this happened! Anyway, we arrived quite late and parked up next to a kiwi farm, which was pretty cool!
Unfortunately, even though it was really quiet that night, neither of us slept a wink because of our bloomin’ mosquito bites!
The next day we had a shorter drive to Nelson, so in the morning we drove to Abel Tasman national park, which was just gorgeous.
We pulled up, made a cup of tea (…painstakingly on the camping stove) and sat looking out on this view for an hour or so…
Then we drove to Richmond, just outside Nelson, where we stayed overnight. We picked up some more supplies from a supermarket and relaxed in the sunshine, before cooking dinner. One annoying thing was that the camper only came with one tiny saucepan and a small frying pan, not good when there’s two of you and you’re cooking pasta! Some campsites provided kitchen equipment, some didn’t… we had one meal in three parts, it was only pasta!
We then headed to Picton where we would be catching the Interislander ferry to Wellington. We thought the sat nav was taking the mickey at one point as it was a continuous bendy squiggle for miles around hills and mountains. We were a bit queasy when we arrived but didn’t have long before we drove onto the huge ferry.
There were some amazing views from the ferry as it passed from the South Island to the North. There was even a magician on board!
The ferry took over three hours so when we reached Wellington we were pretty tired so we found a campsite near the port and parked up. There was a huge jumping pillow in the campsite, I hadn’t seen one before so we went and had a go before dinner – so much fun! There was a group of kids who were a bit confused to see us on there but we had a great time!
The next day we had a long drive to Taupo, it took about five hours and on the way we drove into a huge patch of fog which was a bit scary, visibility was seriously reduced and as I was driving on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar car, I had white knuckles by the end of it! Fortunately this bad weather only affected us for an hour or so and it soon cleared and we could see the views again, which was lucky as Taupo has a huge, beautiful lake which we saw as we pulled in. After yet another meagre meal, we were forced to have an early night because of a heavy rain storm, but we figured, at least we weren’t in a tent!
We then made our way up to Rotorua, which several people had warned us – smells like egg. There is a lot of volcanic activity here, so the sulphur smell is quite strong but you kind of get used to it. We had planned to do two nights here so that we could do white water rafting so we booked that for the next day and spent our first day in the campsite swimming pool and natural hot springs, which were between 38° and °42 – phwoar! Next to our campsite was a bubbling thermal pool (not for swimming in) and hot water beach, which was a bit surreal!
There was also a boiling mud pool nearby, which was quite cool – very smelly though!
We had our dinner, under the watchful eye of a group of Pukekos – nosey native birds…
The following day we were picked up at 11am and taken to our white water rafting adventure. We decided to go for the grade five course down the Kaituna river – grade six is commercially un-raftable! Well, you only live once, I’d thrown myself out of a plane… how hard could it be?! It was only when Scott, our guide told us how high the various waterfalls that we’d be going down were, that I got a bit nervous! One, he said, was as high as the trailer that we’d be putting the boat on – fine, no big deal…easy peasy! Another was as high as the top of the minivan – yep, okay…fine! And then there’s one that is higher than the building behind you – huh?! We would be going down New Zealand’s highest commercially raftable waterfall, a whopping 20ft high! Gulp! After a very brief briefing and a bit of practice on land, we took to the water. It was one of the best things we’ve done! We had so much fun! We didn’t capsize, although Scott tried to knock me out of the raft at one point, which didn’t work – however I nearly knocked the guy behind me out with one of my legs and pulled a muscle in my bum from jerking the other one at a funny angle. But the point is, I remained safely on board! There were only four of us in the raft so we got to swap places and take turns doing different stretches of river, which was fun! We tackled the small waterfalls without any problem, we even stood up for one of them!
When we arrived at the big one, we stopped near the top and Scott told us to look over the edge – GULP! It looked like such a long way down! No going back though! We paddled forward, as Kim and I were in the front, we got down into the front section and held on so tightly! Then, we were off! It felt like we were freefalling for ages!
Then as soon as we hit the water, it was like being in a washing machine (or what I’d assume that’s like!) When we finally surfaced, it was an incredible feeling!
We looked back up the waterfall, amazed not to have fallen out and desperate to do it again! It was such a great afternoon and the pictures, I’m sure you’ll agree, are hilarious!
On our last day with the camper, we drove out to Wai-o-tapu thermal wonderland to see some geysers and other volcanic things. Unlike most geysers, the Lady Knox geyser at this park was manually triggered to go off at the same time everyday so that tourists are guaranteed to see it erupt – handy! They do this by pouring environmentally friendly soap suds in, which apparently breaks the surface tension and causes a reaction!? So, the man poured it in, then we waited…
It was really cool to see it erupt, but weird that the air smelt so soapy!
After the geyser had done its thing… we headed into the main park where there were loads of different thermal pools and canyons with different colours and smells.
Then we drove back to Auckland, dropped the camper off and Sonia’s daughter Kerry came and picked us up. We headed into the city for a couple of drinks before finally making our way back to Sonia and Pete’s house, where we thought we’d only be staying for a couple of nights…