New Zealand

Undoubtedly the best way to experience New Zealand is from the comfort (or lack there of) of your very own campervan. Our journey started in the capital of the south island, Christchurch, a city more than a little reminiscent of Oxford. Here, many ex-oxbridge ex-pats reshaped the landscape and biology of the area to make it seem more like home. From Christchurch, we travelled down to Mt Cook, where we did an amazing walk up to the lake at the base of the glacier. From there we journeyed to Queenstown where we did a jet boat ride through the gorge, watching rocks fly past inches from the boat. Queensland itself is not great, and it's hard to see what the hype is all about. Nevertheless, the extortionate prices and overly touristy atmosphere drove us onward rather quickly.

From Queensland we drove down to Te Anau where we visited some glow worms in a cave - the caves themselves were pretty remarkable with waterfalls and whirlpools inside. We also did a day trip to Milford Sound (actually a miss-named fjord) where we stood under waterfalls and watched the seals play around the rocks. From Te Anau we made our way to Wanaka where we tried our hands at white water kayaking down the River Crutha. Great fun, if a little tough going, and a good way to see some good scenery.

After Wanaka, we travelled up the west coast visiting both Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers (where we spent a day trekking). We also saw the pancake rocks and visited a Kiwi sanctuary where we finally got to see some Kiwi's of the avian variety. After the Kiwi sanctuary we tried out a little caving and cave rafting which was awesome. Several non-stop action packed days left us feeling pretty tired. So we decided to head inland to a little place called Hanmer Springs where there is a collection of thermal baths. It was so good there that we even decided to stay a second night! Not something that happened too often (before or afterwards) on our whistle stop tour of New Zealand.

Probably the most amazing experience we had in New Zealand came when was when we went on an albatross spotting trip in Kaikoura on the east coast of the south island. On the trip we saw about 3 different sub-species of albatross, lots of petrels and thousands of Dusky dolphins. Then out of nowhere a Blue whale turned up to have a look at our boat! A 1 in a billion chance encounter. It surfaced about 10 feet from our little boat, (its head alone was about twice the size of our boat), it had a good look at us had a good blow out and then swam on its way! Simply incredible!!!!! We managed to get some good pictures of it too despite the surprise! It made the 18 meter sperm whales we saw the day before on a whale spotting adventure look tiny by comparison!

Having exhausted most of our time in New Zealand touring around the south island, we were forced to make a rather short visit to the north island. Stops included a trip to a volcanic geothermal park, some unforgettable beaches, a Maori cultural experience and last but not least a spot of Zorbing!

New Zealand Collage