Coming back to the South Island of New Zealand was a real trip down memory lane for John and I. Ten years ago we arrived here separately to explore. In Motueka, our paths crossed on the balcony of a backpacker’s, over a pasta dish I agreed to join John on a two day hike with an overnight stay in a rock shelter… and the rest is history. Playing such an important role in our lives, New Zealand had a place in our hearts ever since. Therefore, it was clear for us – right from the start of planing this big trip – to travel again to the other side of the world, but this time as husband and wife with two kids in tow.
It was very special to backtrack some of our early steps as a couple… with the girls, showing them a few of our favourite places and telling them the stories from “back then” all over again. But also to experience many more new Kiwi adventures – as a family.
Some of our highlights:
- Driving to the Lake Tekapo area on the Fairlie-Tekapo Road and spending some time around the most turquoise looking lake we’ve ever seen, was just breathtaking. We enjoyed a hike from our campground to Mt John and back along the lake in gorgeous weather. The light pollution here is so low that stargazing is amazing – even without telescopes. And we can highly recommend the campground of Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park & Lakefront Lodge: Just a few steps from the lake, the facilities are very clean and the toilet / shower block is heated!! All in all, it was hard to leave.
- The scenery around Lindis Pass that reminded us so much of the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
- Combing the beaches on the West Coast for Greenstone. John was convinced that he had found one. We actually all were… until a professional greenstone carver in one of the galleries shattered our enthusiasm. Still a nice stone though.
- Dramatic sunsets at the end of very wet days in Hokitika.
- Staying at Emma’s homely AirBnB in Richmond and meeting her and her lovely family plus all their animals (dogs, horses, sheep, chicken, rats). Our girls wanted to move in permanently.
- Whararaki Beach: A mystical path to get there, unique sand art, stunning sunsets, impressive rock formations and super cute baby seals. We all thought this place was special.
- Hiking the last section of the famous Abel Tasman Track (Wainui Bay to Whariwharangi Bay), building a driftwood house on the beach, moving into Whariwharangi Hut for the night (a brilliant hut!) and being taught a new card game (500) by some Kiwis – by candle light. Bordering on romantic.
- And straight away another night in a hut with no electricity or running water: Venturing up a 4×4 road (in a normal car) towards Arthur’s Pass (the first mountain John and I hiked together), speed hiking to the infamous rock shelter and back to Flora Hut where we made a fire to keep us warm while sleeping in the rudimental bunk beds. Cosy.
- Taking it easy, eating home-baked muffins, feeding sheep and wandering off to the glow worm forest while staying on Smiths Farm Holiday Park.
- Living in our new two bedroom tent. We can’t wait to make the most of it back home in Switzerland.
The learning curve:
- We were so naive! We literally arrived in Christchurch with two nights booked and a rental car organised. All the other nights, we thought, we’d book as we go along. That’s how we did it 10 years ago. But that’s not how it works anymore! After a sleepless night in Christchurch trying to find affordable accommodation for a family (but not succeeding), we changed our plan and bought a tent.
- The Nissan Sunny is a pretty ugly car, but has a boot like a tardis. Soooo spacious. Much to the amazement of onlookers we packed in two rucksacks, one suitcase, a six man tent, sleeping bags, blow-up matresses and our food!!
- Prepare yourself for chilly nights when sleeping in a tent in NZ from mid March onwards. In Wanaka, we found the surrounding mountains covered in snow and the car covered in frost one morning. Thanks to some friends who organised warm duvets for us we made it through the following night.
- We are almost certain now: It always rains on the West Coast of NZ’s South Island. Third time here – third time wet, wet, wet.
- Sand is a killer for cameras. Well, we had actually known that before, but got caught out again. When we presented the sand grains behind the lens to the manager of a photo shop, asking what we should do, he said: Throw it away and buy a new one. Even though it hurt a lot, that’s exactly what we did.