Leigh has already done a lovely blog about what she’s done the last couple of weeks. To be honest my movements have been quite similar so I won’t bother repeating them as such but give a bit more detail about what we did and show you lots of pretty pictures.
One thing worth mentioning is that whilst camping in the middle of nowhere in a minibus may sound all exciting and glamorous but next time I’m sticking to the Hilton chain. Leigh probably liked it more than I did.
So yeah, our last week in Rotorua was very nice. On one of the days Ingrid leant us out to her friend Trish and we went to an amazing local place called Kerosene creek which is a natural hot spa. Because it had rained for 2 days straight before it was cool enough to get in, although we didn’t stay in long because it was still very hot. Apparently you can’t really go in in the middle of summer. Prizes awarded for guessing why my hand is behind my head.
Whilst in Rotorua York City survived relegation. Because of this I tortured a cat for about an hour trying to make her wear my York City shirt. Eventually she fell asleep and I gained victory.
I’d tell you more about Wellington but as Leigh describes we mostly spent it worrying and deciding to leave. As far as I can tell we only took one picture and it didn’t really work. This is across the harbour at night.
Life in the minibus wasn’t that bad really. It was nice to just be the two of us. As darkness fell and we had nowhere to stop and found ourselves halfway down dirt tracks to nowhere getting overtaken by sheep on mopeds it did get quite stressful. The first night we aimed for a freedom campsite (free, nothing there but legal to park in) and didn’t find it so we parked next to a sign riddled with bullet holes instead.
Someone hates 50kmh speed limits.
The best bit of camping was undoubtedly waking up still alive. The first night we feel asleep in pouring rain and woke up to this, which was a genuinely great start to a day. You can see my bed inside the open door. Luxury.
Driving on that second day was amazing. The plan had been to see the south island after we’d worked in Wellington but that would have meant coming in the middle of winter (plenty of places in the south island are much closer to a pole that the North of Scotland so it’s chilly) but coming now we got a few nice days. The scenery is genuinely stunning. Ironically we mostly took pictures of man made things like dams to prove this.
We’d taken so many pictures of the south island our battery ran out in Queenstown. Queenstown is a very pretty place on a big lake. Cleverly it’s invented itself as a centre for adrenaline junkies and it’s now one of the bigger towns in the country. (not saying much mind you). It’s pretty yeah but it’s a bit weird being in New Zealand and getting served by an English person every time you go into a supermarket. Because it was so small prior to developing in this way there are no angry locals who don’t like travellers or anything really, everyone’s foreign and selling things like jumping off a bridge. It was getting busy as the ski season is starting and at our hostel everyone was looking forward to spending months together working as a toilet cleaner in the resort. Each to there own but I’ve really enjoyed meeting kiwi’s and seeing random places. Would love to go to Queenstown again for a weekend mind.
We went from Queenstown to Dunedin but regretted it instantly when we got dropped in some docks reminiscent of the Wire. People had told us Dunedin was nice but we’d arrived in West Baltimore. Luckily, in the less attractive areas of Dunedin you don’t get mugged at knifepoint as often as you do in the ‘real’ hood so we walked into the city centre which turned out to be absolutely lovely. A real gem actually.
We spent a day walking round and seeing the sights. The best of which I want it to be known Leigh understated.
What do these cities have in common? Rome, Paris, London, New York, Istanbul, Tokyo, Cairo, Milton Keynes and Mexico City? Not sure? None of them contain the worlds steepest street! It was amazing. Most people will roll their eyes reading this but you’re just haterz. How many streets have you ever seen? Well in Dunedin there is one that’s steeper than all of them. Half way up some Taiwanese tourists started taking pictures of us. Look up Taiwanese travel blogs until we appear please. It was like the perfect day ever. We have pictures on Leigh’s phone (We’d still not charged the camera battery, which almost makes me cry thinking about it.) and will show you one day. The scene looked a lot like this though.
We only took one picture of Dunedin which is a nice picture but it deserves more. One night wasn’t enough for the city actually, wish we’d stayed longer.
As Leigh said we stayed with our friend Simon so I won’t go over that again. But it was great to see Simon and he was so generous letting us stay 3 nights and showing us round!
I can imagine Christchurch isn’t much fun to live in any more but visiting I really found it fascinating. The city was perhaps New Zealand’s most attractive place to visit prior to the Earthquake. Apparently a very British place historically and known for being almost immune to earthquakes and the general odd weather New Zealand gets. But over 2 huge earthquakes just over 2 years ago that was all ruined and devastated the city.
The enormity of what this means is staggering when you think about it and the value of stuff still sitting in hotel rooms/offices in the red zone must be huge. Travellers like us must have been unable to retrieve passports and belongings which still just sit there now. Simon told us after a few weeks they allowed certain people a certain amount of time to retrieve crucial stuff to businesses. The amount of people was limited at any one time because basically there was every chance an aftershock would occur and they’d all be killed.
All the old architecture obviously wasn’t designed for earthquakes as the buildings in places like Wellington where they’re more common are. You still can’t get into the old city centre for safety reasons.
2 years on and the Cathedral is as it was just after the quake. Could you imagine how gutting it would be if in York the minster was condemned and the streets around it fenced off?
The second earthquake was less strong but far more deadly. All the buildings were weakened by the first and the second hit in the middle of the day. Near the boundary of the red zone you can still see shops set up as they were at the very time. This hairdressers has clippers out and the open sign turned. Presumably someone was wandering around for a few days with half a haircut in the aftermath.
The flip side of this is that the rebuild plans are truly inspiring and I have no doubt that in 10 or so years Christchurch will be one of the best cities in the world. Temporary things to brighten up the place have been put into gaps where buildings once were. One example is a mini golf course around the city, this hole stands where a Thai restaurant used to be.
Other ‘gap fillers’ include a dance floor with an i-pod station where people just turn up and dance, a huge bookshelf to be a book exchange and all sorts, it’s a great idea and makes a difference walking round.
The temporary business district is called the re:start mall and is a community of shipping containers. It’s cool to walk around, and apparently the people of Christchurch have taken to it a lot but it’s clearly not ideal. The banks for example don’t really have banking facilities as we found out to our expense.
Leigh took this picture which is quite poignant. The pointy building on the right is the cardboard cathedral. Whilst the real cathedral is out of use and may take years to renovate/rebuild they’re making one out of cardboard. The white chairs are a tribute to those who lost their lives in the quake. Just beyond the green traffic light is a space where a large building once stood. The building was the CTV building where the worst deaths occurred. After the first quake it was passed safe to return but wasn’t and when the second hit is literally just collapsed killing 115 people including a lot of foreigners who were at the language school in the building.
Seeing a city which is literally still a disaster zone is really creepy but we’re so pleased we saw it; we only regret not seeing it pre-quake.
So we left Christchurch on Friday with an intention to go north and hopefully camp in picton a few nights and go to wellington and sleep in our new flat’s lounge for a few nights before we moved in and that’s as far as Leigh got…
Christchurch to ????
Everyone in New Zealand when you arrive tells you one thing. Hitch hiking in the south island is easy and the best way to get around. Everyone has a story about a great local guide who showed them unusual sights or went out their way to take them somewhere they weren’t heading to. Up until now we’d not had the chance/courage to try it but Simon spoke highly of it and getting to Picton is expensive.
Of course we knew full well we’d be the exception. We’d be the ones stood at the side of the road for 10 hours getting horrible stares or possibly being the first hitchers abducted and killed ever. At the end of our trip we’d be telling people our horror story as an extreme anomaly to everyone elses stories. It’s always the way.
We’d picked up some hitchers on our way down, a nice couple of girls from the USA and England so were owed some karma right?
So we got to the North of Christchurch and an appropriate road heading out the city to the main highway at about 9 AM. Ha, I though rolling my eyes. We’ll be here ages. Simon said not to worry if it took a long time to get picked up. Sometimes it would take a couple of hours or sometimes about 10 minutes.
After 5 whole minutes a car pulled over and a cheerful Kiwi woman popped out and said she and her husband were going to Blenheim which is literally 20 minutes drive from our eventual destination. We gladly accepted and they were great company, even going to the outskirts of Blenheim to drop us in a good spot to try and hitch again. OK so we’d got lucky, but the next one would be our bad luck story yeah? All we wanted was a ride to the town so we could camp in a campsite we’d seen that at least had hot showers.
So 5 more minutes later and a friendly policeman called Jeff picks us up and asks us if we’re getting the ferry to wellington. We say no we’re camping a few days and when we get to Picton itself he offers us a spare double bed in his house for our stay in Picton! Being English our first reaction is omg he will kill us in our sleep but he showed us the room got us bedding and connected our laptop to his unlimited internet and went out to a meeting; a couple of huge mistakes for a psycho killer to make…
But of course, he isn’t a psycho killer, he’s just a really nice man with some spare beds. So we’ve stayed 3 nights and are staying one more in luxury we could have only dreamed off compared to a chilly campsite. He’s been a great source of local info and we’ve enjoyed some great walks over the last few days in a late burst of Summer. After our first night he picked up 4 Germans who are staying here as well now and we all had a huge party on Saturday night until the early hours. It’s been great and totally unexpected fun.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to end up here and get a chance to explore Picton. Its slogan is “surprisingly perfect Picton” and that’s about right. There’s talk about moving the ferry terminal and the first thought is that it might destroy Picton as a town, but there’s another theory which is it would make Picton a destination in its own right. At the moment it’s known as ‘the place you drive through to get the ferry’ but people would do well to stay a few days and perhaps if it’s not overshadowed by the boats it would be stronger. Granted we’ve had awesome weather and company but it’s turned out to be another absolute gem we weren’t expecting.
Picton is at the North of the South island but it is protected by a labyrinth of ‘sounds’ which protrude into the Cook Straight. They provide amazing photo ops from the land.
Things got a bit Mario kart here- surely it depends on where you want to go????
Very cute. Aw me.
YAY 4 PICTON
So that’s all for now.
Getting the ferry to Wellington tomorrow and fingers crossed we’ll be there a bit longer than last time…
Byeeee xoxoxoxoxox luv from dave