Claudia, Peter, Lasse & Sil discovering the world

New Zealand - southern island

The flight from Singapore to Auckland was only half full, so we each slept well on a row of chairs. We picked up our rental car in Christchurch and drove briefly through town to see the impact of the earthquake the week before. The city center was fenced off, but already on our short drive through town we saw lots of damaged and collapsed buildings, cracks in the streets etc. Over a hundred people dead already and more than a hundred people still missing and/or covered under the rubble. Terrible what an earthquake of only 6,3 Richter can do.

From Christchurch we went 200 km north to Kaikoura, for some whale watching. We slept in Dusky Lodge, a real backpackers place. The nice thing about it was that a number of guests could earn their bed by working three hours a day, cleaning the rooms, kitchen or bathrooms. So every morning we saw this small army of backpackers cleaning away, earning their place to sleep. A nice formula called “woofing”. The whale-watching was good. A purpose-made boat took us out 8 miles to the open sea and we spotted 3 large male sperm whales. It is a real impressive sight when they hunch their backs and dive down. We also saw a large school of dusky dolphins that made us really happy. They feed in large groups, one part making jumps and splashes in the water in order to steer the fish towards the other part of the group. They take turns in feeding and jumping / splashing. The sea was a bit rough, so unfortunately Lasse had to make a small offering to Neptune …..

Next stop: Dunedin, back to Christchurch and 350 km further south along the east coast. We left after our whale watching trip and arrived in the evening. We visited Hanzo and Jessica, our old neighbours from Amsterdam, who were having a 7 month break in Dunedin. Lasse and Sil much enjoyed playing with Casper and Tessa, their old friends from Amsterdam. It was very nice to see our old neighbours and chat away, about (world) politics, our travels and life in New Zealand. We got a lot of tips about NZ, making it even more difficult for us to choose. Together we went for a nice walk on Otago peninsula, where we saw a live sea lion and a dead seal. Next day we took a ride on the train through Taieri gorge, offering splendid sights and vistas, passing over high wrought-iron bridges. Peter’s engineering heart became truly alive again, while our children were playing Uno in the train (obviously not sharing Peter’s enthusiasm). On our last day in Dunedin we went out shopping: new shoes and clothes for Claudia and the kids, and a new pocket-knife for Peter.

After Dunedin we headed further south to Curio Bay, where we found a lovely little cottage overlooking the sea. We shared it with a young couple, did our own cooking and thoroughly enjoyed that after eating out for nearly six months in southeast Asia. Curio Bay is known for a group of Hector’s dolphins that live, feed and breed close to the shore. The first morning we woke up to see them jumping out of the water from our bedroom window! Truly amazing. We visited the most southern point of the South Island: Slope Point, which was nothing special except that it was the most southern point of the South Island. One afternoon we helped Nick, our landlord who also was a sheep farmer. We had to drive the sheep towards his shed where they were automatically weighed. There were three dogs helping us, and it was nice to experience firsthand how things go at a sheep farm. The dogs were all geared up and very wild, the sheep were afraid as hell and panicking, so there was quite a lot of blood flowing and one sheep died of a broken neck.

On our way out of Curio Bay we stopped at the farm of Nick’s brother to experience the shearing of sheep. Loud music, four young guys shearing away and 4 other packing in the wool and cleaning. A rather electrifying experience, both for us and for the sheep! On our way up north, we stopped over at Wanaka and Te Anau. From Te Anau we made a day-trip to Milford Sound, one of the fjords in the southeast. Very beautiful scenery all around, but everything is heavily regulated due to the large number of tourists visiting NZ every year. NZ is definitely a place to see, not a place to be. Too much adrenaline- and thrill-seeking activities on offer. On the west coast we stayed some days at Franz Jozef, one of the two glaciers that nearly come down to sea-level (Fox being the other). Did a big hike to an elevated viewpoint overlooking the enormous glacier. Splendid. Second stop on the west coast was at a lovely little lodge called Beaconstone, which was 100% eco, solar power, dry toilets, etc. Most importantly – our kids were welcome and the atmosphere was very friendly (some lodges plain refused us because of our kids – “sorry, we don’t do kids below 12”). In Beaconstone Lasse celebrated his 10th birthday. We bought him a big birthday cake, which he shared with all the guests in the house. On our last day before going further north, Peter spent an unforgettable day at a knife-making workshop while Claudia and the kids also had an unforgettable day at the pancake rocks and amazing blowholes at Punakaiki. Lasse and Sil had difficulties dragging Claudia away from the blowholes.

After the workshop and the blow holes we still had to drive for some 4 hours to the starting point of our 3-day hike in the Abel Tasman national park, which was scheduled to start the day after. So we arrived late and our room turned out to be a typical youth-hostel, muffy little cabin with 4 bunk beds. Great! Next morning we were lucky to be able to hire our cooking gear at the youth hostel, after which we were picked (quite literally!) up by our water taxi to be dropped off at the start of the first leg of our hike. We walked for three days along the northern coast – beautiful see-throughs, crisp golden beaches, (very) cold water, and sleeping in lodges with only bunk beds, cooking on a small camping stove – you can imagine how much we all loved it! Claudia and Peter were foolish enough, however, to do all the carrying; next time Lasse and Sil can carry their own backpack! The hike was something special, because on every day we had a crossing that could only be crossed at low tide. So we had to plan around this and it was quite special to cross these wet lands.

One night in Nelson to catch our breath and then on to our last stop on the southern island: the Marlborough Sound (no, we still don't smoke). We had heard from this very, very nice lodge, far away at the end of Kenepuru Sound. After doing our groceries for 3 days, we 'enjoyed' a long and very windy, bumpy and hilly road to the lodge, but it was well worth the trip. There were kayaks for us to use, fishing gear and a hot spa overlooking the sound Lasse and Sil went out on a fishing trip  and caught a nice big Kahawai, which was immediately smoked to perfection by the owner of the lodge. That evening we ate fish together with the famous NZ green mussels, also served by the owners of the lodge on their weekly mussel-evening for all the guests. Very nice. After some days of relaxing and kayaking it was time for us to move on. Back again along the windy road along Kenepuru Sound towards Picton, where the InterIsland Ferry would take us to the northern island. When checking in on the ferry, we learned it would take more than three hours, where we had counted on three quarters! Wonder whether we would have enough time to return our rental car and pick up our camper......

NZ phase I finished, but there is lots more to come! 



Oma + Opa

Hallo Sil,
ganz herzliche Glückwünsche zu Deinem Geburtstag! (Hier ist ja noch der 2. April - bei Euch aber schon "Dein Tag").
Lass Dich verwöhnen - Dein Geschenk von uns wartet im Sparschwein auf Deine / Euere Rückkehr.
Dickn Kuss (und Gruß an Lasse, Mama & Papa) von
Oma + Opa

Karen uit Mangawhai Heads

Hallo lieve allemaal,
En... Claudia nog schelpjes gezocht in Waipu? Peter nog een bakkie gedaan zonder internet? Waren de avocado's uit de straat lekker?
Wij vonden het heel gezellig dat jullie er waren.
Lasse en Sil, jullie krijgen een poot van Cruz.
Mooie laatste dagen nog hier down under.

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