Day 1: After picking up our fabulous mini campervan, we had a long drive ahead of us to drive south to Te Anau. As soon as we got used to do it on the left side, the driving was quite enjoyable: on the south island there are some cool roads winding thru the hills, and very little traffic, making it perfect to do some rally-style driving:) On the road the most spectacular things were the lakes around Queenstown and the turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo.
Day 2: In the morning we headed early to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is rated #1 thing to see in New Zealand, and probably it is very nice on a clear day, but we had no luck with it because of the big dark clouds. On the way back we visited the picturesque city of Queenstown and successfully arrived on our last drops of fuel to Wanaka.
Day 3: After a short but spectacular hike to Mt Iron, we visited a site called World of wonders, and solved the longest (of course) maze of the World. It took us only 50 minutes:) This was probably the last time we had seen the sun, because as we crossed to the west side of the island, heavy rains started to pour upon us. The dark and calm water of Lake Matheson normally reflects Mt Tasman and Mt Cook as seen on any postcards, in our case all it reflected was clouds:) In the evening we took refuge at the feet of Fox glacier.
Day 4: Waking up at the campsite, we met a few hundred, luckily not so hungry mosquitos inside our car-mountable tent. Spraying the infamous DEET on them had absolutely no effect.Fox glacier was closed down due to some roads were washed away, and the Franz Joseph was also not that spectacular in the weather conditions. After the glaciers we headed north to see the pancake rocks of Punakaiki and the seal colony near Newport.
Day 5: Since the Interislander ferry was fully booked that day, we decided to stay on the south island one more night. We slowly cut thru the mountains from Newport to Picton. The rain was still falling on us heavily and a lot of the mountain roads were covered by mudslide. In the evening we decided to rent a cabin to dry all our clothes and the not-so-waterproof canvas of our campervan.
Day 6: Finally the sun came out, ironically on the day we were to leave the South island. We took a short trip to Marlborough Sounds, then drove onto the ferry that took us to Wellington. The city was nice and definitely had more road traffic than anywhere else on the South island. We checked out the botanical garden on the top of the city and caught the last rays of the settling sun on the peaks of Mt Victoria.
Day 7: Bit of a long drive up to Taupo. In the afternoon we went to see the Huka falls and took a dip in the thermal springs nearby.
Day 8: We gave jetboating a try on the rapids of Waikato river near Taupo. After that we checked out the volcanic geysers at Orakei Korako and another one at Whakarewarewa. (No, I am not joking, these are actual names:)) It was here where we had our first kiwi encounter. A pair of kiwis were held in the national park in a dark room, and to avoid disturbing them, photography and videos were not allowed. Well, we tried anyway, but it was way too dark to get a good kiwi-shot:) To close the day we had some fun on the luges of Rotorua. The fast track is really enjoyable and I recommend it to all speed-junkies:)
Day 9: Rainy days were coming again as we headed east to visit Andras (or Andrew for the locals), who is a big buddy of my brother and lives in Gisborne for the past few years. Andrew and Agi welcomed us with great hospitality, some great bottles of wine, and some home made lekvaros suti:) Thank you guys again!:)
Day 10: After a visit to the World’s most easterly McDonalds, we had a short and rainy tour around Gisborne. Leaving the town (and quite unfortunately my raincoat behind), we drove a few hundred kilometers northwest. All day raining.
Day 11: Finally a sunny day unfolds as we head north to visit the Coromandel peninsula and the picturesque Cathedral cove. We spent the afternoon on the famous hot-water beach nearby. It is a spot where people dig a little hole right next to the sea, and enjoy the hot water bubbling up, or alternatively, dig another hole a few meters away if the spot is only lukewarm:)
Day 12-14: The next three days we spent in Manukau lagoon, near Auckland, sleeping in our van in the front-yard of Andrew, our kiteboarding instructor. Andrew and Nick did their best to transform us into pro kiteboarders in the matter of three days and I have to admit, Paul did way better in this subject than I did, it was good fun anyways:)
Day 15-16: Finally we reached Auckland. After driving 4000 kilometers, we said good bye to our campervan. Rachel showed us around and introduced us to the Hokey-pokey ice-cream (thanks for that:), we spoiled ourselves with some Korean and Japanese delicacies and crashed into a bachelor party near the infamous K-street:)
Day 17-18: We pulled off a short visit to the Karikari peninsula, and the next day we signed up for some dolphin watching in the bay of islands. Good luck with the weather this time, and also with the dolphins:)
Day 19: Departing from Auckland. It was fun, e noho rā, Aotearoa!