Well, winter has been and gone. We had a great time learning to snowboard – even if both of us did have brief and intense moments of rage and frustration on the slopes – and got swept up in the euphoria in Wellington as we were in the Westpac Stadium to witness the British and Irish Lions defeat New Zealand.
However, now our attention turns again to the road. The hills are getting greener, the days longer and we’re looking forward to heading out on adventures in our new campervan.
Back in September we traveled up the west coast to Franz Josef where Steph had found a Nissan Serena that was being sold by a German guy who lived there. A pretty standard people carrier or MPV, the two rows of rear seats had been removed and in their place, a wooden bed frame had been built from 20mm chipboard and some pine posts.
With plenty of room to make it our own, we bought it and drove it back to Wanaka the next day.
For the next three weekends, Steph and I used our combined carpentry and textile knowledge to create curtains, mattress covers, modify the bed frame and add shelving.
After much hard work, some glaring errors and a lot of swearing, we had kitted out the van for some very comfortable camping.
We (by which I mean I – Steve) had also managed to cleverly convert the electric slide door into a manual slide door using an ingenious power drill method to completely destroy the door’s regulator. Finally, I was putting my G-grade GCSE in Resistant Materials to good use.
Thoroughly pleased with ourselves, through October and November we have taken the van on her first few trips.
Kinloch and Lake Rere
Firstly, we made the short journey over the Crown Range to Kinloch, home to one of our favourite campsites, to celebrate my 31st birthday. Set at the head of Lake Wakatipu, we parked up to watch the sun set on the mountains.
The next morning we took a short hike around Lake Rere, easing ourselves back into hiking season on the four hour loop.
The next weekend we ventured further afield, travelling the breadth of the South Island from Wanaka to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula on the east coast, near Christchurch.
It was a place recommended to us by a friend back in the UK and had been on our list since we arrived in New Zealand over a year ago.
Here, lush green mountains that constitute the caldera of an extinct volcano surround a natural harbour, formed when the coastal volcano erupted and collapsed, allowing sea water to flood in and fill the crater.
A total change of scene from Wanaka and what was still then a very dusty, yellow Central Otago, Akaroa is a charming little town, enveloped by stunning countryside. Some of the landscape was, at times, reminiscent of Wales, Yorkshire and Cornwall with narrow roads navigating rolling hills that tumble down towards the golden sand beaches and coves. While the rural setting was distinctly Kiwi, it was nice to be reminded of home as we marked the anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand.
Taking a boat trip out on the harbour – a gift from Steph for my birthday – we saw Little Blue Penguins and Hector’s Dolphins (the planet’s rarest and smallest oceanic dolphins), which was a real treat for an armchair wildlife fan like me.
That evening was spent drinking wine in the hot tub at our AirBnB rental, watching the sun setting on the mountains around us.
Most recently we retraced some of those initial steps we took on our travels this time last year.
On our days off last week, we re-walked part of the Routeburn Track with a couple of friends. When Steph and I attempted the hike in November 2016 the Fiordland weather was its usual soggy, grey self as we trudged our way through 32km of rain and the occasional view.
Since then we had promised ourselves we would do it again in better weather, and with the huts booked up from mid-November until March 2018, the weather window that presented itself on 30 October to 1 November this year was realistically our last chance to enjoy the views on the country’s second most popular Great Walk.
The sun shone down on us for most of the two days of our trip this time and we were treated to some incredible views from Harris Saddle, both down the Hollyford Valley towards Lake Gunn and back over our shoulder along the Routeburn River.
This week we’ve had a bit of downtime to get on with some boring life admin and such, but we’ve booked some time off work for the end of November and will be heading out in the van for ten days very soon, so we’ll let you know how we get on.
In the meantime, enjoy the photos Steph took of our aforementioned adventuring and we’ll see you again soon.
Some of you who have been following our blog from the beginning may have noticed that we still haven’t got round to recording the podcast we said was going to accompany our writing. Well, quite frankly, we thought it was just a bit too narcissistic, embarrassing and needless a thing to do. Plus we’d also much rather be out enjoying the things we’re doing instead of providing audio commentary and wimbling on like absolute toolbags. So we’re not doing it. The world doesn’t need another podcast.