Goodbye and thank you for the waves

We enjoyed the quite hostel in Christchurch, a private room, a nice kitchen and most of all a dry place in all the rain than poured down on the city.

Before we gave back the car we had a last visit to the sea where we said farewell to the roaring waves and the strong wind. It was a little bit a sad moment as we very much enjoyed the sea here.

“I think she is putting up a show for us, look there: she sends some really big waves.”

Waving goodbye, ocean style…

We went back to our car and dropped it at the Airport.

This trip has been a great pleasure and so all I can add is:

Thank you all you oceans, bays and beaches. Thank you all you tuis, penguins and bellbirds. Thank you all you mosses, fern trees and kauris. Thank you all you rolling hills and towering mountains. Thank you all you sheep and cows. Thank you all you Kiwis ( the ones we ate, the one bird we saw and all the ones we talked to).

Thank you New Zealand for having us.




The last drive… Banks Peninsula and Christchurch

Stuff we did:

With another overnight stay we continued north until the Bank Peninsula, where we pitched the tent for the last time.

The peninsula is just outside Christchurch and has some amazing bays and high mountains that rise up from the sea.

It was a very enjoyable mostly sunny day without rain on the peninsula. It was one of the best spots of the whole trip to pitch the tent here: with a view into the harbor of Akaroa. We drove on little curvy roads from bay to bay, up and down the mountains, returned to our great campsite and had nice chats with the neighbors. A really wonderful day.

The weather forecast showed rain for our remaining days and so we decided to go drive to Christchurch to stay in a nice hostel for the last few days.

We had a stop on the way to Christchurch to get our feet wet one more time. Man, we love the ocean.


Stuff we saw:

Street penguins and steampunk

Things we learned: Always double-check the room

“And don’t forget your toothpaste. You guys always leave me dozens of toothpastes. You always forget stuff here and I end up with buckets full of toothpastes.”

Agra is the host of our hostel in Oamaru (“Swaggers Backpackers”). She is a real special woman. She is well in her seventies and maybe a little bit crazy, but in a cool and friendly way. “My name is Agra, like Viagra, and my dog is called Laika, because ‘the kids like‘er‘”she said.

She is super helpful and sweet, gave us good tips about the penguins and likes to talk to her guests. And at the same time she is constantly complaining about them. It was quite amusing. She was talking to us as if we were representatives of all her past guests. Telling us about all the things “you guys always do”. She has two sons that when coming home stay outside in a campervan because “they rather shoot them selves in the head than staying with you guys”.

We really liked her with her sweet character and rough language. “I am never out of town for a long time. When I go the other hostel-owner ask: ‘where the f… is she?’ and that’s why I never go away.”

She likes to talk, talks a lot and is really entertaining in her own little way.

And of course she didn’t stop when we were about to leave: “Hey listen Andy,  have you got everything with you? Don’t forget your phone chargers, I have a bag full of phone chargers. Aww, you guys always forget stuff here.”

We left the hostel with a grin and walked around the town a little bit. The night before we ran around it to see blue penguins that walk around the streets everywhere. Now the streets are busy, tourists take pictures and walk the streets from café to café.

We leave the town and with a big loop inland we arrive in Timaru. That’s when Christy realized she forgot her boots at the Swaggers Backpackers.

A call with Agra confirmed this. : “Oh well, Andy. Yes you forgot your shoes here? How much were they? Where are you now?”

We were in fact not far away. On the most direct way it was only one hour. And so we drove back through the pouring rain, the night and flooded streets to get back the boots.

And so we could tell Agra farewell a second time. “Thank you so much for the fun time and the penguin tip, Agra”

And we learned something that we knew so well already: it is always worth a last scan through the room before you leave.

Stuff we saw:


Stuff we did:

We pitched our tent in Portobello just outside Dunedin. Our plan was to see the Albatros colony on the edge of the Otago peninsula.

The birds were breeding and with the pouring rain they did not feel like flying a lot (who would blame them).

We continued up north and when I say it poured rain I mean pouring. The roads were flooded, all the fields turned into large lakes, all the green hills featured massive rivers on the grass. Passing trucks and cars splashed buckets of water on our windshield. And we had to slow down to walking pace to cross the flooded parts of the roads.

We made it to Oamaru and had a stop at the beach to see some perfectly round Moreaki boulders being washed in the sea. It was raining pretty hard, so we had the beach to ourselves.

With the pouring rain the decision to stay in a hostel was an easy one.

The lady who ran the hostel was super nice and showed us where we would find penguins running around at night in the town.

And indeed, when we walked to deserted roads of Oamaru suddenly they appeared: cute little blue penguins running all over the street. They have their nests in little holes in the old buildings. The locals know that, but most tourists are sent to a colony they set up in the town. Artificial little huts and an arena like area where the tourists sit and watch the penguins to walk home from their fishing trip. Nothing wrong with that, but of course it is nicer to see them in the “wild”.

We had a look at the Steampunk Headquarter and enjoyed the old town with a lot of steampunk scenery. Steampunk is a real thing in this town, so it was fun to look at all the stuff some real creative people come up with.


Things we learned: The Presidential Highway

Highway 1 is passing the cities Gore and Clinton, which are about 40km apart. When two persons with this name shared the ticket in the US-presidential election the region officially named the part of Highway 1 “Presidential Highway” in honor of the candidates. They also hoped that they would stop by when being in the country, but that never happened. Hey guys! What’s up, Billy? What’s up, Al? Can’t you make a little stopover here? People would appreciate it! And it is the best fishing place for trout here… just sayin’.

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

How do you milk 700 cows? What happens with the milk? Is it stressful for the cows? Why do they have different colored paint-marks on their back? How much milk does a cow produce? Why can you see their ribs, are they hungry? How old do they get?

This and much more we asked and learned when talking to Tam and David. Tam and David own cows. Many cows. Around 700 cows. And they own a lot of farmland.

We didn’t know them when we arrived in Gore, a little town in the southeast of New Zealand. We just had an address and names when we pulled up in front of their wonderful house in the rolling hills of the area.

Family friends of Christy’s parents made the contact possible. And we feel very blessed to have had the chance to meet them and to get to know them. They are wonderful people. Both role-model individuals and a wonderful team and family together with their daughters

We spent time talking (not only about cows), playing games, cooking, laughing, sitting in front of the fireplace, looking out for deer in the backyard and working a little bit outside in the garden. They showed us their farm and some of the many cows that were milked.

We got to know her daughter Taylor and her boyfriend Michael.

One day we drove along the coast through the Catlins but the rest of the time we pretty much stayed in Gore.

We had a fantastic time with them. We stayed much longer than we originally thought. We arrived as complete strangers and left friends behind when we left.

If you read this: Thanks Tam and David.



Back in the days these planes where state of the art. Slick and powerful. Now they are just old and wonderful to watch.

We were on our way to Gore, where Christy has some neighbors-of-friends-of-friend-connections. It was early in the day and we were on the look-out for a nice café.That is when the Aviation Museum with the Moth Café showed up on the side of the road.


The museum shows some de Havilland planes, among them 2 Tiger-Moth (hence the name of the café next door) and some Dragonfly and a Fox Moth.

An old locomotive has been restored after they pulled it out of a river where it has been sunk to keep the river edges from eroding some decades earlier.

The most amazing part of this museum though is the fact, that the company that restored all these old planes is next door and you can just pop in and talk to the mechanics.

It is a building full of airplane parts and old-timers in different states of restoration. Rich people from all over the world have their beauties shipped here to get them restored.

It is a lot of fun to walk between the shelves full of dusty motors, airplane bodies and wing parts. The mechanics took their time and explained what they were working on and what the part was for. A dream for every pilot and aviation enthusiast.


Things we learned: little beasts

The fjords in the southwest of the South Island are impressive. And beautiful.The Maori said they are too beautiful for humans, so the gods sent the sandflies.

These little beasts have been a plague already to Cpt. Cook and his men. There are thousands. You open the door of the car and your car is full of them. They drink your blood and they don’t really have an elegant way to do so. Not like the mosquito that puts his long snout into the body. The sandfly actually rips the skin open with a rough saw-like jaw. It “spits” on it to keep the blood from clotting. That actually hurts a little bit. But the main thing is: it itches like crazy. And it gets inflamed easily.

We were lucky enough to never have big issues with them when we were camping (one could also say we were smart enough to avoid the campsites with a big sandfly community). But just being in the fiordlands means you get a lot of bites.

We were really glad to finally leave this area and continue to sandfly-free countryside.

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

We spent a whole day in Wanaka in front of a fireplace. In fact there were four tents on the campsites and all the tent-people didn’t move away from the fireplace.

We read, talked and wrote. We sat there, had a coffee, some more talking, another coffee, check the weather: still raining, put another log into the fire, more coffee, more talking, reading…dinner and that’s the day. It was terrible weather, but with the nice fireplace and friendly travelers from France, the Netherlands and Spain we had a really nice and cozy day.

The following days were supposed to be rainy: with one exception. And we knew where we wanted to be at that day: we booked a Doubtful Sound Tour.

We drove to Manapouri with a short stop in Queenstown which didn’t impress us overly much. Our campsite in Manapouri was next to the starting point of the tour, so we could walk there in the morning and leave the car and tent at the campsite.

A boat brought us across Lake Manapouri where we switched to a bus that carried us to the Doubtful Sound. The drive was impressive already. But the boat trip through the fjord was amazing. And just during the last official hours of my birthday we saw a little attraction: a couple of rare Fiordland Crested Penguins showed up to join our little birthday trip.

It was a wonderful day.

The next day we drove up to Milford Sound on a stunning road. Even though the weather was not as nice it was another wonderful day. We had fun with the Keas, a mountain parrot that is not shy at all and likes to eat rubber parts from cars.

We did not bother being on a boat trip and so we shared the view into the sound from the standard viewpoint only with some thousand sandflies.

We ended up at a nice campsite near Mossburn. It featured some nice alpacas and two wonderful peacocks. Quite unusual on a campsite.

Going South: the West Coast

Things we learned: The long way down

There are wonderful podcasts on New Zealands radio stations ( One we listened to on the long driving bits in NZ is “The long way home”. 67 year old Bruce Hopkins is walking the Te Araroa trail, a 3000km trail that goes all the way from the Cape Reinga to Bluff, the whole length of New Zealand.

It is a wonderful portrait of the trail, new Zealanders in general and Bruce Hopkins, a Kiwi actor who transports his fathers and brothers ashes through the country he calls home.

With a great sense of humor he tells many stories from his old times working on fishing trawlers with his dad and brother, interviews other trampers and talks to people he meets on the road.

A great way to experience NZ by means of listening. Highly recommended.

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

We followed the road through the hills along the Buller River. The road followed the river in a wonderful gorge and later a broad valley. Cape Foulwind is known for a nice walk along the along the cliffs and some fur seals. But when we arrived a massive thunderstorm with thunder and lightning started and so we looked for the closest campsite to rent a cabin for the night. It rained and stormed the whole night.

The next day we approached the hike and had fun watching the seals hanging around on the rocks. The sea was wild, torn up from the strong winds.

Sometimes the sun finds a little hole in the clouds and we get hot immediately. It is a strange mix of weather we have these days.

We follow down the coast, with many stops and lookouts to watch the waves clashing the beaches and rocks.

There are many wonderful sites here and we enjoy seeing them with the roaring winds and high waves of the sea.

We stay overnight at Hokitika and continue to Franz-Joseph and Fox Glacier. We don’t see anything of the mountains here, as the clouds are very low now. Just one morning in Fox Glacier we get a view for a few minutes before the clouds form quickly to cover these wonderful white covered mountains.

We leave the coast to follow the Makarora River upstream and find a nice campsite for the night, after we have been chased away by hundreds of sandflies on two other campsites which would have been quite annoying and potentially itchy.

There were strong winds forecasted and we found them. On Lake Wanaka, one of the big southern lakes in NZ we enjoyed the blasts of wind while walking the shore of the lake on a little picnic area. We continued to the town of Wanaka and did a little hike in the evening, knowing, that for the next 2 days the weather was about to get be pretty bad. We pitched our tent next to the lake on a campsite 15 min outside Wanaka.

Abel Tasman NP: Shoulder workout – doing the kayak thing

Things we learned: dare the birds

On most campsites there are many nice birds. You hear the Tui everywhere. Very often there are some smaller birds who are after your bread crumbs, and you find ducks everywhere close to some open water, which is the case most of the times.

We never had more and more daring birds than on this campsite though.

The ducks came straight at the humans, to look for something to eat. And of course, most guests couldn’t resist feeding them.

There are Pukekos walking around. They have a very funny way of walking. Their long legs with the extra-large feet long a bit out of proportion. And with their fierce head they look very dinosaur-like.

They would walk right at you, so that you were wondering if they didn’t see you or if they are tried to scare you away.

The ducks would eat out of your hand. A misbehavior I could not tolerate and so I tricked them with picking up little rocks and throwing them in front of them. They jump on them looking for the bread crumbs they expected to find. Ha! Got ya! It feels really good to outsmart naughty individuals. Even if it is just a duck.

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

The village we stayed at has little more than 20 houses. It is just at the edge of the Abel Tasman NP and therefore entrance to one of NZ most popular walks and NP.

Beside walking you can also experience the park by paddle boat. And so, there are 8 companies that offer rental kayaks and guided paddle tours.

We chose one and got our kayaks at 8:30 in the morning.

We did not make a video of the guy doing the handling and safety instructions. But we should have. It was very funny. With his broad accent he explained in a very entertaining  way how to use the boats and the dos and don’ts. A real fun start into the day.

The paddling was amazing. It was very warm so the wind didn’t bother us and we paddled from beach to beach. We paddle along rolling hills with deep green forests. The shore is a 4-meter rocky wall washed out in wild formations. In between small and large beaches with golden sand. The deep blue water in the front adds to the picture-perfect views we had during the whole day of paddling around.


Small roads: the Marlborough Sound

What we learned: Some roads take longer

The car we had on the north island had a built-in Navigation system. Not that you need a lot of navigation, but it would tell you the estimated time of arrival. That gave us an idea of how the roads are. Not that it really matters. We never make plans for the evening or where we stay overnight, so no need to hurry. But on our first day on the South-island we learned that the distance you can cover on the map is not just a question on how good the road is.

Some roads need a lot longer for a different reason: they are curvy.

And the road down Kenepuru Sound is quite a different one. My goodness it is curvy. Christy couldn’t get her eyes off the road for a second. And she was not the one driving. I was. With the curvy roads and the up and down you’d get carsick in matter a second. There are no straight parts of the roads.

But as we said, no need for a hurry. Just some roads need a little longer, that’s what we learned today.

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

We followed the Kenepuru Road a nice little road that winds through the forest. Deep into the Marlborough sounds. Well, to be honest, we didn’t see a lot of the sounds. First of all because both had to constantly watch the road (one because of driving, and one because of not getting sick). But also because there are trees along the road and only very few spots where stop. And most of these stops you couldn’t actually see anything other than forest. But when we saw something it was stunning. The road is a dead-end. We found some friendly horses at the end of the paved road and a fantastic campsite. But we decided to keep on going instead of pitching the tent.

Wellington and the crossing

Things we learned:

Get two cars for the price of one!

We have rented a standard car. Nothing fancy, not the smallest can you could get, but no camper either. We have a good tent and it is ok pricewise. We picked it up in Auckland (North island) and are drop it in Christchurch (South Island).

What we didn’t know until we picked up the car in Auckland: The Rental-cars don’t change take the ferry to the South Island, only we do. We need to drop the car and the ferry station in Wellington and will pick up a new one in Picton where the ferry arrives on the South Island. “new car” turned up to be the literal what we got: it had 60km on the clock.

It was still a little bit a disappointment, since the other car was a lot fancier. Well, in case we ever think of buy8ing a small SUV: we have tested two now!

Stuff we saw:

Stuff we did:

Wellington is a nice town. We can say that even though we didn’t see much. It was rainy, cold and windy. So we ran around the harbor area, got something to eat and returned to the campsite. We had a cabin again, good because of the rain, but with the high quality we found so far on the campsites in NZ: this one was certainly not the best one, at least not the cabin itself. But it protected us from the rain and so we packed our stuff to do the crossing (we have to change the car, so we had to pack everything in two bags to check it in at the ferry terminal, a little bit like at the airport).

The following day the weather was a lot better (maybe that is because Prince Harry and his wife were in town, who knows). We used the sun to make a nice drive to the peninsula just outside the city. A fantastic drive. Just half an hour out of the heart of downtown you find the most stunning nature. We stopped a lot to take pictures, watched some plane land on the incredible airport there and had a good lunch.

A great day and a city with a great scenery literally just around the corner minutes.

The ferry crossing to the South Island is fantastic. The town of Picston is deep in the Marlboroughs. These are former valleys that have been flooded since the southern island has been pushed up in the last few million years. The ship enters these fjord-like waterways.

A short 1-hour drive brought us to a fantastic hostel where we stayed overnight to avoid the upcoming rain.