We married 5.5 years ago in Auckland and I really wanted to return to the Kiwilands in the year of our anniversary. My aim was to come for the 5th wedding anniversary but that didn’t work out work-wise. Since I fell pregnant around that 5th wedding anniversary and all my glorious plans of travelling Middle America in November weren’t realisable anymore plus the miles from former flights had accumulated into flights to New Zealand, the neighbour country came into focus again. Of course, I prefer to go to new countries which I haven’t visited before. But when we married in NZ it wasn’t for any romantic seaside wedding but for the quick administrative opportunity. We flew in and out of Auckland and were busy getting to know each other and celebrating stag’s/hen’s night with as much alcohol as somehow possible without even trying to get to know the country.
Flying 3 hours at the end of my second trimester, taking just a week of holidays, saving on the flights and relocating a campervan from the South Island to the North for 1$ a day (it’s of course a bit more expensive in the end but still cheap)… too many good reasons why we shouldn’t finally check out this country which everybody always tells us is so beautiful. And off we went.
We started in Christchurch, stayed 2 nights in an Airbnb, checked out the earthquake torn city which is a strange combination of ghostland with cafes, bars and art appearing everywhere in the ruins and beautiful parklands. Michael took about a thousand pictures of ducks and we had such a relaxing day because there is enough to see but not so much to feel rushed.
On Monday we picked up our campervan from Apollo. As I mentioned it was a relocation. Advertised for 1$ but if you decide to reduce your liability and get a few extras like tyre & windscreen cover, the ferry trip for the second person and bedding, you end up around at 25-30$ a day. The 1$ offer is limited to 5 days and we booked 2 extra days (of 3 allowed) for 100$ a day. It’s still really cheap as we got this complete motorhome with shower and toilet (which we didn’t even use because we didn’t want to clean it) and you are very free to camp anywhere (if it’s not private land). We didn’t go to a campsite at all, happily picked beautiful car parks at the sea (usually equipped with clean public toilets) and loved our freedom. We didn’t use much electricity, so we didn’t need to plug in. In the evening we just went to bed and slept. Flat batteries of phones either didn’t matter or were charged on the unused laptop or in the public shower. It was quite nice to live an unplugged life for a week.
Instead of doing the usual and trying to see all in the little time, we had decided to take the fairly straight way to Auckland (and not squeeze in the Milford Sound and a whole lot more driving). From Christchurch we went to the pretty little seaside town of Kaikoura around 3 hours north of Christchurch. They had a seal colonies where we spent an evening and a morning watching those animals which are so lazy on the land as elegant in the water.
From Kaikoura we went to a river just north of Blenheim where apparently all locals come to fish. From there we drove a couple of kilometers to Picton, got on the ferry, decided to not stop for Wellington and slept at a very stormy parking lot in Raumati South where I was afraid all night that our van would tip over. It luckily didn’t.
Our longest drive was then to Taupo, situated at Oceania’s biggest lake, Lake Taupo. We found a campsite at the Waikato river – of course already discovered by German backpackers. So we camped with all those German kids but it didn’t matter as it was a really beautiful campsite and the other campers weren’t going wild, not even really drunk (maybe just a little stoned after the weed delivery car had gone past).
Michael had always talked about the glowworm caves and so we continued our way to Waitomo where we spent the horrendous fee of 49$ per person to take a boat trip in those caves. NZ is really overpriced in the tourist attraction aspect! But it was still really beautiful and worth seeing. So many of those little worms hanging from the cave ceiling and looking like stars at the night sky. Even our chatty group who hadn’t been able to shut up before, got quiet at this sight.
We camped at the lake in Cambridge. Cambridge also had public showers for 2$ at their central park… so we celebrated showering day 😉 From Cambridge we went to Hobbiton. That’s another completely overpriced tourist attraction which again is worth visiting… as long as you don’t hate Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. The land of a probably really lucky farmer was picked by Peter Jackson to represent the Shire where the hobbits are from. For Lord of the Rings the farmer required the film set to be only temporary and removed after filming. Apparently a storm prevented the complete removal and tourists started to ask for tours. So, of course, when the Hobbit was about to be filmed, the farmer asked that the filmset would be permanent and last for 40-50 years. The set was built for 2.5 years which is amazing if you think it’s only shortly featured in the beginning and the end of the 2 trilogies. But who cares – it’s great and with so many details. You get a tour guide which explains the background but also points out the scenes and for anybody who at least liked Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, it’s a worthy experience. The lands around are beautiful and it’s a nice 2 hour excursion… even for 75$ per person. With 1000 to 3000 visitors in off-peak and peak season, that farmer must be able to bathe in champagne and waited on by hobbits, dwarfs, elves or orcs… whatever he prefers.
After visiting the Shire, we made our way up to Auckland where we found our last campsite at Waikowhai Park (we still don’t know if we were allowed to park there over night) directly at the beautiful Manukau Harbour inlet.
Before heading to the airport in the afternoon, we had to go to Auckland CBD and return to where we married, 99 Albert Street, remembering how we desperately looked for witnesses – mandatory prerequisite to actually get married.
5.5 years ago we didn’t know if marrying after being together for 3 months was a good idea. It turned out to be a great idea. We can also confirm that going to NZ is a great idea – marrying might not be for everybody but the country is so beautiful and relaxing. The Kiwis seem all quite chilled, the country is clean, the millions of sheep and cows stand around on all those pastures peacefully and everything is pretty close. It’s quite expensive but with camping there are a lot of ways to save. And there are no spiders and snakes which makes especially the nightly toilet trips so much less fearful.
We have to return no matter what because Michael still hasn’t seen the Kiwi bird.
All $ are NZ $