As previously mentioned, we are used to the full range of campsite facilities and can about stand anything now. Wellington was something we hadn’t encountered yet. The site didn’t have the usual neatly arranged sections complete with space for the van and a grassed area for our table and chairs for relaxing and al fresco dining. We crawled in our van from the reception to the so called site.
An empty car park appeared, scantily littered with spaces around the perimeter only. This was where we would be sleeping, in a car park, in the freezing cold. Yes that’s right, the temperature was dropping and the first sign of any cold weather for months was upon us. The cheap fan heater we had hired proved invaluable. Instantly injecting some warmth to the night, a semi-homely feel emerged.
We desperately savour little moments like this in the van, because before we know it, a tomato sauce moment occurs. This is one of those things when everything is going swimmingly in the van and you just start to feel like you actually enjoy living here. Then you’re struggling to get an item of clothing from the bottom of your case, at head height perched on a shelf. You eventually prise it free without the whole thing falling on you, but in your struggle, you drop the item you were so desperately looking for. It falls, in slow motion, landing in the dishes we didn’t clean having just ate, covering your top in tomato sauce. Ah those insignificant moments which bring you crashing to reality.
It was smooth sailing over to the south with no sea sickness for either of us. The freedom of the van allowed us to skip our original plan of staying in the port town of Picton and head straight on to Nelson. This was where we would make a discovery that would change the very fabric of our being and open our world to joys we could never even imagine. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the camp site had a trampoline. Neither the rain nor a sign admitting only children could stop us as we jumped and summersaulted our way to enlightenment. Everyone should own one of these for the sake of humanity.
Even after trampolining all our energy out, we headed to the local beach at sunset, only to be commandeered by the local park where we spent the twilight spinning on a roundabout. Our fun was halted when it started making Holly feel sick. Who knew New Zealand had such amazing kids parks!
We strolled home with ice cream and pop, a childish skip in our step and grins like a Cheshire Cat.
After again checking our itinerary, it seemed that an overnight was all we could afford to not impede our planned excursions on this island.
The next morning was another lengthily drive as we were back on the road again, heading for The Pancake Rocks.
In similar design to Australia, there is seemingly only a single road that links most towns on this coast, however with one stark difference. We can be driving for miles, I mean about 200 at a time, before even coming across any sign of life. No rest stops, no petrol stations. Nothing. This amplifies the amazing scenery and the continuous beauty is undisturbed.
This unique land formation in the sea, named because it resembles a stack of pancakes, was far more enjoyable than seemed on paper. Photographs and reviews don’t do this place justice, and even on the overcast day we were having, the sights and sounds of the sea complimented the formations. Peering out over the geological wonders, the sea crashed into them, through tunnels and out blow holes to the wonder of the spectators.
We took our time and found the local camp site, in what we assumed was the local town. This consisted of about 5 buildings and three roads. Again the limited time frame we had here wandered through our thoughts and we decided to head straight onto the next destination to make up time while it was still light and Holly was in the mood for some prolonged time behind the wheel.
This was THE drive. Listed by a few sources as one of the greatest drives in the world, we were braced for the spectacular views to enhance, the roads to get windier and more fun, the Tasman Sea to shine blue, the greenery to flourish and our hearts to melt. Not today, not for us. Walls of grey surrounded us. The dark ominous clouds hung over the sea with a curtain of rain draping over the coast. A barricade of precipitation stood in our path as we hurtled towards our destination, cursing the weather. As the box of rain closed in, we were hit with the torrential downpour and gale force winds simultaneously, reeking havoc with our control of the van and a tumultuous hour or so commenced as we fought with Mother Nature to cling to the tarmac beneath us.
The weather eventually subsided for the last few miles as we arrived in glacier country. The snow peaked mountains provided a perfect setting for this little town. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a great campsite. A small restaurant and bar was positioned at the front of the site, packed with different travellers winding down for the night. Arriving late after a long day, a few happy hour beers and wine eased us into a good nights sleep.
The fresh mornings now meant that a t-shirt wouldn’t cut it and my hoody was promoted to daily use. We visited a local lake early on our first day, when the skies were clear and the weather was perfect. The still lake acted as a mirror for the surrounding mountains and trees, providing a perfect reflection of the heavens, the dazzling surface adding another dimension to the magnitude of beauty.
The chill of the day wouldn’t last long for us as we opted for a trip to the Glacier Hot Pools. Four outdoor pools are nestled amongst the wildlife of the rainforest, where the sounds of flowing water provide a soothing, serene experience. Naturally fed, these pools have temperatures up to 40 degrees, covered by huge canopies keeping out the pesky showers that littered the morning. I can imagine this to be the perfect place to really relax after a days hiking of the glaciers.
Taking the day slowly was perfectly matched to this little township. We perused the few shops on the main street before settling for tea and ending the day in the bar again, the happy hour becoming our saviour.
The next morning early rise was worth it. Setting off back to our tranquil lake, we were going to kayak over the glass to get the perfect panoramic views from the centre of the lake.
Holly and I shared a double kayak, with me at the back steering and Holly taking the front. This of course gave me the advantage of being able to stop paddling should my weak spaghetti arms falter, without Holly being able to see my lack of contribution. Decked out in classic 80’s style waterproofs, we hit the water.
It became increasingly apparent that concentrating on our paddle strokes would be an issue when surrounded by the incredibly divine and beauteous scenery of New Zealand.
As we glided over the reflective surface, our purple tracksuits dazzling in the liquid crowd carrying us, the handful of us out on the lake were truly alone in the vast space.
We skated around the perimeter, close enough to our surroundings to limbo under the overhanging trees. Heading down a small allyway of long reeds and trees, we steered past any obstacles gathering at the end for a chat and to taste some of the plants growing in the area.
After an hour or so on the lake, it gets tiring. Almost constant paddling was required to keep us up with the group but Holly and I powered through, as the reward of the sumptuous views provided all the motivation we needed.
It was disappointing to have to leave the lake after a 3 hour trip around the exquisite natural beauty, but with smiles galore, we headed back to the camp site.
The days activities weren’t at a close yet, we decided to take a walk to the local celebrity’s dwelling, and visit the face of the Franz Josef glacier. A short 45 minute stroll from the car park over broken rocks through the valley with waterfalls crashing around us and we were at the pedestrian barrier, peering up at the natural wonder.
Lurking, insignificantly below this mountain of ice, visions of its creation and the incomprehensible journey over thousands and thousands of years trickle through your mind. Awe struck and astounded, our time becomes irrelevant in the grand scheme.
Plodding back to the car park we looked forward to our bi-weekly treat of steak, onions and asparagus for tea, our flashpacking turning to “glamping”.