Travelling the East Coast of the South Island, on our way back to Auckland.

April 17th, Papeete, Tahiti, it feels good to be back in 28degrees temperatures and closer to the boat! Our shopping possibilities were limited because all stores were closed because of Easter monday, except the Carrefour supermarket and a chinese supermarket where we could find the foodsupplies to take to Apataki tomorrow on the Cobia 3 !

Flashback to March 26th,2017: We did not stay very long in Dunedin since time was running out and we still wanted to see more of the East Coast.

We made a quick stop to see the Moeraki Boulders and met a Belgian working at the cafetaria there. The Moeraki boulders are large, spherical boulders on Koekohe beach. They are made out of mud, silt and clay cemented by calcite.
The large boulders, 2m in diameter,are estimated to have taken 4 to 5 million years to grow !

We continue driving to Mount Cook village in the rain and low clouds 🙁 and spent a day at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center watching a 3D movie on Mount Cook,  a documentary on the local mountain rescue team and the digital dome planetarium.

A bronze statue of Sir Edmund Hillary looking at Mount Cook! The day we arrived it was sooo cloudy and rainy that you could not see any mountains in Mount Cook national park! Sir Edmund Hillary is a famous and admired New Zealander not only because of his achievement, his ascent of the Mt.Everest in 1953 but also because of his humanitarian work in the villages of Nepal.

The next morning it was not raining but there were still a lot of low hanging clouds over our campsite. We were not sure what walk to do and decide to go to the outlook and take a decision on the way. Rainjackets, pants and backpack with some water we go on our way. When we come to a marker with the several walks we decide to take “Sealy Tarns”, only 5.2KM(one way), 3-4HR return walk, we think that is not too bad… Later we read the description of the walk,”The Sealy Tarns Track begins gently until you reach the foot of the Mueller Range. The track zigzags steeply up to Sealy Tarns.” The track consists mainly of 2200steps which have to be climbed! This was definitely one of the most challenging walks we did and we were not prepared! But the reward was incredible…

After 45min of walking, climbing and huffing and puffing we get this view! Above the clouds…it is really magical.You can see Mt.Cook all the way in the back.
Taking a rest and enjoying the view.
The Maoiri name for Mt.Cook is Aoraki, meaning “cloud piercer”, could not find a better one.
Reaching the Sealy Tarns. A tarn is small mountain lake or pond.
While we were eating our granola bar, we did not bring anything else, we watched the clouds disappear and a beautifull view unfold. Mt.Cook is showing all its beauty.
The glacial lakes at the bottom with the last clouds evaporating by the sun.

The return walk was not easy as well since it was so steep our legs were shaky. But we enjoyed the scenery so much that we did not care and arrived all happy under blue skies at the campsite. We drank and ate something. Felt stupid not to have prepared this walk better, we had no suncscreen nor a hat with us …we should know better, in the mountains the weather can change rapidly! This walk was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to NZ! We continued our route out of Mt.Cook National Park (also UNESCO world heritage) and went to Tasman glacier view and Tasman Lake…

Tasman glacier with Tasman Lake.You can take a boat ride in Tasman Lake and see the icebergs in the water up close.
In the early 1970’s there were several small meltwater ponds on the Tasman glacier but by 1990 these had merged into Tasman Lake. Tasman Lake has quickened the retreat of Tasman glacier.

The scenery along the drive from Mt.Cook village to Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo is really incredible.

Lake Pukaki (glacial lake)and Mt.Cook in the back.
Church of the Good Shepherd and lake Tekapo in the back. It was the first church built in the McKenzie region in 1935.

In the visitor centre of Omarama they told us to go see the Clay Cliffs and the pictures convinced us to go. This is definitely a hidden gem in NZ! We did not have the blue skies which would have made it even more beautifull but they were incredible. We had to drive 12km on unsealed road and pay 5NZD a the gate because they are on private property, but it was worth it!

The cliffs were formed 2 million years ago.
We were there all alone which made it even more special.

We leave the cliffs just in time to stop by a salmon farm and buy smoked salmon for aperitive and fresh salmon filet for the barbecue!

The next day we start out with rainy weather but as we continue our drive the clouds give way to sun and by the time we arrive at Rakaia Gorge it was perferct! We see a perfect camping spot but decide to do the Rakaia Gorge walkway first since the weather was so nice.

It is a 10,2km walk (return) along the top of the Rakaia Gorge and the views are spectacular.
The Rakaia river making its way through the gorge.

We lost our good camping spot but were happy we did the walk under blue skies as the next day it was drizling again…

Because we did not see any penguins nor an albatross in the Otago Peninsula (Dunedin) we decided to drive along the coast to Oamaru because the Rough Guide said this is a unique place to see the Yellow Eyed Penguin and the blue penguin since there is a colony within walking distance from the town centre!

Would they really cross the street…
The yellow-eyed penguin or hoiho (Maori) is native to NZ.They are endangered and considered one of the world rarest penguin species.Their estimated population is only 4000.
You can only spot them early in the morning when they leave their burrow to go fishing (not a good time for us 🙂 ) or in the late afternoon, in this case 5.30PM when they return from a day fishing. NZ is very protective of the penguin and you cannot go on the beach or near at certain hours of the day so they do not get frightened and return back to sea.

We then decided to go see the blue penguin but we were informed that they only show up around 7PM, almost dark…We were at the rendez-vous a little after 7PM together with a lot of other penguin enthousiastics. We waited and waited, Stefan got a blanket, it was cold and windy, started to drizzle but we persevered and around 8PM a whole bunch came tumbling with a wave on the beach 🙂 Really funny how they then walk up the hill to their burrows. Unfortunately because it was already dark and you can not use a flash and they are far away I did not get any good enough picture…The blue penguin (Korora) is the smallest of the penguins. Cold and wet we returned back to Burnie, happy we did at least see the penguins!!

Our drive to Chrischurch was with continuous beautiful scenery and very variabel weather. Summer was over, leaves were turning to yellow and orangy colours and a lot already falling. We camp at Lyttleton harbour and the next day we decide to drive to Akaroa along a scenic route, Summit Road which traces the 600m high Akaroa crater rim. We stopped many times to take pictures and walked 30min to a viewpoint, all just in time to see the clouds roll in.

Akaroa is a little town with french roots. The first settlers came from France and a lot of the street names are still in french. It is a popular KIWI holiday destination.

The Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society moved the lighthouse from the Akaroa heads close to the town centre in 1980. It was built in 1879 and one of the few wooden lighthouses remaining.We made it back to the town centre before the downpour.

Arriving in Christchurch was a surprise. We could not believe the destruction still visible from the earthquake that hit the city in February 2011! 6 years later and still so many buildings waiting to be torn down, rubble and cranes everywhere. Stefan felt sad seeing the city like this while I could sense a dynamism in the newly created parts of the city. We did not stay very long because it was already April 3rd and we had to be in Auckland by April 8th to show Burnie to a potential buyer.

Earthquakes occur very frequently in NZ because it is situated in the collision zone of two plates, the Indo-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates. About 14000 earthquakes occur in and around the country each year and about 150 to 200 are big enough to be felt. We did not feel once the earth rumble.

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake registered 6.3 on the Richter scale and was centered 10KM of the centre of Christchurch. 70% of the CBD (Central Business District) buildings have to come down.
The Christchurch cathedral was severely damaged and the Anglican church decided to demolish the building and build a new one but this led to many protests and legal action from various groups. This litigation is still going on and so the church still stands…the tower was destructed in 2012.
The Canterbury Earthquake natiional memorial was unveiled on February 22, 2017, just before we visited. 6 years after the destruction…185 people of more than 20 countries died.
The new Christchurch, which is being marketed as “greener, more compact, more accessible and safer”, will cost in the region of NZ$40bn – almost 20% of New Zealand’s annual GDP.
The Chalice still stands! It was built in 2000 and survived the 2011 earthquake.It is designed by New Zealand artist Neil Dawson, and is made up of forty-two leaf patterns featuring different native plants.
The Paua House was a tourist attraction in the southern New Zealand town of Bluff, but now on display at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. The house was owned by elderly couple Fred and Myrtle Flutey, who built up a massive collection of ornaments made from the iridescent shells of the paua. They continued to do this for 40years and welcomed visitors from all over the world. When they died their grandson gave their collection on loan to the Canterbury Museum who made a replica of the house. NZ kitsch at the extreme but such a nice story!

We hurried back to Auckland passing by Wellington in the pouring rain from the storm Debbie and managed to sell Burnie to a french couple travelling for 2months in NZ. We rented a little camper and drove north of Auckland to Whangarei. Visited Aislado (NZ) in Marsdens Cove Marina, An and Ivan on Vaguebond in Town Basin at Whangarei. Drove to Russel ,where we had an excellent meal at the Duke of Marlborough, and stopped in Waipoua Kaori Forest to see the largest living Kaori tree from NZ. Cyclone Cook passed by…but we arrived safely and saturated with lots of nature scenery in our heads at our friend’s house late April 14! So nice to finally have the luxury of staying in a nice house, sleeping in a bedroom, toilet and bathroom next door 🙂 !

Together with Sylvia, Vaughn and Zara at a Thai restaurant on our last night of our trip in NZ.

Thank you so much Sylvia, Vaughn and Zara for your hospitality, help and friendship!  We hope someday to welcome you all in Ghent !!! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Travelling the East Coast of the South Island, on our way back to Auckland.

  1. WHAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. Er zijn geen woorden voor – gewoon adembenemend ! ENJOYYYY . groetjes

    1. Dank je wel :-), inderdaad een aanrader voor de wandelaars en de natuurliefhebbers!!

  2. Hi, we love doing campervan travel and enjoy it to the fullest. I liked that you have mentioned every detail of the requirements on your journey. It is good to read. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Alice, glad you liked it! Hopefully it is also useful for other people planning a similar trip. Stefan

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