Saturday, 5 March 2011

Finishing Van Trips and Avoiding Earthquakes

Hello everyone! We are back in Auckland now and catching up on our blog entries. Thanks to everyone who got in touch after the Christchurch earthquake to see if we were ok. We were and we are!

After leaving Queenstown we stopped for a night in Te Anau, an area near New Zealand's famous Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. This was a place to chill out and have some downtime for us. I think our best achievement here was watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD in our van. Sarah (who had notoriously fallen asleep during every film we watched) stayed awake for all three! Well done! :)

On 21st we headed to Dunedin, a cool little city about five hours drive south of Christchurch. We drank some great beer in a place called The Green Man, which brewed five of its own beers and had the longest happy hour I have ever heard of (six hours every day!).

We did the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory tour in Dunedin, a must for any chocolate fan. The tour was very reasonably priced actually, even without the Jucy vans deal which the four of us used. We had a very good guide called Dominic who walked us through the different rooms, giving us facts and then testing our chocolate knowledge as we went. Each of us was given a small plastic bag which we got to fill with goodies on the way and the tour ended with the chocolate waterfall inside the purple silo: a tonne of chocolate falling thirty metres for no reason! Everyone had to wear a hair net on the tour, plus the more beardy gents (including myself) also had to don a snood:

Posing outside the factory with an authentic old-fashioned Cadbury's van:

The earthquake hit Christchurch while we were on the tour, so as we came out people were talking about it, but it wasn't until later that we realised how serious it was. We were due to go to Christchurch the day after the quake, but changed our plans and spent a night in Rakaia, about an hour and a half south of the city. After staying in this small town, we then headed north of Christchurch to a place called Kaikoura. On the way we briefly got lost and found ourselves inside the earthquake zone. It was really shocking and quite upsetting to see so many buildings destroyed and cracks everywhere in the roads and pavements.

Kaikoura is a great little town that's been built around its tourism trade, which thrives on whale, dolphin, seal and albatross-spotting tours. We booked ourselves in on a seal tour with Top Spot Seal Swim and had quite a strange time. I say strange, because the tour really has to be broken down into two parts: 1) Swimming with seals in the bay was magical. They were so close to us and we had a good long swim with them, with even more seals and their pups sitting on the rocks nearby. The tour company provided us with gear like wetsuits, fins, masks and snorkels. I was swimming along in the very cold water, the visability was very poor, when suddenly a seal came right towards me out of the gloom. They're very playful creatures and it was breath-taking to see it swim so close to me! 2) Our guide was not very good, unprofessional, rude, aggressive and racist. Those aren't the words you want to describe someone who's leading your group for the morning are they?! While I'd recommend going to swim with seals in Kaikoura, don't do it with this company. The man who took us was horrible, particularly to two Dutch girls in our group, whose list of crimes included 'speaking Dutch'. He also left us on some rocks in the bay at one point to get some more shoes from the van (one of mine had broken). But that's not the way to end this account. I'll repeat myself and end it in the way it should be remembered: swimming with seals in the bay was magical!

Unfortunately neither of us has an underwater camera so we didn't get any photos of these wonderful seals. I've picked this picture from Google images instead:

After spending two nights at the beautiful Peketa Beach camp site in Kaikoura we headed back to the outskirts of Christchurch where we dropped off our Jucy van, that's been home to myself, Ania, Dan and Sarah for the past four weeks! We've had a wonderful road trip, but as was the case in Australia, four weeks is enough in a van! Goodbye Jucy, you served us well!

Sarah demonstrates the comfort of the 'up bed' in our van. I can assure you that those things in the foreground are my thumbs.


  1. So what's your next move?

    Again: I loved your film. Inspired, very well done (acting and direction), and very funny.

    XXX Dom

  2. Thanks, Dad! Our next move is to Santiago, Chile on the 10th, so that will be completely different. Weirdly, we arrive in Chile before we leave NZ (because of crossing the date line), so we'll be going back in time...