So I'm not sure if I ever explained how I came to visit Australia and New Zealand but they were never part of the original game plan. New Zealand's always been on my radar (for its natural beauty and the adventure) but what sealed the deal was an Air Asia
sale. Every now and then, Air Asia will host a "free seat" sale where the fare is free and you only pay for taxes and extras. WHAT A DEAL!! So in a moment of impulsive excitement, I purchased $500 round trip ticket from Manila to Sydney, giving me 3 week's time of unknown adventure.
In the mood for adventure rather than city life, I booked two weeks in New Zealand and one in Australia. Starting in Auckland in the North Island, I hung around & explored the city, home to a third of the 4 million population in New Zealand. CRAZY. I stayed with a friend and fellow wanderluster who I met when I lived in NYC. It was nice to have home-cooked meals, and a "local" to show me the ropes, point out his favorite neighborhood bakery, and introduce me to some delicious native foods like feijoas and Whittaker's Chocolate bars. After Auckland, I visited Hobbiton
and took a 12 hour bus to Wellington. While it would have been nice to take the Northern Explorer train
, it also cost 5 times more than the bus ticket. Yikes! The passing scenery was so gorgeous it made the hours pass quickly. Sleeping also helped.
From Wellington, I took the ferry to Picton. Usually a stunning 3.5 hr boat ride through Cook Strait when the weather's great but alas I'll never know as I was welcomed by rain and dense clouds. It's okay! I saw plenty of pretty scenery once I started my road trip in Picton which brings me toooooo...
My lovely rented Toyota minivan turned campervan! It's a bed, kitchen, and means of transportation in one! Party party! I decided to go the campervan route rather than a normal rental car because New Zealand allows freedom camping and the country is filled with free campsites. Plus, it's really friggin cool. I felt like I was sleeping in a fort. The back seats were gutted to make room for cabinets and a bed, and there's a gas stove in the back. Complete with bedding, an ipod dock, pots, knives, utensils, and GPS, I was ready to explore the South Island on my own.
And I drove drove drove...
To Nelson & the coast (those are mountains & tiny buildings along the coast btw).
To wineries galore in Blenheim, Marlborough
Did you know the grape leaves change color in autumn? I didn't!
I spent the night in a parking lot in Nelson, explored the city in the morning, then headed to Kaikoura along the east coast.
For lunch I stopped in Havelock the green-lipped mussel capital of New Zealand. Appropriately named. Best mussels ever.
I spent the night in a free DOC campsite, which was basically a park with a picnic table and a toilet. I loved it because it was right along the coast so I could hear the waves crash against the cliffs and above me was a glittery sky. In my campervan, I enforced a strict no shoes policy in the back to keep things tidy, and had my dinner of steamed broccoli & cauliflower and Moa beer, which I picked up at their brewery during my wine tasting adventure. I fell fast asleep gazing through the sun roof at the stars... at 9pm. There's nothing else to do! In the morning, I put on my boots and walked 200 yards to a hiking trail and discovered so many lovely plants and an even lovelier view.
My lunch at the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk
on Fyffes Quay: white bait, scallops, mussels and two other types of fish I don't remember all on a bed of rice, greens, and buttered bread. DELICIOUS.
Such interesting seaweed!!! They look like monster tentacles.
On to Arthur's Pass!