For Winter break this year, the Eastwood family headed back to New Zealand for another South Island camping trip. The big difference this time… we had Mama!!! This was the first time that she had been to the South Island (ever), so it was really exciting for all of us. Rosie and I, being the responsible adults that we are, also were in charge of our own tent and gear, which made for loads of fun (mostly). Read on for the highlights of the trip…
The Beginning and Birthday Days – Christchurch/Lake Taylor
After a ten-hour flight into Christchurch, we met up with May and Brett, our relatives in New Zealand to spend a night at their house before we embarked on our trip. After a loooong sleep and an awesome fish and chip supper, we drove off together to our first campsite, where we spent three nights. It was a long way from anywhere, and for the first night, we had the entire campsite to ourselves! The site was on the shores of beautiful Lake Taylor, which we all had loads of fun swimming in (even though it was suuuuper cold!). We went on a few hikes, and a big one for Rosie’s birthday! Thirteen no longer, she survived her first year of teenagehood with ease, and is now another step in becoming an adult. Much love for the chickie on her special day. Lake Taylor was such a great way to start the trip, as it was nice and easy with good weather, and we were able to spend loads of great time with May and Brett before we continued on our camping adventure.
The Surprise Day – Hanmer Springs
This stop was a big surprise for Rosie and I, as we only found out we were going to Hanmer on the way there! Hanmer Springs is a resort town famous for its hot springs. Papa, Rosie and I went there as a stop on our very first trip around the South Island in 2010/2011 and spent some time there relaxing in the springs, which we did this time around! We went to the same campsite as we did the first time, in Hanmer Forest Park, and got the same tent spot! After a bit of a rainy night, Rosie and I walked into town and went into the springs while Mama and Papa packed up the tents. We had a long time just relaxing in the 36°C+ water, which was soooo nice. My favourite was the hottest pool there, which was at a pretty toasty 40°C. The nice part about the day was that it was quite overcast and cold, which made being in the springs even nicer. After a few hours, Mama and Papa came and picked us up, and we were on our way to the next campsite.
The Sandfly Days Part I – Marble Hill
Marble Hill Campsite was just a short drive away from Hanmer, and it was a lovely campsite situated on the Alpine Fault (not just near it. Exactly on it. Yikes!) I had a swim in a freezing cold river on the first day, and we had to have hot chocolate in the tent because there were so many midges! For most of our stay there we were bundled up in as many long items and lathering in anti-bug cream in a futile effort to keep the bugs away. The next day we went on a long hike up through the forest to Lake Daniells, where we had lunch and a swim. A family of four also made the hike, and the two boys were both under five! The forest there was beautiful, and the river that the campsite was near was lovely. It was a great stop, with a mix of relaxing and adventuring.
The Beach Days – Punakaiki
This was another campsite from the first New Zealand trip, and it was great to be back. The drive along the West Coast to get there was absolutely stunning, with amazing coastal views and the dramatic Tasman Sea. The campsite was right on the beach, and was rammed full of people from all over the world. We went for a couple of big walks while we were there, both in the National Park near Punakaiki. The first was following two rivers into the forest and then back down to the coast. On the way back we stopped and had a walk around the Pancake Rocks: still as stunning and beautiful as we remembered. We went at high tide, so were treated with amazing blowholes and crashing waves. The next day, Papa and I went for a longer hike further into the Park. It was really beautiful, and also really nice to spend some time for just the two of us. Mama and Rosie hung out at the campsite and went for some walks along the beach. After supper that night, we went back up to the Pancake Rocks, stopping at a cave on the way, which we had a poke around inside with our torches. The rocks were even more amazing at sunset, and we stayed with a lot of other people to watch the sun vanish over the horizon in a beautiful array of colours. It was a fabulous end to a fabulous visit, and made us appreciate New Zealand even more.
The Glacier Days – Franz Josef/Fox Glacier
We camped near a beautiful lake about 15 minutes from Franz Josef township. It was such a lovely area, with lovely rivers and plains as well as stunning mountains: we saw the tip of Mt. Cook on the drive in! We spent a whole day up at Franz Josef Glacier, doing a five-hour hike up to Robert’s Point. It was a lovely walk through the forest, with amazing views of the glacier and glacial valley. We had to cross a few swingbridges, a few of which were pretty dodgy, and we had a couple scrambles over a few riverbeds, which we drank water from: it was so cool and pure! We got to the top, and were rewarded with the most stunning view of the glacier: it was the closest we had ever been to one. While we were eating lunch, another group showed up: a large family, including a five-year-old and a dad who had carried his daughter up the entire walk! He was Hero of the Day for us. We also saw a kea, the world’s only mountain parrot, fly past the viewpoint. It was the first of two on the trip, and it was amazing. Back at the campsite, we spent the afternoons and evenings down by the lake swimming and throwing rocks with a beautiful sunset over the hills.
The Windy Days – Boundary Creek
We stopped off at Fox Glacier township on the way to Boundary Creek. Papa and I took a short walk up to the glacier, and Mama and Rosie walked around Lake Matheson nearby. The glacier was stunning, but was a lot more receded than Franz Josef, and there were a lot more people. It was still super beautiful. We got back in the car and drove through Haast Pass, one of the three passes through New Zealand’s Southern Alps, until we got to Boundary Creek. It was right on Lake Wanaka, and super windy! Rosie and I had to get Papa’s help with some of our tent pegs: he put a rock on them. The next day, Papa, Rosie and I went for a walk up into the hills, but Rosie and I realised that we were super tired, so Papa went ahead without us. He returned a few hours later with stunning photos, and a couple of interesting stories to tell (like finding a car that had rolled down a hill into a ditch). Afterwards, Papa and I both had a swim in the freezing cold waters, and then washed our hair… with more freezing cold water. Not a pleasant experience. The evenings were spent down by the lake, chatting and laughing. It was a lovely spot, but the prospect of bad weather forced us to move on.
The Mountain Days – Aoraki/Mt. Cook
We didn’t think we were going to stay here initially! We pulled up in pouring rain and heavy winds, and made a dash for the shelter. After a delicious lunch of cheese toasties, we had a look at the forecast in the information booth, which said the weather was going to worsen over the next few days. Luckily, Papa suggested going to the DOC Centre in Mt. Cook Village and asking about the weather there. Just as we were arriving, a ranger taped up a new forecast, which said that the weather was going to get better! We decided to stay, and pitched up the tents in the rain. The ground was clogged with rocks and it took ages to get the tents up. We knew it was worth it that night, when the clouds cleared and we got a view of Mt. Cook’s moonlit summit. The most special part of that day, however, was seeing a kea up close. We walked up to a lookout by the Mueller Glacier, and there was one hopping around on the rocks. I sat and watched it eat berries for about five minutes, and it got within a couple metres of us. A few minutes later, it flew up to land on the lookout! It hopped around for a while, pecking at the wood and getting to within less then a metre of us before flying off. It was possibly the highlight of the trip for me. The next day was taken up with the Hooker Valley track (the one Papa, Rosie and I did last year). This year, however, there was the clearest sky, and we could see the peaks of Mt. Sefton and Mt. Cook foe the whole walk. The Hooker Glacier was really lovely, although there were now icebergs in the glacial lake like there were last time. The next day, Papa, Rosie and Mama walked up to the Sealy Tarns while I went on a shorter walk then packed up the gear. And then we were off.
The Sandfly Days Part II – Waihi Gorge
After a quick stop in Geraldine, we drove north to Waihi Gorge campsite, which was small and secluded, with a beautiful river flowing next to it. Our stay there was intended to be a quiet stop where we could sort out our gear and relax before flying back to Jakarta. However, as soon as we stepped out of the car, we were bombarded by sandflies. They attacked us relentlessly for the entire stay, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our final campsite of the trip. We camped down by the river, and then as soon as we pitched the tents, went for a scramble up the river to find a swimming hole the camp host described to us. We didn’t find one, but we did find a good spot by a dam someone had made. Afterwards, I scrambled up a beautiful side creek. There was a lot of slipping and sliding, but it was worth it for the long while of total peace I got. The next day I went again, only with Rosie this time, and we went a lot further. It had rained the night before, so the rocks were even more slippery. I feel into the water after a minute of scrambling: pretty bad! We spent the rest of the day down by the river: I read, Mama and Papa chatted and Rosie built an awesome dam. We had a final supper of noodles with vegetables (including fresh peas!) and then had a last hot chocolate. We went to bed that night thinking back on the fun we had had over the last few weeks, and how lucky we are to be able to have such experiences.The next morning, we had a final weetbix breakfats, and then we packed up and left. Actually, it was more like threw-the-stuff-in-the-car-and-hoofed-it, because the sandflies were so bad at that point.
The Lyttelton Days – Lyttelton 🙂
We spent one full day in Lyttelton with May and Brett, stopping off to do our big shop en route (raisins, weetbix and cheese for the family, sweets for Rosie and three bars of chocolate for me!). After sorting out the gear, Mama and Papa went out for a walk, and Rosie and I hung out with May and Brett. We spent the afternoon hearing stories of May’s one-year trip around South America, which was amazing to hear about. Both May and Brett have such amazing stories to tell, and we are so lucky to be able to hear them. May and I worked together to make our last New Zealand supper: stir-fried noodles. May was worried that we’d be sick of them after eating noodles for days, but it was delicious. Papa was mainly happy he didn’t have to cook that night. A delicious apple pie followed, and then we spent the evening doing last-minute checks and then chatting with May and Brett. The next morning, we got up and packed away any last items, then had a breakfast of buttered croissants. After saying goodbye to May and Brett, we drove to the airport and started to get ready for our return to Jakarta. It was the perfect break: a great mixture of family, adventure and unwinding, just what we all needed after a busy few months. But now we were ready to go back home and into another great year.
Thank you to all that made this possible. Thank you to Mama and Papa, for endless hours of planning and hard work in the build-up, and for doing so much during the trip to make it special. You are both amazing, and we can’t thank you enough for working so hard for our family. Thanks to May and Brett, for managing to fit four large people into your home, and for making time to come camping with us. Your company as well as your help is so appreciated. Thanks to all that helped us on the road (special metion to the New Zealand Department of Conservation: you guy rock!). And a special thank you to my tent-mate, Rosie, for putting up with my bad breath, snoring and space hogging where others would have snapped. You’re the best. HAPPY 2018!!!!