So this is the beginning of a very long process, but a very good story. I’d never been on a trip for so long. It’s weird but quickly starts to become normal. It feels like it was so quick, but it feels like forever ago all at the same time. But most of all, it was incredible.
I saw so much in such a quick time, and in a relatively small region. It was pretty shocking to drive such a short distance and have the landscape change so drastically. I think that made the trip seem longer than it was. It seems like the beginning of this trip happened 2 months ago, not 2 weeks ago (well, almost 3 now). It was a long trip — so long that our routine started to feel normal.
Wake up. Get dressed. Brush teeth. Eat breakfast. Close the tent. Pack the van. Drive on.
I don’t think I’m going to be able to hash out every detail of the trip in this one account. When I was thinking about how I was going to do this I thought maybe detailing each day, but some days are more eventful, or have more photos, or don’t have enough to be their own stand alone post. But I can’t really write it in regions either, because we were on the move everyday and there aren’t provinces or states in New Zealand (something many Kiwis find weird about other countries). So I’m just going to start writing about the beginning, and when it gets too long I’m going to cut it off, and we’ll continue this till we get to the end of our road trip.
So we begin Thursday (All the way back on April 14th, an eternity ago) when we were going to fly from Auckland to Christchurch. We were about to catch the bus to head to the airport when the fire alarm went off. I was in my room with one of the friends I was flying with. She was just about to leave my room when the alarm went off.
So that was a stressful and funny way to begin the trip. We eventually got back in the building and on the bus, on our way to the airport. Flying domestic in New Zealand is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It’s similar to taking Via Rail back home: Check in, get your ticket, quick security (unlike via rail), go to gate. Good to go. No one ever checked my ID, or weighed my bags. The whole process took maybe 15 minutes.
Having incredibly over estimated the amount of time we needed, we had lots of waiting time. Eventually we were off. It was a quick flight, just over an hour. At the end of the flight when we landed the plane was so bumpy that my phone that was plugged into my headphones went flying off of my lap and under the chairs in front of me, ripping the headphones out of my ears and out of the jack. I had to wait until everyone in front of me left the plane to go search for, I found it 6 rows ahead of me. We were lucky enough to get a ride for free from a girl on our flight. We weren’t travelling with her, but she had a car! We arrived at our hostel late, so basically went to bed when we arrived.
In the morning we were greeted by our friends who flew earlier than us and were already asleep when we got there. I went with two of them to pick up our van, our transportation and accommodation for the next two and a half weeks.
Here she is, Shelley (the name came later that day).
I’ll tell you a bit about Shelley. She once was a Toyota mini van, but then after some time she was given a paint job, her back seats were taken out and were replaced with a sink, a cooler and other kitchen items and she was topped off with five person tent. And now we have the Shelley of today, the one we know and love.
After getting acquainted and a big grocery shop, we were off. The only disappointment of this trip happened in the first five minutes. You see, leading up to our big adventure, we created mixed CDs. We each had two, carefully selecting the songs, giving great names, and drawing on them with sharpie as if it were 2002. But after the initial excitement about our cool our van wore off, we came to the awful realization that there was no CD player: It had been taken out. This was crushing, and led to a few sad moments, until we found an aux cord, plugged it in and began playing the same playlists from our phones. Good, but not the same.
We started driving north, toward Kaikoura (KI-KUR-A). Part way we stopped for a coffee at this shop called Mainline Station, which I’m assuming used to be a train station but now is an adorable cafe and curio shop with beautiful gardens. I noticed it had the TripAdvisor excellence certificate, and this started a trend of me pointing out everywhere we went that had one and the other girls not caring.
We sat outside and enjoyed our coffees, until we discovered a dead mouse under our table and decided it was time to go.
We then hit the coast and it was amazing! I’ve decided it’s my favourite kind of drive. With the ocean on one side of the road and the cliff sides of mountains on the other, we arrived at late afternoon/dusk, so the lighting was perfect. We stopped a few times along the coast, then drove through the actual town of Kaikoura.
We decided to drive past and head to Ohau which is only a few minutes down the road and head back to Kaikoura for dinner. Kaikoura and the surrounding area are known for their marine wildlife. Lots of dolphin and whale watching opportunities. But we were there to see the fur seals. Ohau has a reserve where they are protected along the coast. Fur seals are a pretty popular species in the south island. This was the first of four seal encounters we had over the 2 and 1/2 weeks, but we were equally excited each time! Anyway, we stayed there for about half an hour and just awed over the seals, so here are some cute pics.
After heart-breakingly having to separate ourselves from the seals, we returned to the town of Kaikoura and accepted a suggestion that we try “the best fish and chips in New Zealand.” They lived up to their name: I’ve never had such fresh fish and chips. The whole thing was so delicious!
We walked around the town for a bit and then headed back down the road to our first campsite. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of waiting until dark to set up the tent for the first time. So that led to a very difficult and unsure process. It also took the bravery of the first girl to go up the ladder and trust the tent sitting on our van. We did it though, and I am happy to report there were no issues sleeping in the tent during the entire trip! (There were other issues though; those stories will be coming soon.) The first morning we decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise on the water at our campsite and to see if we could see whales or dolphins (we’re a bunch of optimists) because the best viewing times are early morning and dusk. The sunrise was beautiful, and funny enough we did see dolphins. Barely. They were in the distance. But we saw them.
After waking early to see dolphins, sunrise and no whales, we left for Blenheim, where we had an appointment at 10 a.m. Blenheim is in the region of Marlborough, which is New Zealand wine country. So we booked a wine tour, and it started at 10.
I think this is where I’m going to cut the first one off. So tune back soon to hear about our wine tour, getting pulled over and napping in public.