Leaving Christchurch…Again

New Selling the Van

After 6.5 long hours we arrive in Christchurch and book ourselves into a hostel room. We quickly remove all of our belongings before meeting our first potential buyer. 

The chap we meet is a nice, young danish guy on his gap year and in need of a cheap camper-van. To our luck he seems rather fond of ‘Bumblebee’ and we agree to sell it there and then for $3500.

Alex and I are relieved. We sold the yellow camper-van at a loss, however, we can still console ourselves with the fact that it was cheaper than to rent a camper during the same time (rates are high in summer and decrease dramatically once you move to autumn/winter). We celebrate with a beer and enjoy the last few rays of the setting sunlight.

The day after next we’re picking up our new van, a VW transporter bus. It’s not a huge motor home but we have a little kitchen, fridge and a table area that converts into a bed all inside – doesn’t sound like much but its a huge improvement on our former yellow companion. The new van is also much easier to drive and doesn’t struggle going up the hills – Alex just needs to re-learn to use a gear stick again.

Arthur’s Pass

Our first stop is Arthur’s Pass – we’re on the way to the West Coast as per original plan. Arthur’s Pass is also a National Park (what is not in NZ?) and we decide to stay for a bit. The first 2 nights we make use of our new self-contained camper-van and sleep in a free campsite in the middle of nowhere but with beautiful views over the mountains and nearby river. On the way we visit Castle Hill and take a plunge in a stream cave – my first caving experience!

We closely watch the weather as Alex is keen to walk the Avalanche Peak track which does require decent conditions to enjoy the walk (and view). On the one sunny day we get, we get an early start and go for it. The hike is quite challenging with a steep 3h ascent to the peak but we are rewarded with stunning views.

Once back in the village we congratulate ourselves with a coffee and cake. Walking down the road we spot a suspiciously familiar looking yellow van…And indeed, it appears Bumblebee remains close to our footsteps. We look out for his new owner but are relieved not to see him (after all, he is in belief that we sold Bumblebee because we finished our trip…). We move on to our new van and treat ourselves to a proper campsite and a hot shower.

West Coast

Next we’re heading over to the West Coast and stopping at the little town of Hokitika. By the time we arrive at the campsite it’s pouring down with rain. Sheets of water are falling from the dark-grey sky and threaten to soak us through. In the night we wake up multiple times as waves of heavy rain hammer down on our tin roof.

We drive on to the famous Fox Glacier and embark on a 45 min walk to the glacier view point, accompanied by quite a few fellow travellers. As we arrive at the view point I can’t help but feel rather underwhelmed. Being Austrian and having walked and skied on glaciers before I am used to this:

but we got to see this rather sad looking little fella:  

To be honest, I don’t see what all the fuss about the Fox Glacier is but so be it. We stay at a basic campsite near the remote Gillespie’s Beach and go for a little wander, trying not to be blown away by the strong winds.

The next morning we endeavour to go on a little stroll to an old gold mining site (Alex is hopeful to perhaps find a flake or at least get his share of the ‘Yukon gold rush experience’). All we find is an old rusty sluicing machine with no access to the site and head back. Within 10 minutes the weather changes drastically from sunny to monsoon-type rainfall and we get absolutely drenched. We drive on to Franz Josef glacier and spend the rest of the day in a coffee house, seeking refuge from the endless open-air shower. 

We haven’t yet give up on the glaciers completely and decide to do the Robert’s Point glacier walk the next day. It’s a fun and interesting walk up with many scrambles to go over, reminding me of my old climbing days. And admittedly the view of this glacier looks much more impressive:

The way back down is another story though. Climbing down over wet, slippery, mossy rock makes me slip and fall on my bottom not only once…It’s fair to say that I’m rather glad to be done with it. 

Now that the two glaciers are ticked off from our list we move up north again. Our first stop is the quaint little town of Ross, a former gold-mining town. We go on a little stroll along a boardwalk, which explains the history of the town and the gold-rush area. Alex hasn’t given up on his gold-panning experience and equipped with a small tupperware starts to look for fragments of gold in the nearby stream and public gold fossicking area. And indeed, he finds a teeny tiny sparkling crumb of what appears to be gold. The rain hasn’t stopped all day and we seek shelter in the old Empire Hotel – a special recommendation from Karen who grew up here. We treat ourselves with some local ale and cider (it was already 4pm after all) and dry up near a huge open fireplace – I am happy.  

After our little break we drive further up the west coast to the ‘Pancake’-rocks. Within a few hours of driving the landscape is already changing noticeably from temperate rainforest, covered with ferns and fern trees to a slightly more tropical one with a sheer abundance of palm trees. We arrive at our campsite at only 8pm, although, it might as well have been midnight – the days are getting noticeably shorter as we are nearing winter. Needless to say, we leave the Pancake-rock exploration for the morning.

After a short stroll that leads past the famous breakfast-rocks and the obligatory photo shoot we continue inlands towards the Nelson Lakes National Park.

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