Mount John, Benmore Dam and Danseys Pass

We woke up to the sun streaming through the window, it was cold but the sun was shining and my hopes were high for more fun travelling.
We wanted to stay at Lake Tekapo YHA for another night, but we were unable to stay – guess this is where it reminds you that you should book.

So we got up and headed out to Mount John, which is just around the edge of the lake and gives you some amazing views of the town and some great views of the snow topped mountains.

Views from the drive up Mount John
View of the town (Tekapo).

Mount John is often known for its stargazing opportunities because of how clear the sky is throughout the year. The views from the day are spectacular but I imaging the views at night are just as breathtaking, unfortunately I didn’t get to see the stars because of the clouds.

There are even six telescopes at the top, and they all belong to different places, one is for the University of Canterbury, one is from Japan, another from the USA and another from Germany.

Beautiful views

There is even cafe at the top called the Astro Cafe.
We stopped for a cup of tea and a cake and were joined by a couple of cuties.

Brew with a view and a friend.

I couldn’t get the idea of a model town out of my head.  What do you think?

Brew with a view.

I even caught this cutie flying off from stealing a left over crumb from my plate.


He bought along a couple of friends.

It’s sweet that he is looking out for her.

After a while we headed back down from the top as the wind was a little biting. Whilst on the road, we drove past the Benmore Dam, we were the only ones there too.  I don’t think many people even know it is there but it was pretty impressive to see.

Benmore Dam
View from the top

After the dam, we headed over to Danseys Pass and stayed in the holiday park. Again, we were the only ones there and it was so peaceful.  The area was beautiful and we got to explore the river and walked through it in our wellies. It was great fun.

Our little hut & Gwendolyn.
River exploring.

Lake Tekapo

Waking up this morning, we were really unsure of what to do so we decided we wanted to leave the Wigram Base in Christchurch and head over to Lake Tekapo.

The drive was lovely (most of the way, read on to see what happened). The sun was shining and it was warm which was good.

On the way to Tekapo

So you can see above the sun shining and the autumnal colours in some of the trees.  I do love Autumn, even more so when technically we are in Winter ha.

But the nice weather didn’t last all day, when we were near Mount Dobson we noticed the clouds decided to descend on us.
It was bazaar watching the sun being blocked out by the clouds that were wrapping themselves around the van. The cold was almost unbearable and we had to turn on the heating in the van it was that cold.

You couldn’t even see far enough in front of the van to make sure you were on the right side of the road. Not going to lie, it was a little scary.

The cloud descends

When we got near to Lake Tekapo the clouds lifted so we got to see the lovely lake.

The Clouds lifted, sorry about the dirty windscreen.
Lake Tekapo

It’s beautiful, the sun shining and the blue lake looks so inviting.  I bet it would have been freezing cold though.

Autumnal colours

The clouds started coming back within an hour of even being there though so we tried to wander a little before we couldn’t see any more than our hands in front of our faces.

Lake across the river.
The Blue lake and the clouds rolling in

The clouds are rolling in thick and fast so we headed back to our room at the YHA and chilled out in the warmth.


We were looking for work today, the need for a job is starting to get a little more urgent so we headed over to Methven.

It is a quiet small town, but in winter it changes into a busy place because of all the people who want to ski at Mount Hutt.

Drive on the way to Methven

As we expected it was very quiet when we arrived, but we still wandered around in the sun light. We even applied for jobs at the two pubs that are there.

The Brown pub and the Blue pub, they are both owned by the same person and the lady who was working at the brown pub was lovely.

We had lunch at the brown pub which I really think was some of the best food I have eaten here in New Zealand.


The Brown Pub
The Blue Pub

New Brighton Pier

So, today we went for a drive from Christchurch down to New Brighton Pier, the weather wasn’t great, but it was dry.

The town itself was very quiet, which might have been due to the fact it was Sunday.  But then again it is difficult to keep track of days whilst travelling every day.

New Brighton Beach

We walked to the end of the pier and watched a few people catching fish it was a pretty nice wander.
We also wandered along the beach, collecting a few stones, trying to even skim a few across the sea. Something, I have discovered, I am rubbish at.

Gondola ride in Christchurch, Banks Peninsula and Akaroa

Can you see the Gondolas, all the way up to the top?

It looks a long way up, doesn’t it?  Well it is, it’s 500 meters high with the Gondola stretching a 945 meters long.   I’m not sure if it is the longest one there is, but it was pretty impressive. The views were amazing.

The sign below was also at the bottom of the Gondola ride, I love these!!

How far away other places in the world are.
Some of the view on the way up.
Can you see the shadow of our Gondola?

After doing the time tunnel (not the old TV series) ride they have – which was very informative – we went to the cafe for a cup of tea.  How very English of us.

Brew with a view.
I also had a cheese scone 🙂

After our tea, we headed out onto the hill top to enjoy the views.
It was a little blustery and cold, but I was wrapped up ready for it all.  The views were even more breathtaking without the reflective glass blocking the scenery.

Tom seemed hypnotised.

After the Gondola ride, we headed over to the Banks Peninsula.  It was formed by two volcanic eruptions about eight million years ago.  It is surrounded by harbours and bays which is why it appears to be round in shape.

Part of the drive in Banks Peninsula.

The Maori’s refer to Banks Peninsula as Te Pataka o Rakaihautu (The Great Storehouse of Rakaihautu). Rakaihuatu was a noted early explorer who travelled the South Island, settling in the peninsula to take advanage of the abundant supply of mahinga kai (food of the forests, seas, rivers, lakes and skies) especially the eels and shellfish.
Akaroa is the Ngai Tahu word for Long Harbour, its waters provided the main sustenance for the people.

Some of the Bays.

Akaroa’s lighthouse first lit up the harbour on 1st January 1880 and was made from pieces shipped from the UK. It also has an odd hexagonal shape which is unique to New Zealand.

Akaroa Lighthouse.
An artsy shot of the harbour in Akaroa.

Akaroa has a very French feel to the area because it was the first where the French first settled in New Zealand. Also in 1838 a whaling captain Jean Langlois purchased the Banks Peninsula from the Maori and he returned to France to form a trading company.  However on his return, only days before he returned, the British officials sent their own war ship to raise their flag at Akaroa, claiming British sovereignty under the Treaty of Waitangi. Maybe if the French had arrived only a couple of years before then New Zealand would be a lot different from how it is now.

Akaroa pier / jetty.
Their war memorial.

There are some amazing views along the drive and in particular on the Summit road which is on the edge of one of the original craters.

The sun starting to set on our way back to our hostel.
Loving the views of the sky.

There was even snow along the roads – lots of it.

Christchurch Botanical Gardens

After the wander around Christchurch and the museum we headed to the Botanical Gardens for a wander.
I was really looking forward to this part, it is autumn here at the moment and the trees are all very colourful and pretty.  There are reds, oranges, yellows and still lots of green too.

The gardens are very well maintained and as the saying states, pictures are worth a thousand words, just check out the below.

The pond at the entrance for the gardens.
The Archery Lawn.

The Archery Lawn offers plenty of space for trees to grow. Trees from the Northern Hemisphere grow exceptionally well in Christchurch’s mild climate and fertile river soils, creating the atmosphere of a long established European park.
It was named the Archery Lawn because people used the area for archery and croquet in the 19th century.

Enkainthus Perulatus
All the different colours.
Orange at the top and yellow towards the bottom.

The Cunningham House through the rose garden.


Well the Rose Garden wasn’t as impressive as it probably is in the summer months.  You can still see where the roses are and there are still a few in bloom and others with buds on them.

The Cunningham House is home to a sub-tropical rain forest which has been recreated. C A C Cunningham was a great lover of Christchurch and its gardens.  This conservatory was built in 1924 thanks to his generous donations.

Rose arches.

There is a section within the Cunningham House for cacti.
The cactus is the queen of the desert because they are able to survive in extreme heat during the day and colds during the night. They have little to no water and no shelter, yet they thrive.
This is because they are succulents and retain water in arid places.
Not all succulents are cacti, only the cacti have areoles and spines.

Norfolk – I kind of had to take a picture of this.
Tom walking along with the yellow.

I love the symmetry here in the lake.

This tree was massive – I tried hugging it and I was so tiny!

A picture of Tom and I walking around the park.

What do you guys think of botanical gardens?

Do you know of any you can recommend visiting?

Christchurch wander and museum

This morning has been a little educational and very good for the legs (lots of walking).
We got up quite early but applied for a few more jobs before actually getting up and getting ready to go out for the day.  When we did get up we headed out into the main town.  Apparently we forgot that it was Sunday as there was next to no-one was out.  Other than maybe a few other travellers.

A little quirky street.

The wander was really nice, it was a little on the cold side but still sunny out. It is strange to walk around a city that is so flat after all the mountains we have driven through.  The devastation of the earthquakes are still very visible throughout the city, look at the church below, half of it is still fully intact and the other half is just gone.

There were a few other quirky things around, like the large grass sofa and chairs.  I am not sure what they represent, but they were quite comfy to sit on.  I did feel tiny in the chair though.

Faux grass sofa and chairs.

There is also a shopping arcade where a tram drives straight through it.  There were notices around the arcade where they state they continued to build the arcade whilst the tram continued on it’s daily route.
Still trying to get my head around how that would work.

Cathedral Junction

The below was created by an artist called Chris Heaphy, he was one of two artists who were invited to help transform the Christchurch Cathedral Square before its grand opening in 2013.  The square was closed for nearly two years after the earthquake on 22 February 2011 which had a magnitude of 7.1.

Planted Whare, 2013

The structure is constructed of steel scaffolding and covered with plastic bread baskets filled with local and exotic plants.

The below is a garden dedicated to the first peoples.  It is meant to show how the area may have looked 700 years ago when Christchurch was a vast tract of wetlands. The first peoples chose to settle here because of the rich resources from the wetland. They built their whare (home) on the high ground along sandy shores above the Otakaro River.
Freshwater Springs on the Northern boundary of the settlement provided clean water even when there were floods.
The site gave access to fibre plants for clothing, baskets, fish traps and cordage. Harakeke raupo and ti kouka grew here in abundance. The waterways provided fish, eels and waterfowl. Towards the west the forest provided timber for the whares and canoes.

After this area, we headed over to the museum, it was free to get in and there were a lot of things going on in there, below are just a few things which I found interesting.

The building for the museum.

Moa were large, flightless birds which lived in New Zealand until about 600 years ago, but are now extinct. There were even 11 species of moa. Their

Three different Moa breads.

There was even a house – which was a little creepy – covered in shells, the walls even had puau’s all over them. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph all of those, but I did photograph a full cabinet of shells which were very pretty.


After that, we heading into the Maori section and there were a few totems and carvings which were all very interesting.  Every carving has a different meaning.

Maori carvings.

The one at the top behind the guy in front are panels from the front of a carved pataka (storehouse). The carvings represent both human figures and manaia (mythical creatures).

More carvings.

Pounamu (greenstone) – although the presence of nephrite was known to the Maori from moa-hunting times, it was not until later that it became important in their culture. This very tough, hard beautiful stone was used for ornaments, wood working tools and fighting weapons.
The largest mere (a jabbing, club-like weapon), Te Paa, is owned by the Te Aika family, of Tuahiwi. It has been passed down through many generations and was used in the defence of Kaiapoi Pa, North of Christchurch.
A more translucent but softer and less durable form of pounamu known as tangiwai (bowenite) was sometimes used.

Pounamu Greenstone

This was a painting on the ceiling of the penguin area of the museum.  It’s pretty cool and really big, you cannot even stand under it to take the photo, you have to stand above it.


Then we got to the dinosaurs!
I am pretty sure this is where I become a kid.

Below is a replica of a Triceratops which is a herbivore and had specialised beaks and teeth for pulping food.


This is a Allosaurus which lived in the late Jurassic period of 150-135 million years ago.  It also had about 60 curved dagger-like teeth that were used to kill and tear apart it’s prey.


Whites Bay to Murchison

It is bloody freezing this morning – we slept in Gwendolyn last night for the first time.  I actually slept really well, better than I thought I would and honestly do not mind the whole camping thing.  Yes I had reservations about it all prior to actually doing it but it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

As I said it was bloody cold when we got out of the van though and I was very eager to go somewhere and get a cup of tea and some hot food to warm up.  Yes you probably guessed it – we drove to Blenheim after packing the bed away and found a McDonald’s.

So, not the healthiest start to the day, but it was seriously appreciated, to have a hot hand wash and a proper toilet with no bugs that wanted to eat you. Also – free WiFi and heating!!
Click here to read about the campsite.

It was blue skies though so you cannot really complain and the views were lovely.  This was on the way down to Murchison.

Blue skies and mountains.

We also got to see quite a few of the trees colours turning, I do love Autumn.

Autumn Colours
Wairau River along the State Highway 63.


So we got to see a rainbow before the weather started to turn.
I say that, but there were points where the sun shined and then it rained – you may have heard the term ‘four seasons in one day’ when reading about New Zealand.  Well I think that mostly relates tot he South Island and this is where we are starting to get it.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of driving we decided to stop at Kawatiri for a chance to stretch our legs.  Here there was a Historic Railway Walk.
This railway used to connect Nelson to Invercargill and used to only run two trains a week, usually on Mondays and Wednesdays when it opened in 1929.

Part of the old track.
River Hope

We then headed over to Murchison Motorhome Park as that is where we had planned to stay the night.  It was to be our second night in Gwendolyn and I was really looking forward to it.  We had read that the site had access to a kitchen and hot showers so it seemed a little more promising than the last place.

It cost us $34 (approx. £17) for the both of us for one night.  Yes a little more than what we would like to have spent, however it was a lovely site and I personally thought the money was worth it for the site we had.  The owner was a lovely lady who had mentioned she had built the site herself (I’m assuming she paid for people to build it as she seemed a little old).

The site itself was really good, very clean and the kitchen had a fire which I immediately sat in front of to warm up.  The bathrooms were very clean and the showers were hot.  Maybe a little too hot, they only lasted seven minutes – Seven minutes in heaven – if you ask me.  If you wanted to wash your hair here, I would give it a miss as you really don’t have much time. You don’t want to end up having shampoo in your hair for the night.  When the showers stop, you cannot turn them on again for a while which seems a pain, but I guess she does have to pay the bill, not you.

We arrived around lunch time and after lunch we decided we were going to pay for internet and do a little job searching as we are getting a little worried about funding the rest of our trip. Plus it had started to rain so we didn’t really want to explore until it had calmed down a little.

Buller River through Murchison.

When the weather had calmed down a little we popped down to the river (Buller River) to do a little exploring.  I really liked the views of the mountains behind the river and the stones.

We walked along the stones and it wasn’t as slippery as I thought it might have been.  We also went paddling in the freezing water with our new wellies!

Paddling with our new wellies!
A bit of an artsy shot.

There is also a sandy side of the river where you can swim.  They advise you not to swim where the rocks are as there is a strong current which can take you down the river quicker than you think it would.
Below you can see it is a little calmer.

The sandy side of the river.

Drive from Murchison to Christchurch – through Lewis Pass

This morning was a little on the wet side, it wasn’t a great way to wake up in the van knowing you will get soaked before you have even started your four to five hour journey – not good.  It did improve so bear with me and keep reading.

After we packed the bed away in Gwendolyn – our second night sleeping in her – we had some breakfast and set off on our journey.  To be honest I am not sure I was expecting too much, more roads maybe a few mountains and streams but nothing spectacular.  Boy was I wrong.

Below is the view as you drive from the Murchison camper van park along highway six. You can see there are a few hills that have a little bit of frost on them.

Just after we had left Murchison Camper-Van site.

The views were prettier as we went along. It looks as though Autumn is just hitting some of the South Island.

Autumnal colours.

Blue skies after about an hours drive.

I am not sure what the above mountain is, but you can see that it is covered in snow and this is where I think I have made the right decision to stay in New Zealand.
Yes – there was a point, maybe a few, where I wanted to come home. I had viewed some of the North Island and have a few bad days, trouble finding work etc. and wanted to come home. At this point I am glad I stayed (OK – so when Tom joined me, I was glad but even more so than at that point).

Below is the start of Lewis Pass which is higher than Haast Pass but slighly lower than Arthur’s Pass here in the South.  It is also the most Northern of the three and sits at 864 metres high.

Lewis Pass

This specific point is 810 meters above sea level and is 98 km from the Tasman Sea and 105 km from the Pacific Ocean.

The Lewis Pass is named after Henry Lewis, an 1860’s European surveyor. The Pass connects historic routes from the West Coast to the North of the South Island. Long ago the Pass was a trading route for the Moari and later became a main highway.

Tom and I posing with the beautiful view of Lewis Pass.
This is the view of the other mountains which are not as big as the Lewis Pass ones.

Even thought the above mountains don’t have snow on, I still think they are beautiful.  Also the road just seems to head towards them and sometimes you never actually reach them.

The Waiau River
Waiau River
Tom and I with the Waiau River behind us.


Wellington to Whites Bay via Picton

Yuk – it is soaking wet this morning and I am not looking forward to the 10 minute walk to the van as she is parked on Oriental Place and we are on Wakefield Street. Also we had to carry our stuff, not all of it as we were a little clever and put some of it in the car the night before.  But still enough that it was quite heavy to carry.  The joys of travelling.

Anyway, when we got to the port waiting to be loaded on the ferry to get over to Picton, we were watching the sea and it looked a little rough.  OK, it looked scary.

Rough seas.

I actually enjoyed the ride over, it made it quite entertaining, watching some people go a little green in the face, other sitting there trying to act brave when they were clearly not enjoying it.
When we reached the Marlborough Sounds it had calmed down and made the journey a little boring to be honest.

The start of the Marlborough Sounds.

We even managed to get out on the desk to watch the sounds go by.

Tom enjoying the view.
Me enjoying the views.

When we arrived in Picton, the sun was shining which was a bit of a relief. We were due to camp somewhere in the North of the South Island and I was starting to be a little worried.  We didn’t stop in Picton, but we hope to before we head back to the North Island later in our travels.

Tom had found a camp site for us called Whites Bay, which is where we were headed.  The road there was very windy and even had a few rocks which had fallen from the tops of the hills but we made it.  Also the views of the vines – wine country – were great.  It looked like they vineyards had a good season so there should be some great wine being made soon.

Look at all of those grapes – the yellow rows.

When we got to Whites Bay, we were pretty impressed, look at our view.

The view from our campsite.

The bay was named after a man called Black Jack White, who in 1828 deserted his whaling ship and took up residence with the local Maori.

There are a few little walks around the area too and we did a couple but there were a some points which were cut off due to the amount of rainfall they had before we arrived.

Small waterfalls.
Rushing rivers.
Whites Bay.

This was also our first night camping in Gwendolyn, even cooking was a new experience for the both of us.

Cooking pasta to go with our bologna we made the night before.

It was quite comfortable sleeping the the van, however because it is autumn we had to cook quite early as it was pitch black due to the lack of lights.  I didn’t mind though, the stars were amazing.