I’ve just arrived home from a two-week road trip through the South Island of New Zealand and it was the most epic, spectacular adventure of my life and one I’ll never forget. We flew on Boxing Day, arriving in Auckland on 28th where we stayed for four nights, including New Year’s Eve.
We are massive foodies/coffee lovers so we pretty much spent the time here eating our way round the Asian food offerings, going to amazing breakfast spots and strategically timing our coffee stops so that we could have at least three a day at various trendy hipster establishments. It was actually pretty quiet in Auckland as all the locals were taking time off over Christmas and New Year to travel south. New Years eve was a bit of a flop – predictably. We were so jet lagged still, but determined to go out and be interesting, instead of finishing the third series of Peaky Blinders in bed with take away sushi. We started too early though, and after a hilarious three hours we ended up back in bed at 10pm. Our hotel overlooked the Sky Tower that had the most spectacular firework display (I found out from my Mum the next morning who’d seen them online) – we were sound asleep through the entire thing. We also got the ferry over to Waiheke Island whilst we were in Auckland, which was absolutely beautiful in door-to-door sunshine.
On 1st Jan we flew down to Queenstown to start our road-trip up through the South Island. Queenstown was my favourite town/city that we saw. We immediately collected the car and drove around Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy. Again it was glorious sunshine and the views driving around the lake were like nothing I’ve seen in my life. This was the first of many spectacular drives – my favourite being the one between Queenstown and Wanaka the next day.
The scenary seemed to change every 5 minutes like different chapters in a book. One minute the road was steep and winding with imposing mountains on either side and then suddenly it would open out and you could see for miles. The colours of the trees and the mountains and the fields and lakes changed so much. In Wanaka it felt very green and yellow where as Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki, the day after, were every shade of purple and navy.
The hour we spent at Lake Pukaki was the best hour of the trip for me. We had miles of lakeside to ourselves. The water was so clear and cold and silent.
On the 4th we arrived in Christchurch after a brief visit to the seaside town Akaroa. This was our first cloudy weather and we had two night’s here so I spent it catching up on work and it was also the best vegan sushi of the trip. New Zealand is the place to travel if you’re a fussy vegan like me! Most places have brilliant vegan and veggie options and sometime even more than just one!
We then drove up to Kaikoura which was another absolute highlight! We expected it to be quite stuffy and touristy but it felt really relaxed and quirky and small. Our first morning there we went dolphin watching where we saw hundreds of wild dusky dolphins and beautiful albatross. Seasickness was a bit of a distraction for Mike but I had a great time haha!
The next day we went in search of seals. We couldn’t find them where we expected them to be, but we did see them further along the coast. At this point we were at the top of the cliff and they were on the rocks below. Somehow I was persuaded to scale this cliff on my bum, clinging onto tufts of grass and swearing a lot. It was worth it to be amongst these wild seals. There were hundreds of them; so many families and babies. Eventually we were chased off by an alpha male 🙂
Unfortunately I’m the worst photographer in the world, second only to Mike, so we were never quite able to capture the magic of it all. I wish I had more paintings to show for the trip as well – there were so many inspiring sights, but with so much driving and eating and walking and swimming to squeeze in, I didn’t get many more opportunities. I loved the special moments I did spend drawing though, on hotel floors, beaches, ferries and forests. My ‘travel kit’ is not very travel-freindly I must admit, but I’m refining it with each trip so that it is a bit more portable. I use a water brush if I can’t get hold of a water pot, but these paintings are always more scruffy (like the trees in the painting below). But otherwise I just bung all my gouache, watercolour and ink pots into a plastic tupaware and carry round a sketchpad of watercolour paper and disposable pallet sheets… although I often just use the side of the drawing as my pallet!
We’d planned to go from Kaikoura to Nelson after the seals but the East Coastal highway between Kaikoura and Nelson turned out to be closed because of a storm so we had a long drive ahead of us, travelling in-land instead. This clearly was meant to be, because we stumbled across these incredible hot springs in Maruia when driving through the rainforest and ended up spending a night here. It felt like something out of Jurassic Park! There weren’t any dinosaurs but we were eaten to pieces by sandflies!
When we reached our bnb in Nelson, the view was, yet again, incredible! We had an amazing evening swim in the ocean and got the ferry across to Wellington the next day, where the rain really set in! Wellington is coffee capital and sushi heaven so we ate and drank as much as we could justify before the big long horrific journey back to the UK! Mike was alright – he only flew to Australia! I’m still waking up at 3 each morning but NZ was just the best that there is on this planet and the absolute trip of a lifetime!