10 March 2018: Saturday.
It felt like the longest two weeks of my life with Flo being away in Australia with Chris so I was extremely excited to see him again in Auckland. I dreaded the flight though, that I’ll have to admit. Thankfully, it wasn’t particularly bumpy. Only, the second the plane gave even the slightest of shudders, I’d find my heart racing and my hands getting clammy. I ended up being wide awake almost the entire journey to Brisbane where I was in transit about an hour or so.
I felt much calmer on the flight over to New Zealand and as we were landing, I could see the bays of the bluest waters surrounding and interweaving into the Kiwi landscape. I thought to myself that I could really fall in love with this country.
I waited an agonising hour for Flo’s flight to touch down and for him to burst through the doors and into my arms. It felt like I was perfectly home being wrapped in his arms after too long!!
Some things to note when travelling to New Zealand:
- Ideally, make sure your hiking/camping gear are all clean.
- Try not to bring any food in, even if only for personal consumption.
- Even if your outdoor wear are all spotless, declare them.
- If like me you still have some snacks unconsumed from your trip, declare them also even if it’s only a snack bar. Throw away anything that’s been opened. I tried to bring minimal snacks on board but didn’t manage to finish everything off. Still, NZ is very strict on this so respect that. It will take some time to get through the ‘Good To Declare’ Lane but it is quite organised and painless.
We managed to hop on the airport bus and go into the city centre where our room for the night was. We were booked in at Base Hostel which was basic but clean and well equipped. We had ourselves an en-suite because we’re snobs like that. The weather was perfect so we explored the area, got Flo’s phone equipped with a local SIM and went looking for dinner.
We found ourselves at this cute modern-Italian restaurant called Ortolana to feast on dinner.
I had their market fish – Swordfish, seared and cooked medium rare, served with carrot puree, lightly pickled carrot ribbons, capers and a dash of cumin for a touch of the Middle East. Super yum! I licked the plate clean!
Flo had the Sirloin Beef with zucchini which he enjoyed as well.
With awesome mains in our bellies, we decided to share a Creme Brûlée with Rhubarb and Honey which I imaged to be really boring but it was presented beautifully and had so many contrasting elements that I was well impressed – perfectly brûléed creme, tart freeze-dried rhubarb, tender cooked rhubarb, honeycomb, honey biscuit sponge, and some jelly.
I realise though, that things here in New Zealand aren’t all that cheap so even though dining our is expectedly more expensive, I was surprised that their groceries were also generally more costly than in Singapore. Their cafes were comparable in pricing to here but again, I tend to think our cafes are unreasonably expensive for the food they serve so yes, still expensive.
11 March 2018: Sunday.
After a delicious sleep, and the last night in a comfy bed before three weeks of sleeping in a camper van, Flo and I looked for breakfast.
Deconstructed granola and yoghurt for me with a piccolo latte…
And some egg porn on Flo’s plate.
I kept forgetting we were in New Zealand and repeatedly said we were in Australia because there were so many similarities in their building structure and to some extent, their accent (based solely on my opinion!). That being said, Auckland felt a lot to me like a huge Chinatown to me because there were so many Chinese takeaways every fews steps. It definitely didn’t scream city in the way I think of a city so I had little idea what to expect for the rest of New Zealand.
After breakfast, we were off to Tui Campers to pick up our camper van.
This was an older model of what we’d wanted initially but the camper vans get booked very early on and the sites that rent them out are not live so you have to enquire on each model each time. If you’re looking to rent a camper van in NZ, we suggest you email the company a list of vans you’d like in order of preference to make things easier for yourself (and them). Otherwise you’ll both be going back and forth and feeling very frustrated.
Anyway, from Auckland we drove down South, picking up some groceries to stock the van with along the way. Then, for the first time in a LOOOONG time, and for our first meal on our road trip, we found ourselves grabbing lunch at none other than the Golden Arches.
They had an all breakfast menu so an Egg McMuffin for me. Tasted just like the good old days when my metabolism allowed for me to have an Egg AND Sausage McMuffin a day and lapping up salt was all part of the fun.
We found ourselves at Lake Okaro where we parked ourselves for the night.
And prepared our first dinner together in the van –
-Flo’s signature feta, cucumber and tomato salad with red onions, and a side of tuna. It was a simple treat but I promise you that our meals did get better and more substantial over the three weeks.
And then we witnessed our first gorgeous sunset in NZ.
What a beauty eh?!
12 March 2018: Monday.
And we managed to wake ourselves up to see the sunrise!
Before we went back to bed again and waking up to Beans on Toast.
Let’s just say that as much as NZ’s Wattie’s “Full of Beans” packaging looks so much like Heinz, it doesn’t match up in the bold robust flavours that the latter is known for. Still, it was the best we could get and it certainly fuelled us up nicely quite a few mornings.
En-route to Wellington, we stopped by Wai-O-Tapu which is this volcanic site. It had lots of boiling hot water springing up from deep beneath the earth’s surface as well as craters coloured yellow, purple, green, blue, depending on the gases present.
The stench of sulphur was pretty strong too. I actually accused Flo a couple of times of releasing wind but I have to admit that this time he was innocent.
One of the highlights of Wai-O-Tapu is this pool called Artist’s Palette that consists of the Champagne Pool (named because of its many bubbles) spilling into the main area. There were patch of pink, yellow, green and blue water that were more obvious to see when the wind blew and the steam lifted. The colours weren’t as vibrant as I’d expected but it was still quite a sight to see.
My favourite part though, was right at the end of the walk and is called ‘Devil’s Bath’. It was a pool of water coloured bright, neon, jade Green. It was seriously the colour of slime.
That, was really cool!
After Wai-O-Tapu, we were back on the road for a good 5-odd hours and it was an amazing drive for me in part because I didn’t have to drive, but mostly because it was awesome watching the landscapes change as we went further down. From lush fields littered with cows, to dry, desert bushes, to tall green mountains and deep valleys dotted with sheep, more cows, and occasionally alpacas, through small, rustic villages, and then along gorgeous coastlines with waters that stretched into forever.
We parked ourselves at Owhira Bay for the night and were blessed with yet another amazing sunset – one that set the sky on fire with its brilliant hues of oranges and reds.
Parking by the bay meant strong winds throughout the night and I found myself unable to fall asleep with the howling winds screaming against our van. Our van kept rattling throughout and I feared we might be swept up along with it. I really did! But morning came finally and we were greeted with the clearest, bluest skies!
13 March 2018: Tuesday.
We went for another bout of grocery shopping and Flo decided on a haircut. So while he was having his hair trimmed, I decided to take a shower. My virgin shower in the camper van and can you believe I actually did it on the roadside right in the centre of Wellington city?! I don’t know if that’s allowed but it was so nice and warm, and I worried it would be too cold in the evening to warrant a shower.
Random shower done and mediocre haircut done, we went to catch our ferry.
It was so cool driving up onto the ferry and we were like, the last vehicle up so when we got out of the car we could see how all the cars, vans, lorries and trucks were parked on their lower decks. There were even huge trucks with pigs in them! I didn’t see them but I could smell them!
The ferry took about 3.5 hours but it was so comfortable. There was a cafe selling hot food, ice-cream, and snacks, as well as fresh coffee and tea. Also, wifi.
We spent the last 45min of our trip on the top deck where we were treated to glimpses of the picturesque South Islands before we arrived in Picton.
And guess what?! Being like the last van up meant that we were pretty much the first ones off. OK we were really the second ones off the ferry because a truck found itself ahead of us but the German and the Singaporean were both immensely happy to be front of the line.
First thing we did was search for a seafood dinner since we were right by the big, blue sea. Of course, Picton was half asleep by the time we arrived at 6pm because most of their shops close around 4pm.
We managed to find some restaurants open so a Seafood Platter with a side of Momos were ordered.
I didn’t expect the momos to come deep fried but they were not bad. The green-lipped mussels were so fresh and juicy as promised and with it, some grilled prawns, cod, hot-smoked salmon, calamari, and seasonal veggies. It felt indulgent especially with the buttery garlic bread but we polished everything off.
Our camp for the night was Parkland Marina Holiday Park where we had access to electricity and fresh water. Also, clean toilets and hot showers. These holiday parks tend to be more pricey so Flo and I only went to about one park a week and usually only when we had little choice.
This pretty much marks our time in New Zealand’s North Island. We’d heard that the South Island had a whole lot more to see so we decided to devote more time to travelling around there. And so, my next few posts will relive our time in the South Island. I’ll try to break them up into manageable portions and I promise that there will be so many more interesting and exciting things to share with you from there compared to in this post! Cross my heart! X