We now have three weeks left in the season here at Raetihi Lodge, and things are starting to slow down. Things have been getting so slow, that we were asked to take some unpaid time off work to help counter all the expenses for staffing here.
It gave us some time to see some places around the South Island that I really wanted to see, but we didn’t have the time to do so before. It was like we were granted the gift of time!
Our first stop – St. Arnaud. We basically chose this as a place to sleep, and that was it. We didn’t want to have a long drive to our second destination, Hanmer Springs, so we stopped to pitch a tent here. All I knew was that we would be near a lake which was shaped like a shitty heart.
Lake Rotoiti (Roto-iti) turned out to be spectacular. We arrived and saw this:
Pretty dope right? It only got better…
We were in West Bay, where we found some ducks to feed. We heard there were eels also, and they came out to feed from under the jetty when the ducks came around. Don’t worry, they don’t eat ducky. The just bite the ducks when the ducks take their food.
We went to check out the other bay, Kerr Bay, in the morning. The view wasn’t as good, but the wildlife was waaayyyy better! Swans, ducks, and eels galore!
The swans were my favourite; they make a sort of honking sound.
We thought the eels were all fun and games, popping out of the water like miniature sea monsters. Jessica was having a gay ‘ol time but then one of them bastards bit her!
Nevertheless, this place was undoubtedly stunning.
For dinner, we had re-heated Dominos pizza – pan fried. $5 Dominos pizzas are probably the cheapest way to eat in NZ, so we had it for dinner, and next morning’s breakfast, almost every day.
So does beer with glow in the dark labelling.
The next day, we were off to Hanmer Springs. Basically, the town is built on geothermal springs, so they’ve made a small waterpark with the warm water and that has become the main attraction to bring tourists there.
We didn’t take any pictures there, because, well, that would be creepy if we were taking pictures of half naked people in their togs. Togs means swimming costume in New Zealander language.
Here’s a picture of Maruia Falls on the way instead:
We stopped at the Buller Gorge on the way to check out the swing bridge. I didn’t realize we would have to pay $10 each to go on it, but it was actually pretty sick.
This was the only picture I took in Hanmer. It’s a picture of some super old peoples’ trailer at our campsite. It was so cute, and really all you would need to be comfy. We thought, something like this could work for us one day.
After Hanmer Springs, we were off to Akaroa. We stopped in Christchurch to get some pizza from Dominos. While we were there, I decided I wanted to actually see some of the sights. The sights are basically the rubble and ruins from the 2011 earthquake.
The main tourist sight is the crumbled chapel that still hasn’t been rebuilt.
It’s surrounded by barricades to keep people out and safe. In this part of the city, all you see is construction, blocked off buildings, and shitty roadways. Years after the earthquake, it is apparent that the city is still rebuilding, and they aren’t even close to being back to normal.
I wanted to get a nice picture of the Bridge of Remembrance, but this dangus in the red hoodie decided to stand there for twenty minutes so this was the best I could do. The bridge commemorates those who fought in WWI.
Christchurch also has a place called Container City where they have shipping containers turned into an outdoor strip mall inclusive of a bank, food outlets, and clothing stores. Other than that, I don’t think ChCh is much of a tourist destination. It’s a bit depressing, and it takes a long time to get everywhere as it is so spread out. Skip it if you ever travel NZ.
After Christchurch, we were FINALLY off to our main destination of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. The drive there is supposedly one of New Zealand’s best. This was a place I’ve been wanting to see for some time now.
It was super foggy on the drive in (and the drive out), so we didn’t get the iconic pictures looking down from the hill like we wanted to, so here’s one stolen from Google:
Akaroa is a quaint, French-infused town. Many businesses have French names like “Chez la Mer” and stuff like that, the restaurants and bakeries specialize in French cuisine (even though both bakeries sucked ass), and surprisingly, even many of the residents happened to be French speaking. Akaroa has that French feel because the first settlers here were from France, and they’ve tried to keep that tradition alive.
The reason the bakeries were dogshit was because the first one, Sweet As Bakery, didn’t sell pan au chocolate, which was the reason we went there. Instead, I got a sausage roll, which had disgusting gas station-type meat in it. The sign saying “New Homemade Recipe!” was quite deceptive. We shared a lemon meringue tart which actually turned out to be the highlight of my French cuisine experience in Akaroa, so kudos there.
The second bakery, L’Escargot Rouge, was also crappy. I ordered a couple pan au chocolates, and Jess asked if anything was vegetarian. The lady replied in a rude manner, “Well, there’s the ham and cheese croissant or the plain croissant.” Dumbass apparently didn’t know what vegetarian was cuz ham ain’t a veggie. I asked, “Are you able to put cheese and tomato on a plain croissant for us?” She told me straight, “We have already pre-made everything for the day so this is all we have.” We went and sat out front and ate our pan au chocolates, which were more just like pan aus, cuz they barely had any friggin’ chocolate in ’em. No kudos for this loser.
Besides that, Akaroa was lovely. As soon as we drove in, we added it to the list of the places we could see ourselves living in. It had that nice, small town feel, but it wasn’t boring or dull. It was beautiful, culturally activated, and has tons to do like dolphin swimming/sightings, walking tracks, cool restaurants, and local events.
We found an awesome farmstay just 12 minutes passed Akaroa called Onuku.
This wicked map was the main reason we booked it, plus it was only $40 a night for a Stargazer Cabin. The Stargazer was a wooden hut, complete with a bed, pillows, and linen, plus it had a glass portion as the roof so you could stargaze as you fall asleep. Unfortunately, it was cloudy as eff, so there were no stars, but it was still super dope.
- The place also had some cool pets. TONS of doves,
a duck, and a goose!
The place was awesome. It was so nice to finally have a real sleep in a real bed; the tent was getting a bit saturated from all the rain, and the air mattress was subpar.
Although we didn’t do much in Akaroa, we were able to rejuvenate ourselves by
smoking the rest of our weed relaxing and getting a good night’s rest. The next night, we planned to sleep in the car to save money =(
We got an early start the next day, and set out to a free campsite called Klondyke Corner in the middle of Arthur’s Pass. There were a couple stops on the way I was keen on.
The first stop was called Castle Hill. I heard it was quite fantastical, like a Lord of the Rings set.
Well, we found it it wasn’t in Lord of the Rings, it was actually in The Chronicles of Narnia, as seen here: Castle Hill Battle Scene.
The place was just surreal. A place like this is every kid’s dream playground. Rocks to climb, caves to sneak into, a million places to hide; it amazed me.
And then we saw this:
I just couldn’t help myself…
I’d say it was one of the best places we have seen so far. It made me feel young. It was so vast; we could have explored for hours! However, we had to embark to our next sighting – The Devil’s Punchbowl.
Unfortunately, the Punchbowl walk was closed because of all the rain which was causing landslides all through Arthur’s Pass. This is what we wanted to see though:
After that, we carried on to our luxurious lot of accommodation, Klondyke Corner.
Yep, the place was a sight for sore eyes. When we got there, we were the second of two vehicles.
Throughout the night, tons of cars were rolling up and parking near us. People had head lamps on and kept walking by our vehicle looking in. I wasn’t able to sleep because I thought people were going to slash our tires, torment, and then murder us. Once again, I think I have these thoughts because of all the twisted movies I’ve seen. Our beds were pretty cosy and relatively warm considering all else.
After sleeping at Creepy Corner, we were off to another point of interest – the limestone arches of the Oparara Basin, just north of Karamea in the Kahurangi National Park.
Through Arthur’s Pass, we found a lookout called Death’s Corner. I don’t know what it was about this area with Devil’s Punchbowl and Death’s Corner, but I was glad to be leaving!
I knew we made a good decision in going to Karamea to check out the Oparara Basin. It’s a geologic wonder that tourists haven’t overcrowded yet. You have to take a 3-hour roundtrip detour from Westport to get here; it’s not exactly ‘on the way’ to anywhere, so if you see the Basin, it’s because you ventured out there especially for that reason.
Lonely Planet describes the park as so:
They weren’t lying about the Dr Seuss shit:
The forest itself was super cool. The main sight I wanted to see was the Moria Arch. When we got to it, there were warning signs because you have to climb down into a cave. The rocks were jagged and slippery, but some nice folks had bolted a chain along the wall so you had something to hold onto when you climbed in.
The Moria Arch from inside:
The Moria Arch from the outside:
Secondly, we wanted to see the Mirror Tarn. When we got there, it was raining, so we didn’t get the mirror effect.
We were patient, and waited for the rain to subside. This is what we wanted to see:
That was our final sight before a long 7-hour drive back to Raetihi.
The trip was very well deserved. A week long vacation was what we needed to clear our heads and spend some quality time together. Being in one place for too long makes you dull, dormant, and unappreciative. Taking some time away can give you a new perspective on things; it allows you to take a step back and be thankful for what you have, for the fortunate position you are in, and for the special people in your life. Breaking the chain of our routine, cyclical life brought us closer together, and we learned a ton about life on the road, even if for only one week.
Change things up and try some place new 🙂