Mount Cook and Goodbye NZ

February 20, 2019

Sitting in Christchurch airport NZ with 14 hours before departure! Well we might as well sit here as book a hotel room and leave it at 3.30 in the morning to catch the 6.30 flight..

So… Sunday afternoon we left the delights of Queenstown and headed back up north. We have plenty of time now so can cruise back to our final destination of Christchurch.

Mount Cook
What a spot to park overnight. And totally free…….

Our research had identified a great camp ground looking towards Mount Cook (largest in NZ). We needed to be there early as it is very popular so we arrived by 1pm to get top spot. Well, what a top spot it was…parked on the top of a small hill on this very big site with a terrific view across Lake Pukaki which was a most incredible cyan colour. Bright cyan… (kind of greenish-blue…) and flat calm. At the other side of this lake about 25miles away is snow covered range of Mount Cook. Picture postcard view right from our back window of Maureen the Maui Mercedes Motorhome. Eating lunch with that view in the sunshine made this easily the best site we have used. AND …it was a free site! 

There are toilets some distance away which are modern, clean, hygienic but ‘drop toilets’ down a massive pit. Don’t want to drop my mobile phone down there…! (Apple bobbing..!). Anyway after lunch all three of us went for a swim in this cyan lake. It was blooming cold again, but we survived over half an hour swimming in this very deep water with the Mount Cook backdrop. Outside it was probably 24 degrees or so which allowed us to drip dry at our leisure. Dinner in the same spot (no….camping spot, not in the lake!) with a bright orange/red sunset overhead. Not too shabby. It became cloudy later on which upset our plans for star gazing in this renowned ‘clear sky’ location however Trina instigated a 5am viewing (yes… the morning…!) when the clouds cleared. Thanks Trina……. however it was worth it as the whole unpolluted night sky was full of bright (upside down) constellations and milky ways and all that star stuff… Even had a fly past by the International Space Station. Damn fast that thing. 

Incredible sunsets…

So…Monday morning was, of course, a slow beginning as we were reluctant to leave this view. Bright sunshine again. We headed further north with the town of Geraldine in mind….zzzzzzzz…..dull, dead, dreary, forgetful. The site was flat, grass cut, lines straight, toilets immaculate…..dull..dull..dull. We walked into the Geraldine town. Closed. You get the idea. Don’t stop here. 

Interesting comparison…would anyone like the clean crisp grassy Geraldine campsite rather than the rather dusty, ‘drop toilet’ view of Mount Cook site. ? No comparison. And Geraldine cost us NZ$56 for the nice grass… Moving on.

Last night was our…last night in Maureen the Maui Mercedes Motorhome so we didn’t want to end on a ‘Geraldine’, so we camped not far from Christchurch, booked a fine site near the sea with the intention of visiting the city. First we had to book our place on this large, spacious site before heading into the sea… brrrrrr..again but I (yes just me with my bouncy, skimming, colour changing ball) played in the big waves for a while. Didn’t seem long but the girls looked very bored by the time I climbed out. 

We then drove into Christchurch which is a real nice city. Easy to get around, trams to take photos of and lots of parkland. It was interesting to see the Cathedral that had been on the news back in 2011 having been half demolished by earthquakes. We indulged in some posh fish and chips in a restaurant near the river for our last supper before heading back to the site. The whole of NZ has suffered badly with earthquakes with several large ones over the last dozen years or so. There are signs everywhere ‘down, cover, stay’ in the event of another and there were sirens on loud speakers across our site.    WELL…whilst finishing a small glass of wine last night at around 10.30pm the bloody sirens went off….Christ…! WTF do we do.? Too late to read the evacuation plans…. thankfully they stopped after 30 seconds but, thoroughly spooked we devised a plan.. if the ground shakes, stay still. We are in the middle of a field, no trees or anything else that can fall on us. Great. Drink on…. 

…hang on.we are next to the sea in a motorhome made of cardboard (sorry Maureen). Tsunamis often follow earthquakes. We decided that should the earth quake, we would wait till it stopped then head for the nearby newly built brick toilets. Great plan.  ‘Anyone want more wine?’ 

Just your everyday tramcar

So…this morning, still being alive….we cleaned up Maureen the Magnificent Maui Mercedes Motorhome and packed our bags. The experience at the Maui depot in Christchurch was positively joyful. Real quick, easy and painless to return Maureen. Other than a bill for $190 to pay the NZ govt diesel tax…..!

Not sure if I mentioned this earlier but they charge diesel vehicles $6 per 100km for some reason. Though diesel costs 20% less to buy. don’t understand why.. Probably only hire vehicles I wouldn’t wonder. Our total road trip was 2756 km. Average about 100 miles per day. Note. Diesel is around 80p per litre and petrol about £1. 

So……NZ…we thoroughly enjoyed you. It was everything we had heard and read about plus more. Motorhome is probably the only way to do it properly despite it being hard work and tiring some of the time. 18 nights 12 different sites. Superb. Thoroughly recommended.

Flight early tomorrow to Ho Chi Minh City and onward to Da Nang in Vietnam.. bring it on.. Soooo…Two backpacks and two suitcases on wheels plus Trina’s trendy purple backpack and rucksack are back on the road.

Sorry about the long blog….bored in airport..!

Did you know….

In the UK a mountain is usually defined as any summit at least 2,000 feet (or 610 metres)high. At one time the US defined a mountain as being 1,000 feet (300 m) or taller, but has abandoned the definition since the 1970s. Any similar landform lower than this height was considered a hill. 

The UN Environmental Programme‘s definition of “mountainous environment” includes any of the following:

  •     ▪Elevation of at least 2,500 m (8,200 ft);
  •     ▪Elevation of at least 1,500 m (4,900 ft), with a slope greater than 2 degrees;
  •     ▪Elevation of at least 1,000 m (3,300 ft), with a slope greater than 5 degrees;
  •     ▪Elevation of at least 300 m (980 ft), with a 300 m (980 ft) elevation range within 7 km (4.3 mi).

Yawn….if it’s big, it’s a mountain.. Thank you..

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