Lake Tarawera was the perfect place for Dan to recover from his surgery. Our home swap property was beautifully located with uninterrupted views across the lake and dormant volcano of Mount Tarawera. We spent the first few days inside as Dan regained some strength and we sat out some bad weather before venturing out to explore.
The area is rich with native forest and wildlife and a pleasure to walk around and explore. This area was completely wiped out by the volcano eruption in 1886, but now the forest has totally regenerated. It was easy for us to get into the thick of things as our back door had a flight of steps straight down to the lake onto a pontoon and walking track around the lake. The loop track took you past the other properties on the lake and ended up at a kids playground, which was put to good use and in a beautiful location.
The sunrise that greeted us each morning.
Our first trip out we took was to hook up with Dan’s friend Dave, who also used to live in Singapore and worked in the same industry. He was now the proud owner of a sawmill in New Zealand that was based just over an hours drive from our house, so we popped in to pay a visit! Dave gave us the full tour and showed us the ins and outs of how a sawmill operates from start to finish, which was fascinating, he then treated us to lunch at the nearby cafe and was even kind enough to treat Clair and I to dinner with his wife whilst the kids played with their kids at home with their babysitter. Top lad old Dave, a lovely evening and an awesome meal.
Playground, lake view, blue sky and of course free to use covered BBQ area.
We left the South Island in grand fashion, with arguably probably one of the best ferry crossings on earth.
As you slip out of Picton aboard the huge ferry you aren’t really prepared for the stunning scenery that awaits you as the captain navigates the huge vessel through the Marlborough Sounds. The weather was perfect too; a beautiful sunny day with dead calm waters. Even as we entered the Cook Strait the waters were eerily calm, backed by the towering peaks of the south island shoreline.
However, there was of course time for some Prince family drama during the 3.5 hour ferry crossing. As we were rounding the headland for the final approach into Wellington harbour Dan, Clair and Samuel decided to go out front to get the best view of arriving on the North Island to start our next month of adventures. We should have realised what was about to happen as we struggled to open the door to get on deck against a very strong wind. Once opened and held in place by Dan we started to step outside. As Samuel extended his leg over the door jam the wind blew his flip flop straight off his foot and straight over the side of the boat, much to the enjoyment and hilarity of the 2 young girls who were trying to get in through the same door. Samuel did not see the funny side, in fact he saw the absolute opposite of the funny side and proceeded to cry hysterically at the realisation that his flip flop was lost, and yes, forever! He might actually have cried more than the time he split his head open!
The South Island had been home for 2.5 amazing months, and in that time we had met some awesome people, what a way to make an exit, very sad to leave!
This post picks up from when we left Carters Beach, just after our petrol over diesel mishap!
In true form Scuttlebug made the trip without a hiccup, a solid 5 hour drive over countless mountain ranges and not one single problem. Thank goodness for the great mechanic who helped us out, and a nod to Toyota for producing such awesome engines!
We arrived at our home as the sun was going down, so we didn’t get a real chance to explore the surroundings, that would have to wait for the morning. A lovely map and some pictures with instructions had been left by Lily, the daughter of our hosts, so we were well prepared for looking after their 2 cats, 6 goats and chickens too!
After breakfast we had a Skype call with grandparents and a call from our host Patrick to talk us through the do’s and dont’s of goat herding. Basically, clip the dominant goat to a rope and lead him into the paddock, the rest will follow, at some point. We became quite the goat handlers and loved looking after all the animals and collecting the eggs, yum.
The house is amazing, set on 10 acres of land with orchards of apples, pears, oranges and wonderful red peaches, an olive grove, fig and avocado trees, a separate studio with pool table and sauna, oh and did I mention it was beach front too!?
These were our precise words as we walked into our next accommodation. We were back on the homeswap trail and had arrived at our home for 2 weeks in Carters Beach, on the Mid West coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Our swappers were none other than Grant and Alison, whom we had stayed with in Christchurch. And by goodness do they own another beautiful property! We were stunned and completely overjoyed at what we walked into after the week on the farm. The house has 4 double bedrooms and wonderful sea views. After 5 weeks of not knowing where the next roof over our head was going to come from, it was time to relax and settle in for a 2 week stay in this amazing home. The kids chose their bedrooms and unloaded their toys whilst Mum and Dad unpacked and opened a bottle of wine.
Tough life this homeswapping lark!
The area is stunning, we faced the Tasman Sea and were backed by endless mountain ranges. The town of Westport was just a 5 minute drive away and had all the essentials. Not to mention the local pub was just a 5 minute drive in the other direction and serves excellent locally brewed beer!
Exploring the area was done at a leisurely pace, no rushing around from sight to sight, we had plenty of time and took each day nice and easy, plus the weather was stunning, so it was hard to leave a beach house, especially when the beach was pretty much our own!
Leaving Fiorldand was not easy, we had such a great time exploring the national park and had stayed in some wonderful cottages, but it was time to move on and head into Queenstown. The driving as usual was an absolute pleasure, after an overnight stay in Kingston, a tiny non descript lake town en route, we were up early to make our way around Lake Wakatipu towards Queenstown.
The day had started bleakly, the clouds were low and the rain was beating down as we started our journey. After about 30 minutes on the road the clouds slowly began to lift and the rain eased off a little. This resulted in the most amazing rainbow, it was so close we could almost touch it. This is the first time we have ever seen a rainbow in its absolute entirety.
An amazing scene we feel lucky to have been able to witness.
Arriving in Queenstown was a culture shock, there is TRAFFIC! Being so used to open empty roads for so long we were not prepared for the drudgery of sitting in traffic jams as we tried to get into town.
Queenstown is billed as an adventure junkies playground and proudly boasts over 220 adventure tourism activities. Our challenge was to find the activities that were family friendly and fun for all to enjoy, so alas, Bungy jumping was off the list. Oh shame!
Our first trip out was the Thunder Jet. This is a jet boat that travels up to speeds of 85km/h across the lake, sometimes in just inches of water, whilst intermittently performing 360 degree spins. Great fun and a very good trip, it lasted one hour and our driver Neville took us 45 km up one of the adjoining rivers, pointing out wildlife and points of interest along the way.
This post picks up from our arrival in Cromwell, a small town in central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. Our house was perfectly situated, just a 5 minutes walk into town, 15 minutes to the lake and right opposite the golf course, with views of the mountains of course! Our friend Lisa’s Auntie and Uncle own the property and in true Kiwi style were kind enough to rent it to us at family rates! Their son Peter made the 45 minute drive from Queenstown on a Sunday afternoon to meet us with the keys, thanks again Peter, and it was great to meet you.
Cromwell is famous for it’s fruit, and has a massive sculpture to prove it, but the fruit we were most interested in were the grapes of course, namely, of the Pinot Noir varietal. We were steered to the 2 best wineries in the region by Dan’s new mate Scott from THE FRIDGE butchery in the centre of town. We visited the winery his wife worked at called Carrick’s and then on to the most famous winery in the region Mount Difficulty. We had a few good tastings, enjoying these delicious wines whilst taking in the stunning scenery. Cromwell was a great town, very laid back and full of history from the goldmining days, surrounding towns such as Clyde, Roxburgh and Alexandra were just as charming and were great day trips too.
Amazingly the Cromwell Council saw fit to pay 100k for this monument of a massive bum!
The wonderful Carrick Wine Estate.
This post picks up on our last few days in Christchurch and follows our adventures as we headed further south.
First up, a nod to the concept of homeswapping. It is awesome, just awesome, not only has it saved us bundles of cash on accommodation costs and we get to stay in amazing properties, but we have also got to meet with some wonderful people. Our latest swappers Grant and Alison were exceptional hosts. We were lucky that this swap was a Non Simultaneous one and we had them just next door. They were extremely helpful and welcoming and even helped us source objects for the girls school projects. We were also invited to a family gathering that they were hosting, the kids had a swim, the guys played tennis, and the girls chatted over some wine. It was topped off with some awesome NZ Fish and Chips, Kiwi's love their fish n chips more than the Brits do! Samuel was especially drawn to Grant and Alisons son Sam, as of course they had the same name and same coloured hair and are both the youngest of four children, so naturally they became best mates!
Old friends from our teen days Ian and Hayley also went out of their way to make sure that we were well entertained during our stay. Towards the end of our stay in Christchurch they invited us around to Hayley’s parents place, where Mike and Carol run their motorbike tour business from. We got shown around the office and garage, which was packed full of beautiful big bikes, if ever there was a place to ride a motorbike, I think NZ is top of the list!
Thanks Grant, Alison and Sam, we had an awesome time in Christchurch with you guys!
Once a year a, little town, just north of Christchurch called Rangiora becomes the biggest deal in New Zealand as it hosts the countries biggest car show. This also happens to be where Ian and Hayley live, and with Ian being a big ‘rev head’ it was a great excuse to go along and join them for a day at the show. There was one more little surprise up Ian’s sleeve as he fired up his classic old British made Humber. He wasn’t showing the car in the show, but it still got plenty of attention in the car park.
The show was packed with awesome cars that had been lovingly restored. New Zealand is an oasis for classic old cars and they are absolutely everywhere. We saw some brilliant classic 80’s tv show cars including a dukes of Hazard Dodge Charger, a perfect Kit from Knight Rider and an A team van! Samuel was loving all of the classic American cars, which to him were all the characters from his favourite film Cars starring Lightning McQueen.
Samuel meets Sheriff from Cars.
It is already becoming clear that we will have so much to do here that one big post at the end of our stay will be too massive. We will also likely be 'off the grid' with regards to wifi for some of the journey so want to stay on top of things!
Our Gold Coast chapter had finished, in fact our Australian chapter had finished and we were sad to be leaving, but excited to be heading to New Zealand. Well, as excited as one can be when the alarm chimes at 5.30 am. Weary kids in tow we left the house for the airport to catch our Jet Star flight to Christchurch.
As we descended from cruising altitude to start our landing run we got to see what was waiting for us beneath the cloud cover. Samuel was excited to see the snow topped peaks of mountains and immediately shouted….
“I want to go there, I want to go there again, I love the snow, don’t I Daddy.”
However Lauren countered his enthusiasm with…..
“No I be sick again, I don’t want to go there, I be sick again won’t I mummy.”
The stunning vistas of New Zealand come into sight.
Clearly they were drawing on their experience and memory of our trip to the top of the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. At least we now know for sure, that even at this young age they are remembering some of their travels!
The airport was just a wonderful experience. Completely empty and staffed by friendly customs officials, YES, they do exist!
All of us will at some stage enter our experiences and favourite stories.