Saturday, one week from now, Ronja, Frida, Mads, and I have left Denmark and are on the plane to New Zealand. Actually, that may not be entirely true, since I believe at this time we will be somewhere between Düsseldorf and Hong Kong – but still. We are looking forward to it like crazy, and we cannot wait for the coming week to pass.
There’s still lots of things to do – we have only just started packing, and we have a to-do list containing Christmas presents, Lucia parades, Christmas show with Ronja’s stage art school AND the girls’ dance classes, and who knows what else – all within the next 6 days. And I didn’t even add the laundry to that list…
The Christmas lights outside are dancing in the strong wind, and we have candles lit all over the living room. Since we will be celebrating Christmas in New Zealand, we have added a little more Christmas than usual to the time leading up to our departure. We even had a very Christmassy snow storm two weeks ago – I was not so thrilled about it, since I was out driving in it the evening it came. But the next morning, when the girls got up, the excitement was considerable. We had three snow men in the garden for a while – now it’s all gone, and the grey, wet weather took over.
In New Zealand it’s early summer now. We will be celebrating Christmas in a motor home, in summer, without the rest of the family, Christmas tree and traditional Christmas dinner. Probably somewhere near the art deco city Napier on the North Island. It’s my first ever non-traditional Christmas, and I’m thrilled. About it all.
So anyway, contents of the 6 days to come; Falling over our own feet with excitement, packing, falling some more, taking the girls to all the stuff they need to go to before we leave, packing, getting hold of a few – travel-friendly – Christmas presents, burning half the calendar candle, and a few other things. Tomorrow after the Christmas Dance Show with the girls, we’re lighting two candles in the very untraditional advent “wreath” – though even calling it that is a bit of a stretch. See for yourself (can you believe they’re actually selling miniature motor homes at the local grocery store?. 🙂
Well it all sounds very exciting. I actually envy you the cool weather and white Christmas as it is very warm already in Australia and it’s only the first week of summer. Have a marvellous time in NZ and enjoy a hot Christmas. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures.
Oh… just remembered that I’d forgotten to write to you about the places I’d recommend visiting. Like, six months ago or something, when you wrote that you were going to come to New Zealand. Bummer.
But oh well. I hope you really, really like it here 😉
Hi there – please let me know any way, we still have room for minor alterations to the itinerary. We’d love to have input! 🙂
Okay, so this is going to be a very long comment, I think, but let’s try :). (PS. All of these are on the South Island of New Zealand.)
* Punakaiki Rocks on the West Coast can look AWESOME! if you happen to visit them at the right time: high tide and especially good if it’s strong NW wind, because water then burst! up through blowholes with massive thumps. So if you drive through Punakaiki, please call the local visitors’ centre first and ask what time of the day high tide is. Because if you’re there at low tide then it’s, like… yeah, nah. But if you’re there at high tide? Awesome! http://www.westcoast.co.nz/newzealand/westcoast-pancake-rocks/
* My favorite hiking trail in NZ is Brewster track, on the road between West Coast and Wanaka. It’s about a 3-hour climb up to the hut, so not sure how fit your girls are, but if they can do it… wow :). http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/mount-aspiring-national-park/things-to-do/mount-brewster-track/
* Near Wanaka is a hiking trail to Rob Roy Glacier which is easier than Brewster track, but in great weather can still give awesome views! I am pretty confident that both your girls can do it, no problem http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/otago/places/mount-aspiring-national-park/things-to-do/rob-roy-track/
* All Department of Conservation (DOC) huts are very easy to use if you decide to go on an overnight hike. You buy a ‘ticket’ from DOC – depending on a hut it can be around $5-$15 per person – and when you stay at a hut you put your ‘ticket’ in a special collection box. You won’t need to subscribe to membership or anything.
* If you visit Queenstown, eat a burger from Fergburger. It will probably be bigger than you can eat in one sitting :D. My favorite is Little Lamby http://www.fergburger.com/
* Also in Queenstown (and Wanaka) is Patagonia who make great ice cream. My favorite is Tramontana http://www.patagoniachocolates.co.nz/ice-cream/
* Near Wanaka are Omarama Clay Cliffs. http://www.discoveromarama.co.nz/sample-page/clay-cliffs-paritea
* If you stop over in Christchurch take your girls to Canterbury Museum which is right in the centre of the city. It’s free and there are some great exhibitions there. My kids love it! If you go walking around the central city it might be very interesting to see how the city is rebuilding itself after the earthquakes. The ‘cardboard’ cathedral is about a 15 minute walk from Canterbury Museum.
* If you decide to go bungy jumping (a lot of people do it in NZ) then I recommend either The Ledge http://www.bungy.co.nz/the-ledge/the-ledge-bungy or The Nevis http://www.bungy.co.nz/the-nevis/the-nevis-bungy. Ledge was actually scarier than Nevis to me!
* If you decide to go skydiving (again, a lot of people do it in NZ…) then I recommend Skydive Wanaka. I worked there for three years and although the company has new owners now, I know most of the instructors and it is a fun, safe place to do it.
* If you decide between Fox glacier and Franz Josef glacier, then Franz Josef is much busier and louder (lots of people) but Fox is more laid-back and relaxed.
I might post this comment now, I don’t even know it it’ll let me do such long comments 😛
Okay, more thoughts in another comment 😀
As you are coming here during Christmas then bear in mind that almost ALL Kiwis (ie, New Zealanders) go on holiday during Christmas. It means that campgrounds, hostels and lots of other tourist-y places can be absolutely PACKED with people between 25 December and 6 January which is when most people take their holiday time.
Mostly the deluge of people is felt in little towns where people come to, so for example in Wanaka where I lived for three years – most of the time it’s a nice, relaxed town but during Christmas there were traffic jams! Almost every local person I knew did their grocery shopping either at 7:30 in the morning or 21:00 at night because during the day it was hard to even go buy food, the town was so full of people!
So bear that in mind when you want to book hostels (but you will be in your campervan, won’t you?) or go eat in a restaurant – call ahead and ask if you can book.
* In Christchurch there is Rapaki track which is quite a moderate walking track that takes you from the bottom of the hills to the top of the mountain where you can overlook Lyttelton Harbour. http://www.ccc.govt.nz/rec-and-sport/cycling-tracks/mountain-biking/rapaki-track/
* Also in Christchurch there is a good surfing beach in Sumner. You could hire a bodyboard (it’s kind of like a surfboard, but you lay down on it on your belly, so it’s much easier and especially fun for kids) from Stoker Surf http://www.gobook.co.nz/christchurch/half-day-surfboard-hire-3 and spend a morning at the beach surfing.
* A website called GrabOne has lots of special offers on food and touristy attractions. They’re kind of like… vouchers? I’ve used it several times and it’s really easy. You buy from their website with a credit card and then you print the voucher out and use it instead of money in that place that you want to go. So for example recently I had a lovely meal at She Cafe Chocolaterie in Governors Bay – usually it would cost $64 but I had to pay only $32 through GrabOne. There’s tourist attractions, restaurants, everything 🙂 http://www.grabone.co.nz/
* If you feel that you miss European food and want to make something, but with ingredients that are hard to find in a usual grocery store, almost every town has a shop called Bin Inn which is like… lots of ‘specialty’ foods in bins, and at very reasonable prices. I buy all of our nuts there, and buckwheat, and quinoa, and coconut flour etc because it’s cheaper than supermarket http://www.bininn.co.nz/
Sorry, gotta go now. But I guess I’ve written quite a lot, so maybe it’s good that I have to go now 🙂
OMG – you are amazing! Thank you so much!
We have just been running through your comments, and I think several of your recommendations will come in handy! 🙂
Yes, we are in a motor home, so we won’t be booking hostels. We are used to sailing, so I expect that a motor home will be kind of similar – except on ground in stead of the sea. 😉 We will only have about a day in Christchurch before leaving for Fiji, but we will probably find a camp site nearby on the day before. If you have recommendations for camp grounds, we are very open to suggestions.
We have booked up front in the places that we expect to find packed, but for instance around Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, we will be somewhere near Napier, and it seems there are a lot of free camps, so we are planning to go for one of those. If that is plain unrealistic, please let me know. 🙂 Also, many of the camp sites around Napier don’t seem to receive very good ratings, so we thought free camping would be a better option.
Thanks again – it is so kind of you to spend time on this. We CANNOT wait to come to your corner of the world in – like 6 days… 🙂
Napier area is one of the few I have never even visited 🙂
But about campgrounds (on the south island) I would recommend:
* Jacksons Retreat in Arthurs Pass, http://jacksonsretreat.co.nz/ In case it rains some of the areas are covered, kind of like barns. Tidy, friendly, pretty.
* Kerr Bay in St Arnaud, http://www.doc.govt.nz/kerrbaycampsite Very basic, but right on the lakeside with many lovely walks that start right from the campground!
* Whites Bay near Picton, http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/marlborough/places/blenheim-area/things-to-do/campsites/whites-bay-campsite/
* There was also one in Te Anau but I can’t remember what it was called…
DOC campsites can get pretty crowded and since they are on a first-come-first-served basis then there isn’t a way to make sure there is space, so just hope for the best and I wish you luck :). Arriving earlier in the evening, so around 5 o’clock it’s easier to get a parking spot than arriving at 8, but on the other hand you’ve come to New Zealand to EXPERIENCE New Zealand, so it doesn’t make sense to cut a day short so that you can hurry to a campsite. And besides, being in a motor home you’ve got toilets and everything on board? So it’s not really an issue for you anyway.