A change in plans
After picking up Swiftly, the campervan, we decided then and there to forgo our plans to head south toward Moeraki, Dunedin and the Catlins, and instead to go diagonally across the South Island instead and loop back through Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers back to Christchurch.
The Glaciers were already pretty much firm in our minds, so that leg of the trip was a non-negotiable, barring foul weather. And based on Iconic's expert advice, we would basically be driving almost non-stop, with no time to really soak in the sights and activities, if we wanted to do the CHC-Dunedin-Invercargill-Fiordland-Queenstown-Glacier-Lakes-CHC route we had originally intended. Do-able, but no fun for anyone.
Our first night in the campervan
As a result of our change in plans, we spent our first star-filled night in New Zealand's scenic South Island at the Orari Gorge Department of Conservation campsite, in Geraldine - about 2 hours southwest of Christchurch.
Before doing so, as pure newbies, we weren't familiar enough with the vehicle, the surroundings, and the "how to" of campervanning to prepared to cook for ourselves where the basic campsite had two toilets and a tiny sink with only cold water. So we did what we thought was the right thing to do, and ordered Chinese takeaway... It was partly that we missed a bit of Asian cuisine after 14 days of travel, but more so for the convenience.
The decision turned out to be a great one. While the food was above average, it was warm, filling and we ate at the fold out picnic table set that the kids set up next to the camper van. Tucking in to a nice meal, while listening to the myriad birds in Orari Gorge was a rewarding experience for city folk like us. It was a little taste of paradise...to me, anyway.
The next morning, we awoke to the quintessential New Zealand sound: birds and sheep. Lots of them. BOTH.
The kids awoke, rubbed their eyes and squealed with delight as they tore out of the campervan in their PJs and fleeces to check out the sheep....and they were rewarded with a farmer bringing his flocks for a walk...
I remember sniggering when the kids later said, "We thought all farmers were old guys, Mom" when they pointed out that the farmer in this case looked more at home in a gym doing CrossFit. But hey, who needs CrossFit with the workout you'd get on a farm, right? (I'm guessing here...we didn't manage a farm stay after all!)
After a quick breakfast, we trundled off in trusty Swiftly down toward the lakes...
Along the way to the famed Lake Tekapo, we were visually astounded by the bright pink, purple (and occasionally, white and yellow) flowers that would appear in large swathes as we got closer and closer to the lakes district in the far southwest region of Canterbury region.
We only later realised that these lupine flowers were an introduced species that cuts off waterways with its rapid thick growth... at that point however, we were so awed by their beauty. The kids could barely contain their glee as they ran amongst them and filled Swiftly with stalks and stalks of flowers.
Adan, being the "macho" chappie, stripped the stalks of the flowers and turned them into Harry Potter wands instead.
Lake Tekapo was indeed a beautiful lake. We took in the sight of the clear blue water, while wandering through throngs of tourists taking selfies (us included) amongst the lupines, and close to the Church of the Good Shepherd, up on its banks.
One particularly animated tourist in a very frilly white dress, heels and a parasol was throwing a bit of a tantrum because her boyfriend refused to take a proper Instagram worthy pic of her (from her fuming complaints in Mandarin)...it was quite a sight, and sadly, I was too polite to take a photo of her. No #boyfriendsofinstagram award for him!
We drove further along Lake Tekapo's shores to the campsite at which we were planning to stay the night, the aptly-yet-not-too-creatively named Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park. The lake views from the park were awesome as you can see in the photo below.
And cooking breakfast the next morning with that view was a bonus!
Meanwhile, back in the campervan, the family was getting (slightly) more comfortable with the close quarters and mess-management rules that had to be set down earlier that day.
Most of those lovely flowers had wilted, dropped off their stems and were hastily thrown out by Mama, with strict instructions on what needed to happen the next time, which resulted in lots of heated discussions about who was at fault for the mess that time. Needless to say, everyone had a hand in it, and everyone agreed to do better the next day.
The next morning (we still had not realised the folly of moving Every.Single.Day), after our sumptuous breakfast that I'd cooked overlooking the Lake, we washed up in the Campsite kitchen, packed up our messy beds, changed into our driving clothes, and headed off via Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook.
Lake Pukaki's powder blue colour is in part due to the glacial "flour", or the fine, ground up powder that the glacial snow makes as it grinds through the rocky terrain. Simply beautiful, desolate, and there was not a single person there apart from our family!
Next up... our post on our journey to the base of Mount Cook. This was NOT on our original itinerary at all...but the result of a late night, last-minute decision as I tapped the campsite wifi and poured though the possible travel routes...look out for our next post on Adventureness!