NZ, South Island. An Earl family reflection 

It’s been an amazing trip to New Zealand’s South Island for our family.Everything I knew of New Zealand before this holiday was from my beloved Fardie’s Footrot Flats comic books.

And you’d be surprised how knowledgeable that made me!

The country side is incredible, across the entire island. 

There honestly was not one stretch of road that didn’t have me shaking my head in awe, at the view from the windscreen.

I knew there were lots of sheep over here, but until you see that paddocks full of them and their waggly tailed lambs, you just can’t comprehend it.

The paddocks too with their giant tree windbreaks/hedges!

The big fat headed wooly looking cows that I could have just pulled over and snuggled into!

The immense amounts of water and lush green grass see to it that every member of livestock in the fields are fat and content.

So different from home.

The rivers are totally beyond compare. With the majority ice blue and roaring, straight from the mountain snow. Their clarity completely denotes their freezing temperature!

Rainforests so full of ferns, they seem impassable, and the beaches wild and rugged.

The mountains are incredible. Seeing the this morning as flew out, the snow caps laying on top of the clouds like luck dragons, with the dawn glow burning on their edges. Awesome, in the true meaning of the word.

From a tourist point of view, we never ran into an unfriendly person! 

Each attraction we visited, or adventure we partook, was well organised and went incredibly smoothly.

Christchurch taxis are probably the slowest we’ve encountered, leaving us stranded in the rain on arrival, and having a heart attack this morning at 4am that they were never going to arrive! But it is a big city, and we’re not big taxi takers, so that’s all relative.

We hired a motor home, like much of NZ tourists, and found that every town was welcoming of these vehicles too.

Each van park has dump points and places to empty your grey water, which is kept in a tank.

The tom tom or GPS in the van was incredibly accurate, giving advice on traffic accidents and road works well in advance, and with plenty of info, points of interest and wifi.

We mostly stayed in Top 10 parks, much like Big 4’s at home.

Features to write home about, 

Christchurch top 10 cool Indoor pool with slide, Very good, big camp kitchen and warm toilets and showers.

Tekapo van park

Amazing views if you book a lake side side, ok kitchen, small but with ovens. Unisex toilets and showers, but they were warm!

Dundendin Top 10

Very busy part of the city, weirdly set out on its land, big old (cold) games hall and ok kitchen , toilets and showers (no shelves in showers. Crazy)

Queenstown Creeksyde 

Good location, short walk to everything you need. Quirky park. Good toilets/showers, great outdoor kitchen. Well with filtered water to fill water bottles.

TeAnu Top 10

Good location, across from lake. Great camp kitchen, the best we encountered.

Great, warm toilets/showers.

Wanaka Top 10

Bit far out of town, with an ok kitchen and (cold) ok toilets/showers, and a playground.

Greymouth Top 10

Playground. 

Great outdoor kitchen with Webbers undercover and outdoors. 

Ok (cold) inside kitchen, Games room, but everything cost money to use (cold)

Fantastic toilets/showers with heated floors and miles of room! Our favourites!

Hanmer Springs Top 10

Nice and close to the Springs, ok (cold) kitchen, and ok toilets/showers (cold).

Playground.

And our last night we stayed at the Airport Delta which was a short taxi ride to the Airport.

Like I said, it’s been unreal.

But please don’t get me wrong, it had its usual family dramas.

There’s was plenty of bitching and moaning.

The kids fought about hairbrushes and headphones (still fighting about headphones), who sat where and who slept where.

We did push the envelope by putting 3 teenagers in a van with their parents for 2 weeks, and then further by making them all take the biggest bed. (They’ve done bloody awesome if you ask me).

We had threats to move out, and go to boarding school. Nasty words whispered under breath (boots), and behaviour that had me pulling out the old “have a think about where you are and what we’re doing here”, and Dan letting loose his hair trigger with swears and yelling.

I was furious when Dan went out drinking one night, and he was furious every time I added a landmark to our must see list.

But we all come round eventually.

So please don’t think it’s all easy sailing, as it’s not. 

I could have cried in frustration in Disney land on our trip a few years ago, screaming “this is the happiest place on earth dammit!”.

Every trip has its bumps, because that’s life.

The good times, happiness and amazing memories far outweigh the stress and cattiness.

And with a 3am start, and another 4 hours of flights, more customs stress (is chocolate classed as dairy) and a 2 hour drive still ahead of us, I’ve no doubt we’re in for more.

Meow.

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Letters to Willow #14

Evening baby Willow!Our last day in NZ. Sniff, sniff.

But all is not lost, we get to see you soon!

We sorted the van and repacked our gear, then drove across into Christchurch.

The weather welcomed us today, like it did 2 weeks ago.

Freezing and rainy.

We dropped the van off, donated all our uneaten food to some Italian tourists just starting their journey, checked into our motel and went to explore the city.

You’d never believe it, but G3 realised she’d left her coat at our room after we’d been dropped off.

Seems no amount of Mums nagging about jackets ever gets through.

Considering the temperature (probably around 5) and rain, she did well not to whine too much throughout the afternoon.

The earthquake damage is still very evident, and the rebuild will no doubt continue for years to come.

The big church in the city centre is incredible!

With no idea where were going or what there was to see, we ventured off towards shelter.

Now that right there is something we’ve found lacking over here.

Where are your shelters NZ?!

Googling on our 1 NZ phone, we happened up on a very cool little cafe that mum had actually been recommended!

C-one Espresso, I guess it’s an old post office or bank, with pneumatic tubes running all over the place.

The kids ordered curly fries, which were delivered in a little canister, via the tubes!

Very cool!

With hours to kill before dinner, we all agreed on exploring the museum.

Even though it was quite a hike.

Another day, another hike.

Our poor little legs.

The museum was an amazing relief after the freezing wind and rain, and turned out to be one of the best museums we’ve ever explored.

There was miles of NZ history, an amazing Antarctic section, Egypt, Asia, Dinosaurs (awesome) and a great little explore section with heaps of animals (again, awesome)!

G1 and Mum could have spent all day in there, but Dad had had his fill, and we had to move on.

Everyone was thrilled, especially G3, to set out into the rain again, and follow google maps, blindly, to our dinner destination.

Dad spotted some tourists in Brisbane airport on our way here, wearing Bacon Brothers T-shirts, so he researched, found out their story, and there marks our dinner of choice!

It was the beard discount that put them over the edge, but gosh their burgers are pretty amazing too!

We found them tucked into a very cool food court thing called Little High Eatery on High Street.

Highly recommend!

We opted for a taxi home, and are now drowsily watching the kids watch Disney channel, soaking up the heaters, and mentally preparing for tomorrow’s 6am departure.

We are disappointed we couldn’t see Christchurch in its glory, but mum sees it as a bit of a Harry and the Hendersons end to our trip.

This utter rubbish weather is New Zealand crying and throwing rocks at us to make the abandonment less heart breaking.

We get it New Zealand.

We love you too.

Thanks for the amazing holiday, we absolutely loved it, and are happy to go with only Killer Whales and whitebait left on our to do list. 

Seems we’ll have to return. 

Nigh nigh Pup

We’ll see you tomorrow! 

Wish us luck on our travels 

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #13

Evening Willow and host family!A pretty steady day, as far as the rest of our trip has gone.

And the weather is pretty steady too.

It’s raining. Fitting however as today was a pretty rainy feeling day.

Mum cried a few rivers.

We couldn’t line up times to meet our Puke River contact, but dropped off some CFMEU merchandise to a son in law in Greymouth, and then headed out.

Seems we find coal wherever we travel, and there are plenty of memorials and relics around Greymouth. The Brunner Coal Mine site is amazing. We walked all through the old brick works and right up the air shafts, crossed the bridge to the old town sight, and then ventured down to the original mine entrance! Just meters above the river, embedded in the bank! 

Crazy!

Sulphur is still funnelling out like dragons breath, and it brought home the 1896 disaster, and the 65 men and boys lost.

Very haunting and sad.

From one heartbreak to another, with a visit to the Pike River memorial.

It’s amazing that a place can make you physically hurt. And mums getting teary just thinking of it. This memorial is beautiful.

We stopped and paid our respects at every monument.

The tags on the board are gut wrenching to see. But it’s so important to stop and give them all the respect and love they deserve.

Dad watered some memorial plants, and Mum left a beer, eureka flag and a CFMEU badge. 

Disasters like this should never happen. 

November 19, 2010, and the 29 families are still fighting to get their men out.

Any wonder the sky was crying.

We left with heavy hearts, and ventured through the last of our mountain passes.

Winding and braking, and possibly seeing the last of our ice blue roaring rivers, and snow capped mountains.

Surprise surprise, Dad spotted a mob of pigs at our lunch spot. Only happens to him. He and G1 followed them, and got right in close. Evidently they were quiet. Crazy people.

We arrived here at Hanmer Springs, to a truly miserable afternoon.

We had our hearts set (well mum did) on visiting the hot springs. So 7 degrees or not, we all got in our togs, and froze/tippy toe ran our way around the hot springs!

Immersing ourselves in the thermal magic from one pool to the next!

The kids took on a few slides, and while we were thawing out and easing our skiing knees in the magnesium pool, seems we were sharing space with a NZ Survivor contestant!

Once we warmed up and dried off, we had a few drinks at a local pub, and are now cooking up the last of our supplies in yet another camp kitchen!

So sad our trip is winding down, but we’re all looking forward to seeing you, scratching your ears and rubbing your belly!

Your host family may not want to let you go!

Nigh nigh Willow

Love you, love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #12

Hey little Willow,Hope you had a wonderful Aussie Day!

We’re all good here, settled into our campsite at Greymouth.

Dad racked up the k’s today, making sure we can slow down a bit from here out.

We kicked off the day with a trip to Puzzling World! It was very cool, full of optical illusions, puzzles and a maze!

The toilets were probably mums favourite part, all painted up tricksy!

We did a quick re-stock before hitting the open, or rather, windy, rainforesty, waterfally road!

Ferns! So many ferns! And waterfalls and raging ice blue rivers! This place is incredible!

On Haast Past we pulled over at Willows creek, satisfying mums need to fill her water bottle from one of the amazingly blue water, and of course getting a few pics for you!

We passed so many great walking tracks, but sadly our tight schedule did not allow any random stops.

So over the ranges and through the forests we went.

Dead possums and stoats littering the roadsides.

Our big stop for the day was Fox Glacier!

And let me tell you, mum and Dad made NO friends with the girls hiking in to that!

Baldwin Street has nothing on Fox Glacier!

It was hard yards!

But stunning!

Mum kept referring to Jurassic Park, and it was very much like that!

A monsterously huge slate and stone gorge, bordered by gigantic green cliffs on either side!

Magic!

We hiked over streams and bridges, and up the final crazy ascent, and were rewarded with our first Glacier view!

Dad and the girls were not impressed. But it was incredibly hard to breathe by this point. And our body temperatures had risen by at least 100 degrees!

We had a few snaps, admired the sheer size and age of our surroundings, and headed back down, with choppers zooming overhead, delivering guests straight to the glacier itself.

Dad wished he was in one.

To help you get a grasp of the discomfort, by the time we got to the bottom, Dad had peeled off his track pants, shirt and coat, and was hiking in a thermal top and boxers.

From here we make a beeline for Greymouth.

We’ve crossed a bazillion one way bridges today, and watched the countryside change from snow, to sea, to rainforest, to farmland and back to sea. 

And it’s so darn green and beautiful it blows me away at every corner.

And there are LOTS of corners!

We pulled up at Haast to try and get some whitebait, but were left disappointed, seems we’re 2 weeks early for Whitebait season. Bugger.

We made it in here as the sun set, our latest stop yet, but as I said, worth it for a cruisy-er last few days.

Tomorrow mum has a special date lined up with some Pike River families, and from there, who knows! 

All I know is that it will be less full on than today!

I’m off to help supervise dinner, finally getting in some veggies, and some lamb!

Our first for the trip.

Mums considering vegetarian-ism however, as the animals here are just so darn cute!

We’ll see!

Nigh nigh Willow, we will sleep tonight with the sounds of the West Coast waves crashing in the night!

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #11

Evening Willow Woofgood,Surprise surprise, another crazy day day in New Zealand!

Up with stars shining on our camper roof top, we broke our fast and hit the road to Milford Sound! 

With no time to kill, we only managed one stop on the way, to Mirror Lakes, which was incredibly beautiful, and totally dwarfed by the Earl Mountains!

Pretty cool hey!?

So from here we snaked, (and I mean seriously snaked, these Kiwis love their winding roads) to Milford, through tunnels and over bridges, and so many stunning waterfalls and ferns! I’ve not had time to google New Zealand folklore, but I find it incredibly hard to believe there’s no fairies here! It’s absolute prime fair country if ever I saw it, so please NZ folk, fill me in on your fairytales!

The sound was stunning! It’s depth is incredible, and the sheer size of the cliffs on either side is nothing but humbling.

We were super lucky enough to spot the worlds 2nd rarest penguins near the mouth of the sound, and then on our return seen a big colony of teenage male fur seals!

Mum was incredibly relieved to see 2 fighting, as it made it clear that teenagers can never get along all the time, regardless of species.

It was probably over a hair brush.

We hit the road running, winding our way up to a view point and pulling up to make lunch. Given the very low temperature everyone opted for toasted wraps and sandwiches, which lead to an impromptu smoke alarm display!

Those babies are LOUD!

It was also at this time that we had a visitor!

Here we were thinking Kia were rare!

Turns out they must be pretty accustomed to human interaction, as every car that pulled up had one fairly tapping at their door!

Everyone bar G1 and Mum we’re not impressed with their close company!

They are very beautiful! Lila giant version of Aunty D’s chica! 

We continued on, back through Queenstown, calling through Arrowtown for a quick look at the beautiful old buildings, then over the switch back range to Cardrona!

It’s a long, windy way up!

Down is great, through another gorgeous valley totally different to anything we’ve seen yet!

The hills are like the backs of giant brown hairy beasts!

Very cool!

We stopped in for a beer at the Cardona Pub, which is a must see, and would be amazing after a day of skiing, especially if you can nab one of the many indoor and outdoor fire places.

Wanaka was our destination, and Mum managed to swing dad into stopping at “That Wanaka Tree”, (which coincidentally is a Willow tree) so she could get a few snaps, before we settled in for sunset at our van park. 

We’ve now dined, tidied, and snuggled in bed.

Time is certainly sucking away, but we’re ticking off our must sees, along with the k’s! Which is awesome!

But on this, if anyone who has traveled NZ Westcoast could please tell us the best Glacier to visit by foot, (with whiney kids, and sore skiing muscles) that would be wonderful!

Nigh nigh Willow,

We love you

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #10

Hello there pup!Hope alls well across the ditch our baby! 

Our last day in Queenstown was magic, well on the mountain anyway.

Up early again for the first bus up, and we were rewarded with gorgeous soft snow, and after an hour or so, the sun came out in all its glory and we were in a sparkling winter wonderland! 

We started off warming up on the magic carpet and Alta runs, before hitting the sugar bowl for a few laps, then up to Curvey Basin and another stop at the ice bar! This time it was all of us, G2 & G3 got brave and came too!

We all successfully made it down, and hit Sugar a few more times, making the most of the magic conditions!

I’m happy to report that the whole family managed a few jumps on the Park run, with Dad being the bravest and taking on the most! 

He did come unstuck at one point and has the skin off to prove it.

We’ve absolutely loved our time on the snow, and will be saving every penny to get back to it in a few years (or quite a few). Might try Aussie slopes next time!

It’s definitely one of the more expensive past times. But such a great experience!
One more hairy bus trip down the mountain, and we were straight off, hitting the road to our current destination of Te Anau.

It was a gorgeous drive, following Queenstowns lake for a great part of it.

More sheep than I’ve ever thought possible, and gorgeous views!

We were very surprised to see pandanus palms poking their leafy heads out of beds of ferns!

An unidentifiable squeak in the van seen a driver change, with mum taking the wheel while Dad “investigated” every square inch of the interior.

He’s weird like that.

We arrived here shortly before sunset, and were again rewarded with the most beautiful vista.

The lake here is stunning, dark and flat, surrounded by mountains, the distant ones with snow caps.

Mum and G1 spotted a sign for underground Trout viewing along the lake, and convinced G2 and G3 to accompany them.

Dad opted to stay at the van, and partake in some NZ gold.

The rest of us chased the gold of the sunset, and ended up walking the entire length  Of the town, back to where we entered town, to see the Trout, and take in the gorgeousness of the Lake!

Mum and I were very glad that none of the girls have read or watched IT, as the “viewing” area was quite suspect. Particularly in the fading light.

But we soldiered on, mum going in first, put our $2 in the slot, and pushed through some old turnstiles into the viewing pit, I mean room.

It was actually pretty cool.

There were half a dozen Trout doing their thing, and mum and the girls are a sucker for any type of aquarium, so alls well that ends well.

We trekked on back the van, some of us whining about how far we’ve walked on this holiday, some of us complaining that our knees hurt, and one us assuring everyone that it wasn’t that far, and I think I can see it!

Mums a trooper.

The camp kitchen here is smick-o, so it was really lovely to cook up a quick dinner, and get sorted for our day tomorrow.

And boy, I really don’t think there’s any better feeling than showering after a 3 day spell.

We’ve all ditched the thermals as the weathers certainly not snow conditions from here on out.

Every muscle in every body is making the crew know their alive, skiing is an awesome all body work out! And with no end of activities on the horizon, were making the most of our rest time.

And the free wifi!

Having said that, I’m out!

We love you little Willow!

Nigh nigh pup,

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #9

Hello our little Willow!Today we watched the sun rise from the bus trip to the Remarkables, arriving to christen the icy groomed snow!

This was scary and difficult to manoeuvre, and our first day free skiing, putting all our lessons to use!

It only took around an hour for the snow to become beautiful again, and we managed to get the little girls up to the Sugar Bowl, so we were a full big slope skiing family!

It was beautiful! Overcast and cool, but the sun still came through, glistening off the gorgeous white snow, and making for a stunning day! 

We had a bunch of runs down the big slopes, with Dad and G1 the only crash victims! 

Beauties too!

Then we sent G2 & 3 down the smaller lifts, and Dad, G1, Mum & I hit the big one(second biggest actually), Curvey Basin, for the Ice Bar!

It’s a much bigger, and faster, chair lift to the top, and not far from there to the ice bar!

It’s a carona only bar, but they do sell Mulled wine, so mum got to get a taste of Game of Thrones, whilst sitting on top of the world! Just like John Snow!

The trip down was great for mum and I, and from this point on she skied the best she has yet!

Either the wine, or the 2 previous days of lessons, we’re not sure which, but will stop by the ice bar tomorrow, just in case!

We had to cut our ski trip short by a few hours in order to get our van prepped for our departure tomorrow.

Then we hit Queenstown for our final NZ souvenir run, another exploration of the harbour, and a quick cocktail and mocktail trip to the minus 5 Ice bar, a little bar completely made of ice!

It was very cool (literally and figuratively), so we didn’t stay long!

From there, Dad went to catch the fight, which none of us care for at all, so that’s when we shopped!

We met up for a lake walk and then to Winnie’s for dinner. This bar/pizza place, is very cool also, not literally! It’s full of cool memorabilia and very warm (real) fireplace. And to top all that off, they open the roof (yes, the actual roof) on request, when it gets too hot!

Awesome!

We’re home now in bed, waiting for Dad who’s gone to check out the casino.
With or without him, we’re hitting the slopes again in the morning for our last day here in Queenstown.

We miss it already!

Well goodnight little Willow, we love you lots! 

Your Aunty Mandy sent us a beautiful photo of you today, you look beautiful and happy, and we’re so happy your in wonderful hands!

Lots of love, Stan xx