New Zealand – Canterbury (Christchurch, Lake Clearwater, Mt Cook, Timaru, Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs)

It was a shock to our system to fly in from tropical Samoa to New Zealand during winter! Thankfully, there were tons of op shops (second hand stores) for us to score some cheap winter gear. We flew from Auckland to the gateway of Canterbury (Christchurch) where we kicked off our adventure, linking up with Damien and Anna (friends from our TransAfrica trip) for a few days. They graciously hosted us at their lovely home and were fantastic tour guides, taking us around to explore the Banks Peninsula (don’t miss Okains Bay’s phenomenal Maori museum or a visit to pretty French influenced Akaroa). We had a day to explore Christchurch before picking up our home on wheels for the next 3 months. After getting settled into our campervan, we bid Damien and Anna adieu before heading up to Castle Hill and Arthur’s Pass (we wanted to hit Southland and Otago before the winter weather became inclement). We did venture back into Canterbury when we linked up with our friends to explore Lake Clearwater and Mt Sunday (Lord of the Rings fame, location for Edoras). The weather was spectacular and we were pleasantly surprised by how stunning this area of Canterbury was. Thanks Damien and Anna for showing us your special section of NZ…we loved it as much as you do! We hopped back out of Canterbury to hit the winter festival in Queenstown but the dusky dolphins of Kaikoura lured us back again. Swimming with hundreds of dolphins off the coast of Kaikoura was amazing, despite the freezing water and 10 mm wetsuit…hands down one of our best experiences in NZ!!! Other highlights of Canterbury included falling in love with gorgeous Mt Cook during the Hooker Valley hike, soaking in thermal pools at the alpine village of Hanmer Springs, and being mesmerized by art at Timaru’s excellent Aigantighe art gallery. We really enjoyed our time in this region of NZ but Westland is beckoning so our adventure continues…

Damien and Anna preparing dinner at their home in Christchurch View of Governors Bay from Dyers Pass Posing with Damien and Anna at Governors Bay A perfect winter's morning near Diamond Harbour Colorful boats in Purau Bay Heron at Te Pohue(Camp Bay); Banks Peninsula Mussels firmly embedded in rock at Camp Bay; Banks Peninsula Jetty at Port Levy, Banks Peninsula View of Port Levy; Banks Peninsula Sailing ship model on top of sign post; Port Levy Okains Bay Thumbs up from Robby and Damien at Okains Bay Sheep farm; Okains Bay Entrance to Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum Traditional Maori face tattoo on display at Okains Bay Maori Museum Unique centerpiece of a Maori food preserve; Okains Bay Maori Museum Detailed carving on a Maori food preserve 1860 powder horn; Whare Taonga at Okains Bay Maori Museum Greenstone (nephrite jade) Hei Tiki on display at the Whare Taonga; Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum Detailed carving inside the Whaakata (Meeting House); Okains Bay Maori Museum War canoes on display at the waka shed; Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum Eateries situated along the historic New Regent Street in the heart of Christchurch Cathedral Square, Christchurch Destruction from the Feruary 2011 earthquake still visible on ChristChurch Cathedral; Christchurch Robby lounging on an oversized armchair made from astro turf; Christchurch Awesome street art by Australian Artist RONE; Christchurch Sculpture of artist Ronnie Van Hout's hand and facial features on the roof of the Christchurch City Art Gallery Becky playing the piano while a bronze bull looks on; Christchurch Art Gallery Women's suffrage memorial, Christchurch. We were amazed to learn that New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote on 19 Sept, 1893 Bridge of Remembrance dedicated to those who died in WWI; Christchurch Remembering those who perished; Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial Sculpture made from  recycled roofing, tin and steel; Christchurch Container Mall Street sculpture; Christchurch Looking out from the Central Art Gallery; Christchurch Robby flashing the thumbs up after we picked up our new home for 3 months from Travellers Autobarn; Christchurch Damien sharing some of the South Island's best hidden secrets while we map out our upcoming 12 week itinerary Quick lunch stop at the award winning Sheffield Pie Shop; Great Alpine Highway Stunning scenery as we drive towards Arthur's Pass Sheep in pasture; Castle Hill Stunning limestone boulders of Castle Hill Selfie at Castle Hill Path from Castle Hill back to the parking lot Leaving Castle Hill to drive towards Arthur's Pass Lake Pearson Kiwi warning road sign; enroute to Arthur's Pass Lake Clearwater, a small hamlet of holiday homes Mt Sunday (otherwise known as "Edoras, the capital of Rohan" for Lord of the Ring fans) Robby, Damien and Anna smile on our Mt Sunday track hike Robby and Damien admiring the phenomenal views from the top of Mount Sunday Group selfie at the top of Mount Sunday Driving onward to Erewhon Station, "home of the working horse" Merino sheep thrive in the region around Mt Potts Station Clydesdale horses; Erewhon Station Highland cattle (hairy coo); Mt Potts Lodge Lake Clearwater at sunset Damien slicing up some delicious venison sausage at his Lake Clearwater bach rental Colorful sunrise over Lake Clearwater - well worth the early wake up! View on our hike around Lake Clearwater Robby all bundled up for our winter stroll around Lake Clearwater Damien stopping for a refreshing sip of mountain stream water Pretty Lake Clearwater village Its a long gravel road leading out from Lake Clearwater...thankfully we have spectacular views like this to keep us mesmerized Jaw dropping scenery on our Mt Cook road drive Pulling over for countless photo stops; Mt Cook Road The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Interior of Mt Cook's excellent visitor center Scenery on our Hooker Valley track hike, the most popular track at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Stunning alpine scenery; Hooker Valley track Crossing one of 3 swing bridges on the Hooker Valley track Rewarded by icebergs at the end of the Hooker Valley track! This is the reason why Hooker Valley remains Mt Cook's most popular hiking trail Magestic mountains abound in Mt Cook National Park Becky on a swing bridge; Hooker Valley track Crossing the last swing bridge before returning back to the parking lot; Hooker Valley track Driving to the Blue Lakes; Mt Cook National Park The Blue Lake is actually a small green pond; Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park Tasman lake and glacier It was a foggy morning when we visited the Clay Cliffs Frozen rosehips; Clay Cliffs The clay cliffs of Omarama are formations made up of layers of gravel and silt Portrait of 3 Maori sisters; Aigantighe Art Gallery in Timaru Curious fur seals checking us out; Kaikoura Dusky dolphins getting excited to swim alongside us; Kaikoura Becky ready to snorkel with the dolphins of Kaikoura. Since it was winter, our core wetsuit was 10 mm thick which made us too buoyant! Greeted by friendly dusky dolphins; Kaikoura Robby playing with eager dusky dolphins; Kaikoura Coming in for a close up - dusky dolphins are super curious and playful! Robby enjoying his dusky dolphin time The dolphins loved playing with us and our swim with them was magical; Kaikoura A southern giant petrel swims over to see what all the fuss is about Dusky dolphin leaping for joy Dolphins waving hello with their side flippers A dusky dolphin "talking" to another with a tail slap; Kaikoura A final glance goodbye at the friendly dusky dolphins of Kaikoura A fur seal blocks the path at Point Kean lookout; Kaikoura Misty morning view near our free camp site; Kaikoura View on our Peninsula walkway hike around Kaikoura A fishing boat dwarfed by magestic mountains; Kaikoura Kaikoura's pretty coastline Purple lupine flowers; Kaikoura Anti-social duck building its nest away from the other ducks; Kaikoura Robby next to a sign cautioning us about the seals of Kaikoura A New Zealand fur seal yawns loudly; Kaikoura "Who you looking at" - baby fur seals; Kaikoura View from Point Kean lookout Coastal panorama of Kaikoura Becky stopping to admire the view on our Kaikoura peninsula hike, a 12km loop Maori traditional wooden sculpture, Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway View of Kaikoura as we finish the peninsula hike and head back into town Seaside garden with whale bone arches; Kaikoura Sunset over Kaikoura Picturesque drive to Hanmer Springs Hanmer Springs thermal pools are the perfect way to spend a dreary, rainy day Panorama of Hanmer Springs foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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