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…

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