The Day I Got Chased By A Rhino

“Don’t make eye contact, don’t look, don’t look! Okay run, RUN!”

The three of us bolted, following the zig-zag pattern that our guide was doing to throw them off course. My camera bag bounced against my hip as I ran, my heart raced and the sweat started to drip down my face. The branches on the ground crunched as we trod on them heavily, being completely silent wasn’t an issue anymore – getting out alive was. 

How I’d found myself running away from a rampant female rhinoceros, I’m still trying to work out but here I was in the Chitwan National Park in south-west Nepal trying to outrun a pissed off mother rhino whose bath was rudely interrupted by humans. 

This morning when I’d left the Safari Club Lodge where I was staying, I was under the impression that we would be going for a lovely canoe ride down the river, followed by a short walk through a part of the national park to hopefully see some animals. I had assumed that the short walk was just a way of making it back to the lodge and they’d called it a jungle walk to make it seem more exciting. However, this is Nepal and after three weeks of being in this crazy, chaotic country that a short walk actually means two hours of trawling through dense grasslands in search of animals.

The canoe ride was indeed very lovely. There were two guys from the Czech Republic – who were also staying at the Safari Club – who had come along with me. Before we even got into the canoe our guide spotted two rhinos further down the river. One was cooling off in the river and the other was on the banks out of sight, sussing out whether he should invade the other rhinos territory. It was my first time seeing a rhinoceros in the wild and it was quite exciting to be up close to such an exotic animal. Little did I know I was about to get a whole lot closer.




There were over 600 rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park, the largest population in Nepal. They are some of the most protected animals in the park and years of poaching culling numbers dramatically. However since the 1970’s, many conservation laws have been put in place to protect the species. This has been very successful, with rhino population numbers higher than they’re been in years. The past three years the park has had zero poaching attempts, a number that they’re very proud of.

When I first decided to go to Chitwan I hadn’t expected to see any of the exciting animal in the wild, like rhinos, tigers or elephants. I thought it would be a glorified trip to the jungle where the most exciting thing you’ll see is a monkey or deer. So to see a rhino straight away, I was stoked!

As the canoe ride went on, we floated past locals fishing on their wooden rafts. Everyone seemed to know each other and yelled out conversations as they passed. Rain started to sprinkle on us and I was annoyed that I forgot my rain coat. A rookie error in monsoon season. We passed an elephant having a bath and a snack and a few diffferent varieties of birds. After about an hour, we pulled up to the sandy bank and climbed out, ready for saunter through the jungle.

Cruising down the river

Like I said earlier, I thought this would be a quick stroll through some of the jungle before heading on to the elephant breeding centre and the tour guide wanted to make the day’s program sound more exciting. However, I was wrong and we were actually going to stalking around the jungle for about two hours! Before we started, our guide gave us the lowdown on how to act if an animal turns on you. As he went on about running in a zigzag pattern and climbing trees for rhinos and standing still and making eye contact with tigers I had a little laugh to myself. These guides sure have been taught well on how to wind up tourists! He was so sincere in his monologue I almost believed him but thought that there would be no way they’d let us out in the wild with potentially deadly animals. Now you’d think for someone who’s done some pretty wild things in her travels, such as letting off explosives in a silver mine in Bolivia and hiking the illegal Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii that I would be a little less naive about safety regulations around the world (or more, the lack of) But no, having come from Australia where everyone is wrapped up in cotton wool and treated like a baby I still believed that everything will always be sunshine and dandy and danger would never come my way. 

I was going to be proven wrong, yet again..

After the safety briefing we hiked in a single file silently through the jungle. The humidity was even worse under the canopy of the jungle and my shirt clung to my sweaty back instantly. We walked for about fifteen minutes, treading carefully on the grassy plain below us, the only sound being the crunch of twigs breaking beneath our feet. I was already bored of the walk when my guide stopped suddenly and turned his head to listen. 

‘This way… Rhino” he whispered, indicating that we follow him behind a huge shrubby bush. As he pushed the bush away there was a small lagoon filled with lilyponds a few metres away. At first I couldn’t tell what he was pointing to but then I saw the dark grey blob amongst the bright green reeds. A rhino was bathing just 10 or so metres from us! Completely oblivious to his audience, the rhino looked so content as he wallowed in the reedy water. One of the guys inched closer and trod on some broken branches. The rhino turned his head towards us and looked us directly in the eye. We stood still waiting to see what would happen but the rhino just turned back around and continued his bath. He wasnt camera shy. We watched for a little longer before moving on deeper into the jungle.

What chu lookin’ at???
Nothing to see here folks…

Excited that this dull jungle walk was more than what I was expecting, I picked up my pace and kept my eyes peeled for anymore animals. Another 10 minutes passed with nothing and then we spotted some monkeys and deer going about their day. The deer with the excellent hearing ran off just as we got got but the monkeys weren’t afraid being so high up. We walked further and my hopes were slowly disappearing again. 

Oh deer.. they spotted us

Just as I was about to give up on expecting any more animals, our guide made a sign to be quiet and follow him. We tiptoed behind him and he pointed out a muddy water hole to our left. We walked past the waterhole to the hide behind a couple of trees. Just 20 metres away was a mother rhino and her baby having a bath in the muddy water. The baby rhino was quite possibly the cutest and ugliest thing I’d ever seen! We watched for a few minutes before trying to edge closer for a better look. As the branches crunched underneath our feet, the overprotective mother looked our way with her little ears pricked in attention. We halted abruptly and waited for our guides next move. Paused a moment, I got the chance to take a quick photo before the mother rhino turned towards us and started moving. 

Right before she started to run towards us

“Okay, go, GO!’ Our guide said and he took off – there was no protecting hotel guests here! We followed hastily, trying to run in a zigzag and not lose our guide. I didn’t dare look behind me but kept an eye out for any trees that might be climb-able. I wondered if my travel insurance would cover being trampled by a rhino. Even though it was only a handful of seconds, it felt like we were running for an eternity. Finally our guide launched into some bushes and waved us to get behind him. We squatted, panting for breath hoping that the rhino had been thrown off course. Thankfully we’d made so much noise running like idiots through the jungle that she was too startled to chase and ran off in a different direction. We stayed squatting for a minute to catch our breath.

“She gone, we are safe” our guide said. The three of us looked back at him bewildered. What happened to the mundane jungle walk!? We all looked at each other and burst into nervous laughter, talk about dodging a big, grey leathery bullet! Continuing on, I kept very close to our guide as we made a quick exit out of the jungle. That was enough cardio for the morning! We reached the edge of the dense jungle and walked down the beaten 4WD path until we reached the elephant breeding centre, sweaty and muddy. So much for an easy jungle walk!

J. X

Day 10 – Coffee, Op-shops and the World of Wearable Art Museum.

I won’t lie – today we all woke up with a ripper hangover. Thank you very much Nelson and your delicious wine. After a shaky and slow start we left Mimi in the New World car park for a little longer while we searched for coffee to kick this hangover. S and B got distracted by some op-shops so K and I searched on until we found Paula’s Plate just off the main street in Nelson.

This adorable little cafe was kitschy and cute and had the best tiled entrance I’ve seen in New Zealand. Paula’s Plate uses local produce from around the Nelson region to create delicious and fresh food. K and I were still a little too shady to order anything edible – though the menu sounded so so good – so we settled for a takeaway coffee until the remnants of our hangover disappeared. I later discovered (thanks Google) that Paula was runner-up in the TV show Masterchef in 2013!

The adorable entrance to Paula's Plate in Nelson
The adorable entrance to Paula’s Plate in Nelson

We caught up with S and B and had a wander through some of Nelson’s shops before the sweet scent of cinnamon wafted under our noses. Eager to investigate, we walked down a little arcade to discover a little artisan bakery tucked away in the back corner. L’Artisan Bakery smelled even better inside the shop, I closed my eyes and let my senses take over. The baker announced she had freshly baked cinnamon buns cooling off, ready to be devoured so not ones to stray from the offer of food, we chowed down the deliciously gooey, sweet treats. We had a sample of some of the other goodies but nothing compared to the sticky cinnamon buns.

Wandering slow back to Mimi, we perused through all sorts of shops and art galleries. It was such a pleasant way to work out the hangover. Deciding it was time to move on, we had one quick final grocery shop at our campsite – the New World supermarket – before driving out of Nelson towards Blenheim.

It wasn’t until we were about 5km that we realised we had forgotten to go to the main thing we wanted to see in Nelson – the World of Wearable Art museum. Chucking a slightly illegal u-turn, we navigated back to the museum all of us pretending that blonde moment never occurred.

The World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum is where many award winning creations of wearable art garments come to live after they are showcased in the annual World of Wearable Art performances held in Wellington. Designed by people all over the world, these dramatic and intricate pieces of wearable art are inspired by local flora, fauna and culture.

Pieces from the World of Wearable Art Museum
Pieces from the World of Wearable Art Museum

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The showcase was slightly eery, mainly because I have a slight phobia of mannequins and that they were all in a dark room illuminated by small lights. But there was no denying the hours of work that has gone into these pieces and it shows, it truly was a unique way to display art.

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The Classic Cars part of the museum was equally as enthralling, with the cars presented to the highest standard. The exhibition showcased the evolution of the motor vehicle and how the styles and designs have changed over time. I’m no car enthusiast – I’ve been driving the same car since high school – but these metal beasts sure were eye-catching!

By the time we had looked through both exhibitions, our stomachs were growling something chronic so the Speight’s Ale House just across the road was looking mighty welcoming. These ale houses pop up all over New Zealand and really are just a fancy pub, but the meals are absolutely delicious. As usual, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ordered enough to feed a small nation.

Part of our feast at Speight's Ale House in Nelson. So, so good!
Part of our feast at Speight’s Ale House in Nelson. So, so good!

Struggling to walk back to Mimi because we were so full, it was late afternoon by the time we were on the road to Blenheim. We decided to free camp tonight again before splurging on a powered site in Blenheim because tomorrow we intended on doing a winery tour and wanted to look pretty – therefore electricity, showers and mirrors were a necessity! Our free camping spot was outside of Blenheim near a picnic area. It was absolutely freezing so we huddled in Mimi with our heater blaring. We were pretty knackered after a long day of adventure and driving and wanted to be fresh for our wine tour tomorrow so we called it a night early – not even attempting a game of cards!

Tomorrow we sample the best of the Marlborough region!

J. x

 

Day 9 continued – Seals, New Zealand’s longest swing bridge and camping at a supermarket.

For a day that we had made absolutely no plans for, it turned out to be one of our busiest and jam-packed days! After saying our goodbyes to Pancake Rocks with one final selfie, we jumped back in Mimi and planned on cutting across the top of the top island towards Nelson. What was becoming a regular trend for the four of us, we only made it an hour down the road before getting side-tracked by a sign on the road. This one said ‘Seal Colony – 12km’ and there was no hesitation from any of us. K slammed the brakes we made a beeline for the seals. Consulting our trusty road map, we learnt that the colony was located at Cape Foulwind, an appropriate name for a point of the west coast.

Cape Foulwind - the most appropriately named place in New Zealand.
Cape Foulwind – the most appropriately named place in New Zealand.
 We found the seal colony easily and after a short walk, we were greeted by a viewing platform that overlooked the colony. Cape Foulwind was certainly living up to its name and the vicious winds were knocking us about for a six. The viewing platform was quite high up from the colony but the shiny fur of the seals were unmistakable. Excited at our first proper seal sighting, we squealed like little girls and were mesmerised by their antics for a good half hour or so.
Spot the seal!
Spot the seal!
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Stopping in for a drinks break at a lone cafe just down the road, we found a pamphlet for New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. The Buller Gorge Swing Bridge, located just outside Murchison, was a couple of hours drive away so we voted to swing by there for lunch (pun totally intended). It was another windy drive and while the distance wasn’t that long, it took forever to get there! By the time we reached the swing bridge, we were itching to get out and stretch our legs.
The beautiful Buller Gorge and swing bridge, just outside Murchinson.
The beautiful Buller Gorge and swing bridge, just outside Murchinson.
The Buller Gorge Swing bridge is 110 metres of swaying rope that hangs precariously across the Buller River. You can walk across the bridge and explore the surroundings of the Buller Gorge area, enjoying a bush walk through the native New Zealand nature. Or, if you’re a little bit more adventurous, try 160m Cometline across the river. Not one to shy away from some fun, we booked tickets and paired up to do the tandem Cometline. It was exhilarating as we whizzed across the river at lightning speed. I’d probably rate it a 6 out of 10 for being an adrenaline raiser. Its no bungee jump but definitely something that the whole family can do.
Walking across the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
Walking across the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge
Being the only people there, we mucked around on the bridge for a long time!
Being the only people there, we mucked around on the bridge for a long time!

While our heart rates settled back to normal, we made a quick lunch in the van while the rain started to spit down on us before continuing on towards Nelson. Not going to lie, we may have underestimated the driving time for today as it seemed like we would never get to Nelson!

I took over driving for awhile while K had a nap and I had to commend her on her driving skills. These windy roads took a lot of focus and concentration – the fact that she could sing along with us and drive on the right side of the road was a miracle!

The long day was starting to take a toll on our energy and mood levels and by the time we reached the outskirts of Nelson, we were ready of a wine or five. Discovering that we could free camp at the local New World supermarket, we battled through peak hour traffic and reversed Mimi into a first class park right outside the supermarket entrance. Our mood levels lifted as we giggled over camping spot for the night. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the snow capped mountains and sapphire coloured lakes we’d camped beside previously, but A+ for convenience!

The need for an alcoholic beverage for pretty high by this stage so we braved the dodgy looking pub across the road and discovered $10 jugs of cider available. Suddenly, the Post Boy on the corner wasn’t looking so dodgy! After a jug (or three, but who’s counting?) we walked to the centre of town and found a Mac’s Brewery offering burgers and wine. Nelson was just speaking our language and we got a little carried away. Several bottles later and a lot of inappropriate conversation, we stumbled back to Mimi – still finding camping beside a supermarket hilarious.

Tomorrow morning may hurt. But we’re exploring Nelson!

J. x

 

Day 9 – A wild night at the beach and pancakes at Pancake Rocks.

We made it to Greymouth with just enough daylight to suss out our free camping spot for the night. Using the Jucy app yet again (this thing was a lifesaver!) we found a secluded spot by the beach just outside the windy city. Greymouth itself wasn’t much to look at – it seemed like a bit of a middle class mining town. There wasn’t a lot of colour around and the dreary weather kept people indoors, making it seem almost ghost town-like. Deciding that our little camp spot would do the trick for the night, we jumped back in Mimi for a quick squiz at the Monteiths Brewery in the middle of town.

The Monteiths Brewery was a far cry from the dullness of its surroundings outside. Like a warm shining beacon of hope, we backtracked our initial thoughts of Greymouth a little and was impressed by the industrial-esque interior that made up the brewery. Monteith’s has been brewing for over 150 years and is the leader in New Zealand’s craft beer market. We were too late (no surprise) for a tour of the brewery but settled with a selection of brews to sample, while we warmed up by the roaring fire. I’m not a huge beer drinker but I sure do love a good cider, and if there is one cider I always fall back on, its a Monteith’s. Back in Aus, we get the usual apple and pear ciders but in the brewery I found a new love – ginger and pear cider. Mmm it was so darn good I could have bathed in it!

S enjoying the tasting tray at the Monteiths Brewery in Greymouth
S enjoying the tasting tray at the Monteiths Brewery in Greymouth

Heading back to our little camping spot, the wind was blowing an absolute gale and we were a little unsure of parking up here for the night. Deciding to park further from the beach than another lone camper, we reasoned that if the tide turned nasty on us, at least they’d get hit first. We settled in for a little dinner before dozing off into a beer-filled sleep.

The following morning I awoke early to Mimi swaying more than a crowd at a Bob Marley concert. It was still pitch black outside, making the swaying sound of the ocean even worse. Waking K up for consultation, we decided to move the van to a more covered area just further down from the beach where the swaying wasn’t so sea-sickness inducing. Fighting to get back to sleep for another half hour, I gave up and hustled K to go for a walk with me on the beach.

Our camp for the night - the windy and wild beaches of Greymouth
Our camp for the night – the windy and wild beaches of Grey mouth

Now call me a beach snob because I come from a country thats home to some of the world’s best beaches, but Greymouth beaches are nothing to get excited over. The sand is dark and gritty, the water dirty and turbulent and the scattered driftwood makes walking in a straight line near impossible. Yet the darkness makes the beaches hauntingly beautiful. Like where you’d imagine a Lana Del Ray video to be made. It was depressing yet fascinating the way the knarly driftwood held a lifetime of secrets. The rain chased us back to the van and we decided to get moving straight away, while B and S were still dozing in the back.

K, the lone figure on the beach at Greymouth
K, the lone figure on the beach at Greymouth

Since we crossed the country yesterday, it seemed only logical to cross back over to the other side today. Our plans were sort of haphazard and all we knew was we wanted to be in the Marlborough region and Kaikoura for the rest of our trip. Driving along the wild and windy west coast was exciting and slightly terrifying. I’m not sure if its always so grey and dark on this side of the country but it was sure living up to its name.

We reached Punakaiki just in time for breakfast after zigzagging along the west coast for an hour or so. Punakaiki is home to the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes and we were hopeful we’d find some pancakes for breakfast and not be disappointed like we were in Kumara. Thankfully, the pancake Gods shone down on us this morning and we were in for a treat. Pancakes with bacon, berry compote and maple syrup, washed down with a coffee was pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pancakes at Pancake Rocks - perfect start to the morning!
Pancakes at Pancake Rocks – perfect start to the morning!

We finished off brekkie and went for a walk to the Pancake Rocks in a pathetic attempt to work off the calories we’d just consumed. The Pancake Rocks are heavily eroded limestone which over time has been formed by immense pressure by the rough sea on alternating hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediments. These layers look like stacks of pancakes, hence the name ‘Pancake Rocks’. The walkway takes you past the rocks and blowholes and gives you up close views and perfect photo opportunities – which of course we took full advantage of!

The Jurassic Park-eqsue rock formations left you wondering if T-Rex was going to jump out and eat you!
The Jurassic Park-eqsue rock formations left you wondering if T-Rex was going to jump out and eat you!

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The deja vu I’d been feeling driving through Arthurs Pass was confirmed as I remembered looking at the strange rock formations with my parents about 10 years earlier. It was high tide the last time I was here and I remember Dad and I watching the huge waves crash into the rocks and water spouting out of the blowholes. Unfortunately we didn’t see the same performance this time round, but the rocks were still a fascinating sight to see!

Pancake layers created by years of pressure from the ocean.
Limestone pancake layers created by years of pressure from the ocean.

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K admiring the view at Punakaiki
K admiring the view at Punakaiki
Selfies for dayzzzz.
Selfies for dayzzzz.

As per usual, the clock was running against us and our mission to squeeze as much of New Zealand into one trip as possible was starting to look impossible. Never fear however, we didn’t let this beat us and we jumped back in Mimi for another windy drive towards Nelson.

There were a few stops along the way, but this day turned out to be massive, so I will continue our adventures in the next post!

 

Stay tuuuuuuned 🙂

J.x

 

Day 8 – Rustic style camping and eating our bodyweight in cheese and chocolate.

After our slightly creepy visit to Tekapo, we were more than pleased to be driving away. Passing through teeny tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it towns, we searched for a place to camp for the night. The Musterer’s High Country Accommodation caught our eye and we pulled in hoping they had a free space.

Musterer’s High Country Accommodation are a boutique camping development with a variety of accommodation. Theres self-contained luxury cabins, powered camping sites and also a 1930’s carriage for two people (perfect for a romantic getaway!) Plus, they had adorable donkeys and goats on the property, what more could you want? As it turns out, the perks of travelling off-peak season came through again and we had the entire place to ourselves. Our hosts, Paul and Eunice were way more than accommodating by letting us not only have a powered site, but free reign of the delightful wool shed and hot showers. Talk about score! We were tempted by the hot tubs but unfortunately arrived a bit too late for them to be turned on. We cosied up in the fully decked out wool shed and made dinner and watched TV. This little bit of chill out time was just what we needed at the mid point of our trip.

The Musterers High Country Accommodation in Fairlie - gorgeous and rustic!
The Musterers High Country Accommodation in Fairlie – gorgeous and rustic!
Your own private hot tub at Musterers, don't mind if i do!
Your own private hot tub at Musterers, don’t mind if i do!

The following morning, we woke to frosty surroundings, caused by the snowy mountains that enveloped us. Since the start of the trip, we had decided today would be our ‘big’ drive day. We were crossing the island and going from east to west across Arthurs Pass to Greymouth. It would take us about five or so hours, which was huge compared to the menial distances we had been travelling in the previous days.

Now fairly behind schedule, we hightailed it out of there with a mission to stay in the van for more than an hour. This, of course, was a failure and we made a pit stop at the Staveley Store for a quick coffee and a sample of a cheese roll – because we hadn’t eaten enough in Geraldine – before setting off properly towards Arthurs Pass. P.s – the coffee in Staveley is fantastic!
It was a long, windy drive to reach Arthurs Pass National Park, but the view was fantastic the entire way. I kept feeling a sense of deja vu as we drove along and it wasn’t until we reached the small township of Arthur’s Pass that I realised I had been here before – back when I travelled through New Zealand with my parents at the age of 13. Obviously I wasn’t so enthralled by travelling back then as I am now! :p
Somewhere between Fairlie and Arthurs Pass - just glorious
Somewhere between Fairlie and Arthurs Pass – just glorious
 The landscape changed dramatically as we drove, from looming arid mountains to dense forestry – we couldnt tire from the view. The road was windy and narrow, though it didnt seem to faze the large trucks whizzing by us as we puttered along in Mimi.
In was nearing dark by the time we reached the turnoff to Greymouth. We’d buzzed past Kumura and had our hopes of hot kumara chips shattered as the scattering of houses that made up the town of Kumara didnt look as inviting as we’d envisioned.
The weather looked shocking as we entered Greymouth and we made a decision to only perch up here for the night before heading on towards Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks, but more on that later…
J. x

Day 6 – Burgers and the Beauty of Wanaka

The arrival into Wanaka is nothing short of beautiful. The snow capped mountains surround the sapphire coloured lake and the tree lined streets are full of delicious cafes and funky shops. It was getting to the point in our trip that we were becoming a bit blasé towards the scenery. “Oh look, another beautiful snowy mountain” or “Ah yes, more crystal clear water”.

Beautiful, beautiful Lake Wanaka
Beautiful, beautiful Lake Wanaka

We parked up by Lake Wanaka in search of lunch. S’s old housemate had recommended Red Star burgers, and not one to stray away from a burger we made a beeline towards the little burger joint. After a little misadventure (we got lost) we finally arrived at Red Star Burgers ravenous and ready to sample their fare.

One might say that Red Star Burgers are competition to Fergburger in Queenstown, one might also say that they are better than Fergburger in Queenstown – but one doesn’t want the wrath of hardcore Ferburger fans so she is staying quiet. Buuuut, Red Star Burgers were bloody delicious. I don’t know whether we chose better burgers there or maybe it was the kumara chips, but my vote sits with Red Star. I think mainly it was because their satay chicken burger was off chops. Though as far as atmosphere and vibes go, Fergburger wins hands down. Red Star was a little out of place on top of the hill in Wanaka, but maybe we were just there at the wrong time.

Mmmmm Red Star Burgers did not disappoint.
Mmmmm Red Star Burgers did not disappoint.

After our burgers we browsed the little town of Wanaka and tried to digest our massive lunch. Once again we let our eyes order, which we mostly always regret – but those burgers were definitely worth it.

The shops in Wanaka were just a little bit different to those in Queenstown and the souvenirs weren’t like what we’d been seeing everywhere. We shopped for awhile before moving Mimi into the campground at Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park. It was the closest one to town and had a waterfront view – not to shabby for $18pp!

Running short of clothes we spent the rest of the afternoon washing and cleaning Mimi so she was presentable again, before K and I went for a walk around the lake to work off some of the burgers from earlier today. It was nearing dusk by the time we got our runners on and the sun was settling on the lake, leaving a golden glow around the town. The sky was clear and the crisp mountain air made your fingers burn and your breath visible. We followed a track parallel to the lake until darkness descended around us, forcing us to turn back to home.

Looking back towards the town of Wanaka
Looking back towards the town of Wanaka
Lake Wanaka at sunset
Lake Wanaka at sunset

Dinner was a relaxed affair and we tried to play cards again. The problem with four girls is that we tend to get off topic very quickly and focusing on one thing at a time is near impossible.

It was going to be a quiet night in, but because we hadn’t spent that much money, S, K and myself got dressed up and headed into downtown Wanaka. It was a Monday night so we weren’t expecting a massive night, but cabin fever was getting the best of us (as well as the thought of a cocktail!) Our first stop was Gin & Raspberry, Wanaka’s newest establishment. The beautifully decorated bar was empty when we walked in, but the service was second to none. We ordered some cocktails and settled into the lounges by the crackling wood fire. By the time we drained our cocktails, more people had come and we decided to splurge on a bottle of wine. Moving onto a different bar, this time we took the locals advice and tried Woody’s – which was decidedly more busier than the Gin & Raspberry. We headed back to our campground around midnight, satisfied with our Monday night our in Wanaka and devoured some food in the fridge before passing out for the night.

The following morning we brushed off our hangover with a quick walk down to the lake. It was so darn cold, we decided that a walk to the coffee shop would be a great way to finish our daily exercise session :p

Mornings in Wanaka
Mornings in Wanaka
The tourists being tourists, again..
The tourists being tourists, again..

Stopping in at Relishes to warm up with a coffee, we were so tempted by their breakfast menu that we decided to eat out for brekkie. We went back to pack up Mimi and get dressed for the day before moving out and finding the best spot to break our fast. Urban Grind got our vote after we asked a few locals and I was not disappointed at all. The coffee was delish and the food superb. Plus, free wifi – you can’t complain with that!

Another quick shop and then we jumped back in the car for our next adventure. Today we’re headed for Lake Tekapo via Mount Cook. Stay tuned for whats to come!

J. x

 

Day 5 – Free Camping At The Prettiest Spot In NZ and A Morning In Arrowtown

I don’t think I went into enough detail about our night at Lake Hayes. It was so much lovelier than the small paragraph I gave it in the previous post so I’ll try again – lets just rewind back to where we pulled up at Lake Hayes.

First of all you should know we came across this little camping spot on the Jucy app, which K downloaded before we left. This nifty app is perfect for campers around NZ, it shows you all the free and paid camping around New Zealand, where various dump and water stations are and has heaps of cool little tips and tricks – definitely recommend downloading this baby before setting off on a road trip!

So after we parked up and did our usual leap out of the van and admire the scenery for 10 minutes or so before we set up for drinks and nibbles by the lake where a mob of very friendly ducks and geese wanted to join us. Us four growing up on a farm, let them join us in our wine and cheese time. A chook catcher from way back, K lured the big goose into a false sense of security by feeding it some biscuits before swooping in and picking the startled goose up! After a bit of a cuddle, she let him go and he stormed off back into the water, the rest of the flock following him. Best way to get rid of some pesky birdlife!

It was such a magical way to end our fabulous day. The snow mountains shimmered in the lakes reflection and the scarcely dressed trees swayed in the slight breeze, the last of the yellow and orange leaves threatening to fall. The silence and serenity of this camp spot was incredible, it was like our own little slice of campers heaven.

Our backyard for the night. Can't complain!
Our backyard for the night. Can’t complain!
The friendly geese at Lake Hayes - weren't so eager to hang around once they realised what K was capable of!
The friendly geese at Lake Hayes – they weren’t so eager to hang around once they realised what K was capable of!

We had a quiet night in, knackered from our big day of fun. After a failed attempt at a game of cards and a really good saucepan of noodles, we slept soundly until the sun started to peek through the mountains the next morning.  Wiping the condensation from Mimi’s windows, I could see the sky painted a golden colour which made the ripples in the water sparkle in the morning sun. It was going to be another glorious day.

Mimi and our campsite at Lake Hayes - utter serenity!
Mimi and our campsite at Lake Hayes – utter serenity!

We went on a quick hike around the lake and found some old kayaks and a swing hanging off a large, gnarled tree. The beauty of Lake Hayes was still hard to believe, how could a place be so lovely? As per usual, our growling stomachs got the best of us and we made a quick brekkie before packing up and heading into Arrowtown – a short 20 minute drive away.

K enjoying the serene atmosphere at Lake Hayes
K enjoying the serene atmosphere at Lake Hayes

We’d all been told to go to Arrowtown by our various friends who’d already been to New Zealand and driving into the charming little town it was easy to understand why. Popular for its historic charm and boutique shops, Arrowtown is like stepping back into the times of the gold rush. We parked up and wandered through the old western style streets in search of a coffee. Autumn is definitely a brilliant time to visit NZ, the sunny days are complimented by snowy mountains and the yellow leafy trees just make for a beautiful view, all day, every day.

The western style streets take you back to times of the gold mining days
The western style streets take you back to times of the gold mining days
The stream running parallel to Arrowtown
The stream running parallel to Arrowtown

We found coffee at a small little cafe hidden away called Espresso Love and plugged in all our technology which had been drained from our copious photo taking and music playing. Giving into self restraint, we shared a chocolate caramel slice which was probably the yummiest I’ve tasted. Way better than any slice I’ve tried to make!

We caffeinated up and took turns having a looksie through the shops while someone stayed and manned the technology – ah the first world problems we suffer today! The shops were full of beautiful and unique homewares – definitely a place to remember when I finally settle down and have my own house!

Having a final browse through the streets, we got back in Mimi and headed north-ish to Wanaka – which was about an hour away. A great way to start the morning, I’m definitely am on the Arrowtown bandwagon. It has lovely shops, great coffee and a history lesson all in one – perfect for a day trip from Queenstown!

A plethora of colour, Arrowtown was just delightful.
A plethora of colour, Arrowtown was just delightful.

Continuing our journey, we took the scenic route from Arrowtown to Wanka going via the Cardrona ski fields. Hoping for snow similar to what we saw down near Milford Sound, we were left disappointed as the chill had only set in enough to leave a harsh landscape and a bitter wind. It was still a gorgeous drive – albeit windy, with the mountains uprising around us the stark landscape a huge contrast to the greenery we saw down south.

Driving out of Arrowtown towards Cadrona and Wanaka
Driving out of Arrowtown towards Cardrona and Wanaka

Using the trusty old road map we navigated our way to Wanaka in good time. The glorious Lake Wanaka sat before us, living up to all the photos I had been seeing on Instagram. Hunger was getting the best of us so we parked in a public car park and went for a search for lunch.

But I’ll save that for the next post…

J. x