Taieri Gorge

POMS AWAY!

Yes, I’m writing about another gorge. Karangahake Gorge last week, Taieri Gorge this week – I seem to be gorging myself.

Sorry.

I was just looking through some family photos from ten years ago and was reminded of how pretty Taieri Gorge is. Of course, for me, it could never measure up to Karangahake, but my experience of Taieri was completely different: it was by train.

Taieri Gorge is in Dunedin. We went there on our first ever campervan holiday in New Zealand, because my dad is an insufferable train nerd and also, coming from England, we all kind of missed trains, not to mention the beautiful, old railway stations of which there are hardly any in New Zealand.

Dunedin has one. From it, you can catch the Taieri Gorge tourist train, which takes you on an enchanting journey through dramatic scenery. Being twelve years old at the time…

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Photos from Our South Island Campervan Trip

POMS AWAY!

The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. My mum, dad, nana, sister and I travelled around much of it in a campervan; it was the best family holiday we ever had. (And yes, I am including our fortnight in Florida, visiting all the theme parks.)

The Christchurch Tram The Christchurch tram

We picked up our rental campervan in Christchurch, having flown there from Auckland. I’ve already written an article about the trip – if you haven’t read it, you can do so here – so I won’t repeat myself. I just wanted to show you these awesome photos my dad took.

(If you read last week’s article, you’ll know that I’ve been going through my dad’s old pictures!) Enjoy.

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch Punting on the Avon, Christchurch

Castle Hill, New Zealand Castle Hill

Kea A cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot

Weka Pass Railway The Weka Pass Vintage Railway

Bungy Jumping, New Zealand Watching a bungy…

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Photos from Our South Island Campervan Trip

A Road in the South Island of New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. My mum, dad, nana, sister and I travelled around much of it in a campervan; it was the best family holiday we ever had. (And yes, I am including our fortnight in Florida, visiting all the theme parks.)

The Christchurch Tram

The Christchurch tram

We picked up our rental campervan in Christchurch, having flown there from Auckland. I’ve already written an article about the trip – if you haven’t read it, you can do so here – so I won’t repeat myself. I just wanted to show you these awesome photos my dad took.

(If you read last week’s article, you’ll know that I’ve been going through my dad’s old pictures!) Enjoy.

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch

Punting on the Avon, Christchurch

Castle Hill, New Zealand

Castle Hill

Kea

A cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot

Weka Pass Railway

The Weka Pass Vintage Railway

Bungy Jumping, New Zealand

Watching a bungy jumper

Dunedin Railway Station

The grand, old Dunedin Railway Station

Taiaroa Head

Observing albatrosses at Taiaroa Head

A South Island Road

Just a regular South Island road

Old Cromwell, South Island, New Zealand

Old Cromwell

Old Cardrona Hotel, South Island

The old Cardrona Hotel

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Statue of Sir Edmund Hillary

Statue of Sir Edmund Hillary

And finally, a helicopter ride over the Southern Alps…

Helicopter

The Southern Alps

The Southern Alps

The Southern Alps

The Southern Alps

The Southern Alps

Our South Island Campervan Trip

To see more awesome photos of New Zealand, check out my New Zealand trip planner. And if you’re looking to book your own New Zealand campervan holiday, I recommend going with these guys.

My Top 10 Favourite Places in New Zealand

Since moving to New Zealand, I’ve seen so many wonderful places. The country’s full of them; beauty spots beyond counting. But some of them have stayed with me more than others. Some places are just so wonderful, so beautiful…

This is a personal list. You might not agree, but I think these ten places are amongst the best places to visit in New Zealand:

10) Te Puna Quarry Park

Like a fairytale

I love this place. It makes me feel like a kid exploring Wonderland. I mean there’s a dragon and everything! The first time I went, I just knew I’d be back again and again. Te Puna Quarry Park is really close to Tauranga – click the link to see my blog about it.

9) Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove 1cropped

The name of what I think is New Zealand’s most beautiful beach certainly does it justice. Cathedral Cove is on the Coromandel Peninsula. You can only get there by bush walk or boat, but it’s totally worth it. If you’re still not convinced, check out the Cathedral Cove bit from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. (No CGI there – except the ‘ruins’, of course.)

8) The Hamilton Gardens

Indian

Hamilton is often accused of being a boring city, yet people flock from afar to the Hamilton Gardens. Completely free to enter, Hamilton’s greatest asset was named Garden of the Year at the 2014 International Garden Tourism Awards in France. What I love about the place – which grows with every visit – is it has heaps of small gardens within it, each with a different theme. It’s like having lots of little pockets of paradise to sample. And it has a lake with a waterfall.

7) The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

154 Glacier Franz Josefcropped

I have fond memories of visiting the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. They were beautiful, but more importantly they were sights out of the ordinary – they took my breath away. We didn’t walk onto them, just up to them. They’re possibly the world’s most easily accessible glaciers. You don’t have to climb halfway up a mountain or trudge through snow; you simply walk up to them from their respective car parks, enjoying the refreshing breeze coming off the ice as you go.

Be warned, however: the photo above was taken when I visited the glaciers with my family, and that was about a decade ago. The glaciers have gotten smaller since then, thanks to global warming, and I don’t think you can get as close anymore. (You can still walk on top of them if you take a commercial tour.)

6) White Island

White Island

White Island is one of the most wonderful places I’ve been in my life. It’s the top of an active volcano, rising out of the sea amidst plumes of white steam. I’ll never forget it, seeing all the vibrant colours; hearing the bubbling acid; smelling the sulphur; feeling the warm rocks and the air tingling on my skin. It was like walking on an alien planet – such a different experience. I can’t recommend it enough.

5) Hobbiton

First Hobbit Hole

Visiting Hobbiton was like going home. There was something comfortingly English about it, but it was also – quite literally – stepping into a childhood fantasy. It was amazing. For anyone as Lord of the Rings-obsessed as I am, it’s simply a must-go. More than worth the admission price – I loved every second.

4) The Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula

If you want dramatic scenery, awesome wildlife, romantic villages and a castle, spend a day or two on the Otago Peninsula. I went there with my boyfriend a couple of years ago and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Hire a budget car – that’s what we did – and explore its peaceful roads, winding over sheep-scattered hills and around beautiful bays. The peninsula is home to the world’s only colony of royal albatrosses breeding on an inhabited mainland. The fluffy, white chicks are so cute!

3) The Waitomo Caves

Glowworms elsewhere in the caves, with their silken, beaded threads

I don’t believe in magic, though I’ve spent my life writing fantasy stories. The closest I’ve ever come to experiencing real magic – magic as the raw force of nature I write about – was in one of the Waitomo Caves. It was with a tour group. We’d been led through a dark labyrinth, had many fascinating features pointed out along the way, and now we were helped into a small, inflatable boat. As we drifted silently through the pitch-black tunnel millions of tiny, electric-blue lights appeared like stars above our heads. They were the famous Waitomo glowworms – an awe-inspiring sight everyone should see.

2) The Shotover River Canyons

The Shotover Jet

The whole area around Queenstown is staggeringly beautiful – possibly the most beautiful place in the world. One part of that area in particular stands out in my memory: the Shotover River Canyons. It was one of the great treats of my family’s South Island campervan rental holiday. We all had a jet boat ride on the Shotover River with the only company that can enter the canyons. And though the ride itself was fun – the best jet boat ride in New Zealand, in fact – what makes it memorable is the scenery. Oh. My. God.

1) Glenorchy

The Wizard's Vale

North of Queenstown, Glenorchy is a self-proclaimed paradise. I won’t argue with them. The drive towards it is jaw-dropping, (but only if you like mystical lakes and snow-capped mountains.) The reason Glenorchy has stayed with me is the view of the Wizard’s Vale from The Lord of the Rings, (where Saruman lives.) My heart captured this view on the Dart Stables ‘Ride of the Rings’ tour. I had never ridden a horse before, but I felt like a fantasy character – a warrior maiden – as we emerged from a forest, crested a rise, and looked out over heaven.

(Read more about Our Campervan Tour of New Zealand’s South Island.)

So these are my favourite places in New Zealand. What do you think? What are yours? Leave a comment – I really want to know!

New Zealand’s Funniest Bird

POMS AWAY!

You’ve probably heard of the Kea. Endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, it’s the world’s only alpine parrot. It’s endearingly curious and devilishly intelligent. It gets up to all kinds of mischief, from knocking over coffee cups to breaking into tourists’ cars.

Seriously.

I heard a story about some people who had a rental car or campervan or something somewhere in the South Island, and when they got back to where they’d parked they found a group of kea happily playing inside the vehicle, having peeled the rubber from around the windscreen until it fell inwards. So, you know, if you hire a campervan in the South Island, that’s something to watch out for.

Even if they don’t break in, they can snap off windscreen wipers and radio antennae.

And don’t leave your backpack unattended around them.

???????????????????????????????When my family were on our South Island campervan holiday

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Our Campervan Tour of New Zealand’s South Island

POMS AWAY!

When I was twelve years old, my parents decided to take the family on a special holiday: a campervan tour of New Zealand’s South Island. We had been living in New Zealand for over two years, having emigrated from Britain, but in the North Island. The South Island, as we were about to discover, is completely different. It is, in a word, magical.

I must admit, though, that I was not looking forward to sleeping in a campervan for two weeks. I was at that age when one especially prefers the privacy of their own bedroom, and I was bitterly disappointed that we could not afford to stay in a hotel every night, but that disappointment melted when we first climbed into our campervan at the depot in Christchurch. The whole thing suddenly became rather exciting.

609 Lake Wanaka 008 Lake Wanaka

The campervan we had was laid out similar to this one

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New Zealand’s Funniest Bird

You’ve probably heard of the Kea. Endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, it’s the world’s only alpine parrot. It’s endearingly curious and devilishly intelligent. It gets up to all kinds of mischief, from knocking over coffee cups to breaking into tourists’ cars.

Seriously.

I heard a story about some people who had a rental car or campervan or something somewhere in the South Island, and when they got back to where they’d parked they found a group of kea happily playing inside the vehicle, having peeled the rubber from around the windscreen until it fell inwards. So, you know, if you hire a campervan in the South Island, that’s something to watch out for.

Even if they don’t break in, they can snap off windscreen wipers and radio antennae.

And don’t leave your backpack unattended around them.

???????????????????????????????When my family were on our South Island campervan holiday, we went to a café in Arthur’s Pass. We sat at a table outside and watched in amusement as the birds descended. There was a sign saying not to feed them, so we didn’t, but that didn’t stop them. My mum had an apple, and as she raised it to take a bite, one kea got onto the table and reached up to take a bite from the other side! We shooed it away – admittedly, not very emphatically – and chuckled as they investigated my dad’s empty coffee cup, knocking it over to get at the dregs.

At a neighbouring table, there was a family with a baby in a highchair. The kea were quite interested in the highchair, which freaked the baby out a bit, and they observed intently as the baby banged the tray up and down. When the family had gone, some of the birds climbed into the highchair and proceeded to bang the tray up and down for themselves!

???????????????????????????????

It was quite interested in my camera…

Also, across the road from the café, there was a pub with an open door. We saw one kea walk quite nonchalantly into the pub, right past a “No Kea” sign, only to be chivvied out a minute or so later. We noticed that all the bins in the area had lids that were weighted down.

Kea are excellent problem solvers. They may even be the most intelligent birds in the world. In some areas, they’ve been known to use sticks to set off stoat traps to get at the bait eggs inside.

They’ve been seen deliberately sliding down roofs for fun, deliberately dropping things from a height to see if they’d smash, untying bootlaces, stealing gloves and kicking a can to each other as though playing football.

Despite their fun-loving nature, kea do have a darker side: they swoop down and take bites out of live sheep.

To see these dangerously intelligent birds at work, just watch this David Attenborough video:

So make sure you watch out for kea when you’re in the South Island. They can make a delightful addition to your holiday – if they don’t trash your campervan and steal your passport, that is.