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.

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!

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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.

Christchurch: Then and Now

The whole world heard about the Christchurch earthquakes.

The first one came on September 4th, 2010, damaging many of the city’s older buildings and leaving residents without power or clean water for days. There were no fatalities, however, (unless you count the one person that suffered a heart attack during the quake,) and it was with a sense of relief and optimism that the repairing and rebuilding began.

My parents visited Christchurch the following January, observing the fenced off areas with interest before moving on. There had been a few aftershocks in the intervening period, including a particularly strong one on Boxing Day, which had hampered the city’s recovery by bringing down more buildings, but Mum and Dad were impressed with Christchurch’s attitude.

Then came the February 2011 earthquake. Over half the buildings in the central business district were damaged beyond repair, thousands of people were left homeless and 185 people died.

Since then there have been numerous aftershocks – none fatal – and the rebuilding efforts continue to this day, though not at a pace people are happy with. Again and again plans are frustrated, but last month (July 2013) there came a happy breakthrough: Christchurch’s iconic Cathedral Square was reopened to the public. The Chalice still stands; the cathedral doesn’t.

Christchurch Cathedral’s demise was a tragedy. The city’s main attraction for over a hundred years, it survived the first quake with only superficial damage, but then the February 2011 earthquake collapsed its grand spire and further aftershocks wrecked its rose window. The decision was made to demolish the whole thing.

I have not been to Christchurch since the quakes: I have only my memories of how it used to be. It was nearly ten years ago when my family flew there from Auckland. I think the first thing we did after picking up our New Zealand campervan hire was head to Cathedral Square.

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral

I remember having a wonderful bagel at a café on the periphery and posing in front of the Chalice, which really is a beautiful sculpture. I’m glad it didn’t get destroyed. I remember thinking that the cathedral itself was not that impressive, but only because I had been spoilt in my childhood by the cathedrals of Chester, Lincoln and York. It was still wonderful climbing up the steps of the tower.

I also remember an enchanting tram ride. A cathedral, a tram – it was like I was back in old England! Unfortunately, due to the quakes, the tram is no longer running.

We loved Christchurch. In fact, before the quakes, I would have said that it was the New Zealand city I would have most liked to live in, primarily because it was the most English-feeling of New Zealand’s cities. I remember a little, stone pub with a garden and being taken down the River Avon in a punt – just like Cambridge! (That’s the proper Cambridge in England, of course, not the place in New Zealand near Hamilton.)

White FlowerSpeaking of the River Avon, next to it are the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, which, thankfully, weathered the quakes relatively well. They were my family’s favourite bit of Christchurch and, by all accounts, are still magnificent to walk around. Incidentally, they celebrated their 150th anniversary this year.

I want to go back to Christchurch one day, especially to the gardens, but also to retrace the steps of our South Island campervan holiday. From Christchurch, we drove up the peninsula to Akaroa, which I was possibly not old enough to appreciate and dearly want to see again. Maybe I’ll write about it soon.