3069 kilometres on the roads of New Zealand: Goodbye camper-van

It’s time to leave New Zealand. After 3069 km in a camper-van we finally arrived in Auckland, which is our last stop before we board a plane to Fiji tomorrow (well, ash cloud permitting…)

Our trip is slowly coming to an end, with Fiji and California being our last destinations: in about a month we’ll be back to Europe and we’ll be starting a new life. Making plans for our next future is proving a quite exciting and energizing exercise and we feel like we have a number of good things to look forward to in our lives. Surely enough, also owing to all the inspiring people we met along the way, we gained a clear idea of what changes we want to make in our lifestyle and that can’t be bad if we are to figure out ways to make those changes happen  🙂

But I’ll expand on our post-trip plans in the future, now back to New Zealand. Travelling in a camper-van around the two islands has definitely been one of the highlights of our round the world trip and something we will never forget. In a way, the camper experience has entailed a journey-driven approach to travel: the road – the journey itself – was the destination, rather than a specific place. This is totally different from what we used to do in Asia, where the road was for us just an ‘interim’ between a place and another.

Even though it may look like we’ve done everything in a hit-and-run fashion without delving deeper into it, I can assure you the road-trip had a very intense flavour, and driving through the country’s scarcely populated roads was a great, cost-effective way to see those awe-inspiring landscapes made of green hills, snow-capped mountains, reflective lakes and rugged deserted lands which, in my opinion are the real essence of New Zealand. Plus, the wintery atmosphere really added some magic to the whole experience…

Our days have been pretty much following this pleasant routine: driving during the hours of daylight in search of photographic opportunities, stopping by scenic lookouts here and there, cooking lunch and perhaps making coffee, finding a camper park for the night after sunset, sorting out the pictures taken during the day, connecting to the world through our mobile broadband USB stick, and then going to sleep to leave the day after.

The only exception was Queenstown, which is where we were when we wrote our last post. As we were advised against driving to Milford Sound on the basis that the road may be icy and therefore dangerous, we ended up buying a day-tour which included bus transfer and cruise on the fiord. The weather was quite crappy that day which prevented us from taking the postcard type of pictures we were after, and made it difficult for us to capture the beauty and the atmosphere of the place.

Organized tours to Milford sound stop by this scenic lookout named mirror lakes. The name is quite self-explanatory and this image is a panorama obtained by merging several shots.
Organized tours to Milford sound stop by this scenic lookout named mirror lakes. The name is quite self-explanatory and this image is a panorama obtained by merging several vertical shots.
Another lookout point on the Milford road. When I took this picture the weather wasn't that bad, but it got worse as we approached the fiord.
Another lookout point on the Milford road. When I took this picture the weather wasn't that bad, but it got worse as we approached the fiord.
Milford Sound. A rainbow makes it's way through the clouds.
Milford Sound. A rainbow makes it's way through the clouds.
Stirling falls, Milford Sound. This is one of the two permanent falls in Milford sound. When it rains, as it was the case with us when I took this picture, many other falls appear on the rugged limestones peaks. Seeing the water coming down with such a violence was such a powerful spectacle.
Stirling falls, Milford Sound. This is one of the two permanent falls in Milford sound. When it rains, as it was the case with us when I took this picture, many other falls appear on the rugged limestones peaks. Seeing the water coming down with such a violence was such a powerful spectacle.

When we finally left Queenstown we headed north in the direction of the glaciers. Again, the rainy weather put us off photography-wise, and also jeopardized our visit to lake Matheson, which is one of the most photogenic (and photographed) spots in New Zealand.

As the weather improved we took the scenic Great Alpine Highway heading west, but before we hit Christchurch we  turned north to Kaikoura where we arrived at the end of the day, just in time to secure a powered site at a random camper park along the way.

On the way to the Glaciers we stopped by Lake Wanaka to take this picture. The few clouds weren't threatening enough to let us imagine how rainy it would get in the afternoon.
On the way to the Glaciers we stopped by Lake Wanaka to take this picture. The few clouds weren't threatening enough to let us imagine how rainy it would get in the afternoon.
A photo of Franz Josef, one of the two most popular glaciers in New Zealand, the other being Fox. This is the closest thing to a nice picture I was able to come away with. As you can see it was quite foggy and the light was rather flat. The picture was taken from the sentinel walk viewing point, which is the closest to the car park and the one that made more sense to go to, given the amount of rain...
A photo of Franz Josef, one of the two most popular glaciers in New Zealand, the other being Fox. This is the closest thing to a nice picture I was able to come away with. As you can see it was quite foggy and the light was rather flat. The picture was taken from the sentinel walk viewing point, which is the closest to the car park and the one that made more sense to go to, given the amount of rain...
We stopped by this river on the way to Kumara Junction, where we spent the night before hitting the Great Alpine Highway. Sceneries like this are very common in the south island. What struck us was the blueish/greenish colour of the water, which we found out later, is due to the effect of bits of rocks and minerals suspension.
We stopped by this river on the way to Kumara Junction, where we spent the night before hitting the Great Alpine Highway. Sceneries like this are very common in the south island. What struck us was the blueish/greenish colour of the water, which we found out later, is due to the effect of bits of rocks and minerals in suspension.
We drove on the Otira viaduct as part of the Great Alpine Highway - During the first part of the drive you literally drive among the mountains. I was afraid we would get snow or ice but fortunately it wasn't the case.
We drove on the Otira viaduct as part of the Great Alpine Highway - During the first part of the drive you literally drive among the mountains. I was afraid we would get snow or ice but fortunately it wasn't the case.
In the middle of the route the landscape becomes flatter, but in no way less interesting.
In the middle of the route, driving through the Arthur's pass the landscape becomes flatter, but in no way less interesting.
Lake Pearson, at the western edge of Arthur's pass. The good thing about travelling in a camper is that you can choose your view. This was the case when we decided to stop by this lake to cook and then eat our lunch :)
Lake Pearson, at the western edge of Arthur's pass. The good thing about travelling in a camper is that at anytime you can choose to have a meal or a coffee with a view. This was the case when we decided to stop by this lake for our daily lunch break 🙂

Kaikoura was our last stop in the south Island. The morning after we moved to Picton to catch a ferry to the north island. The ferry was one of the most expensive things we’ve paid for in New Zealand. When we were told that it was 363 NZ$, 200 of which constituted the camper fee, Romana’s face went white – we knew it was going to be expensive but we couldn’t imagine it was THAT expensive. But hey, our camper couldn’t swim, so there was no other way we could get it across the Cook Strait 🙂

Kaikoura's coast is pretty rugged and the sea was particularly wild the night we arrived. We thought we would wake up early to see the sunrise on the coast. The whole seascape was dramatic and scary at times, with waves 'swallowing' even the higher rocks.
Kaikoura's coast is pretty rugged and the sea was particularly wild the night we arrived. We thought we would wake up early to see the sunrise on the coast and take some pictures. The whole seascape was quite dramatic with waves 'swallowing' even the higher rocks.
As we'd made a firm commitment to see the sunrise on the coast, having overslept by a couple of minutes prevented us from having breakfast at the camper park before hitting the road. Therefore after some shooting at the place above, we moved to another nice spot on the coast (again, we were able to choose our view :)) to stop by, make coffee and eat our cereals with milk. Because the view was so nice I couldn't resist delaying my breakfast by another couple of minutes to do some more shooting.
As we'd made a firm commitment to see the sunrise on the coast, having overslept by a couple of minutes prevented us from having breakfast at the camper park before hitting the road. Therefore after some shooting at the place above, we moved to another nice spot on the coast (again, we were able to choose our view :)) to stop by, make coffee and eat our cereals with milk. Because the view was so nice I couldn't resist delaying my breakfast by another couple of minutes to do some more shooting.
We took a short drive on the Kaikoura peninsula before heading to Picton in search of nice views and photographic opportunities. This is one of the images we've taken.
We took a short drive on the Kaikoura peninsula before heading to Picton in search of nice views and photographic opportunities. This is one of the images we've taken.
View from the top of the Kaikoura peninsula looking south. Only a multi-shot panorama like this could actually capture the actual sense of space I felt in front of that view.
View from the top of the Kaikoura peninsula looking south. Only a multi-shot panorama like this could actually capture the actual sense of space I felt in front of that view.
I was in a multi-shot panorama mood that morning, so I captured the view looking north too :)
I was in a multi-shot panorama mood that morning, so I captured the view looking north too 🙂
A man on the ferry to Wellington enjoys the views from the upper deck. When I shot this picture I was sitting comfortably in a sofa in the upper lounge. Fortunately the window through which I took the picture wasn't too dirty :)
A man on the ferry to Wellington enjoys the views from the upper deck. When I shot this picture I was sitting comfortably in a sofa in the upper lounge - if I'd gone out on the deck I certainly would have missed the moment. Fortunately the window through which I took the picture wasn't too dirty 🙂

As the ferry dropped us in Wellington, we thought it was a good idea to spend the night there and take a peek at the city the following morning. The rain caught us again after a visit to Te Papa Tongarewa (New Zealand’s most visited museum) and after lunch we set off to Lake Taupo, from which we took the thermal explorer highway, which runs across a number of active geothermal areas. This was probably the highlight of our time in the north island.

The huka falls have nothing to do with the geothermal activity of the region, however this is the first attraction on the Termal Explorer Highway, 7 kms north of Taupo. The huka falls have a flow rate of 220,000 litres per second and their power is massive.
The huka falls have nothing to do with the geothermal activity of the region, however this is the first attraction on the Termal Explorer Highway, 7 kms north of Taupo. The huka falls have a flow rate ofa massive 220,000 litres per second. No pictures of the falls I have seen so far (including this one) is able to capture the violence of this powerful stream of water.
Craters of the Moon is the next attraction on the highway. It is a very active geothermal area with craters, fumaroles and a mud pool.
Craters of the Moon is the next attraction on the highway. It is a very active geothermal area with craters, fumaroles and a mud pool.
Craters of the moon - The vegetation inside and around the craters comprises mosses and ferns.
Craters of the moon - The vegetation inside and around the craters comprises mosses and ferns.
Champagne Pool, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. This is a major attraction in the geothermal region and it's well worth a visit. The champagne pool is arguably the most photogenic sight in the whole park.
Champagne Pool, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. This is a major attraction in the geothermal region and it's well worth a visit. The champagne pool is arguably the most photogenic sight in the whole park.
Romana looking at the champagne pool. Ok, I admit I messed up with the colour temperature slider :)
Romana looking at the champagne pool. Ok, I admit I messed up with the colour temperature slider 🙂
Lady Knox Geyser, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. Every day, at 10.15 a member of the park staff throws some soap into the geyser to make it 'explode' - eruptions can last up to one hour.
Lady Knox Geyser, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. Every day at 10.15 a member of the park staff throws some soap into the geyser to make it 'explode' - eruptions can last up to one hour.
Mud pool, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. A bubble of volcanic mud bursts in mid air.
Mud pool, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. A bubble of volcanic mud bursts in mid air.

After Taupo we moved to Rotorua, Waitomo and finally Auckland. During the last leg of our trip we didn’t shoot much and our camera remained in the bag most of the time. As the end of our road trip approached our focus shifted and our conversations about projects and plans for the next future took over.

We’re saying goodbye to our camper-van, but it’s a ‘see you again’ we’re saying to New Zealand. We’re making a commitment to come back one day to get active and do some of the things that people come to New Zealand for, which we haven’t been getting around to do this time – like hiking, rafting, bungee jumping or skydiving.

Now it’s time for some sun and sea. Please ash cloud, don’t interfere with our plans to re-enter the tropics 🙂

  • Maria José P. Pereira

    beautiful photos from New Zealand. Wonderful trip that will retain forever in your memories and experience of life…

    • Emanuele

      We will never forget this experience, that’s for sure 🙂

  • lello

    meravigliose ed incredibili immagini. Che esperienza unica. Ciao Papi

    • Emanuele

      Grazie Papá, mi fa piacere che stiate seguendo il viaggio con interesse. Un abbraccio.