After some very nice days in Waitaki Waters and in Oamaru we drove a few hundred kilometers further north, and ended up in the small town of Hanmer Springs. We actually hadn’t planned to drive this far in just one day, but as soon as we were on the highway, things went really well and with good pace, so within just a few hours we were there.
The main attraction in Hanmer Springs are... the springs. Hot springs. So once again we were treating ourselves with the luxury of hot pools. Unfortunately this place was much more expensive than other hot pools we have visited. We bought a two-day pass to save a bit of money. But only a little bit.
Mostly a hot pool experience is something very nice and indulging. And so it was here in Hanmer Springs. But only to a certain extend. The changing facilities were not in a condition that you could have expected for such a place. They were much worse than the changing rooms at my former ground school in Denmark. And they were REALLY disgusting! Furthermore, all doors and windows were open here in Hanmer Springs, so that changing would have to be done quickly in order not to get really cold. Not exactly the “luxury experience” we thought we had paid for. Also, the changing facilities were located a bit away from the pool area. You had to hurry not to catch a cold on your way. The fact that the hot pools are a really nice experience, once you are finally in there, is their bread and butter, and I guess that’s why the changing facilities are not really a priority. Well, well. Anton has become quite a fan of these pools, and will gladly follow in spite of some cold moments before and after the nice, warm water.
We stayed two days in Hanmer Springs, and then we drove over the Lewis Pass, back towards the west coast, which we drove along a few weeks ago. But the weather really wasn’t any good. In fact we heard that it was supposed to get even worse than the last time we drove there. Back then we had three days with non stop rain! We did not need that again! So we made a shortcut, just before we hit the coast, and drove back towards the east coast over Arthur’s Pass. The sun was still shining on the east side of the island. Not from a clear blue sky, but it was shining never the less. Thus we drove over two very beautiful and exciting passes in just one day.
Especially Arthur’s Pass is one of those highlights that everyone will recommend that you see when visiting New Zealand. As you continue through the valley after having crossed the pass itself, you drive in what I suppose is former glacier gorge. Roaring rivers, small waterfalls and steep cliffs. Everywhere we looked around the hilltops were covered with snow. I can certainly understand why this area is a much beloved location for shooting films. We all thoroughly enjoy this part of the drive. We saw some of the most beautiful nature we have yet seen!
It was rather late before we finally found a camp ground. It was in the small town of Glentanner. The ground itself certainly wasn’t impressive, but it was only for one night, so we did not really mind. The next morning we drove up to what is apparently one of the best ski areas in New Zealand, Mount Hutt. The area is closed now as the ski season is over, but you can still drive all the way up. So we drove along very narrow and winding gravel roads with no protection barriers. On several occasions I thought we were VERY close to the edge. Alexandra also became very quiet in her seat. Many times the road was in such poor condition that I actually considered to give up and turn the van around. But we were SO close to the top, so how could we possibly give up now? With extreme caution we managed to drive through the worst area, and finally we arrived at the top and parked the van close to where the abandoned ski lifts were. There was plenty of snow and the wind was extremely cold. We only stayed for a short while, but we did walk around and played a bit with the snow, as we had promised Anton we would.
On our way down from Mount Hutt we started to think about our remaining time here in New Zealand. By now we have actually seen most of the places that we wanted to see. We only have Kaikoura, Christchurch and Akaroa, not far away from Christchurch left on our list of things to do. Then we fly onwards to the US. All this can be done within about a week. And as we have quite some time in Christchurch anyway, from the time we bring back the campervan until we leave, we have decided that we do not need to be in that area before October the 28th. We realized that we had one extra week to do whatever we wanted to do! Time for some “Greatest Hits South Island” or the like.
So now we are back in Oamaru, which we all really loved the last time. After this we will go to Wanaka and Queenstown up in the very beautiful and hilly part of the Otago region. We will be celebrating Alexandras birthday there next week. We have been on the road for many months now, and it has occurred to us both, that we need a bit of “slow time” where we are not constantly seeing and exploring new things. I wouldn’t say that we are “full”, but a bit of time off to digest the past months will be good for us. Wanaka and Queenstown will be good for exactly this. Just living there, enjoying life for a short period before we begin our slow approach towards Christchurch.
We have started the detailed planning of the first weeks in the US. The car is booked and then we need to plan a route down along the west coast. From Seattle we also want to cross the border to Canada and go to Vancouver, which is said to be a most beautiful city. It is only a few hours drive from Seattle. Of course we HAVE to see that!