I wanted a break from work. After speaking randomly of a road trip with my friend Gireesh, we decided to call a couple of friends and planned the trip for May 2015.
Starting from April 2014, we began to research the weather, petrol prices and flight prices. After gathering our data together, we decided to set ourselves a budget of S$2,500 for the trip.
The planning was not concrete and we finally bought our flight tickets in January 2015. The itinerary was finally done up after getting the flight tickets before we flew off. With the help of New Zealand's website, it made our lives much easier. We decided to start at Christchurch and end our trip back in Christchurch.
Fast forward to 8 May 2015, the four of us - Ferdinand, Gireesh, Xiu Ming and I - arrived at the Singapore Changi Airport in the evening to set off on a 10-day adventure.
Here's a summary of our trip around South Island:
- Day 1 (9 May): Christchurch
- Day 2 (10 May): Hanmer Springs / Kaikoura / Nelson
- Day 3 (11 May): Takaka / Nelson
- Day 4 (12 May): Franz Josef
- Day 5 (13 May): Queenstown
- Day 6 (14 May): Queenstown
- Day 7 (15 May): Te Anau / Queenstown
- Day 8 (16 May): Queenstown / Dunedin
- Day 9 (17 May): Mount Cook
- Day 10 (18 May): Christchurch
Day 1 - Sydney to Christchurch
After an 8-hour overnight flight from Singapore to Sydney, we had a layover for 3 hours but our flight to Christchurch was delayed. We finally took off at about 1110 hrs (GMT +10) and reached Christchurch at 1620 hrs (GMT +12). Got ourselves a 4G SIM card with 1.5GB of data for NZ$29 each and we left the Christchurch International Airport to collect our rental car.
Being late for the collection, we quickly dragged our luggage to GO Rentals' office that was a 20-minute walk away. Lucky for us, 16 minutes into the walk, the airport shuttle service from our vehicle rental company picked us up to the office.
We collected our rental vehicle, a Toyota Camry, and then headed towards our Airbnb accommodation for the night. After approximately 3.4 km, we unloaded our belongings in our host's apartment and headed off to grab dinner. As we were new to the environment, it took us a little while to get food. Using the GPS in the car, we looked for restaurants but most of them were too expensive. While driving to the supermarket, we decided to just settle for some Chinese takeaway.
After having dinner, we chilled, caught up with our friends and families in Singapore before we headed to bed at about 2230 hrs.
Day 2 - Kaikoura
Waking up early, Ferdinand made breakfast for us all before we all freshened up, packed our belongings and headed off for Hanmer Springs. The drive was our first taste of the mountainous terrains in the South Island. There were lots of winding roads throughout the drive and a couple of us were a little dizzy from the bends.
The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa was our actual destination 134 km away. We arrived, got our stuff out for the relaxing thermal pools and paid NZ$22 for it. An optional NZ$5 was paid for the fun pool ride and Gireesh, Xiu Ming and I decided to get it.
The thermal pools were really warm for a cold Autumn day in New Zealand. We chilled and talked about our secondary school memories before the three of us went up for the pool ride. As there was a queue for the floats, we were freezing while waiting for our turns to have a try at the pool ride. Even though the pool ride was fun, I decided to head back to the thermal pools after trying.
At about 1230 hrs, we all agreed to leave the pools and headed for a quick shower before we left for Kaikoura on a 130 km drive. Upon arriving at Kaikoura, we looked for food and settled for a relatively affordable restaurant. Food portion wasn't huge but for our budget of NZ$10 per meal, I guess we had something to fill our stomach.
As the sun fell, evening approached when we looked for Point Kean car park. We started our track from the car park to Point Kean view point and continuing our journey to Whalers Bay view point. The sky was getting dark and we decided to make a u-turn at the view point and headed down to the car park.
Before we got up onto the vehicle, we spotted a seal near our vehicle. It was lying down and we examined it with care. While I took a video of it, it decided to scare me. The seal opened up its mouth to reveal the fangs and I got a shock while jumping away from the seal.
All laughing and as I recovered from the small shock, we drove off to our Airbnb accommodation in Nelson 246 km away. It was also our first test of driving through the dark New Zealand highways at night. We needed to use high beam throughout the drive and switch it off when vehicles approach us on the opposing lane. We stopped in Blenheim to pump petrol and had a quick dinner at Burger King. Feeling tired, I passed the car keys to Gireesh who drove the remaining ~100 km.
We safely arrived below our apartment at about 2200 hrs. The area was pitch black and I had to use a torchlight to guide Gireesh up the 20-30° slope before finally reaching the apartment.
The apartment was a beauty. Situated at a height, it overlooked the Nelson city and beach. We quickly brought our luggage into the apartment as the cold weather came in. As we moved our luggage, it was noted that we could see lots of stars from our apartment. The idea of shooting the stars came to my mind and with the assistance of Ferdinand, I managed to take a couple of photos (while braving the cold temperature) before heading back into the apartment.
Marveled by the views from the apartment, we soon felt tired and went to bed.