The home straight

Our final month of travelling has sadly come to an end, but it was full of moments to remember!

We began April with a trip to Milford Sound, travelling for five hours by coach and winding around the Fiordland National Park and the man-made tunnel through the Southern Alps. It was a crisp, clear day and the views were incredible in every direction. There was so much to stop and see.

Mirror Lake

Tukoto River

Tukoto Bridge

Monkey Creek

Eventually it was time to swap bus for boat at the Milford port. Though it was nippy out on the water, cruising alongside the huge mountains and the roaring waterfalls descending them was totally worth the chill. It’s hard to choose photos that do it justice, but below are a few of my favourites from the cruise. The whole trip was a definite highlight!

While we were in that part of the country, we also visited the small but bustling Queenstown. We missed out on Fergburger as the queue was huge and the hunger was real, opting for a Balls & Bangles bagel instead which was delicious. The town is cool and modern, but it’s actually set among a lot of rural land, so we chose to stay at a camp on a farm that evening where I fed some adorable goats.

Having spent a while inland, it was soon time to get back to the warmth of the east coast, so we set our sights on the white sands of Brighton. We made the most of an evening there wandering the beach, climbing rocks, and even found a seal soaking up the last of the day’s rays.

Spot the seal

Brighton Beach

The following day we explored more of the local beaches, overlooked by huge houses piled high on the coastal hills, and drove up to the Otago Peninsula for views of the entire town. We also paid a visit to Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest residential street, which took a good 10 minutes to climb and left us a bit puffed out!

Baldwin Street

There are a lot of cool sights to see in the area, including the naturally-formed Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach. It was nice to spend a few days enjoying some short walks and taking it all in.

Moeraki Boulders

Our next major stop was Christchurch. After the horrific attacks in March I expected it to be subdued, but Kiwis are resilient and the city was vibrant and quirky. We made a stop at the local Air Force Museum one rainy day and spent the next with one of Taylor’s old schoolfriends who took us out for a few beers and a game or two of pool.

Another highlight of our stay down south was watching a Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Highlanders. There was a great atmosphere at the stadium, and we spent most of the match chatting to the guys next to us who were a good laugh and took their team’s defeat well (excluding attempts to break my flag), as the Crusaders won 43-17.

Crusaders vs. Highlanders at Christchurch stadium

Our ferry back to North Island was booked for a few days later and it was a totally horrendous trip. I’ve never been seasick before but the waves were monstrous and I spent most of the four hours with my head in a bag. I was happy to get back to Wellington for that reason, but also because we had some good stuff planned for our journey back up to Auckland.

We explored the sleepy towns on the way up to Palmerston North and a visit to the National Rugby Museum was worthwhile, but we both much preferred the neighbouring town of Feilding, which has been voted New Zealand’s most beautiful town 16 times. It was like the set of The Truman Show! Not a lot going on, but super pretty nonetheless.

Feilding

There are heaps of towns with a similar vibe in lower North, Whanganui being one of them. We spent a day there, hitching a ride up the 1919 Durie Hill lift and viewing the town from the lookout before making our way to South Taranaki’s Stratford, the gateway to the Mount Taranaki Plateau.

Durie Hill lookout

Sadly it was an overcast day and the summit was hidden by cloud, but we did have a wander through the Goblin Forest where the trees look gnarled and enchanted. It was fortunate that we managed some exercise that day, as it poured with rain over the Easter weekend meaning duvet days indoors with Easter eggs and a curry out to cheer ourselves up. It’s a hard life!

Goblin Forest

Once the weather had cleared up, we were desperate to get out and about so headed to New Plymouth and hired bikes for an afternoon, cycling the coastal walkway in the sun. The Te Rewa Rewa Bridge perfectly frames Mount Taranaki and it was our last chance to see the peak, so we were grateful for a clear day.

We were even more chuffed when the camp we chose for the night was beside a rockface covered in glow worms, which you can end up paying to see in some parts of NZ. It was the cherry on top of a great day.

Te Rewa Rewa Bridge ft. Mount Taranaki

Cycling the New Plymouth coastal walkway

Our last big stop before dropping the van back in Pukekohe was Hamilton. The wicked weather continued, making the town’s super well-kept Hamilton Gardens even more beautiful. There were gardens of all different themes and influences, with my favourite being an Indian-inspired section.

Hamilton Gardens

Before we knew it, we’d spent our last night in the camper up in Onewhero and were packing our bags for the penultimate time. As gutted as we were that the travelling part of the trip was done and dusted, we were both pretty relieved that we wouldn’t have to make up a bed every night, empty a potty every morning and spend any more time cooped up in a creaky tin can!

After waving goodbye to our home of seven weeks, we were back in Auckland! As tempting as it was to binge Netflix all day, we took a few lovely long walks in the warm weather and bid farewell to the city.

Achilles Point

As I write, the only thing left to do is pack up for one final time before we begin the 30+ hour journey home tomorrow!

I can’t wait to see my friends and family, cuddle my dog and sleep in my own bed, but the excitement is bittersweet as I’ve had the best and most memorable four months of my life over here.

All the saving, the planning and the spending was so worth it for the experiences I’ve had. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

See you all soon!

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