Flew down and toured the south island of New Zealand in June-with 3 women in tow. Crazy, right? We rented a 26+ foot RV & I was the driver (lots of previous experience driving on the wrong side of the road). The RV was a converted VW diesel van or something similar. The conversions are done in Australia and shipped to NZ. Since it happened to be winter while we were there, we found out real quick the big heating/AC unit was primarily AC only. It won't operate below a certain temperature, and it always seemed to be below whatever temperature that is. We did have power hooked up each night & a plug-in heater, so it worked out okay. The RV was an auto, but you could also pop it out of auto and shift forward or back (no clutch pedal, obviously). Maybe some of you have experienced this with an automatic, but when I was shifting the gears on my own, it felt & sounded exactly like I was shifting via a manual. Strangest thing I've ever run across, but very cool.
We arrived to rain in Christchurch. A day & a half later, the rain was gone.
Starting from that evening forward:
A tad hazy in the background on this one, but I had to include it. That peak on the right is Mt. Cook, the tallest peak in NZ, and one that is almost always obscured by cloud. I've met many locals who have never seen it.
Because it was winter, the days were short. We typically woke up every day around 5am, so I have lots of sunrise/sunset shots.
These trees grow at a right angle because of the winds.
The next few are from a cruise on Doubtful Sound, which is actually a fjord, not a sound.
This species was thought to be extinct until a few were rediscovered in 1950 or so.
Jetboats are popular. This is one of the oldest & one of the best. They only need 4 inches of water to operate.
And a short video here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvsteve/92 ... 4535012207
This is one of the common burgers found pretty much everywhere: it has a fried egg on top of the meat & a thick beet slice. Pretty tasty, but since most of their food is essentially English in origin, I packed along a couple bottles of hot sauce. Otherwise, one could easily be blanded to death when it comes to the food.
This is where commercial bungee jumping began:
A thick temperate rainforest is located in the southwest corner of the island.
Some of the glaciers extend down into the rainforest.
The plan was to head over to a national park at the top of the island, but
after trying the only 3 roads into it, we didn't make it because of severe flooding and landslides. Then we wanted to head up into the mountains to a hot springs resort town, but heard on the news that a super powerful Antarctic storm was blowing in & it was expected to be the worst the country has had in over 20 years. They were right. We ended up racing back to Christchurch and hanging out in the rain/snow there for our last 4 days.
Christchurch used to be a pretty cool city to wander around in. After both of the earthquakes they've had, there is very little left of the heart & soul of the city. The buildings that are still standing can't be occupied because the ground they stand on is no longer stable. Whole city blocks and neighborhoods are closed off because of that. Construction is everywhere, but it will probably take decades to recover because nobody really has the money to foot any of the bills. And they no longer offer earthquake insurance in the country.