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#TravelDiary Dream Came True : Road Trip in South Island New Zealand!

People in my inner circle, must have known that New Zealand had always been my dream of destination. I never crave of visiting a country like I crave for New Zealand. Finally, after 5 years of longing to explore South Island with a campervan, it came true this year. 😀

I went through so many drama to get here. But that’s gonna be off the record. Shit happens and let’s move on. This time I went travel with Nataya (again and again :p), Nunu – one of my  Indonesian bestie I met in Sydney, Tamara -an American sweetheart that I found on Gumtree! Earlier I posted an ads that I’m looking for a travel mate to explore New Zealand then this girl was the first who contacted me, and the unexpected and lovely Polish girl Patricja – we met her in the airport when the first-shit happened. She was traveling by herself and not sure what she gonna do so she decided to join us. I’m so happy that I travel with this people. They are more than amazing!

We drove almost 2000 km for total 8 days, started in Christchurch – Lake Tekapo – Lake Pukaki – Mt. Cook – Queenstown – Milford Sound – Lake Wanaka Haast Pass – Fox Glacier – Franz Joseph Glacier – Christchurch via Arthur Pass.  To be honest, 8 days was not enough!

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Day 1
Christchurch – Lake Tekapo (244 km; +/- 3 hours driving)

I arrived in Christchurch Saturday almost mid-night, my friends who already arrived since yesterday and this afternoon picked me up at the airport with our colorful green and purple-ish campervan by Jucy. Yep, we decided to rent Jucy Condo. A campervan, not a motorhome. Actually we wanted to rent a motorhome, but the condition led us to last minute booking, where most of the motorhome were already booked, and left us the expensive ones. So, we settled with the campervan instead which price way more affordable.

We straightly headed to Lake Tekapo from the airport because I already booked a campervan powered-site to stay in Lake Tekapo Holiday Park for that night. I definitely recommend this place. The location is absolutely perfect, just on the tip of the lake and it does have nice facilities, including a hot spring facing Lake Tekapo! Though we still have to pay additional $2 to get hot shower for 10 minutes. You know what, I forgot to bring my $2, and I just realized that when I already took off all my clothes in the shower room. So yeah, I had to suffer showering with a super cold water. Felt like being punctured with hundreds of needle. Sooo painful!

It was super freezing and dark when we got there. I believe the temperature was less than 5 degrees, hurting every inch of my skin. We had a quick self cleaning-up in the bathroom, set up our bed in the van, then easily went sleep. I was sleeping in below compartment together with Tamara and Patricja. Nataya and Nunu slept on upper compartment. I remember I could see million stars hanging up there in the sky through the window before I closed my eyes, would love to spare some time to enjoy it outside, just like what I always wanted to do in Tekapo. But the cold was too cruel and hell I was very mentally tired of what happened that day and desperately need a good sleep.

Morning came, I looked for my shoes, then rashly got out from the van to see this stunning view which right next to our caravan park.

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If you know my Facebook Page, I have used Lake Tekapo and the church of God Shepherd with background of Mt Cook that I grabbed from google image as my cover photo since 2012, and had never changed that, ever. This church lies not far from our holiday park, maybe only about 1,5 km away. It was a bit disappointing because the church was really-really packed of tourist! Totally blew away the serenity that I expected to got in here.

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Day 2
Lake Tekapo – Mt Cook (125 km; +/- 1,5 hours driving)

Believe me, this was the best road ever – eeeeverrr! If I could, I’d choose not to close my eyes even for a blink. Too beautiful to be missed even for 1 sec. Actually I’m that type of person who easily get sleep in the car. But that time? I didn’t get sleepy at all. The curiosity of what I was going to see in the next kilometer way more dominating my nerve. Added with that happy feeling -that kind of happiness when you see beautiful things and you just perfectly drown in the moment.

Our car was the only one on the road, right side view was a crystal blue lake, left side view was hills sometimes change to green-yellow grass with white fluffy sheeps or fat black cows on it. And far in front of us stood the gorgeous peak of Mount Cook. Those views really made a never ending gasp full of amazed.

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The art of doing road trip with a campervan is you can choose wherever and whenever you like to have your meal. For our first lunch, we stopped by the tip of Lake Pukaki. Oh My Goodness, I super love this lake. Perhaps the best lake I’ve ever seen. Actually Pukaki and Tekapo are pretty similar. But I’d say that I like Pukaki more.

When it comes to cook, Nataya always become the head chef with Patricja, Tamara, or me as the assistant who help to cut the veggies or prepare the spices. Nunu? he take part as the biggest eater of the group. For sure. :p

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After having a 5 star view lunch, we continued to drive to Mount Cook, and managed to stop by to see Tasman Glacier Lake and Blue Pools that already turned to green.

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Tasman Glacier Lake. Used to be a glacier years ago, until finally it melted and formed a lake like this
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Blue Pools

Sky started to turn dark when we arrived in Mt Cook. After a quick discussion, the only possible camp to stay over in Mt Cook was White Horse Hill Campsite. A bit different from the holiday park in Tekapo, this campsite is not powered, means no electricity at all. Well they do still have toilet and kitchen (just for washing dishes). So, that should be fine. Who need a shower in a freezing place like this anyway. And thankfully, our campervan still had full battery from last night charging at Tekapo so we could still cook inside the van with a fine lighting.

We spent our second night just being in the van, chatting and laughing while our chef Nataya, cooked the dinner. The wind outside was like an evil, sometimes I could feel the van trembling because of it. It was bloody cold no matter how many clothes you wear in your body. Brrr…!

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But this freshly cooked chicken curry and hot rice definitely made that night went better :)

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Day 3
Mt. Cook – Queenstown (264 km; +/- 3,5 hours driving)

Tadaaaa! This is pretty much the view that we could see from the van’s window. Never realized that we parked in a premium place like this since we got here in the dark time last night.

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After having a breakfast, we prepared ourselves to do Hooker Valley Track which entrance is just around the corner of our camp. I super recommend everyone to do this track. It’s a light 2-hours walk and it’s as marvelous as it can be. Definitely one of best way to enjoy Mt. Cook.

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Please bring your lunch or snack and enough water on the track. So you can have a picnic in the middle of the track, like we did! Big stone as picnic table? why not!

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There are bunch of salmon farms on the way to Queenstown from Mt Cook that we certainly didn’t wanna miss. Well, who could resist to have salmon fresh from it’s farm!

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My Salmon Platter! Food from heaven!

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Day 4
Exploring Queenstown

In Queenstown we decided to stay in an AirBnb to give our body a little more space after 2 days being squeezed in the campervan. Thanks to Nunu, he found this amazing house with a very beautiful backyard! And yes, this is kinda my morning routine – a cup of hot Milo and the autumn view of Queenstown. #MyLifeDefinitelyBetterThanYours :p

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Tamara, a super sporty American girl that I found prior to my in-search-of-travel-mate ads on Gumtree, is actually a yoga teacher. She’s been into yoga for years. Since we had that super spacious yet stunning backyard plus a yoga master by our side, a short yoga session would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?

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At around noon, we headed down to explore Queenstown. Tamara and Nunu wanted to be dropped in the downtown while the rest of us were going to do Jet-Boating in Shotover River. Yes, this was my another bucket list activity in New Zealand. Paid $130 each for 45 mins ride. The jet-boating itself was super fun! the driver rode the boat in high speed, about 85 km/h. What makes it more thrilling, it is done in a narrow river with crazy manoeuvres like driving very close to the cliff’s wall and spinning 360 degrees. On top of that, the river was absurdly beautiful. I couldn’t find exact words to describe. But seriously, the scenery during the ride was like in a fairy tale. That crystal blue water of the river, that naturally carved cliffs, that pines and colorful trees on top of the cliffs, that gorgeous tiny waterfall, that gravels, that tiny wooden house hanging on the mountain, that group of salmons in the river  —— Oh mother nature, you really took my breath away.

I recorded our ride for 10 minutes in my GoPro, but I stupidly deleted it and failed to get it back until now. Another shit happened. So, apologize I couldn’t provide any picture or video of this moment. Sigh.

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A piece of picture I snapped before getting on the boat

Anyway, Queenstown is a town that surrounded by beautiful hills, lake and rivers. The downtown also very pleasant though very touristy. As you know, where there is sugar, there always bunch of ants following. It’s undeniably true about the rumor that this town is incredibly pretty. I’d love love love love to stay here in spite of it’s bloody weather. It reached 0 degree when I was there and it wasn’t even winter yet!

There was one thing that I really wanted to do here, doing … ehm … skydive. I knooow, it’s not really my thing, but it had written in my bucket list, so I had to do it. No way to step back! You know, I’m such a determined person. :p
Unfortunately I didn’t get slot in any provider on that day and the next day. All were full booked! But don’t worry, when there is a will, there is always a way 😉 (Read the full story here)

After wandering around the town, we went to take gondola ride to Queenstown Hill, a perfect spot to enjoy Queenstown from above.

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Queenstown from above

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Day 5
Queenstown – Milford Sound (288 km; +/- 4 hours driving)

Today we got up early in the morning and headed back to downtown to drop Tamara off in a tour provider. This girl aimed for canyon swing in Shotover River which claimed as the highest canyon swing in the world! Wohoo, sounds uber cool! I would never dare to do that, really! Proud of you, girl!

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While waiting for Tamara, the rest of us spent time in Lake Wakatipu which lies in the heart of Queenstown. We spent about 2 hours in here embracing the lake and a park with beautiful autumn colors. This place was so serene, Love it!!

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We picked up Tamara around 10 o’clock and then drove straightly to Milford Sound. That was a bit risky trip to be honest, because we had only exactly 4 hours to arrive in Milford Sound which located 288 km away from Queenstown, aimed to catch cruise at 15.30. Thanks to Patricja who drove at that time, she maintained a quite good speed so that we managed to be there on time. We didn’t stop at all for sightseeing, even if we did the restroom break, we made it only once and super quick. I remember the car was parked carelessly near the in the-middle-of-nowhere-restroom, and all of us were running out to the toilet, leaving all the car doors widely open. Seemed like everyone been holding their pee for hours! LoL!

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To-die-for view on the way to Milford Sound, right after passing through Homer Tunnel – A mountain tunnel that connected Te Anau and Milford Sound.

We booked Jucy cruise in Queenstown and got discount because we also rented the campervan. Yeeeyy! Forgot how much exactly it was, but surely less than $50 each for 2 hours cruise. Such a pretty good deal since most of cruise offers almost double price than Jucy.

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Mitre Peak

I should say that Milford Sound is one of those magic photogenic places. Really good and inviting in the picture, but actually it is not that special. Well, I like Mitre Peak. It was stunning, but the whole scenery in Milford Sound is more or less the same with the scenery that we’d seen in South Island. The only difference was we enjoyed it on a cruise. It still a good place to visit though, just better to manage your expectation here.

Anyway, we should thank Tamara in here. Our fuel was only 1,5 bar left. We were confident that we can make it to the nearest town, except Tamara who kept pushing us to refill the fuel before we left Milford Sound. She didn’t wanna take any risk. Thank God we followed her, because – she was right. It actually needed 2 bars of fuel to get to the nearest town. And luckily, there is a gas station in MS, though it’s location is a bit hidden. We were saved!

Milford Sound – Wanaka Haast Pass (345 km; 5 hours driving)

We had to drive all the way back to Haast via Queenstown, which in total would take about 6,5 hours. Realizing it was kinda not a good idea to drive the winding road in the dark time, so we decided to settle at a campsite in Wanaka Haast Pass and will continue the trip to Fox Glacier tomorrow. With a quick search during the trip, we chose to stay in Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park.

Day 6
Wanaka Haast Pass – Fox Glacier (264 km; +/- 3 hours driving)

We were lucky that we had tried to contact the office last night when we arrived at the campsite. Because in the morning, we got approached by the camp staff, asking why we were not registered on their data. We explained to him that we arrived at midnight, tried to call the office, since no one answered, so we were willing to pay in the morning. Which to be honest, if no one approaching us, we would not gonna pay and leave as soon as possible! Hehehe :p But then he recognized that the midnight phone call he heard last night was from us. Otherwise maybe we got fined for illegally parking our van on their site. So guys, please be mindful to always register in a campsite. or at least manage not to get caught. :p

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Breakfast at Caravan Park – right before we got caught :p

On the way to Fox Glacier, we managed to stop at Blue Pools. Yep, another Blue Pools, different from the one in Tasman Glacier. This Blue Pools is actually not pools – pools, but a river with crystal clear blue water. We just need to park our van on the side of the road – there is parking space available for Blue Pools visitor. And we need to walk into the woods for about 20 minutes to get to this pretty pools.

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On the way to Fox Glacier, we accidentally found this spot to have our late lunch

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Look who’s talking?

When we setted up the kitchen , we soon realized that this place was full of sandflies! Damn! Sandflies are insects that will happily bite you as mosquito does. I first encountered them and got bite at Blue Pools. We packed our cooking stuff in a rush and moved to find another spot. Unfortunately our van already invaded by them. So yes, we were having a hard time to fight those irritating insects inside the van. As soon as we found a good spot, we tried to evacuate all of our stuff in the van and cleaned it up to get rid of them.

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Day 7 
Fox Glacier – Christchurch (402 km; +/- 5,5 hours driving)

We stayed at (another) Top 10 Caravan Park in Fox Glacier. So far, this was the best campsite we had. It has a very clean and warm bathroom, a warm lounge with sofa and TV that we could crash in until morning time aka sleeping there. hahaha!

Anyway, this day was a big day for me, the day when I finally did skydive. The nerve had been there for a week or so, I even got a dream about skydive last night. Well, not a bad one though. We woke up at 7 and assemble at skydive office which lies only 5 mins away from our caravan park. I kept telling myself that everything gonna be okay, we live only once, so I gotta do what I gotta do. Turns out, it wasn’t scary as I always think about. it was hella fun! Believe me, I’m not an adrenaline junkie, when I say it’s fun, it means literally fun. The adrenaline rush only happened before the jump. After jump? it was nothing compared to roller coaster. The free fall were very comfortable and the scene up there was unbeatable. I’m happy I did it in Fox Glacier!

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After skydive, we did trekking to Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier. Please note that Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier are not located in the same area. You have to drive half an hour from Fox Glacier town to get to Franz Joseph. To see both glaciers, required about 1,5 – 2 hours trekking return with light-medium track. I’d say I like Frans Joseph better than Fox, though both of them are typical. We couldn’t really touch or go nearby the glacier for safety reason. Except if we hired a guide, which we didn’t for the sake of money wise. It cost like more than $150 for each walk. So yeah, gotta pass this time.

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Valley on the way to Fox Glacier view point
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Fox Glacier from view point

In Franz Joseph, I got pretty close to one huge ice berg which separated to the glaciers. Actually there was a sign not to trespassing the area of this ice berg, but me and Tamara ignored it. Hehehe. If you had enough time and money, doing the guided glacier walk should be a must.

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Waterfall on the way to Franz Joseph Glacier
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Franz Joseph Glacier from view point. That is why I suggest you to take guided glacier walk, so that you really can step on the glacier over there
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Franz Joseph’s iceberg

From Franz Joseph Glacier, we still had to drive 400 km to get to Christchurch via Arthur Pass. Many people suggested not to miss this road, so we tried to manage to pass this road before dark, so that we still can enjoy the view along the road.

Aaand we finally got back to Christchurch. Couldn’t believe it was 7 days ago when we first landed our feet in here. Time really does fly! I love every single moment I spent in this island with these amazing companion! We were easily blend in and happily tried to accommodate each other’s interest. It was amazing that we barely knew each other but we could make a great road trip team. Thanks guys!

And you, New Zealand (particularly South Island), You absolutely exceed my expectation! Seeing your beauty somehow make me the happiest woman in the world ~

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People don’t take trips. Trips take people!