So this post follows our journey down the east coast of New Zealand, from Christchurch to Dunedin, which took 2.5 days overall. Here is a map of NZ to help:
A few footnotes (which should actually be called ‘headnotes’): The South Island is bigger in size than the North Island but has approximately a quarter of the entire population of NZ which is around 4.5 million. Agriculture is the main export over here and you could have guessed that after driving an hour; endless fields of cows, sheep and farming equipment. And each little village you pass through will undoubtably contain a tractor sales showroom. You can drive for miles without seeing much (on the east side anyway) and the weather is as unpredictable as the UK. Each stream you come across is signposted with it’s name and all the small birds have a death wish by flying inches close to your windscreen. You used to be able to freedom camp (as in you could legally park up and camp anywhere) however they’ve clamped down on it due to the number of tourists doing it and leaving rubbish and effluence by the roadside. There are tons of campsites though from shitty little drive ways to big holiday parks. It’s easy to find one… or so we thought.
After picking up Christopher the camper or Brucey the Jucy, we found a nice campsite on the outskirts of Christchurch where we stayed for our first night. We didn’t want to go too far because we wanted to have a perv at Christchurch the next day.
Following a self-cooked breakfast of lamb sausage butties, we headed into Christchurch for a nosey about. The weather wasn’t great but as we were only doing a city thing for the day it didn’t really matter. Plus, we’re from Greater Manchester so it was just like being back home.
As we all know, Christchurch suffered a severe earthquake in 2010 and after talking with Lauren and Sean back in Sydney you can pretty much tell that although the city doesn’t have many structural signs of the earthquake, the legacy it left seems far worse than a few toppled buildings. Understandably, after the devastation it caused many people left as the possibility of a recurrence was, and is, likely given it lives on a fault line. You may have also seen that there was a also a large quake in late 2016 – fortunately it had less of an effect than the 2010 one – but all the same, you can see why residents would migrate to safer areas. Although a beautiful small city, it seems greatly underpopulated. There was very little traffic even in the centre and apart from when we took a look around the Re:start shopping centre, you could count the number of people we saw on one hand. This made us quite sad actually because its a lovely little area; clean, good amentities, easy to navigate (in-part due to the lack of traffic) and with some nice historic architecture.
There was also a wicked shopping ‘area’ (I didn’t want to say centre because it’s too cool to be labelled a centre), called Re:start. Re:start is a project which the government/council initiated after the 2010 quake to keep the small independent businesses of Christchurch centre going in the direct aftermath. They effectively threw together a load of shipping containers and turned them into shops, which the tenants of the old shopping precinct – which was destroyed in the quake – now frequent. Theres dozens of very cool shops here which it seems like young Kiwis own or run and there’s a certain ‘Northern Quarter’ type feel to the place. There was one clothes shop called ‘Infinite Definate’ which we fell in love with. Apparently they sell online, so you should check it out. We certainly will be (if we can ever afford it as it was a tad pricey). Unfortunatley or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Re:start is being taken down in June 17 as the old shopping centre should have been rebuilt by then.
We left Christchurch rather deflated, not because its shit, it definitely isn’t, just because we hadn’t seen it before the quake and we also felt very sorry for the people who lost their homes, jobs, communities and lives.
The number 1 highway in the South Island, is just one large single-lane road which goes from the top of the island, right down the east coast and this is the path we chose to take us around the island. We passed many a farm and field as we went until we hit Ashburton where we stopped for a spot of lunch (chicken butties), to feed some ducks and to chat to an elderly couple about their relatives in Paris. After that it was back on the road.
We then hit a town (although I think it might be a city) called Timaru. Timaru is the largest town on the South Isalnd, and infrastructure wise (i.e, there were plenty of shops, houses and a massive port) it seemed about right, however it was a total ghost town. Even Christchurch seemed to have more people in it. We were going to spend the night there but Milly got a bit scared because there was a kind of forgotton fairground next to the beach we pulled in at and it must have invoked some kind of childhood killer clown memories so we decided to carry on a little further down the coast until we hit a small province called St Andrews where we gave Brucey a rest for the night. We got chatting to pretty much the only other inhabitants of the campsite – a german guy called Klaus and a Kiwi who was a former pro-cricketer. Bit of an odd concoction and the Kiwi was eating an almost uncooked stake with a cleaver and fork, but I nailed a few Speights (the local South Island larger) and Milly had her Smirnoff and cokes which gave us the bravery to stay their for the night. I also forgot to mention that the Kiwi worked in an abattoir and it was pissing down – classic horror movie scene!
Our next desination took us down to the south east of the island to a city called Dunedin. We’d heard grand things about the place and that the name Dunedin is actually gaelic for Edinburgh. It’s called this because the Scots landed here in the mid-to-late 1800s and tried to turn the place into a home-from-home for themselves, recreating the architecture from Edinburgh. There’s even a statue of Robbie Burns in the town centre. Unfortunately they failed when they tried to make it look like Edinburgh. It doesn’t have the grandeur, architecture, population (although it might have done some years ago) or bagpipes which the Scottish capital possesses . It does however have a shit-hot museum which we checked out. It told you all about how the Westerners came to Dunedin to create a whaling trade and had many a civil war with the Mauri tribes of the region. Just past Dunedin there’s a spit which you can go along and check out some penguins, seals and albatrosses but like most things over here it costs and arm and a leg – well $70 which is like £45 – so we didn’t bother.
We decided to keep making tracks after Dunedin and stopped about 60 miles outside of the city in a small hamlet called Gore – which for all you fact hunters is the largest brown trout fishing area in Australasia. In fact before we went to Gore, we were going to stay in a small town called Riversdale (because it sounded like Rivendale from Lord of the Rings) but there was actually no campsite there and we were running perilously low on fuel. We nipped into a local bar/hotel to see what they were saying and it was one of those ‘local’ places which you assume everyone in there is related so we tossed a coin and headed back to Gore which was the next closest town (30km away). It was a proper sketchy campsite which was actually the car park of a local community club but it only cost $5 so we weren’t moaning. Again, quite like most of the other small townships we’d been through on route, it seems big enough to house a reasonably sized community but there weren’t the people around to populate it.