I am a New Zealander – I’d like to make that clear from the start. Although I live in Oz, the “Land of the Long White Cloud” will always be my home. “Four Seasons In One Day” by Crowded House makes me smile and rainy days tucked up in pastel wool blankets next to raging fires are something I miss. So determined to restore some sanity to my poor estranged heart, I booked a week’s trip to the South Island – seven days in which to see as much as possible – on a barely-there budget.

Day 1: I arrived in Christchurch on the cheapest flight I have ever come across, $64. I landed at midnight and spent my first night in NZ slumped in a corner of the airport, eagerly anticipating the morning light. Christchurch, the garden city, was in full bloom, a picturesque wash of colours. First stop was Cathedral Square for a one-hour bus trip to Akaroa, a township situated on Banks Peninsula – pretty waters, quaint rows of French inspired shops line the streets.

Days 2 and 3: The view from my hilltop caravan of mountains and glazed seas took my breath away. I journeyed back to Christchurch to pick up my hire car and then I was off into the deep south, never-trodden land for me. Bravely I went, after a brief stop at the local supermarket to stock up on long-awaited Kiwi goodies: creamy yoghurt, fresh apricots, mussels, NZ cheese. With spectacular snow-capped peaks in front of me, I pulled into the carpark of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo’s edge. Awe-inspiring mountain ranges and desolate valleys embraced me, and I passed through Queenstown, and onwards, driving alongside The Remarkables and Te Anau. Although buses of tourists are frequently seen, there aren’t too many to make the journey overcrowded. Te Anau is a good base to book cruises for nearby Milford Sound. I opted for an early morning one-hour cruise on the fiord before starting my drive north.

Day 4: Having travelled widely throughout the rest of New Zealand, I have to say this area is my new favourite “ooh-ahh” place. Untouched, dense New Zealand rainforest and pretty waters are the backdrop to the steep, slopes of the mountains. Words cannot express the simple grandeur of the area. And I am glad this part of New Zealand still exists in its untamed state.
Returning via the west coast and having blown my budget, I decided to ask at the local backpackers if there were any travellers wanting a lift to Queenstown to help with fuel costs. Three Israelis and one Pom later – we arrive at Wanaka. A quiet and restful town, for this time of year, I settle into my accommodation for the night which boasts glorious views over the lake and mountains for the bargain price of $23.

Day 5: I left Wanaka for the famous Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. Not knowing much of this part of the world, I liken my experience to how Captain Cook must have felt upon discovering for the first time such a beautiful area. Crayon-coloured pale blue streams running through bird-filled forests, and the enjoyable and well sign-posted walks only added to the exploration. The brief 15-minute walk to the Blue Pools proved worth the stop – clear blue pools with surrounding grey smooth stones. And not to mention the spectacular glaciers.

Day 6: Nearing the end of my trip, I headed towards Greymouth and Hokitika – finding real Kiwi towns equipped with teenagers ripping through town in 1985 Cortinas and men in track pants and muddy gumboots. I continued north of Greymouth passing cute small beach communities alongside good surfing beaches, to the famous Pancake Rocks. Although I’m sure they’re a great sight when the weather’s rougher and the blowholes are in action, today it was flat.

Day 7: Returning to Christchurch and driving by Arthur’s Pass – steering well clear of the many walks one can do – I managed to arrive back in the garden city in record time, dazed, but very happy as I recalled the incredible beauty of New Zealand’s deep south.

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