Coming back to grey grainy England, the first thing I think of is just how spectacularly bright the landscape of New Zealand is on the eye. It is just dazzling. And although our first couple of days were also quite grey, by just a few days in it was almost consistently bright and sunny. It's like the spectrum of colours just got turned up to 11.
This is the view from Hilltop to the town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula just beyond Christchurch (a frighteningly twisty road to get to it mind... you can see that it was a volcano originally when you look at the geography of the area! [try Google Earth])
We spent much of our time with Cloudy's family who live in a picturesque village called Oxford. For that alone, it was a great trip: being separated by continents (plural) it was so wonderful just to see them, even if having a 9 year old girl riding piggyback on him was probably not top of Cloud's list of things to do less than 12 hours after landing from 30 hours worth of travel! We went to the A&P show in Oxford to see sheep-shearing and other assorted Agricultural and Pastoral activities. We spent time in Christchurch and wandering the visual delights of Hagley Park (some of the time in Christchurch was sadly enforced by Neil's dad being poorly, but we would have gone there anyway).
We took the TranzScenic train across to Greymouth on the west coast: the journey there was indescribably beautiful.
However, Greymouth is exactly that (grey) as it overlooks the Tasman sea. Still dramatic though.
Whilst over there we also visited Shantytown courtesy of Kea Tours and the lovely Helen for a taste of the gold-mining era that shaped the west coast of South Island. On the way we took a drive through both the original bush and reforested areas around Greymouth, but at Shantytown the biggest laugh was doing this.
Of course, coming all the way to NZ we had to go to the beach. For us this was the lovely Woodend beach, just 40 minutes drive from Oxford. Wow. Coming up from the trees to see the Pacific Ocean (or the Specific as I kept calling it) was so thrilling.
Still, pretty much all that got knocked into the proverbial cocked-hat by our final big trip of the vacation: a visit to the central parts of South Island to see Lake Tekapo,
(And can I also recommend the stunning Tekapo House for accommodation? A view to the Lake and a welcome that makes you wish home was like that).
and on to Lake Pukaki
before going on up towards Mount Cook amidst the Southern Alps. Chuffing breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains, with a blue sky with spectacular clouds to end all blue skies with spectacular clouds.
Next time we go, we're definitely getting up close to some of the glaciers.
Taking into account the exchange rate was well in our favour, we also ate very very well indeed. There must be some bloody good catering colleges in NZ 'cos the food was all round very good to mouth-wateringly memorable: Dooberry's in Akaroa was a particular highlight, but Canterbury House and Le Bon Bolli were also great, as was the exceptionally close-to-home Cafe 51 in Oxford itself.
So, did we have a good time? You betcha. Will we go back? Ditto.