Chiang Mai to New Zealand proved to be an arduous journey with a series of delays for all sorts of reasons. We spent so long in Kuala Lumpur airport that we started to feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. At one point we were even taxiing for take off and had to return due to low tyre pressure. In general, over the last 20 years or so, we have been pretty lucky with flight schedules. So I suppose we were due some setbacks.
Eventually we landed in Auckland at 2am, about two or three days after we left Chiang Mai. By this time we had stopped trying to work out what day of the week it was! Unfortunately, Auckland was not our final destination. We still had to get to the town of Nelson on the South Island and the first flight out wasn’t until 7am!
The only thing open in the International terminal was good old Macdonald’s and the Domestic terminal wasn’t even unlocked until 4.30am. So it was a coffee and fries for us!
Luckily it was only a one hour flight to Nelson and on arriving there we only had to wait for one hour until the hire car company was open. That gave us just enough time to get a proper breakfast and coffee.
We then collected our car, loaded up the luggage, and were on our way. Independent again, at last!
So, what are our plans while in New Zealand? Well, we plan to stay here for three and a half months. Essentially a week of Spring, a week of Autumn and the whole of Summer!
The downside to that is New Zealand is quite an expensive country and we are here over Christmas, New Year and the main school summer holidays. So, several months ago, we arranged a couple of housesitting jobs, similar to what we did in Australia. The first one is for almost a month and the second one the best part of three weeks. This should take us over the festive period and the first half of the holidays, without blowing the budget too much. But most importantly it gives us our doggie fix. We both love dogs, especially Sarah, as she spent a lot of her childhood around them. We had a rescue Border Collie together for six years but our life now is not conducive to owning a dog.
After the housesitting we have then rented a campervan for a couple of months and plan to do a pretty comprehensive tour of both islands. Sarah’s sister emigrated to New Zealand about 8 years ago so we will definitely visit her and Sarah’s mother will be visiting at the same time so that should be great.
Then it will be a race for Steve at Ironman New Zealand before heading back to South East Asia in March.
It all sounds fantastic.
Our first housesit was only 40 minutes drive from Nelson in a little town called Motueka at the gateway to The Abel Tasman National Park. We arrived, said “Hi” to the owners, and then went to bed. Talk about knackered! We could barely speak. Thankfully the owners, Gareth and Sarah, completely understood. They were preparing for their own impending monster journey to travel back to the UK with no stopovers. I think they looked at us and saw themselves in a week or so!
Gareth and Sarah and their four teenage boys, weren’t leaving for almost a week but they had kindly put us up in the holiday cottage in their garden. This meant we could have a good handover and get to know Whiskey, the seven month old Hungarian Viszla we would be looking after.
We had rented the car for three days, so after a little snooze we were up, straight out, and spent the next two and a half days exploring some of Abel Tasman National Park and the Takaka Valley.
It is an absolutely beautiful area. It’s incredibly scenic with a back drop of mountains, which when we arrived still had the last winter snow on top. The mountains are only a stone’s throw from the coast which is littered with small bays of golden sand and striking blue water. Between the sea and the mountains it is just green, everything is so green.
We visited ‘Split Apple Rock’ reputed to be the second most photographed rock in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s very unusual but not quite on the same scale as the rock holding the number one slot, the huge Uluru in the centre of Australia!
We ventured over the mountains into the Takaka valley for more spectacular scenery and stopped in the very small “alternative community” of Takaka itself. It’s a lovely, tiny town that feels like it is still stuck in the “Woodstock” era of the late 1960’s. We stopped for a coffee and the girl serving us turned out to be from the same town in the UK where Sarah was brought up. She came out on holiday four years ago and is still here, now going through the citizenship process. You get the feeling a few people do that in Takaka.
After Takaka we continued on to Pupu Springs, which is reputed to have some of the clearest freshwater in The World. As you can see from the photos, even taken from a phone it still looks amazingly clear.
It was soon time for Gareth, Sarah and the family to head off and for us to move from the cottage in the garden into “The Big House” as Steve called it, and big it most definitely was.
It has five bedrooms and all the other rooms to go with it. It is a beautiful home, set on a huge plot with big lawns front and rear and mature borders all around. It looked like a full time job to manage the house and garden, never mind looking after a young active dog, four teenage boys and working full time. No wonder they need a month’s holiday!
We quickly settled into a routine. Steve cycling in the mornings while Sarah walked Whiskey around a scenic inlet. Then in the afternoon we had ball throwing in the garden and trying to entertain the World’s most energetic dog. By the time it came to the evening we would all flake out in front of the TV!
On one of Steve’s cycles he was heading up a 14km hill nearby. Although he’s getting on a bit in years he still doesn’t like it when he gets passed. So when another cyclist came past him like a rocket Steve was out of his saddle and sprinting after him. Could he catch him? Not on your life, the guy was flying! Steve continued on and a few minutes later came across the guy on the side of the road breathing very heavily. Steve, being concerned, stopped and asked “Are you alright mate?”. The guy said he was fine and just doing some hard training as he was trying to get back in shape after “the off season”. “Off season?”, Steve thought and started to put two and two together. It turned out the guy was called George Bennett, New Zealands number one cyclist! He’s a regular at the Tour de France and winner of quite a few races in Europe!! “Are you alright mate?” … I bet he thought “Cheeky bugger”.
Motueka or “Mot” as it is referred to, turned out to be a lovely place to spend a few weeks. It’s a great town, with friendly people, extremely scenic and brilliant weather. To say we are on the South Island we have only seen one full day and two half days of rain in almost a month. We can understand why it is a regular front runner for the title of ‘sunniest place in New Zealand’.
Sarah and Whiskey became regulars at a couple of the local coffee shops, and Steve found some great places to run.
On some of Steve’s longer runs Sarah would borrow Gareth’s mountain bike and accompany him for an hour or so before heading back to Whiskey, while Steve carried on. At seven months Whiskey is still a pup and into everything, so joining us on a run was not possible. With all the smells on the off road trails it was all a bit too much. Even just walking one day she darted down a small embankment towards the water and caught Sarah off guard planting her straight on her backside!!
Our time dog sitting in beautiful Motueka is now over. We are hiring another car and spending four days heading south to the big city lights of Christchurch where we are dog sitting again over the festive period.
Christmas in Christchurch, now there’s a thing!