Leaving Marlborough, Mum and I embarked on the monstrous eight hour drive to Christchurch. If you look on a map you’ll see that Marlborough to Christchurch really isn’t that far at all but thanks to Mother Nature, the recent earthquakes have caused a major detour with no other road to take. Having just one main road to get from A to B is one of the things I find most odd about New Zealand. I guess there’s rarely the issue of congestion with so little people and having so few roads does make it easier not to get lost. However, when there is a problem like an earthquake, flood or major accident then it pretty much buggers up the whole country.
I had arranged for us to stay with a local cyclist through a website called Warm Showers which is a similar concept of Couchsurfing but for cycle tourists. The idea being we stay at someone’s house for free, usually spend a bit of time with them and in return if we ever find ourselves able to help cyclists too, we do. I’ve had great experiences from this and wanted Mum to experience this too. We had a wonderful stay with our host Biffy and her other Warm Showers guests, a Polish couple who were soon to be married in Japan.
Biffy gave us lots of handy information about Christchurch and we spent our day checking out the touristy sights, most having something to do with the earthquakes. As recommended, we took a very steep walk up the Port Hills which was all a bit too much in the blaring sun with no shade. I won’t go into detail but this walk will be remembered as “shit rock” due to a particular unimaginable incident (ps: it wasn’t me!).
Christchurch is a cool city with lots of interesting street art and quirky coffee bars, very different from the rest of the South Island. I particularly like the hipster coffee hang out C4 and sister venue C1 where we enjoyed burgers served at the speed of light by pneumatic tubes (old postal chutes). After an enjoyable day in the city it was time to make our way south and rekindle our love for the great outdoors.
We took the less scenic SH1 down to Oamaru where we spent the night at a local camp ground. Accommodation in town was fully booked again so we had to share a pitch with another lady in her van still paying over $20 to be packed in like sardines. We did save some money by missing out the touristy penguin viewing and just watching them come in ourselves. There’s no policing of who goes down to the waterfront at dusk so a big bunch of us sat watching the little fellas come in right next to the stadium full of tourists who had all paid $30 odd dollars for their seat. Madness. We also saw seals and heaps of birds, Oamaru is a wildlife haven.
Although I had already been for lunch at Fleur’s Place in Moeraki I have never actually seen the famous Moeraki boulders close by so this was a must on our trip to the area. Just half an hour south of Oamaru is the small coastal settlement of Moeraki which is where fishermen bring in their daily catch. Fleur’s Place is famous for its fresh fish and seafood and after my previous visit I knew Mum would enjoy it too. You can read my restaurant review here:
The Moeraki boulders are really quite impressive and we had fun getting creative with our photos. It wasn’t too busy either which was a nice change as it was just coming out of peak tourist season. The sun was shining and I could have happily spent all day there but we had to crack on. Our next destination was Mount Cook where we would be staying at the DOC camp there.
The drive from Moeraki to Mount Cook was a pleasant one through rolling hills, farmland and small quiet towns. We stopped off at some Maori rock carvings along the way which were highly unimpressive, not like the Aboriginal drawings I saw in Aussie. Elephant Rocks near Duntroon are a more worthwhile stop and a perfect place to freedom camp (tent only) next to the toilet there which is hidden in a ditch. Be careful though, it’s private land. Heading west we arrived to spectacular views of Mount Cook at dusk and set up the tent facing the Mueller glacier. Just a short drive from Oamaru, the McKenzie region is totally different to the rolling farmlands of Eastern Otago. Time to explore the mountains…