When we felt we'd had enough sun we hit the road and travelled further up the east coast before stopping 100km on in Timaru, a town that's largely unspectacular, but does have a nice swimming beach and a free place to camp so we decided to stop for the night and go for a swim. I realised it's actually our first swim in the sea since we've been in New Zealand, despite it being summer. It seems we became quite acclimatised to Asia's climate so anything less than 30 degrees is too cold to consider swimming! The sea here is more like Cornish temperatures, but when the mercury hits a scorching 40 degrees, as it did, it was lovely and refreshing.
Our next stop, further up the east coast was in Christchurch - a city with a very English feel to it (so, long queues, rain and lots of complaining - only joking! The weather was beautiful and with the cathedral in the centre and the river meandering through the city and its botanical gardens, it felt a bit like Cambridge - or somewhere like that.
We simply couldn't leave the South Island without doing a wine tour in our favourite wine region: Marlborough, so it was back on the minibus to visit a handful of wineries, including some boutique wineries and some of the big players you might have heard of, such as Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria. We sampled a wide variety of wines, including the world renowned sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs, as well as some lovely chardonnays, gewürztraminers and various others. It was a thoroughly pleasant day in the sunshine and we couldn't resist investing in a few bottles to drink on the way back up to Auckland.
Our ferry crossing back over to Wellington the following day was another smooth one, with pretty views out over the Marlborough Sounds. On arrival we again caught up with Jojo and Stu, who are now living and working in Wellington, and enjoyed a lovely meal with them in their new flat (and playing with a gorgeous black kitten called Jordie).
I insisted to Kev that we stop for just one more night in Taupo so I could fit in a final bungy jump (and because I had a voucher to do one half price). This time I went for the full dunk into the water and ended up with my clothes soaking wet and a big mouthful of river water! Third time round it was definitely less terrifying, but also as thrilling as the first time. I think bungy will be what I miss most on leaving New Zealand!
Our last port of call before returning the camper van to the depot in Auckland was to a little surf town on the west coast, called Raglan, where Kev's friend Simon (from Devon), his wife Beth and a very soppy collie named Molly now reside. So our last two nights with the camper van were in fact spent on a very comfy sofa, which was a real treat as we'd had just about enough of living in that van!
It was a great relief to return the camper - no more arguing over directions for us! After a 50 day rental, however, packing all our things into bags was not an easy task - we're sure everything has expanded and multiplied in the meantime! It was a good job we had a couple of nights in Auckland before our flight to the Cook Islands, if only to pack and re-pack!
So we're off to our final destination on our agenda: the Cook Islands - for one last week of sun, sea, sand and that island lifestyle - we can't wait!
I'll blog again once we're back in Auckland.
Love Sarah & Kev xx