About a year ago our daughter Kate invited us to meet up with her somewhere on the route of a round-the-world trip she was planning. We considered the many countries she would visit and the time of the year she would be there and before long we had settled on New Zealand. The challenge now was how to combine a six week once-in-a-lifetime trip for us with the chance to spend some time with Kate and give her a 'holiday' from her travels. We also liked the idea of travelling by camper van, but didn't want one of the larger 4-berth vehicles, which meant this would only be suitable for the two of us.
Paul had been recommended to us by a couple we had met recently and soon after our first phone call we had our initial itinerary. By now we had decided that we would meet Kate in South Island and then visit North Island without her, so taking Paul's advice we opted for a car and motels in the South and the camper in the North.
This combination worked brilliantly for us and almost felt like two separate holidays. All of our accommodation was superb, from the luxuriously appointed Vintner's Retreat in Blenheim to the rather quirky Betty's Bach on the Otago Peninsula. All the arrangements worked perfectly - the camper was even delivered to our hotel in Wellington and the rental company transported us to our final hotel in Auckland. The camper van experience exceeded our expectations and the roads and traffic conditions seemed to be made for it. Most New Zealand camping grounds are first rate and although we had an excellent itinerary proposal from Paul we soon felt confident to modify it on occasion and simply go where the mood took us, knowing that we would always find somewhere pleasant to stay at the end of each day.
Listing highlights at the end of such an excellent holiday is always difficult. However we'd have to mention hiking on Fox Glacier, the River Dart Jet Safari and 'Funyak' trip from Queenstown, the Doubtful Sound Cruise, seeing yellow-eyed penguins on Curio Beach and a superb helicopter trip to White Island, where we were able to walk right up to the rim of an active volcano.
Maybe our favourite place of all was the area around Lake Tekapo, where we walked up the Hooker Valley for wonderful views of Mount Cook and saw the night sky in total darkness from the summit of Mount John on the amazing Stargazing tour. But we couldn't finish without mentioning the New Zealanders themselves. It's hard to imagine a friendlier, more welcoming group of people with a sense of humour much like our own!
Eileen and Geoff Heyes