31 hours of travelling sounds like a lot; and it is. Setting off at 6.30am following New Years celebrations probably wasn’t ideal preparation but my focus on the task in hand masked how tired I felt.

I’m so glad I chose to fly with Emirates rather than an unpronounceable Thaiwanese airline I had looked at just to save me a few hundred pounds. Getting on and off all 3 planes couldn’t have been easier and whilst up in the air there was no shortage of good food and entertainment.

Flying from Heathrow to Dubai took 8 hours and it flew by! This due to (in part) a mixture of Taylor Swift’s Netflix concert special and a chicken korma so good I couldn’t quite understand how they’d made it in a microwave. I also snacked on Christmas chocolates; especially to relieve the stress of being consistently beaten by the easy setting on the in-flight chess game.

It was in Dubai however where things became a little more difficult. The 6 hour layover did me no favours and would’ve loved to put that time into the next flight but at least there was free WiFi and comfortable lounge chairs.

The 2nd flight stopped off in Bali which I unfortunately found out as I was queuing at the gate when someone asked me how long each flight was. Being on the front row AND having the seat reclined (I know I’m a dick) came in handy in grabbing some much needed sleep although I never really got more than 30mins at a time.

When people ask if I’ve been to Bali I can now say yes, then pause and decide if I want to elaborate and say ‘by that I mean I was in the airport for an hour.’ Everyone at the helpdesks bowed with their hands in a prayer position to say goodbye; at this point I was too jaded to repeat the action back so just nodded and grunted ‘cheers’.

The 3rd and final flight to Aukland was again in my comfy seats (although walking through business class and seeing their beds and individual mini-bars was a little depressing). The closer I got to NZ the chattier people became; I chatted to a gentleman on the plane who had just got back from meeting his daughter in Bali who who was travelling the world; unfortunately despite giving some good tips for the trip ahead, he only really wanted to talk Brexit.

Towards the end of the flight it started to dawn on me that I was becoming less tolerant of my environment partly due to the screaming babies, lack of sleep and minimal movement as well as a headache from too much screen time and a general lack of stimuli.

I’m not a nervous flyer but when in turbulence, I do tend to flash back to every airplane crash film I’ve ever watched and this wasn’t helped by the pilot hastily saying ‘cabin crew take your seats’ whilst the shaking got particularity severe and a large red light flashed in thecmcanin to in no way alay my fears. This also may have been bacause I was reading that despite being one of the safest 9 years on record for airline fatalities, the number went from 72 in 2017 to 550 in 2018. Luckily we landed in Aukland safely and I ordered an Uber straight to Dans door in Herne Bay.

It is now 7am and my mission today is to stay awake

Short entry today as only priority was to stay active and NOT sleep until the evening to try and reset sleep/wake cycle in one night (optimistic I know)

5 mins into seeing Dan he’d already offered me his bed for the next 2 nights and started cooking me a half English (bacon, egg and toast); he’s too good to me.

We headed into town and after Dan headed off to work I decided to try and find a gym to entertain myself for a couple of hours. Little did I know my anytime fitness gym membership was international, #winning!

Despite the incredible facilities I just didn’t have the workout mojo so did a few exercises and had a well needed shower.

Turns out that hole in the ozone layer is still a thing here so despite only intermittent sun; I still opted for factor 50 - I have history of becoming a a lobster from that ball in the sky

Met Dan after work and he gave me a guided tour of Aukland, including Mount Eden (an innactive volcano) for the most amazing view as far as the eye could see.

We then walked to the Western Springs Speedway to watch NASCAR style midget racing. THIS WAS INCREDIBLE; the noise, the crashes, the speed AND the fact I didn’t understand any of what was going on. It was also a little like watching the whale show at sea world in that if you got too close, you were showered with pieces of mud. There was also open access to the pits so walking right up to these incredible machines and meeting the hero’s that drove them; what an amazing evening.

I then got back to the house late and certainly didn’t need convincing to crawl into bed and hopefully have the greatest sleep ever!

Much to my surprise; woke up 8 hours after I slept and potentially reset the body clock in one night!

Dan went to work until 1pm so had the morning to myself and used it productively of course; watching the Liverpool vs Man City game.

Headed into town and hit the gym again; this time with more energy but still in holiday mode.

Met Dan and headed to Takapuna; a lovely north shore beach town. Had some lovely chicken katsu curry and headed to the beach.

Walking up and down the soft sandy beach I got a sense of just how clean everything was, not a trace of rubbish anyway and people actually running after any items that flew off them (it was very windy).

The wind made the heat seem manageable but I still caked myself in factor 50. I had a dip in the the clearest water I had seen in a long time however still felt a little too chilly to stay in too long and headed up the beach for an ice cream.

The gelato was great although because of how how it was and how generous the scoops were; it melted so quickly I had to be given a bowl to accompany it!

We enjoyed a spot of sunbathing and then decided to head back a little early to organise ourselves for the impending South Island adventure.

On the way back I was desperate for a quick drink and little did I know that Burger King offer any XL soft drink for $1 (52p) I innetively went big and ordered a passion fruit ice drink however came to realise it was 98% sugar and melted almost has as soon as I had left the store.

On return to the flat, we both packed, had some great lamb chops and booked a few tours and the jet boat whilst watching Indiana Jones.

The settled down for the 5 hour slept before a 4am wake up wall for our taxi to the airport.

The plane ride to Queenstown was pretty straight forward however one odd quirk was that the safety announcement video was performed as a rap to RUN-DMCs ‘Tricky’ by NZ celebs; i t may have been a little cringe but it was the first one I’d ever watched all the way through!

Some spectacular views of various mountain ranges greeted our decent and continued to build my excitement for the coming adventure.

We called the Arjun from Camperco who picked us up from the airport and drove us to our vehicle. \240We started by passing all the reputable hire companies within the airport and quickly realised we may not be getting the most premium of products. 10 mins later we were greeted by our new steed ironically outside a salvage yard. We immediately called her Betsy and she looked a little worse for wear. Her indicator covering was smashed and we found multiple bumps and scrapes however it’s to be expected when you’ve been driven poorly for 207k miles. extensive cosmetic imperfections but that’s what happens when you are driven by tourists for 207k miles.

Arjun didn’t have a clue about anything and just pointed where things were but didn’t really explain how anything worked; we bid him farewell and set off into the centre of Queentown.

I offered to start the driving and quickly realised I may need a little practice; especially with the truley aweful automatic gearbox and some functions I didn’t really understand (PWR, overdrive and 2/3rd gear only selections.

We walked up the ridiculously steep 3km Tiki trail up to Skyline Queenstown where a luge track laid out with some breathtaking views. The luge was great fun although I may have taken it a little too seriously by backing up the trailing pack and then gunning it down by taking racing lines and out breaking small children into sharp corners. So fun

We then headed down the trail; trying not to sprain our ankles and wandered back to the camper to find we hadn’t put enough time on the ticket; lucky for us the warden had only just arrived.

We then continued our walking around Lake Takapitu before resting in the shade listening to a pianist travelling the world with a full size piano and reading my book; nice reflective moment.

We headed to what everyone in UK said would be the best burger I’ve ever had. Fergburger had a 20 min queue; so it must be incredible right? Wrong. Really wasn’t anything special BUT atmosphere was great and I managed to get some seats on the benches outside. Five guys till I die!

We found a free campsite called Crown Range Summit which turned out to be on top of one of the windiest roads I have ever driven on; unfortunately the whole mug/ glass cupboard released its contents across the van on a particularly sharp bend; we’ll need to stop at K mart to replace them at some point.

The vans gearbox just couldn’t work out which gear to be in and couldn’t really do the hills BUT we made it safe and sound and had a spectacular view for our first night here.

Chilled, chatted and then set up the bed for what I hope will be a good nights sleep

Woke after a half decent sleep to RAIN, and a lot of it. Combined with the gale-force wind, my morning wee was less than ideal however luckily we didn’t have anything specifically planned for today so it could’ve been worse.

We cooked our first breakfast with me attempting to poach eggs on toast. The annoying thing is because we’d parked on a slope the eggs all congregated in the same place and effectively guaranteed \240they’d all burst when attempting to get them out, the avocado was amazing though.

Despite checking a few blogs about what to do on a rainy day in Queenstown; ideas were thin on the ground however we thought ending up in a sports bar to watch the NFL by lunch sounded like a solid plan. We packed up and headed out to explore Arrowtown.

Arrowtown is a tiny historic gold mining town with one high street of 10-15 stores mainly consisting of clothing, gifts and cafes. There was also a funky sweet shop selling international products including a £8 Terry’s chocolate orange! We decided to stop for a drink of tea in a local bakery/ cafe bar. Funny that I’ve travelled half way round the world to experience the local way of life; and I’m having a English breakfast twinnings tea.

We wandered into town and ventured to Queentown gym in an attempt to keep the holiday flab at bay. A little steep at £12 for a student (thank you Brunel ID) but had a great work out and felt much better about slouching for the afternoon. Headed over to Harry’s pool bar where the NFL game was on. Had a pizza, a pint and played some pool (which I haven’t really played since uni 10 years ago, with Dan which was a surreal moment) however just like old times I still beat him.

We headed back to the van and got some essentials at Kmart before heading off on the ‘Gateway to Paradise’ (Glenorchy-Queenstown road). This was by far the most beautiful road I had ever seen and I wish I could have taken it in a little more however the road was extreme to say the least; sharp turns, sheer drop to one side, rapid undulations; good job I want driving.

I wish I could end the blog there and say we made it to our campsite with no issues however we may have had a mild inconvenience; we beached the camper!

We were struggling to find a campsite as despite the perceived ability to camp almost anywhere; there were specific signs on every potential site we saw. However we just missed the turning for a potential site therefore agreed to perform a J turn by reversing into a side street. Little did we know there was loose gravel and a deep ditch on the edge of the road and we became passengers as the camper slid back in to the hole leaving it at an angle with the back right tyre in the air; I knew we should’ve paid for the excess reduction.

Tried to drive it out but no luck, no answer from CamperCo and with all recovery services were closed as it was a Sunday so we were pretty much helpless. HOWEVER due to some very friendly and helpful locals we packed the hole with rocks, attached a tow rope to the back axel (onto a locals 4x4) and (with the help of 4 people pushing), managed to reverse the camper out of the hole with no damage. Relieved doesn’t really come close.

We found a campsite on the waters edge which was very picturesque and made some fajitas and relaxed. Dan said I should try some NZ chocolate however I was sceptical with the Fergburger debacle. However Whittaker’s chocolate truly is the best chocolate I have ever tasted; I must bring some home.

Woke to an amazing view of lake Wakatipu, had some oats and headed out to drive some more of ‘gateway to paradise’ road in the hope of finding a trail hike.

En route to the trail we stopped in another quaint town called Glenorchy which was famous for saw milling and gold mining. However now it was a bit of a tourist trap.

10s of Chinese tourists took what seemed like thousands of photos of the same spot and despite the amazing scenery, there wasn’t much else to do. We did however complete a very flat, tourist friendly trail around a golf course and a lagoon; but we wanted something a lot more challenging.

We did some research and found a trail to Mount Alfred which involved a very steep 2 mile hike with lots of obstacles such as felled trees, sharp drops, deep foliage and a variety of surfaces (mud/clay and tree roots), this was more like it!

I took a slightly different approach to trekking than Dan; whereas I would bound ahead jumping over trees, swinging off vines and generally running through the bush like Mowgli, Dan who had more of terminator style of relentless progress. You don’t have to be an expert to know who got tired first and after my lungs and legs gave out I found the final 1/3 of the hike rather uncomfortable. However 90 minutes later (and much to my relief), we reached the base of the summit to Mt Albert (you need a professional tour to go all the way to the top).

We headed back to the camper and drove into Queenstown for one last time to get an ice cream on the bay and a few essentials.

We’ve been looking for a mascot for the trip and despite wanting a toy kiwi bird toy, couldn’t bring ourselves to spend £5 for one so whilst shopping we found the store giving away free cat toys; so it is my pleasure to introduce to you Maui the mouse (see photo below)

We then set off looking for a campsite for the night. This unfortunately was a struggle as we needed to be outside Queentown for the next day’s events but couldn’t find any formal sites. Therefore we found a spot on a side street, in true camping style had a hot tin of beans for dinner and basked in the evening sun before getting to sleep (sunset is 21:34!).

Today I jumped out of a plane.

I haven’t stopped thinking about a potential skydive since I booked the flights to NZ 4 months ago. Like a worry cloud hanging over my head I knew I couldn’t fully enjoy the trip until I’d done it, therefore a couple of days ago I booked a skydive with NZONE.

I planned to book it the day before and then only have the worry for one night however it was cancelled on one day with no availability on the next so I booked it for a 7am jump for 3 days time .

Didn’t get much sleep the night before and kept flashing forward to that dreaded door opening, and the leap into the abyss.....

Got there on time, listened to the the safety briefing which was very simple; be banana shaped during the fall and bring legs up on landing.

Mitch wasn’t the most talkative instructor but his calm demeanour but me at ease. We took off with everyone sitting on each other’s laps and climbed to 15k feet; most jumps are from 12k feet \240so the extra time climbing allowed us to see the incredible scenery, we also needed O2 due to the altitude.

The plane slowed and the door opened to a stunning view of the Unremearkables mountain range; this was it. The camera guys climbed out and hung off the side of the plane like we were stopped at a set off traffic lights. Then one by one people would shuffle to sit on the edge of the plane and then vanished into the abyss with incredible velocity. Then I was up, sat with head back and just waited, no countdown, no time to brace, just a push from behind and then........nothing.

Everything slowed for a couple of seconds where I saw the plane high up above me and my body tried to work what on earth had just happened. Then came the relentless speed, like jumping off a diving board into a black hole, stomach went and then kept going, the air pushed up against me and wouldn’t let me breath normally. Then, adopting the banana position things became a little more manageable and I was able to relax a little, but never fully. The total free fall time was 60 secs.

Then the parachute opened and we glided around the mountain range and the lake until a very soft landing back at base. On complaint here was how tight the straps were; but better that than the alternative.

So overall it was incredible! but very severe at the same time. I’m still not really sure if I’d do it again but I’m sure I’d tag along if someone else wanted to do one.

We set off for Te Anau on a very relaxing, scenic 150km drive and tried to calm our adrenaline surges.

We researched some Lord of the Rings movie locations however they were all off dirt roads which our camper really struggled with due to having little to no suspension. We did want to see Fangorn Forest and after having our spines shaken to dust for 8km, we found a clearing from the movie which was cool but it \240was on private property so no trekking here.

Before arriving in Te Anau, we found a trek along the Waiau which provided some more stunning scenes.

No freedom camping at all in town so we paid for overnight stay which meant home comforts!

Onto the Milford Sounds tomorrow.....

The holiday park was a welcome relief to the normal routine of freedom camping off the side of the road; we had fresh showers, a kitchen and as much green open space as we wanted. It was likely due to this (and that Dan went for a morning run to leave me the whole bed) that I had a great sleep and immediately got ready for our day tour of Milford Sound.

We booked a bus with a boat tour and (I’m sure a questionable) lunch included. There were multiple picture stops on the way which while very stunning, were slightly difficult to fully enjoy due to the hoards of tourists. I guess it’s just a different experience from doing it alone and the guide was great fun and very informative.

Driving through the winding roads of Milford Sound was truly stunning with lots of photo opportunities; although as I wandered behind groups of Chinese tourists, I wondered how long it must take them to edit their photos when they take 100 pics of the same mossy rock........

Funnily enough Milford Sound is the wrong name as a Sound means a rock formation from rivers whereas when this is due to glaciers it’s called a Fiord. I’ll be sure to crack that gem out at the next dinner party I host.

We set off on our cruise with a lovely surprise of a buffet! (I take the questionable comment from early back immediately). 30 mins to eat ‘as much as you can’ rather than ‘as much as you like.’ I worried there’d be none left by the time I went back for seconds so tried by best to replicate Lion Mountain.

Cruising down the river was stunning, mountains high up on either side you felt so small, we stood in the front deck and took some photos. We then started our approach to the gem of Milford Fiord; a 162m waterfall called Bowen falls. ‘Don’t stand on the deck if you don’t want to get wet’ they said ‘I’m sure we’ll we fine I’ said to Dan, ‘I’m sure the spray won’t be that bad’. The cold blustery wind and the 3000 litres of water per second made short work of my initial hypothesis; we got soaked.

With the rain coming down the mountains came alive with hundreds of waterfalls flowing down their steep and jagged faces. The bus driver decided to drive back to Te Anau like we’d just robbed a bank by carrying incredible speed into the tightest of corners; this was exhilarating and I definitely wasn’t going to complain if he got us back early.

Once back to our camper we set off for our overnight camping site near Queenstown, a 150km run; good job the scenery doesn’t disappoint ;)

Camping next to the road really wasn’t ideal, although free and fairly peaceful during the night, someone had decided to park too close to the curb and throughout the early hours every lorry and car decided to honk their horn to voice their displeasure; take me back to the holiday park.

Washed our clothes at the laundromat and I hit the gym while Dan completed a 14 mile run in under 90mins! (I taught him everything he knows). The weather was amazing so I bought a cheap tank top and debuted the pale pistols.

We then set off for our main attraction for the day, a 700HP Jetboat through the Shotover River canyons. The 800litres per second of water being pumped out certainly propelled us at a decent pace but it was the manoeuvrability of this thing that most surprised me. 360 degrees turns and drifting within inches of jagged rocks with was certainly exhilarating if not a little rough; maybe I’m just getting old.

We drove into Wanaka and while filling up the water tank, Dan decided to go full hobo and have a shower with the drinking water hose; he’s definitely throwing himself into the camping life.

Wanaka was a georgeous lakeside town, putty we couldn’t stay longer but our tummy’s were telling us to eat so we headed back to a free campsite outside of town and enjoyed our curry in front of grazing sheep.

We set off for our hike of the day; Roy’s Peak; a \2401600m elevation over a 16km trail. We arrived at the car park and saw people with climbing boots, GPS watches, big rucksacks and hiking poles. I casually grabbed my £2.99 Decathlon bag with a bottle of water, a protein bar and set off in a tank top, shorts and trainers.

Although only 17 deg, the heat from the sun was ferocious, (my factor 50 definitely being tested) and the never ending climb was brutal (Roy has a lot to answer for!)

But we finally reached the top and beneath us laid amazing views of Laka Wanaka, the town itself and even helicopters (told you we were high!) The scenery truly was trikes breathtaking with snow topped mountains in the distance.

We headed back down and now had to contend with the relentless load on our quads, watching our footing due to the gravelly ground beneath us.

Headed back to Wanaka and relaxed by the lake (after some amazing NZ battered Dory). The water had looked so blue from the trail we couldn’t wait to get it; and we weren’t disappointed. It also allowed us wash our soot covered legs (see pic below)

We topped up the tan while reading on the pebble beach for as long as we could and then headed off to a campsite in Pukaki. The near our next trail tomorrow; Mt Cook.

An uneventful 150km drive apart from being overtaken by a double freight lorry completely unnecessarily. If there’s one slight on the NZ’s it’s that they can’t drive, and when they do they’re very aggressive to everyone else as they think they’re the only ones who know how to.

Another day, another hike, this time it was time to climb (a tiny part of) Mt Cook. The Mueller Hut Route is a 6km trail with some amazing views 1800m up of nearby lakes/ mountains. Sealy Tarns was effectively the half way point and involved ascending 2200 stairs; I nearly gave up.

However once half way up the trail changed to scrambling on loose gravel, rocks and huge boulders; my monkey like reflexes came in handy here and I embraced the dangerous terrain. Although whilst thinking I was Sir Edmund Hillary ascending the toughest of climbs; a dad walked past with a 6 month old baby strapped to his chest; not sure that would go down well the other half.

Once at the huts, I jumped from rock to rock off the beaten path trying to find the perfect pic, remembering the movie 127 hours; I’d like to keep both my arms if possible.

The decent was just as terrifying slipping constantly between sharp rocks and loose gravel; cutting my hands multiple times. However we made it down the steep steps and with my legs shaking from the exertion; we settled in to a drive back to Wanaka to have a student shower in the lake and grab some food before driving off to our next campsite.

The west coast part of the trip starts tomorrow.....

Rain, rain and more rain today.

Had a stand off with a herd of cows on exit from the campsite; even in my metal box I was still a little worried they were gonna rush us.

We decided to make this a driving day with a few stop offs but the rain really didn’t stop.

We saw the Blue Pools; no explanation needed really although there were some nutters who went for swim in the clear water. I decided skim stones in the rain; my record was 10 which I was quite proud of!

We then stretched our legs at a few more sites but when every inch of you is sodden through; the spots don’t seem as pretty somehow so we just put our head down and completed the 200km road trip to Franz Josef

We arrived and seen as the price for a plot was the same as a dorm bed; we decided to chill on a really nice site, have showers, BBQ dinner and got to \240sleep outside of the camper for once!

Loads of friendly people around and nice to chat to a few about their adventures.

Dan asked for a ‘quiet dorm’ room...........don’t think Frank Joseph particularly a party town

Turns out Franz Josef is a party town; at least for one drunk Australian at 2.30am. This along with 2 of the 6 guys in the dorm snoring meant the sleep wasn’t the best BUT still got my 8 hours in and relaxed in the sun while Dan went on his run.

We had a more serious message behind today’s hike. Franz Jospeh Glacier is currently 12km long however due to global warming is retreating at a rapid rate (500m over the last 4 years!).

Roberts Point was a 13km trail to a vantage point of the Glacier at a height of 650m.

New Zealand calls hikers ‘trampers’ so myself and Dan went for a tramp through the bush. I flew through the jungle this time like Tarzan (due to my experience level). Lots of swing bridges, streams, rock climbing and all incredible fun. Dan \240didn’t enjoy the terrain quite as much and this was a good leveller as I could take breaks to recover my shocking cardio.

We finished the trail in 4 1/2 hours and decided to see the glacier up close so headed off for the leisurely hour round trip with everyone else (this was definitely a much more popular trek)

Headed back to the holiday park from yesterday for a free shower and use of the kitchen (frugal campers that we are) and headed off for the 150km trip to Greymouth to re-supply and purchase some very garish clothes from the bargain bin (running out of t-shirts and £2 is too good of a deal)

We drove to the coast and watched the sunset before watching Deadpool and sleep.

I was woken by the wind battering the side of the camper. Apparently the west coast is notorious for rough seas and high winds but at least the sun was out.

We headed up route 6 and became our own tourist bus tour; stopping at the highlights of the west coast.

Starting at Pancake Rocks and Blowholes which demonstrated the power of the sea in coastal erosion; the difference in the makeup of the rocks leads to their ‘pancake’ like appearance. The blow holes are straightforward; the string waves cause water to shoot up from the caves and up into the rock formation.

We then completed a few light trails with more stunning views of the coastline. The seal colony was by far the most exciting (and cutest); I felt like Attenborough trying to decipher behaviour patterns; of course I just came to the conclusion they jump on the rocks funny.

We pulled into a town called Westport where we had a wander with a frozen fruit cone; I also had a questionable haircut with curved sideburns (when in NZ).

We then started heading across to our stopover in Murchison where we enjoyed our evening with sandflys and bees terrorising us in the car park; we hid inside the camper like real men.

Woke up freezing cold, lesson learnt; don’t park in the shade. Had a quick breakfast bar and headed my activity in Murchison; white water rafting down Buller Gorge; the largest volume river in NZ.

Dan sat this one out so I flew solo and really was the odd one out between a group of 15 year olds and a family. Glad I was with the family as they were really friendly and as I looked back at the other boat the kids were taking turns backflipping off the boat.

This was my first time rafting and was a great introduction to it with grade 3/4 rapids and a fun instructor. We flipped multiple times, (mainly on purpose) had great fun getting in the water and floating down the rapids as well as jumping off rocks.

I finished by lunch (photos to be sent later) and we headed into town for the largest bowl of chips you’ve ever seen and waited for our laundry. I got a free Coca-Cola watch with my purchase of my favourite cold beverage and we headed across NZ to Abel Tazman.

We stopped for supplies in Mutueka and I treated myself to an amazing ‘Cookietime Mcflurry’

The drive was HORRENDOUS with steep twisting roads with sheer drops off to the side; good job I wasn’t driving.

We set up camp just outside Abel Tasman, had dinner, packed for our adventure walk tomorrow and chilled watching Deadpool 2.

Day 1 of Abel Tasman freedom tour; Kayaking

We woke up early and headed to Marahau (Abel Tasman Village). The satnav decided to take us down the steep road we’d driven before; this time I was the one terrorising dan by trail breaking into sharp bends.

We arrived for our safety briefing and as the instructor talked about how to save ourselves if we capsize with a 8 step plan; as he spoke all I could see what me panicking if this happened and doing whatever came to mind so I tuned out; I was sure this would come back to haunt me.

We headed out on our double kayak I was doing the steering) and found out we were the only ones going to Anchorage (a good 4 hour paddle) along ‘The Mad Mile’. This a stretch of choppy water against a harsh headwind with reefs, seals and rocks either side.

We did the typical guy technique of not hugging the shore to enjoy the calmer seas but going straight through the middle; regardless of the traffic of huge bits of the very big waves. Dans elite cardio definitely helped here and because he was at the front he couldn’t tell I wasn’t always helping quite as much I should’ve.

We got to the beach in good time and sunbathed with the occasional swim, pitched our tent and chatted to a lovely Sheffield couple who had just come out with a working holiday visa.

We had the dinner we’d packed the night before (I had sandwiches) and chilled on the campsite. We were told to stay vigilant of birds that like to steal items and run off with them back to their hideouts. Apparently if you follow them for long enough you will find their secret stash of iPhones and could make a fortune.

Day 2 of Abel Tasman freedom tour; Walking The Coastal Track.

Good job we hired camping gear; looking around at everyone loading up their stoves and tents into backpacks made us feel very lucky we only had to leave ours out on the beach for collection.

We set off with heavier bags than usual; on account of our change of clothes, food and extra water. This along with the severe elevation changes meant it had its challenges but we were able to take regular breaks and the weather couldn’t have been better.

We stopped at a couple of scenic areas (Cleopatras pool) but mainly we followed the coastline and the water looked bluer than I’ve ever seen it.

We arrived at Onetahuti Bay after a modest 5 hour trek and although enjoyable; I think we’ve just been spoilt by the spectacular previous views.

We had a swim in the Tasman sea and then got a water taxi back with the tour guides on their kayak laden (staff) boat. It took us 15 minutes to get back to shore on account of us rocketing down the coast (our journey had taken 9 hours incompatible).

Had a shower and then headed to a picturesque \240overnight spot and watched some cricket with our bargain Chinese buffet takeaways.

Had a great lie in on account of Dan getting lost on his 3 hour morning run. We stocked up supplies for the next few days (had an very tasty chocolate orange muffin) and headed into the city of Nelson.

Nelson is a small town however the NZ’s call it a city as it has a cathedral; well they ‘call’ it a cathedral but it has to be the poorest attempt at one I’ve ever seen; it left be baffled. (see for yourself below)

We wondered down the high street, I had an amazing chocolate milkshake and we headed off for a scenic walk. Turns out one of the walks takes you to the centre point of NZ with a nice view over Nelson. After stopping for a bit of aftersun we headed back to car; only to find I’d lost our only car key. Luckily it had called out in the last shop we were in and was a simple retrieval process (lucky).

As we headed of we tried to find a source of drinking water as our tank was empty as were our drinking bottles. After deciding to painstakingly fill up from a water foundatain we stumbled across a tap in the side of a cricket club; in the middle of a \240game. The chaps didn’t seem to care about us using it so we filled up a total of 35 litres! \240and scuttled back to the car and on to Picton.

The roads from Nelson to Picton were epic twistys and I took the liberty to really scare Dan; we even had a car pull out of our way we were going so fast. The more I drive the camper the more I understand it ls handling and had real confidence on the drive; (Dan wasn’t entirely convinced I was always in full control.)

Picton was a little depressing; simple high street, boring ferry port and an open air concert with no performers on account of the sound system breaking. It did however have one of my favourite company names and tag lines, it’s a shame we weren’t hungry at the time but definitely would’ve \240‘Rolled in and Pigged Out’ at ‘The Thirsty Pig’.

We headed off towards Blenheim and found another great freedom camper spot next to Cloudy Bay. We ate food, planned the next few days and relaxed in the afternoon sun.

The howling wind made sleep difficult so a lie in was needed with a big brekkie; we then headed off to Blenheim.

Standard town and lots of shops shut as it was a Sunday, with not much else to do we headed to Wither Hills for a trail. Quail Stream Track and Reservoir Ridge Track have great views of Blenheim and \240you could understand why the area was famous for forest fires due to lack of coverage and dry grass.

Not much left to do so decided to bring our Itinerary forward a day; this wold involve a 250km drive down the east coast to Hanmer Springs. The drive was extended by 50km when I realised I’d left my sunnies in a bush in Wither Hills; lucky it’s NZ and you can pretty much guarantee things won’t get nicked.

Uneventful 4 hour drive although the wind was so strong I felt like we were tacking down the road, we also had a ridiculous amount of flys explode on our windscreen; at least the scenery wasn’t too bad.

We’d heard they’d outlawed freedom camping in Hanmer Springs so we’re cautious when looking for a site however through diligent research we found a spot. By this time it was late we were drained from the long drive so ate and rested; that was the last big drive of the trip. We get an amazing reward tomorrow.

I’ve been looking forward to our day of rest and relaxation at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa.

This place was a little Jekyll and Hyde; on one hand it was essentially a water park with it’s child friendly attractions like the slow river and waterslides however on the other it was a place for relaxation and revitalisation with multiple thermal pools and the optional spa treatments.

Myself and Dan both paid for entry into the complex which gave us access to all the pools however we also opted for a 30 min personal sauna and steam cubicle (I went steam as I loathe saunas.

However I wanted to experience everything So paid extra to go on the kids slides (one was called the ‘Superbowl!’). So while Dan mingled with the adults only thermal pools I headed straight to the slide queue with all the 7 year olds.

The Superbowl allowed you to speed round the inside of a (you guessed it) Super Bowl in a rubber ring before being spat out down a steep slide. However my fav was the ‘black hole,’ although meant for kids the bigger you were the faster you went and half way through it’s fairly steep decent it had such a change of direction that I violently spun up onto the side of the chute with water shooting up my nose and crashed into the exit pool in a disoriented ball; I immediately went back up to do it again!

We then relaxed until our spa experience with a variety of jet streams and relaxing pools. I really got my own steam room! and preceded to to get naked (when else do you get the chance??). I used all of the 30 mins and felt revitalised post treatment.

Top tip for people travelling in NZ who need fast WiFi - libraries have been the biggest life savers; not only are the librarians very helpful but you can download huge files within a few minutes vs other slow WiFi in shops and cafes.

After feeling very Zen we then headed off to our freedom camping site in Crust where had food and planned our final 4 days in Christchurch; *sigh* it’s all to an end too soon.......

I woke up late after another great lie in; starting to feel guilty but when the sun is this hot you’re better to be well fed and rested.

We headed into Christchurch which seemed to take forever (the suburbs are huge). We decided not to go into town today but go up the Rapaki Trek.

This was a fairly simple uphill climb which gave a great view of Christchurch. There were a mixture of mountain bikers and hikers but given the amount of sweaty men with strained looking expressions on their faces barely passing us whilst on foot meant we’d chosen the right option. \240The breeze was lovely at the top and the view wasn’t bad either.

As we descended the searing heat really was brutal and despite being all factored up decided to limit the amount of time we spend out in it. Therefore we decided to gym (that international membership coming up trumps again) and got our clothes washed (rock and roll holiday!)

Got some supplies (I’ve become addicted to Countdown Supermarkets orange chocolate muffin) and we headed to our next camping spot in Springston where we had burritos.

Free campsites with toilets and sinks are like golddust \240however this one didn’t have toilet seats!! Safe to say I’ve mastered the ‘I’m not letting my bum touch the side of the bowl technique’

In 2011 an earthquake killed 185 people and caused devastation to the centre of Christchurch. Almost all the businesses left the centre and moved to the suburbs leaving half destroyed buildings behind. Despite ongoing \240construction, many buildings are still left untouched (such as the cathedral). There is a memorial bridge in honour of the dead with messages from family members; very sad.

The temperature was 30deg!! With the the only thing making it bearable being the wind; with gusts of up to 90mph!

Enjoyed a bit of retail therapy and headed off for a stroll of the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately for me and a poor cyclist, the high winds had caused a tree to fall down and and close much of the gardens.

Had dinner at Nando’s (couldn’t stay away for a month) and went via a motorcycle rental shop. The bike selection was amazing could be a potential option for a road trip to Akaroa on Friday.

Dan decided to Godley Head as our overnight camping spot. Despite its stunning view onto Christchurch, driving on the single track gravel track with a sheer drop was a little nervy. Once at the top the wind battered our camper; hope the walk around the WW2 lookout will be worth it in the sun tomorrow.

We chilled and watched Black Panther (to celebrate its many Oscar nominations).

Weather improved and we set off for our hike around Godley Head. Along cliff edges sat the WW2 coastal defence battery; at its peak 400 people manned an observatory and 3 large guns (should the enemy turn up). The 90 min route was enhanced by an almost clear track from any other visitors.

We headed along the coast to Sumner beach and unfortunately the weather turned; never thought 15 deg, cloud and a strong sea breeze would be cold; no way we could walk along the beach as planned.

Visited New Brighton (another seaside town) which had a bit more going on but despite the pier (with people getting very lucky catching crabs), the weather was still a little fresh so we headed inland and bought a few more clothes from surf brands (so cheap out here).

Stumbled on a few interesting shops such as a second hand clothing warehouse where almost everything was £1. Sounds a little snobby but I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything there; something about wearing something worn by someone else but amazing place for those without a lot of money.

Headed to the gym (so much better than back home) and got some NY pizza post workout (Sal’s). As we’d already showered and filled up the water tank that morning we decided to save money and go back to a free campsite; I then nursed a food baby and continued to eat my body weight in Whittaker’s chocolate.

If you don’t like motorbikes at all I would skip this entry.

I had £200 of holiday money left and decided to do something a little crazy for my last real day of my holiday; cut to ‘Tru rentals’ where a stunning \240Ducati 1199 Panigale S sat waiting for a rather exciting day’s riding.

Borrowed all the kit which at £2.50 an item was an absolute steal and paid the £15 excess reduction so if anything serious happened the damage would be £500 rather than £1500!

The road trip in question was to the coastal town of Akaroa (East of Christchurch). It was a routine ride down to the outskirts whilst getting to know the 195bhp beast (wet mode definitely on).

However the most amazing driving road came after my stop off at Hilltop Restaurant (see pic below for the stunning view). Sport mode now on I started to build my confidence and with the traffic light and the weather perfect; really enjoyed pushing the bike.

The bike itself was typically Italian; funny quirks and many inconveniences (for example the wing mirrors were absolutely useless as the vibration from the engine meant nothing was clear in them) but all them didn’t seem to matter when twisting the throttle.

The bike itself retailed for £20k when new. This, along with how it looked meant I was constantly worried about leaving it unattended. However I really didn’t mind checking on it because my goodness what a beauty she was; that deep red, those aggressive lines; truly stunning and everyone on the street agreed with the looks it got. I even sat outside a supermarket eating a couple of hot wings staring at it for a good 10 minutes.

The V twin engine was exceptional, smooth but aggressive power delivery; it never stopped pulling. The ride was pretty stiff but this made it effortless to control in the corners.

The bike felt nimble and agile at all times (helped by its astonishing 169kg weight) and really disliked pootling through town. It loved the corners and really didn’t mind being thrown around; the Brembo brakes doing an awesome job. Many trips to the Petrol station was also needed to keep filling the hilariously small tank (actually got talkignto one of the attendants who also had a Ducati - see below)

Overtaking cars was effortless and keeping within the speed limit impossible. Just had to keep remembering the bike couldn’t be impounded if you were less than 40kph above the speed limit. However a lot of time I couldn’t look down at the speedo and the acceleration was breathtaking; the bike really belonged on the track.

5 hours after collecting the bike; with my bum numb, my right wrist cramping and my back aching; I headed back to the depot and (begrudgingly) handed it back. Overall this incredible experience will live long in the memory and despite the rather steep price was totally worth it.

Met up with Dan (who’d enjoyed his time away from me) and we headed to get some grub in town. Bacon Bro’s Burgers were exceptional; the made to order nature of the restaurant meant the burgers was super fresh (and much better than Fergburger); even had a cheeky pint (it was happy hour and Dan was driving. Had an epic brownie and nursed a good baby en route to our campsite.

We had a crazy Friday night by cleaning the camper for it’s handover and packing for our flight tomorrow.

One more day left.........

We had to be up and out early to get the camper dropped off and get to the airport for our flight back to Aukland. Very easy handover; quoted the mileage (we’d done 3255km!), gave the rental number and handed the keys to the woman at the desk and got dropped at the terminal.

The same carryon baggage issue reared its ugly head again and this time they were checking EVERY bag. Mine was well over the 7kg limit (12kg between 2 bags) and required me to put all my heaviest items in my pockets and waddle back to the scale (looking like John Wayne) and hope they didn’t ask me to empty my pockets. Dan was also well over so wore 3 jumpers and had a towel on his shoulder; we certainly weren’t gonna pay the £30 charge. The attendant looked less than impressed with us both and sternly informed us it’s was only £5 to add an extra bag at the time of booking, ‘next time’ I told her.

The flight was fine although someone got quite sick (looked hungover to me) and we had to wait in our seats while the paramedics came onboard. \240after landing. One of them was carrying a defibrillator which I thought was a bit much but we were soon off the flight and back at Dan’s.

We headed straight out to Aukland to enjoy the last of the weather (for me anyway), we hit the gym and mooched around town. We chilled in the park watching an amazing acoustic artist and then got some street food a supermarket car park (it’s better than you think).

I had £40 left of holiday money and decided to go wild in the isles of New World Supermarket buying an amazing brunch for tomorrow, snacks for the plane and a couple of presents. The Supermarket Sweep vibes were strong as a three unnecessary items into my basket; my Tesco days have served me well as I was bang in with the amount!

I packed and we chilled watching the Fyre festival documentary on Netflix whilst I downloaded as much as possible for the flight.

All set for tomorrow’s flight home..........

Final entry

The half filled flight was so chilled. Reclined the seat, watched a few movies, ate food and surprisingly slept quite well. Despite the 2 layovers in Bali (1 hour) and Dubai (2 hours) I was back in the UK before I knew it! - although definitely exhausted Netflix for a while.

So as I edited my photos I couldn’t help but reminisce on the truly amazing experience the trip was.

Firstly I’m grateful to Dan for putting so much work into organising the trip; to be honest all I had to do was show up in Aukland he did the rest. His hospitality and overall kindness are what made the trip so special. Anyone who knows me could imagine what it’s like to be with me for 26 days, 24/7, in a cramped camper, sharing a bed every night and generally tolerating my annoying habits. You truly are an amazing friend and although we miss you very much from the UK; I can’t think of anywhere better for your new life and you deserve all the happiness that comes with it - especially after everything you’ve been through in the past few years.

So my favourite parts? Generally being active throughout made it all feel so worthwhile. The skydive was a personal achievement but Wanaka and Abel Tasman were the other highlights for me; the scenery truly was extraordinary and does tempt me to spend more time in South Island in the future.......

The driving overall was also great fun, taking in the epic scenery, constant shenanigans and having the freedom to travel when and whoever we wanted definitely helped the flow of the trip.

All the food was great (even when I made it!) and I’m gonna miss how fresh it tasted (especially the fruit). I may have brought back a few NZ treats to gently acclimatise to my UK diet.

Finally to the people of NZ; you truly are the kindest and most helpful community I have every met. Helping us out on countless occasions, your laid back spirit made the trip so easy and for me it’s the biggest part of what makes the country so special.

Now I’m back I feel ready to get back into a routine and work on some overall life admin (sounds horrible doesn’t it). Most of all I’m excited to see everyone that matters to me; just give me a couple days to get over the jet lag or you’re gonna get a drowsy/moody git!