Day 1

It all began at Auckland airport, of course, where we tested our selfie-taking skills.

We were well and truly on our way.

Jetstar gave us a free voucher, so we ordered something to eat.

The ‘free’ spree continued. Our campervan wasn’t ready, so Jucy sent us by shuttle to a Lone Ranger restaurant for lunch. Sandy described the place as a New Zealand style Texas restaurant.

The drawback was that this was the busy Easter weekend, and the company seemed to have forgotten that we were in the restaurant. Also I had had just a couple of hours of sleep the previous night; the longer it took, the less I was going to enjoy learning to drive a vehicle that was bigger than my car. We finally got the campervan at 3:30 p.m. or so. It was a bit intimidating at first to drive, but Rolleston wasn’t too far away. And it got easier.

Meeting the Fleeners was wonderful, and their hospitality saw to it that we did not lack for anything.

Sandy and I were able to turn the campervan into a cosy bedroom. One thing we had to do was to put the duvet inners inside the duvet covers, all provided by the campervan company. We did this in the Fleeners’ lounge on the floor, using the YouTube video I usually use, to get this tricky job done at home.

After Sandy and I did one duvet, Makaela and Joe had a go at doing the second one, and we were grateful for the help.

I tried to crawl into the bed by getting into the van via the door on the driver’s side. Bad idea. My backside caused the van to honk loudly twice! Nevermind.

An early night is just what I needed to catch up on my sleep. I don’t think I had gone to bed around 10:30 p.m. in recent years.

Day 2

Although I did wake up now and then through the night, the fact that it was soon 7:45 a.m. when I awoke shows you that I must have had a great sleep.

Prisy had returned home late after spending the evening with her friend Katrina, and had slept in the Fleeners’ lounge. When I woke in the morning, Sandy had already gone to the house, and I opened the back door of the van to slip out but instead slipped on the step and slided on to the grass. It was a cool experience, haha, mostly because the grass was wet and soft.

We were able to take a quick morning photo, just before Makaela and Tabitha headed off somewhere.

Kojima, where Sandy lives in Japan, was amalgamated with Kurashiki city in 1967. Because Kurashiki and Christchurch are considered sister cities, Sandy was quite interested in seeing something of Christchurch and really appreciated Mandy for offering to drive us around.

We first went to Port hills, to a spot called Sign of the Kiwi; the views from there were beautiful.

We stopped at a cafe called Doubles, and to our surprise met Makaela and Tabitha there.

During the 2011 earthquakes many Japanese children were among those killed in the Canterbury Television building. We visited the memorial on Madras Road.

We also drove past the Christchurch cathedral, the Cardboard Cathedral, and other places of significance.

When we got home, Joe showed us the Geneva Bible that he had in his possession and which he is currently researching. For a book printed 400 years ago, it looked good. Among the interesting things he pointed out was the fact that the Geneva Bible uses the word “breeches” instead of ‘aprons’ or ‘loin cloths’ in Genesis 3:7 (And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.). We also noticed that the number four was written as IIII instead of IV, which we were not expecting. The bible had the complete psalter with musical notations. . . I was more interested in taking pictures, so I missed a lot of what the others were discussing. [So, if you have Googled ‘Geneva Bible’ and got to this page, I don’t think you should rely too much on this paragraph.]

After lunch, it was time to leave.

The drive to Timaru was uneventful. ‘Uneventful’ when driving an unfamiliar vehicle on an unfamiliar road is good. The only thing worth mentioning is that Sandy saw some real sheep in New Zealand for the first time. Her friends in Japan had told her that she would be seeing more sheep than people, but even after spending a week in New Zealand, she hadn’t seen a single one till this point.

Meeting the Orrs was wonderful. They had told us that they had prepared beds for us in their garage, but what they had for us was luxurious.

The evening that followed was enjoyable, “tea” (dinner) with the Orrs and the Bruces was amazing, and we had so much to catch up on.

Day 3

The day began with the dawn service, followed by breakfast with the church family in Timaru. And then the Easter morning service.

Needless to say, lunch at home with the Orrs and the Bruces was amazing. After lunch, Elsie Orr took Sandy to visit Irelle, a retired missionary, who had spent many decades in Japan. They came back just before it was time to leave for the evening service.

After the service, we picked up some takeaway burgers and went to Caroline Bay to see if we could catch Timaru’s little blue Korara penguins returning to their nests. We waited for half an hour or so and decided that we needed to get home.

All through the day we had sung so many wonderful hymns about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. After having the burgers and a cup of tea, Pastor Orr finished off the day by reading Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians and praying. We made it an early night because we would be continuing our travels in the morning.

Day 4

After breakfast and a Bible reading by Pastor Orr, we were off. Having heard that the pies from Fairlie Bakehouse are delicious, we stopped there for pies, and we were not the only ones. The smiling man next to Sandy happily commented that he had made it into several photos that day.

Our destination for the day was Lake Tekapo. We went to the Church of the Good Shepherd, and after having a good look around the area, we consumed the really delicious pies.

We then drove to the Lakes Edge holiday park. Soon, we had power for our van and free WiFi. After having a look around, Sandy and I walked up to the main road to the shops to get some groceries from the local Four Square supermarket.

After we got back it began pouring, which made making dinner and setting up life in the van a bit challenging. But we succeeded and even played a couple of games of Sushi Go in the holiday park’s TV room.

Day 5

We woke to the quacking of ducks and this beautiful view across the lake. We had seen rabbits the previous evening, but they were no where to be seen now.

For breakfast, we reached into our food stash for Simon Bruce’s famous hot cross buns and the Fleeners’ apples. Or they could have been Elsie Orr’s apples.

After breakfast we set out towards Mount Cook to do the Hooker Valley Track. It is described as a three-hour, easy-to-moderate walk. The recent rains had increased the difficulty by a notch or two, but the walk gave us spectacular mountain and glacier views—the lofty mountain grandeur we sing about—and included three swing bridges. The rain held off till we were back in the van and well on our way back to the holiday park.

Before we returned to the holiday park in Lake Tekapo, Prisy shouted us dinner at Ramen Tekapo, an Asian restaurant. The food was amazing. We retired early for the night.

Day 6

We checked out of the holiday park in Tekapo a little before 10:00 a.m. Our first stop was near Twizel where there is a private property in which the scenes of the the battle of the Pelennor fields in The Lord Of The Rings was filmed. This is where thousands of Sauron’s orcs fought the men of Rohan and Gondor. We did not know the exact location of this property, so just drove around the area for a bit, enjoying the autumn colours. We then filled up at a gas station in Twizel. After this, we made our way towards Omarama.

Left on the agenda for the day were the clay cliffs and the Hot Tubs. To get to the clay cliffs, we had to turn off the road about 10 Kilometers before Omarama. After a bumpy stretch of what Sandy called wash-board road, we got to a gate with an honesty box into which we had to deposit five dollars. After some more of the same kind of bumpy road, we were met with an amazing view of the clay cliffs, formed by water erosion. Sandy and Prisy, who were both interested in geography, were happy and excited about the place.

On our way to the camping ground, we stopped at the shops for lunch. Sandy got her first taste of our Tiptop Icecream. When Sandy and Prisy went to the local Four Square supermarket, I thought I’d look up the Hot Tubs. This was when I realised, especially after calling them up, that it was fully booked for today; we should have booked before hand. Oh well!

The Omarama holiday park was less crowded than the one at Lake Tekapo had been. With some free time on our hands, we showered, got some laundry done, and “fixed” dinner, using up much of Elsie Orr’s tomatoes from our stash.

Interestingly, Sandy and I watched the first third and last third of Prakash Raj’s movie ‘Un Samayal Araiyil.’ Sandy and I actually knew Prakash Raj in the early 1980s, when he was a boy who went by the name Colomen Prakash Rai. To me he was just Pakku. Sandy said that other than his smile, he didn’t look anything like the Colomen she remembered.

Day 6

We packed up and set out for Wanaka’s Puzzling World, which turned out to be good fun. Prisy successfully completed the maze challenge. Sandy and I did our best.

From there we drove towards Queenstown. We drove past Cardrona and stopped for a few minutes at Lindis Pass.

We drove into Arrowtown to see more of the Autumn colours, grateful to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to see so much beauty.

When we arrived at the camping ground and checked in, we found that a half-hour slot was available for the hot tub. So a soak in the hot tub was practically the first thing we did in Queenstown. Later we took the bus to Stanley Street and walked to Fergburger. We took our burgers to a place with a nice view.

Nearby a man was strumming on a guitar and singing. But what really made it interesting was that his dog was singing along with him.

Getting to the town from the holiday park was not difficult, but it took a bit of planning. For one, the bus was hourly and two, you needed to have cash to ride the bus. On the positive side, the bus stopped right outside the holiday park in Arthurs Point.

By the way, we found that in all these holiday parks, you need cash for the washing machine and the dryer too. The reception in these places are manned till after seven in the evening, and they have coins that they can give you in exchange for currency notes. And they also take Eftpos cards, thank goodness.

Day 7

We got on the first bus—the 5:56 a.m. bus—from the holiday park  to go into town to be on the bus to Milford Sound.

After waiting for nearly an hour on Athol Street in town, the bus arrived. The driver gave us our boarding passes for the cruise later in the day. He also noted whether we wanted veg lunches or chicken, and whether we were gluten free. And then we were off. The first stop was at Te Anau for breakfast.

The changing scenes that we saw through the bus window during the trip was a feast for the eyes. Recently, I have been seeing this kind of long, low cloud in several places, once even in the north Island near Huntly.

Mirror Lake was the next stop. The phone camera captured the reflection in the water quite well.

Finally we reached Milford, and we were given our lunches before we boarded the vessel, Pure Milford. We found a table and had our lunch. My sandwich was a veg one around which a chook may have walked past. Sandy agreed that the chicken content in the sandwiches was minimal, adding “and the chicken that walked by did not even cluck” to my analogy. But we were not complaining as such. The sandwiches were tasty. Sandy said that she had never had grated carrot in a sandwich before and seemed happy about the novelty of it.

Milford Sound, which is not a sound at all but a fjord, did not disappoint—it was mesmerizing in its beauty.

We returned to Queenstown before 8:00 p.m. We had an amazing  dinner in a Chinese restaurant in town.

We got to the camping site by Uber, because the bus had come and gone a few minutes ahead of schedule.

After we got back, we got everything ready for bed but did not actually go to bed just yet; we had one more place to see—Lake Moke to get to a place that was dark enough, so we could see the stars. To have seen the stars in Tekapo or Omarama would have been wonderful, but it had rained all week. Now at last, on the last night of our trip, we had a clear-sky night. So we were going to make the most of it.

We unplugged the power cable from the campervan and went for a drive in the direction of Glenorchy; we turned off to the right when we came to the Lake Moke sign. We did not expect the road to be a dirt road leave alone one so windy and narrow. We also did not expect the windscreen to fog up continuously. It took us forever to get to what was the lake—it was hard to tell what the place was like in the thick darkness—but we reached without mishap. Of course, we need to mention the sheep that was sleeping in the middle of the road, thankfully ambling off to the side after a while—having fulfilled its purpose of adding to our nervousness.

When we switched off the headlights and got out of the van, we could not see where we were or even each other in the darkness. However, when we looked up, we saw our God’s sky, the night sky in all its glory. I have never seen the milky way like that before, like a sheer curtain. What a glorious God we serve!

Sadly the phone camera refused to even attempt a photo.

We made our way out safely, clicking the picture of a sheep—it might have been the one we saw on our way up—in the darkness.

Day 8

After we freshened up we had our last meal of the trip, finishing off whatever food we had leftover in the campervan’s fridge.

We unplugged the power from the campervan for the last time. We filled the tank with gas, returned the vehicle, and got to the airport, courtesy of Jucy’s shuttle service, and flew back home to Auckland.

We thank God for giving us this fun trip and keeping us safe.