Rusty and I flew out of Sydney without a hitch. Checking in was slightly complicated because we were flying out of a country from which we are not passport holders and flying to another country from which we are not passport holders, but we figured it out in the end. Always leave extra time for airport tasks.
Air New Zealand is lovely. The seats are wide, and even though we were on a small plane for a short flight (about 3 hours in the air,) we had seat-back entertainment with free television. I watched a program called Wild About New Zealand, an adventure program where the guide explores national parks in New Zealand. It made me so excited to get off the plane so we could explore! The safety video was Middle-Earth themed and pretty adorable.
We mostly flew over water, which is beautiful for a minute but mostly boring. We started our descent when we hit the western coast of New Zealand. We flew straight over Arthur’s Pass National Park, just north of Mount Cook in the Southern Alps.
It was love at first sight. Rusty was going to have to drag me out of this country.
We landed in Christchurch. Christchurch looked cute if not a bit flat and industrial-seeming. We didn’t really have a good look this time. I’ll talk more about Christchurch later–my friend Chris, with whom I taught English in Korea, gave us an in-depth tour of the city before we left.
We picked up our car in Christchurch from a cute outfit called Ace Rentals. Ace promises that their cars aren’t nice but merely adequate and definitely cheap. New Zealand has some tight import laws on cars, making refreshing a fleet an expensive task. Our car Bluebird had 150,000km on her when we picked her up, and we put another 1,500+km while we had her. She was a little scratched and had a bit of a rattle when we were on the highway, but she was totally adequate. We got our money’s worth, for sure.
Side note about Ace: Their office isn’t in the airport, but a couple km’s away. If they’re open, they will pick you up and drop you off for free. But, if they’re not open, which was the case when we dropped off the car before leaving the city, it’s a $12 cab ride to the airport, and you’ll need to a call a cab because the office isn’t in a busy area.
When we picked her up, we had the woman at the front desk draw us a map to get us on the main road out of the city but also to get us to a store where we could buy fuel for our camp stove. We were too late to get to any of the camping shops (we arrived after 5 PM,) but fear not, friends; they sell fuel at the Warehouse. The Warehouse is basically a small K-Mart. We had a list of things we needed to buy immediately upon arrival to New Zealand (fuel, a NZ SIM card, shampoo, soap, sunscreen, 10L water jug, snacks,) and we got them all at the Warehouse. They only carried one size of fuel canister (a container that would seriously last us about 2 years normally) but it was only $15, so whatever. We gave the rest of it to my friend Chris at the end of the trip.
Finally, we were on the road. New Zealand doesn’t have many roads, so there was really only one legit road out of Christchurch to Oamaru: State Highway 1. We stayed on Highway 1 for 250km. The views are pastoral. Beautiful, by largely unchanging. Lots of sheep. Lots of cows. Lots of seagulls, mixed with a couple hawks and other birds of prey. This road, like nearly all roads in New Zealand, passes over a handful of braided glacial rivers, which I love love love. The dynamic shape of them is fascinating to me, especially at the shallow end here on the east coast.
Often when we’re camping in Australia we plan our whole day to ensure that we can get to camp and set up our tent before sundown. That was not a concern for us in New Zealand. It was light until about 10:30 PM! We were concerned, however, about getting to Oamaru before all of the grocery stores closed. We still needed food for dinner dinner that night and breakfast in the morning. Some of the grocery stores in smaller towns in New Zealand had signs indicating they closed as early as 7 or 8, but we luckily found one open until 9 in Oamaru. We got some necessities and headed further south to Kakanui to find our campsite.
We had a bit of trouble finding our campsite, but, to be fair, it doesn’t have an address, and the only directions we had were, “10 min past Oamaru on the scenic coastal road.” Hmmm.
For the record, if you’re trying to find the Kakanui Camping Ground, drive down Beach Road out of Oamaru, follow the coastline until you get to the main intersection in Kakanui (Beach Road and Kakanui Road.) Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve reached it. It’s also the only intersection in Kakanui on Beach Road. At that intersection, take a right, drive a minute or two, and look for signs to the campground. It’s on the left.
When we got there, one of the owners came out to meet us. She showed us around, and then we put up the tent and made dinner on our camp stove.
We had planned to see the blue penguins, but we decided to see them the next day.
Oamaru bug situation: Low, just some huge spiders on structures. No mosquitoes that we noticed.
Oamaru bird situation: Charmingly loud.
Oamaur sheep situation: Also charmingly loud.