Akaroa, January 9th 2018

Dear friends and family,

We hope the new year is starting well.

We arrived in the South Island 2 weeks ago under the rain - the South Island didn't want to show its beauty too quickly - but had the chance to see a dolphin arriving at the harbour of Picton!

Ferry Wellington Picton
Ferry Wellington Picton
Ferry Wellington Picton

Quite windy!

Ferry South Island
Ferry South Island

First view of the South Island

Pauline and Baptiste were waiting for us at the ferry and we hit the road together to spend Christmas in Queen Charlotte Sound. After driving for an hour in curves that would nearly make you throw up (our stomachs did handle it!), we stopped in a very small campsite right by the fjord. We met a 40 year old English guy there, travelling on his own and mainly on his kayak!

We started our Christmas 'apéro' quite early in the afternoon but stopped a few times to have some 'fishing' breaks. Well, it was not a huge success but we've put a lot of effort into it! Then we had a very nice dinner, duck legs and potatoes, yummy!

Queen Charlotte Cooking
Queen Charlotte Fishing

Christmas activities

Picnic Bay

Picnic Bay - the view from our van

Bioluminescence Plankton

Difficult to take a picture of that but it was an awesome Christmas present: Bioluminescent plankton!

The weather was not so good but we could still do a great hike on the Mount Stokes. From the top, we had a very nice view over the Sound.

Mount Stokes bottom view
Mount Stokes Top view
Mount Stokes Top View

Mount Stokes - an incredible view on Queen Charlotte Sound

Mount Stokes -  the hikers

United Colors of Benetton hikers

We left Pauline and Baptiste who had to go to Christchurch to meet some friends and we followed the East coast road. We spent a few days in Kaikoura, a very nice peninsula and home of seals colonies. It's also a great spot for whale-watching or swimming with dolphins but we opted for a hike instead. We climbed the Mount Fyffe to admire the whole peninsula. 1200 meters of elevation gain, good for the legs and the eyes ;) The view was amazing!

Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe

Mount Fyffe

We continued our trip on the East coast and met Pauline and Baptiste (again) and some of their friends in Christchurch for New Year's Eve. The campsite was huge and there wasn't a lot of people. The chefs Popazzos (Pauline & Baptiste) cooked a delicious dinner and that's how 2017 ended. With great food and great people.

Fajita Pizza

Last 2017 evening - quite basic but in very good company

The first day of the year was very sunny. Perfect to discover Christchurch. The scars of the 2011 earthquake are still visible but the reconstructions are beautiful. A very nice mix of ancient and new and a lot of great ideas. Some huge graffitis cover 'naked' walls, a market composed of containers was installed in the city center, a church made of cardboard saw the light of the day, some new parks were created, but what happened is not forgotten. In the South of the city center, a memorial has been raised on the banks of the river. Very touching.

Christchurch Cathedral
Christchurch Carboard Cathedral

The 2 cathedrals: the damaged one and the cardboard one

Christchurch Botanical Garden
Christchurch Botanical Garden

The Botanical Gardens - concerts and Christmas decoration (yes, those are Christmas baubles!)

Christchurch Street Food Park

The containers' market

Christchurch Street Food Park

One of the food trucks

Christchurch Graffitis
Christchurch Tramway

A glimpse of Christchurch

In the East, 185 chairs have been painted in white in memory of the 185 people who died during the earthquake. Very moving.

Christchurch 185 chairs

The 185 chairs installed in memory of the people who died during the 2011 earthquake

We really liked this city and felt something. I think we will come back soon to discover it more and maybe visit the museums - they are apparently worth it.

Close to Christchurch, there is Banks peninsula (named after the botanist who travelled with James Cook during his first trip to New Zealand) formed by 2 volcanoes a few millions years ago.

Banks Peninsula
Banks Peninsula

Banks peninsula and Akaroa Harbour

Taylor's Mistake
Taylor's Mistake

Taylor's Mistake - a hike in the clouds

Very nice bays and a great campsite (notably) compose this peninsula.

Little River Campground

The very well equipped campsite of Little River

At the end of the peninsula is located Akaroa, a little town of French influence.

Akaroa L'essence
Akaroa ponton
Akaroa Boucherie

The French influence in Akaroa

We stayed a week around Christchurch to look for work and we tested all the campsites in this area (if you travel around here, please don't hesitate to contact us!).

We wanted to find some outdoor jobs (in horse treks for Léonie and kayak for Baptiste) but in the end we found a very interesting offer to help on a sailing boat. Roy, the captain, was looking for a few people to complete his crew. The boat goes out 2 to 3 times a day to see the dolphins in Akaroa's Harbour with 30 passengers maximum on board.

Roy invited us to come on the 2nd cruise of the day to see if we'd like this job so we set sail for Akaroa a 2nd time.

After the 2.5 hour trip and after letting go the passengers, we stayed on the boat with Roy and the crew. Roy invited us to come back the next day to start working. We will be hosted in a backpacker that he owns and in exchange of one trip per day, we'll be hosted for free. The extra trips will be paid. We accepted this offer: we are now apprentice sailors!

Sorry, we have to go, a good night sleep is needed before our first day on the sea!

Lots of love,

Léonie & Baptiste