Christchurch, May 5th 2018
Dear friends and family,
We hope you are all doing great.
This past month went by so quickly!
We spent the first ten days close to Havelock, in the Marlborough Sounds, to help Hellene & Simon, a couple of british cheesemakers who settled in New Zealand 15 years ago.
Their cheese factory is at the back of their house, hard to do closer ;)
They produce all kinds of goat cheeses: soft, tomme, log, pyramid, halloumi, feta. The milk is provided by their neighbours and they go get it every morning. It's all very local!
Our main job consisted in packing the cheeses. We learnt a few techniques notably the vacuum-packaging, the round-wrapping and the pyramid-wrapping.
And we could taste everything! After 6 months of edam-like cheese, our taste buds were so happy!
The family was really great and the house very nice. It's definitely one of the best volunteering experiences we had.
We had time to visit the region, generally under the sun, we have been very lucky with the weather.
After those 10 wonderful days, we spent a few days in Abel Tasman area. Famous for its golden sand, turquoise sea and lush forest, we were not disappointed!
We ended our trip in this park with a Waka tour (maori canoe - you should be familiar with this word if you've read our other postcards ;)). Amazing experience, the guide was very welcoming and took her time to explain maori rituals and traditions and told us a lot about the region. We paddled during 2 hours with a charming maori family.
Unfortunately, the bad weather caught us and we didn't see well the Nelson Lakes.
We continued our trip to Arthur's pass. It was very cold and humid but we were lucky to wake up surrounded by peaks covered with snow.
We wanted to hike the Avalanche peak but the avalanche risks were high so we were advised to hike Bealy Spur track instead.
We woke up early and arrived at the hut in the middle of the morning. It's a historic hut used in the past by local skiers. However, it's not advised to come with all your cousins, there is only 6 beds!
We continued to hike until the Triangle Peak from where we had a breathtaking view over the surrounding mountains.
Then, we headed East, stopping at Castle Hill to climb on the giant rocks and then at Sheffield to taste the "best pies in the world". And it's maybe true, they were delicious!
We had to be in Christchurch by the 20th of April so we would have 2 weeks to sell the car and visit a bit more the city before flying to Melbourne.
We were welcomed by Sally & Joe, our last NZ hosts, a New Zealander couple who live a few kilometers south from the center of Christchurch. Perfect for us!
In addition to their daily jobs, they produce hazelnuts and need help to sort them. They harvested 2 tons of hazelnuts (1500 trees)! Well, no suspense here, we didn't sort the 2 tons. But well, we did our best!
We had to sort the good ones from the too flat, the too big and the too damaged. A quick summary with pictures:
During our free time, we went to the Art Gallery, met some friends, saw a rugby game and some kiwis (!) and tried to sell our car. We'll get back to that in a few lines.
We also spent some really nice moments with Sally & Joe who made us discover a few "local specialties" like netball (a kind of basketball) and ANZAC day, a commemoration of all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in war.
To see some kiwis, we cheated a bit and went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. The Reserve is really well done and very green. As we were there early, there was not a lot of people and it was very quiet. Enjoyable! We wandered during more than 2 hours surrounded by more or less wild animals. From ducks to otters and wallabies (a taste of what is to come in Australia).
Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures of kiwis (they are in a covered and very dark shelter) but we could see them from very close. Amazing! Really a weird and fascinating animal with its long bill, muscled legs (it jumps quite well!) and its feathers that look like a fur.
Regarding the car, we had a few problems to start it recently. Fortunately, our host is a mechanic! Unfortunately, we had to replace the battery and other parts but he was not able to do it as his garage is 40km away.
Therefore, he asked his friend and neighbour who is also a mechanic and lives 500m from the house. Very convenient. It was a bit expensive but at least the car was fixed right on time to show it to a potential buyer. After some setbacks, we finally sold it. For quite cheap but we are happy that our van will continue to proudly serve other travellers. In total, we have traveled more than 13 000 km with our rolling palace!
We spent our last NZ afternoon with Sarina, our colleague from the Fox II. Little twinge of sorrow, it feels weird to leave this beautiful country. But we enjoyed every single day here. We were so lucky to meet wonderful people, we did so many different activites we haven't done before and we saw beautiful things.
After 6 awesome months in New Zealand, we are very excited to discover (a little part of) Australia.
It's now 6am, we checked-in our luggage and went through the security, it's time to board!
Lots of love from New Zealand and see you soon from Australia!
Léonie & Baptiste