After a whopping 11 hour flight, 3 different airport and 2 stopovers, I finally reached Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand. We checked into our hotel shortly after getting our Nissan X-trail 4WD SUV from Europcar. The car is really new, only having driven on 3000km on the road. I love the car. It’s huge and powerful!
We stayed in Christchurch for a night before starting out on our driving tour of the South Island, and thank god we made that decision. We were so jet lagged, that if we were to drive to our first destination out upon arrival, we would neither have the time nor the energy to make that journey.
We don’t have much time exploring Christchurch, although we will spend a day there after our driving tour. So far, the city is pleasant, though I can help to get rid of the fact that you can clearly see the damage done around the city caused by a devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch a few years back. You can clearly see some major rejuvenation and reconstruction efforts being done throughout the city. From the road works, to the city tram, and the demolition of partially collapsed and structurally unstable buildings, Large swaths of land has been cleared even in the city centre to make way for new reconstruction efforts. Office and residential buildings including malls are in the midst of construction on those same plot of land where a building once stood before the terrible earthquake.
We set off just before noon to our first destination Twizel. The first day is also the longest day in terms of driving. We had close to 6 hours worth of driving to reach Twizel. Fortunately, that’s the longest journey throughout the tour. The rest are half the time it will take to reach the next destination based on the itinerary.
The drive was wonderful. We got lost a couple of times in the beginning because we weren’t used to the GPS device that we rented together with the car. In the end we relied on Google Maps, because it was far more powerful than the car’s GPS system. And it is so much easier to change our destination on the fly on Google maps, compared to the GPS device.
The drive took us really close to Mount Cook, the reference mountain to the fabled Lonely Mountains from The Hobbit movies. As we drove inland, the mountain loomed closer and closer till we were able to almost reach the base of the mountain when we made our way to the Hermitage Hotel. The hotel and the surrounding settlement is so beautiful, planted firmly at the base of several tall mountains, it overlooks Mount Cook and it was majestic. As I drive towards the hotel, the road was serene, and landscape out of this world. You don’t usually get the chance to not only appreciate nature’s towering beauty, but also drive on your own to those wonderful landscapes. New Zealand is really blessed to be bestowed with such a beautiful physical landscape and I am extremely lucky to get the chance to witness it.
At the end of the day, we managed to reached out hotel at Twizel and had a nice dinner before sundown. Sundown was 9pm in New Zealand, so we had lots of day time to really see the beautiful land.
Next stop, Dunedin, a 3 hour journey from Twizel. Can’t wait!