zaterdag 29 september 2018

From fancy Dubai to a New Zealand camper adventure!

Around mid July my best friend Wouter went back to Belgium for a few days, and me already missing him like crazy, took the car and drove down to stay with him for 2 days. While we were walking in the forest he told me that he is thinking about going to New Zealand in September, if I want to join him?! Me being me, didn't have to think that long about an offer like this. I still have 2 SRC tickets from Emirates, which means that you only pay the airport tax and that you're flying on standby. We checked prices and it would cost me around 130/140 euros to fly all the way from Amsterdam to Christchurch via Dubai! It's more expensive to go from here to Paris in 4 hour drive then to fly all the way to New Zealand, so decision was made.

After 10 weeks being in the Netherlands I was packing my suitcase again. First stop was Dubai for 3 full days and then on the 14th Wouter and I were going to fly, or at least try to get on the flight in my case. I had to pack my bikini and skiing gear, it was a challenge, but if I learnt one thing in the past 4.5 years is that I know how to pack #skills. Couldn't wait to get on a plane again after 2.5 months! And the best part was that one of my friends was the first officer (pilot) on the flight! The crew was AMAZING on the flight and they even asked if I wanted to join them in the lounge for a champagne, of course I didn't do this..... just kidding! 3 glasses of champagne later, deep conversations with the actual business class passenger I had to go back to economy. By that time it was almost time to land already so it was fine. I was staying with Wouter in Dubai and shortly after I arrived at his place he got home.

The next day I wanted to go to the beach but then my belgium friend offered to go to her swimming pool and she also offered some more champagne she had in her fridge. So there I went again, who can say no to champagne, on a Tuesday?! That night I made a reservation at my favorite restaurant in Dubai, Asia Asia. And I promise you, it's the best asian food I have ever tasted in my life. Since it was also ladies night we got some drinks for free. Even though I don't live in Dubai anymore, it doesn't mean I don't miss all the amazing friends I made along the way. Makes me happy sitting at the dinner table, looking around and see people that are dear to me. They do have a special place in my heart.

The next day Valerie and I went to Barasti Beach to soak up some sun and just chill and catch up. Apparently Barasti is one of the most profitable bars in the world my brother told me. My friend Ruth joined us later as well, and unfortunately we got a bit burnt, see photo...

And of course the view isn't the worse either

That night I first went to Mall of Emirates to catch up with my Irish friend Marie and afterwards I headed to Millennium Tower, my old apartment to see my ex-flatmate and 'Dubai little sister'. As soon as I got to the building the security recognised me straight away and as far as I know they were genuinely happy to see me. I told them there wasn't going to be any party that night, and they laughed since we all remember my leaving party haha! It was so good but strange at the same time to be back at my old place, it still felt like it was mine. Paula and I shared the usual baileys before bed, man I missed that girl! On Thursday we just went to Dubai Mall for some breakfast, walking around and then back to 3604 to chill on the couch, order some PF Changs and get ready for a Dubai house party. 

of course a photo at our usual mirror spot

Apart from all the festivals I went to, I haven't been to a house party in a while so as usual I was there way too early. Hey you're Dutch or you're not, right. 
It was a funny sunglasses party so everybody has to wear sunnies, which was fun. 
Those days in Dubai went way to fast, the next day we were already going to NZ. The flight was at 10am, and since I was flying on standby I only heard at 9am if I had a seat or not. I did get one, even an aisle seat, by frustrated Wouter since he got a middle seat hehe. NZ here we come! 

The flight over went so fast because we slept most of the time, shock! Think I slept around 7 or 8 hours. To get to Christchurch you have to fly via Sydney. In Sydney we had a stopover of about an hour before having another 2.5 hour flight to Christchurch. Once arrived in Christchurch we took the shuttle to the camper rental place. And there it was, our Mercedes camper! Wouter had never driven on the other side of the road so it was me that had to drive away. It was strange I can tell you that, I felt like a bus driver! In a normal small car it's easy to drive but with a camper, every turn you take it feels like the camper is gonna fall over! 

The first night we found this small holiday park we could stay the night, a little bit outside Christchurch, and it was cold, it was going to be a cold night, good thing we bought some wines to warm us up before heading to bed. Once we woke up and got ourselves ready to hit the road Wouter drove up and down a few times to get the feeling of driving on the left. So there we went, our first stop was going to be Kaikoura, which was a two hour drive. Writing this and knowing all the drives we did, little did we know what was laying ahead of us. 

Arrived in Kaikoura we put on our new walking boots and ready for the first 3 hour hike of the holidays. Wearing new boots on a 3 hour hike is not the best idea I ever had. The hike itself was beautiful, mountains on the background with snow, seeing seals in the ocean and literally just chilling next to the street was a perfect first day, besides the massive blisters on my feet. but hey what to do.

After our late lunch we hit the road again towards the northern part of the southern island, still get it?! Unfortunately all the wineries were closed by the time we drove through the Marlborough area. So many brands of wine we know are actually there! We were children in a candy shop, however the shop was pretty much closed :( not cool. 

THE Cloudy Bay winery

We had to drive all the way to Nelson, which was in total a 4 hour drive from Kaikoura, a little bit more then expected, but we were on a tight schedule so there was no time for stopping. At Nelson we just put our camper, named by this time and was called, Arthur. We slept on the parking area of a big supermarkt, which was free, very nice! 

The reason we had to go to Nelson is because the next day we were heading to the Abel Tasman National Park. A massive and beautiful park with amazing hikes. However, it was raining like crazy once we got there, but still no reason not to go. We started in the south area of the park and then we hiked up north where we took a taxi boat back. My blisters were a bit painful so I swapped my boots for my sneakers. In total we walked around 20 kilometers I think. Imagine with blisters as well, but you can ask Wouter I did NOT complain... Way to stubborn to confess that I was in pain. 

After the Abel Tasman park we drove another 1.5/2 hours and literally slept next to the road. There was sort of a designated area for our Arthur to stay, but it was very dark, but then I mean pitch black, which was a big no no for Wouter. 

Next stop wat Punakaiki, where apparently some pancake rocks are located, a must they said. Punakaiki is on the west coast of the Southern Island of NZ. The moment we passed through the mountains and reached the shore we were flabbergasted! It felt like we were in a movie, it looked fake. All the mountains and how they got to the ocean and the waves slamming on them. 
no words needed right? 

Fact about the rocks: formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the sea about 2km below the surface. Because of the high water pressure the fragments were formed in hard and soft layers. The limestone were pushed above the seabed when the mountains were formed and therefore rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes. (source: internet)
Our next stop was the Hokitika Gorge, another 1.5 hour drive from Punakaiki. The walk was just 30 minutes in total with again a great view.

Water as blue as you can imagine

From Hokitika we drove to Franz Josef, which is a small town next to the Franz Josef Glacier. Everybody that went to NZ told us to do a heli hike at one of the glaciers. Once we arrived at Franz Josef we found a camping ground where we stayed for the night to charge our Arther and we got some snacks and wine from the supermarket to have a little picknick that night, we also booked the heli hike for the next day, hoping the weather was going to be good enough. 

Waking up AGAIN at 8am. Every night we first woke up at 2.30am and then at 8am, probably the 10 hour difference didn't help either. But more importantly the weather was perfect! Arrived around 11am to start getting ready with gear for the hike, they also checked our weight for the helicopter. Surprise surprise I could sit in the front :D It was amazing!!!! So much fun to be in a helicopter for the first time, the pilot was funny as well, we actually landed on the glacier itself. So cool.
Temperature wise, in my opinion, was it pretty hot up there. Did you know that the ice moves a meter a day? There is a lot of danger for avalanches, we didn't see any though. We even had special shoes to be able to walk around the ice, and some parts were really dangerous if you would lose your balance. Before heading back down we walked around for 1.5 hours I think. Such a great experience, a must when you're there. 
Queen of the glacier
From Franz Josef we drove another 1.5 hour towards the south again, stopped at a nice parking space while we saw another beautiful sunset. 

On our way to Queenstown! Heard so many great things about Queenstown so we were excited to see what all the fuzz is about. A friend of Wouter was heading to Queenstown from Auckland for a few days. That day we just walked around Queenstown for a bit, and it reminded us of cute small village somewhere in either Austria or maybe even Switzerland. All expats as well. We found a company who could help us to book some activities we wanted to do. Good for us, things being booked and paid for already. 
That night we went for dinner with Wouters friend and got some drinks as well. All the nights before we went to sleep latest 10pm. Because we drove so much every day and then did so many things during the day as well. Most of the times we looked at each other around 8/8.30pm already soooo tired and pushing ourselves to 10pm to fall asleep. Wouter brought some games with him, so every night we played some games, not gonna lie, but Wouter won most of the times... I won once but I had to down the rest of my wine, which wasn't the best idea either...
Another great day in Queenstown, where the next days we checked out Arrowtown, closeby Queenstown before taking our Arthur further on our road trip! Next stop MILFORD SOUND. The number one spot in NZ on the south island. Every year around one million people visit Milford sound, but it also rains 9 meters a year. So you're very lucky if you catch one of the 50 good days! 

We got a good day... hehe
The cruise boat took us around Milford sound for about 1 hour. They told us about the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and even the wildlife. Which I won't spoil you guys, cause you might be going yourself. After the cruise they dropped us at Harrison Cove where we booked a tour around the cove on KAYAKS!!!! 
The ice that melt from the mountains here in the background takes about 5 to 6 hours till it is all the way down. The water is so clean and pure that you can even drink it at the beginning, which we did of course. Living on the edge :P
we even saw some penguins, apparently the 3rd rarest in the world! So cuteee!

is this place even real?

The drive back to Queenstown was long, a little bit shorter than 4 hours. On the way going, the drive was beautiful and we even stopped a few times to take some photos, so on the way back we saw it all and could go straight ahead. The sunset that night above the mountains was as if we were in a fairytale, Wouter and I waiting for our prince.
a bit blurry but you got the point

One more night in Queenstown before our favorite activity: SKIING and SNOWBOARDING in Cardrona!

Not the same as Austria but it did match the expectations for a day, we did miss our Spezi and Tiroler Grosel! aaaah even thinking about it makes me hungry and excited for going to Austria again, next year maybe? 
After Cardrona we drove to Lake Pukaki, which has a view over Mount Cook. The water there was just unreal and turquoise! 
I swear I thought this was fake, but nothing is more real than this water, insanely blue and pure. Amazing!! We stayed the night on the left side of the lake, also next to the road, with another gorgeous view. 
Unfortunately the next day it was raining, but then we could have a good sleep in before we choose to drive a bit further to Lake Tekapo. Our reason? There's more things to do at Tekapo then in Pukaki (which is literally one street and that's it). To be honest with you, most villages only have one or maybe if they are really big maybe two streets haha. Wouter told me that only 1% of the people of the south island live on the west coast, and the coast is big! 

At Lake Tekapo we had some lunch and because the weather wasn't the greatest either I went to the Tekapo Springs to relax at the pools and got myself a facial and massage while Wouter did some catching up with Netflix and red wine. The catching up stuff I mean more Netflix, because his red wine game was strong all the days!

Our second last day in NZ, we got to hike one last time and the view basically sums up how NZ looks like. Nature from being flat as the Netherlands, to the mountains as high as you can see, being able to ski one day and the next go kayaking through Milford Sound. Just in one word AMAZING!

Our final kilometers has started, heading back to Christchurch to be back on time for our flights back to Dubai. We drove around 2800 kilometers on the south island of NZ. Hit a tree, so we got a bump in our Arther, my fault. It's hard to drive with a 7 meter long camper, especially when it's dark and you need to turn around, and dark in NZ is DARK! Thank god we got a full insurance so we didn't have to pay anything more, and otherwise it was under Wouter's creditcard ;p, hehe love you! 

At the end, New Zealand is so much more then all it's beauty I have shown you in just a few of my photos. The people are extremely nice and willing to help, the food is amazing and very tasteful, wish we could find more spareribs though. That's why we had to end our last night with a big plate of some pork ribs. We did so much in such little time, the only thing we would have done more is the wine tasting at Marlborough. But don't feel sad for us, we had a wine tasting that lasted for 12 days. Thank you New Zealand for being so extremely beautiful, hopefully I will be back one day, who knows with a prince this time. You were so much more than I expected. 

I did manage to get on the flight back to Dubai, even got a free visa from the staff in Christchurch for Australia, just in case I would get stuck there. But didn't need any of that, whoop whoop! On the flight back we had the most annoying child EVER! This kid was running around while we were still on the ground, literally ran out of the aircraft just before they were supposed to close the door, wish they closed the door after he ran out. During the flight the kid was again running around, without his mother, touching buttons that he wasn't supposed to. After 10 hours I had enough. I took his hand and I 'kindly' brought him back to his mother who was fast asleep, put his seatbelt on as tight as I could and told him to STAY!  

Once landed in Dubai we were wide awake, with 2 panadol night Wouter and I slept a good 8 hours on the flight, thank god! Wide awake and extremely hungry, got home had a quick shower and then it was time for some eggs benedict, my fave! After breakfast I took the metro to the marina to meet my friend Amber. One last day to enjoy some sun. It was ladies day at Andreea's, free food and free drinks for 30 euro, welcome to Dubai! At night went for dinner at Casa de Tapas with Valerie and Estelle, but after dinner I crashed because I was so tired!!!! Slept like a baby that night, and then it was time to head back home.

How much I loved my time being back in Dubai, I still feel I made the right decision of leaving. It's just not my life anymore or where I want to be to build a future. Done it all, seen it all, been to the most amazing parties with famous people, VIP areas, you name it. But sometimes you need to know when enough is enough, and for me 4.5 years in Dubai was enough. Time to find an apartment in Amsterdam and start a new chapter! 


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