We've been in New Zealand for about a week now. We flew into Christchurch and after catching our breath for a day, headed west in a campervan. I'll post more about Christchurch later.
Christchurch sits at the edge of a massive plain, and we drove through perfectly flat farmland for a while before the road started winding into the mountains. Dan took this awesome sheep photo when we stopped to admire some middle-earthian rocks.
I didn't get many good shots of the mountains we crossed- the band of mountains that run down the center of the South Island- but the above is representative. The mountains aren't super tall but they are big enough to command a great deal of presence.
We drove through Arthur's pass, which featured a steep descent to the west which included a scary viaduct that spanned a large portion of mountain. This being my first day driving on the left, I was gripping the wheel in terror as we tooled down the steep viaduct with sheer drop offs on either side of the road.
We made it safely to the campground about 30k west of the pass, and enjoyed a little hike out to a waterfall near the campground. The west side of the pass is covered in jungle-y rainforest, and it was neat to walk amongst the giant tree ferns and other tropical type plants.
The next day, after a morning ride (mine short as I was still suffering from a bad cold; Dan climbed the pass), we headed to the Westland town of Punakaiki, which has really cool rocks. The coast here is really gorgeous! We did a really great ride north up the coast the next day, which rolled nicely and featured some pretty cool views.
There are blowholes in the rocks, but we were there at the wrong time of day and saw only modest waves.
Punakaiki is adjacent to the Paparoa national park, and we took a small tramp along a river into the jungle. The cliffs were quite steep along the river and we saw a lot of the red flowering trees (one is pictured above) high up in the cliffs. All in all a good start to our trip! I was feeling fairly crummy at the beginning, due to jet lag and a bad cold, but things were on the upswing by the time that we got to Punakaiki. Next up: glaciers.