I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front since I got back to the UK as it’s taken a little bit of time to readjust back to normality again. I can’t quite believe I’ve been back for 7 weeks, its flown by and in my usual fashion I’ve been here there and everywhere including attending the awesome Snap Photography Festival a few days after landing. I’ll write up a separate blog post on my Snap adventures so keep your eyes peeled for that.

My last month in New Zealand was incredible. I set off on more adventures to discover parts of the south island and beyond. My first stop was to Christchurch where I met up with one of my besties from high school. It was great to see her with her family and the place she now calls home. We took a trip to Hamner Springs where we whiled away a day in the awesome natural hot springs, headed over to stunning Akoroa, explored the french village, saw 4 amazing sperm whales in Kaikoura, saw 100’s of beautiful dolphins and spent time in Rangiora before I packed the car and set off on my solo south island road trip.

I embarked on my drive from Christchurch and headed for the rugged west coast. I had to make my way across the infamous Arthurs Pass which was a little hairy at times as I seemed to hit these crazy winds that Kiwis love talking about and quite frankly I don’t understand! I also managed to enter Arthurs Pass just as a storm came in so I can’t tell you how happy I was to get to the other side safe and sound. It really is beautiful though. I arrived in Hokitika in torrential rain and waited to check in to a cute little B&B that used to be a doctors surgery. A great little place with fantastic hospitality.

I decided after checking the weather forecast that I was going to do a glacier hike and so I got myself booked on for the very next day! After a sleepless night due to the gut wrenching nerves, I headed to Franz Josef. What a beautiful drive to get there. The south island is truly something else. The landscape is stunning… vast countryside backed by magnificent snow capped mountain ranges with the rugged coastline to the west. Truly breathtaking and a photographers paradise. The only issue I kept coming across was I’d see something I wanted to take photos of but there was literally nowhere safe to pull over so I’d just have to keep the memory in my mind. When I got to Franz Josef and checked in, I headed over to Fox glacier where I was doing my heli hike. What can I say but wow! From the helicopter ride (another thing to tick off the bucket list) flying up over the stunning landscape and landing on a glacier, to hiking on this natural wonder for hours, drinking fresh glacial water, to falling into a very cold and sharp ice pool (yes that happened!) and not letting that ruin it to heading back down in the helicopter was truly an experience never to forget!

Next stop Queenstown. It took about 6 hours to get down there driving past more breathtaking landscapes. I absolutely loved QTown. Such a great vibe with so much to do including the awesome gondola which is tonnes of fun with great views over the city, a fab nightlife and yummy restaurants. From here I decided to take a trip to Milford Sound. I’d heard so many good things about it that I had to go despite the early start and long journey. Unfortunately though the day I went it rained and the visibility wasn’t the best but it was still incredible. The scale of this place is unbelievable, you’ve got to see it to believe it. Try and spot the big boats in the images which might give you an indication of the scale. There were magnificent waterfalls, beautiful wildlife and lots of tourists!!

Before heading back up the south island there was one thing that I’ve always wanted to do and I’d been waiting to come across the right place in the world to do it… a skydive!! Queenstown seemed to be the most perfect place to do one and so I kept everything crossed for the weather conditions to be right and booked myself on to do a 15,000ft tandem skydive! As the nerves built I felt sick especially when the 10am slot I’d booked on was cancelled and again the 11am was also cancelled. It was last chance saloon with the 12pm slot as I really needed to set off on the next leg of my road trip… after a nervous wait and arriving at the office it was great news, the skydive was ON!! Honestly it is THE MOST INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!! I absolutely loved it. I’ve included one image taken by my awesome jump master which I love. Thank you N-Zone, hopefully I’ll be back to do more jumps in the future as I can totally see why its so addictive.

It was with a heavy heart I left Queenstown on a complete high still after the skydive and headed up to Tekapo. There’s a beautiful little church there called the Church of Good Shepherd which I believe is the most photographed church in NZ. I can see why, it’s in a very pretty spot with virtually no light pollution in the sky to get those awesome starry night shots. I wasn’t so lucky though as there was complete cloud coverage that night but hey I still wandered out at 2am and took a snap or two.

The next day I drove to Lake Pukaki with its crystal clear turquoise water. You have to see it to believe it, trust me. Truly stunning. And there looming in the background is Mount Cook. Probably one of my favourite places in NZ!

It was then time to head back to Christchurch before flying to Wellington on the north island the next morning and meeting up with one of my lovely photographer friends Kim who I had the pleasure to second shoot with for his sister in laws wedding. Before that happened though I managed to have a little explore. I loved Wellington, definitely my kind of city, a really fun vibe about the place and it was fab that I happened to be there during a great little Cuban festival which was cool.

After a few fun and fabulous days in Wellington I flew back down to the south island and drove over to the start of Abel Tasman national park. I was so excited about this place. You can only access the park on foot or by sea. I had all these plans to hike and do a kayak tour so was very excited. I headed over to Awaroa by boat which was quite far up the national park and was dropped off on a stunning and secluded golden beach. The lodge I was staying in was lovely and surrounded by native bush. The next day a storm had a hit and everyone was advised not to head out on any hikes and it was definitely not the day to be kayaking! I met 3 lovely girls who I can now call friends and we spent the day drinking wine and having loads of laughs. I did manage to go on a small hike once the storm had passed though with the girls as we headed off to get on my boat. My time there was short but definitely sweet and I’ll absolutely go back and spend more time on this little slice of heaven.

Easter weekend was fast approaching so it was time to head over to Marlborough and meet up with Jo and co for the weekend. I was in vineyard heaven and definitely had fun trying out beautiful wines including a trip to one of my fave vineyards, Cloudy Bay. We then spent a few nights on Adam’s parents boat sailing around the Marlborough sounds which was great fun and pretty stunning. It was great to visit Ships Cove too where Captain Cook anchored his boat back in 1770.

It was time to say goodbye to the south island and head back to Auckland for my last few weeks. I managed to fit in a few nights out, get a tattoo on my dad’s anniversary, visit Piha and Murawai on the stunning west coast, spend quality time with Jo and the family and contemplate what an incredible and life changing experience I’d had. This trip has been incredible from start to finish. I’ve done so many things out of my comfort zone, felt unbelievable highs,  felt a few lows too whilst contemplating how far I’ve come in the last few years after horrendous heart break, made awesome new friends, spent quality time with life long friends, laughed so much, been bitten alive, used so much sun block, clocked up a fair few miles, took so many flights, seen so many beaches, drank so much delicious coffee, enjoyed the infamous NZ wines and ultimately I’ve come home having left a little piece of my heart in the southern hemisphere.

I’ll definitely be back. x