Driving from Christchurch to Queenstown, New Zealand

New Zealand - 1986 Nissan LargoI was going to rent a car for the drive but after doing the math it became obvious that buying a car was the cheaper option so I set about looking for a vehicle to purchase. There are loads of backpackers who make the trip from Auckland (AKL) to Christchurch (CHC) and then sell their cars in CHC so I had plenty of options to choose from but not a lot of time. I looked at a few vehicles and finally settled on a campervan. I was hesitant but excited so I made the jump and bought it. I’m now the proud owner of a not-so-new 1986 Nissan Largo!

New Zealand - Christchurch to Queenstown

The Dutch girl I bought it from gave me a quick lesson on how to drive manual before I purchased the van. As I soon found out, the hardest part about driving manual is in the low speed range. 1st gear and reverse are where I stall the most. Once I’m in 2nd gear it’s no problem. I set off at about 07:30 yesterday morning and thanks to Google maps was on the right path in no time at all. Barely 30 minutes into the drive I was out into the gorgeous countryside. From here on in it was a matter of trying to take in the beautiful scenery and maintain focus on the road. No joke, the scenery is incredible!!

New Zealand - Lake Tekapo

A little further on I came across Lake Pukaki which provided an even better view in my opinion. It’s directly south of Aoraki and luckily the sky was clear so I got a perfect view. From here on there are signs for Queenstown so the rest of the journey was pretty easy. I stopped a few more times to rest and take photos. I would highly recommend to anyone to drive this route rather than take a bus. Yes, you can see things from the bus but you don’t have the freedom to stop anywhere you like. The tourist buses will stop but they are quite expensive compared to driving and splitting the cost with a couple of people.Since I’m a complete stick shift rookie I stalled out many times. The most embarrassing ones happened when I was pulling into and out of petrol stations. Oh and petrol is really expensive here! 2NZD per liter! (~6 USD per gallon). I also made a wrong turn when getting onto Hwy 8 and drove about 55km in the wrong direction which really sucked cause I wasted an hour and about 20NZD worth of petrol. Once I got going in the right direction I laid my eyes upon Aoraki (Mount Cook) and the beautiful Lake Tekapo. It’s breathtaking!

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