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Here is a bit of a diary we kept during out test trip in New Zealand in 2004. Part of the purpose was to try out living in a camper van for 3 weeks to see how it was, what amenities really were needed, and to have some fun.

Unfortunately at some point we lost the latter 2/3 of the diary, so this is a bit truncated, but gives an idea of what we saw and did.


Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 01:51:49 +0000

May 1st:
Took afternoon flight out of Seattle to LA international.  From LAX it was onto Aukland (13 hour flight), didn't sleep very well during the flight.  Our flight acutally arrived 30 mins early, we were there early in the morning 5am, waited for a few hours for our shuttle to the campervan rental place.  We landed on the 3rd of May, effectively losing a day.

May 3rd:
Amy had been expecting the campervan that we had rented to be a standard sized vehicle, as it turns out, it was about 30 meters long, longer than an extended van.  A bit too spacious for us.  Erik was mighty spooked at the prospect of driving such a behemoth.  Yes he was very freaked indeed.  That on top of the novelty of driving on the left side of the road made for a very twitchy Erik.

Then Amy realized that she had the ferry ride booked for the 4th, which meant that they had to drive all the way from Auckland to Wellington in one day!!!  Hadn't accounted for the lost day when pre-booking the ferry.  This was easily corrected by calling up the ferry folks, and post-poning our booking by a few days.  Then we were off on our trip South.

We drove along the highway one, and stopped first night at a pull out outside of the town of Taupo (by lake Taupo).  Taupo is NZ's largest lake.  It rained during most of our drive.  Crappy weather.

May 4th:
Drove some more along the west coast in wind and rain.  By then we had noticed one thing: New Zealand's roads are twisty.  In fact, they are nothing but!  What a motorcyclist's dream!

Made it all the way to Wellington, but decided, after driving around a bit, that it was no place to park a 30m vehicle, so we headed back out of town.

Stopped to spend the night in Kaitoke National Park.  Spoke to the Ranger there and found out that Kaitoke Park, the dell that it was in, was the setting for the filming of "Rivendell" of the famous Lord of the Rings Movie.

That night, we slept through rain and gale force winds, rocking our little Campervan.

May 5th:
More CRAPPY weather.  Wind and rain.

Went to the grocery store.  Finally!  Had been subsisting on nothing but Gummy Candy (packed for the trip) and a bag of Museli that we had bought in a convenience store in the little town of (insert name of town with giagantic dog here).

Bought some food, TP and a steak (Amy always get a hankering for Steak after a super long international flight).

Came back and explored the Rivendell location a bit more, before getting our clothes soaked.  All we really saw was a dell, the set had been taken down long ago.

That night we celebrated Erik's 20th, with some Bunderberg, Steak, potatoes, and Pavlova.  Happiest of B'day's bubby!

Spent the night in Kaitoke again.

May 6th:
Ferry, Day!  Drove into Wellington and caught an early sailing across to the South Island.  The ferry ride was about 3hrs long.  The shipped listed 30 degrees to the side most of the way, strong winds but sunny weather.

We landed in the sunny town of Picton, charming, but small.

We commenced our drive down the west coast of the South Island, down highway 6, towards Queenstown.  First things that we noticed about the South Island, it was less tropical and thus had more evergreens, and had much less traffic and people.

Sunny skies.  We stopped right past Nelson, in an overlook.

May 7th:
More driving.

Stopped to see a seal colony on the coast.

Stopped at a campervan park a short distance from the "Pancake Rocks".  It was nice getting to finally do our laundary, and have a nice long, hot shower (camper van had a shower, but we had to be quick about it to conserve water.)  Also nice to have a "dump"-station to access, and refill our fresh water!

Checked out the local attraction:  Pancake Rocks.  Beautiful, large, and awe inspiring, only pictures or video would do it justice.

May 8th:
Again checked out the Pancake Rocks, this time with a camera.  Then drove on to see Franz Glacier, first time I got up close and personal with a glacier.  Very exciting!

Stopped for some touristy stuff in a town after Greymouth, call H - (forgot the name).  Got to see captive Kiwi-birds.  Of the 3 we saw, one seemed to be very territorial and into running back and forth.  Can still recall the sound of his "pat-pat-pat" along the rocks, rather aggressive fellow.

Went to a "New World" grocery store for groceries and noticed a little GXR 50 parked in the parking lot!  Would see that in the states!

More driving, stopped and spent the night in a pulled out in the mountains.

May 9th:
Drove on to another Glacier, Fox Glacier.  Built a cairn.  Saw a Kea - parrot on the way back to the parking lot.  Saw more beautiful country side, in the sun.

Spent the night in the mountains on a beautiful pull out overlooking Queenstown (just beside a cattle guard).  If anything was a testimony to the view, it was the frequent stopping of cars with people coming to take piccies of the spectacular view.   It was a bit chilly, we were parked up where there was evidence of some snow.

May 10th:

Drove into Queenstown.

Walked along Omar Park, and went and did some touristy thing.

Had coffee and lunch in a Cafe and then found an internet cafe and wrote some email.

Queenstown is very reminiscent of the resort town of Jackson hole Wyoming, except for the fact that here, in Queenstown they have a huge glassy lake to go with the Mountains and resort life.  Beautiful, would love to live on the outskirts of such a town, lake, hills, mountains.  Saw some paraglide tandem rides taking off of the local gondala topped hill



May 11th:

Crappy cloud covered weather.  Decided to drive down to Milford Sound, in Fiordland anyway.  Was hoping to get a great view of the beautiful fiords.

Drive in was spectacular, despite the cloud cover, we hundreds of waterfall cascading, down sheer granite mountains, rising up to forever, as we drove through a gorges and gullies.  We drove through a nearly mile-long tunnel, where passage for the opposing traffic was metered with a traffic light at either end.  It was a tunnel blasted through a sheer rock face, and Erik marvelled at the surveying skills needed to blast a tunnel so that it would emerge out of the face at the right location.

Arrived at Milford Sound, expecting a small fishing village, only to find a tourist center and a cafe.  "This is it?", we thought to ourselves.  The view was pretty much obscured by the cloud cover and the cafe (cafe only by name if you ask me!) was rude and pompous enough to post a sign warning of a $15 fee for folks who would hang out in their fascilities eating food that was not bought on site.  (What about diebetics?  We would ask ourselves.)  Not coming back there again, except maybe in the summer time, for kayaking...

Drove out of Fiordland, past Queenstown.  Spent the night in an RV park at Cromwell.  They had co-ed showers, of course, you know we wouldn't pass that up for the world.  The restaurant at the RV park was nothing to bray about, but we did try out a steak-pie just to see what that was all about.  Conclusion about meat pies:  not a big deal.

May 12th:

Drove through rain and clouds, heading north.

We stopped early in an unsightly pullout.  Sheep were there to greet us in the morning.

May 13th:
Drove up north to Hamner Springs a resort town built around natural springs.  Got there, had lunch.

Rented a private pool for half an hour at the springs (and HAD FUN HEHEHEH).  Then went and hung out at the public hot chlorine pools, and sulfur pools, kept at a toasty 41C.  It was nice, relaxing.  Our silver rings turned rainbow colors in the sulfur pools.  By the time we had showered and got ready to go, it was dark!

Spent the night in a gravel pit.

May 14th:
Woke up EARLY because Erik couldn't sleep in the gravel pit.  Drove north and east to the eastern coast to a little eco-tourism town Kaikoura.  Walked up and down the main drag.  Contemplated going swimming with the dolphins, but Amy was too chicken!!!  (Bad weather).

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