Driving across the South Island in a campervan
Trip Start May 29, 2009
7Trip End Jun 21, 2009
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The flight across the southern alps snow clad peaks was picturesque. Once at Christchurch we took a Green cab to Wilderness motor homes depot. This was going to be our first ever campervan holiday and we were pretty excited as well as apprehensive. We had picked out wilderness at the internet after checking out lot of other big names. Not because they were the lowest priced. I am sure we could have got a lower priced deal with the others. But what wilderness seemed to offer was honest transparent rates for vehicle which seemed to be outfitted with all conceivable requirements
we then took off and hit the highway! Well not exactly, first we went to a mall to pickup some food necessities. Then while trying to maneouvre a somewhat larger unfamiliar vehicle, in a new country on the first day and figuring out how to navigate with a map (we still have not used a GPS yet. It simply does not seem as much fun!! ) and road signs, we finally managed to hit the highway in the direction of Dunedin, our choice. At this time must mention that out here this time of the year the sun sets at about 4 PM. By about 5 PM it is something like what it is at 9 PM back home! So we decided to halt and start off the morning next day. The internet informs freedom camping is not permitted at all locations, but we take the chance, take care not to attract attention. Cover all windows, low volume on the TV etc. and prepare ourselves a great meal of fish and bread.
Day 2: The next morning we again take off
By afternoon we reached Dunedin, spent sometime at the lookout points, and watching penguins in the wild returning from the sea and walking up the beach!! For the night we were a bit unsure as to where to camp and were asking for directions at a take away joint. Another customer offered to lead us to a motorocamp site and took us to a reasonable one at Dunedin. So this was our first opportunity to work the flushing out grey, black water and filling in fresh.
Day 3: We now intend to cut across the south island towards the East coast and possibly Milford Sound/Queenstown. Having no idea of the terrain and how much time it might take us to reach were not sure of where we would reach. Enroute we decided to hit MIlford Sound straightaway. The landscape on this route changes dramatically from the coastal to green pastures and meadows with grazing sheep all over. In some fenced off area we even came across deer being raised like any other cattle. Apparently New zealand is a major world exporter of venison. But once we crossed the Manapouri/ Te anau area the landscape again changed to stark snow clad mountains!
Arrowtown used to be a gold mining destination and has a large settlement of chinese immigrants from those days
Day 4: I start off the vehicle immediately upon waking up before anyone can come and object to our free camping. We reach Wanaka, park beside the lake to use the restrooms and freshen up. I then drive off on the road presumably heading towards Fox Glacier. However after doing some 10-20 kms I realise the road has become narrower, highway to back country winding, and then all of a sudden a mud track! I do see that some of the ranchers around rear deer and have choppers in their garage. However neither am I piloting a helicopter nor am I driving a 4 WD SUV. So what am I doing with a low clerance campervan on a mudtrack and No insurance coverage on such roads! I naturally turn around drive back to Wanaka. Considering it is a back country with hardly any vehicle to be seen, I speed up to try and make up for the lost time. At one point I suddenly found a pickup truck suddenly overtaking me at even higher speed. I was initially taken aback at the rude gesture, then thankfully got into a high speed chase, with the pickup acting as a pilot vehicle. He had some kind of special number on his license plate so must have been a local hot shot. Anyways at one point he simply drove on to the side and halted. I passed by gesturing a kind of thank you. However wife points out that far from returning a friendly gesture he seemed to be frowning and definitely angry! Looking back at my stupidity I feel like kicking myself, for while driving into Wanaka, we are soon tailed by a police car with its top light blinking
Day 5 : Fox Glacier was a short drive from the campsite, This is our first Glacier view and what a magnificient sight it is. As if a raging river has been frozen while in motion. but that is what it supposed to be ..We head upto Greymounth and instead of heading further up towards hanmer Spring, we turn inland towards Arthurs Pass. Intention was to camp at some location at Arthurs Pass or thereabouts, however it is dark and we keep moving on till we finally reach Christchurh. This route is highly scenic, I guess we could not really get the maximum out of it at night, anyway we had already had a heavy overdose of scenic views..Once at Christchurch it became quite an effort to find a place to camp
Day 6: Having checked in we still drove out with our campervan and visited the Anatarctic Experience center. This is a must do in Christchurh. The free ride on the real all terrain Hugglund vehicle which takes extremely steep gradients and also can move in submerged conditions on the deep water bed. The hugglund is the vehicle of choice in anatarctic.
Day 7: This is the day to return to Oz from NZ. We reach the motorhomes depot and transfer and take back the stuff we had left with them. Roby the eversmiling guy drops us off at the airport in his stationwagon. Just after he waves and leaves us we realise that we are not carrying the video camera, some frantic calls later they inform us that it is found in Roby's car and NO problem he would come by again to the airport and give it to us.
We are flying Pacific Blue, a low cost airline of the region