New Zealand - Land of Superlatives

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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What I did
Riccarton Westfield Mall

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, December 4, 2011

We're coming to the end of our time here much further down under and I am for one sad to leave. It’s the first time we have departed to move on somewhere else and been a little saddened by it. Up to now we have always thought we got the amount of time just about right. 5 weeks in China was tiring but it gave us enough time to enjoy it without being fed up. Just over 2 weeks in Vietnam was crazy but wonderful. Australia’s East Coast on the whole was a bit like a travelling frat party which when you could get away from was excellent but we felt like we had spent enough time there.

Three weeks travelling these two terrific islands is no where near enough time to savour it. After getting rid of the camper I miss it loads and could quite have happily dragged out our time trundling along and sitting in the middle of nowhere with nobody for miles around taking it all in. This country is Middle Earth; it is a country of amazing, tremendous, awe-inspiring, spectacular sights and of proud welcoming people. We have taken it to heart and are sorry it is such a long way from our home or we’d come back every year I would think.

I hope on the whole that is what has come across in what little I have been able to dedicate to the blog in New Zealand. I am ashamed my vocabulary is not strong enough to put into words what this country deserves.

Now for those who are yet to travel to these islands Kate and I put together a 20 strong list of questions we asked ourselves when driving round – you may find you ask the same questions, you may not but either way I have added some answers for your enjoyment and revelation. You might find them in no particular order.

1.       Can you still see Orion’s belt in the south?

YES! Very visible but the constellation is upside down.

2.       When you use a DOC campsite, do the wardens actually bother to come round and check if you have paid?

YES! They do, but at the same time if you scamper out before about 8am they won’t get you. We only did this once however because we didn’t have change. Otherwise pay – it’s very cheap and the plethora of camping sites on offer make the 'donation’ worth it.

3.       What does ERP stand for on all the chainage signposts along the road? 

A Land Surveying term "Established Route Position" which is used to demarcate benchmarks along a highway for specific features.

4.       What does WOF stand for in relation to vehicles for sale or garages?

Warrant Of Fitness (It’s like an MOT in the UK).

5.       How do you get the petrol pump to stay on automatically without needing to stand there for 10 minutes while it fills?

Squeeze the trigger and then pull back the little latch by your baby finger until the trigger holds. Then stand away and admire the petrol being pumped in without your input.

6.       Why are Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki that colour blue?

The turquoise blue colour of Lake Tekapo is created by "rock flour": The glaciers in the headwaters grind the rock into fine dust.  These suspended particles in combination with the sunlight create Lake Tekapo's unique water colour.

7.       What is that brown little bird of prey that flies around nearly everywhere pinching up possum from the road and stalking things in the fields?

It is the New Zealand Falcon. The only remaining bird of Prey endemic to New Zealand.

8.       Why do there appear to be so many cows in a country renowned for it’s sheep?

Apparently this is to do with the fact that New Zealand used to just trade with the UK but when European trading agreements came in (when the UK joined the EU) New Zealand had to go out and find different markets to trade in – cows appear to be quite a good product for the rest of the world.

9.       What are the little midges that keep eating me and drawing blood?

The New Zealand Sandfly is a little bugger. They get you mainly in the morning and at dusk and are sadly pretty much everywhere near moving water or bush (not moving bush – that would be weird). They bite and take some blood with them. They are easy to squish.

10.   Are there actually any tunnels in New Zealand?

We found one that we remember in over 4500km of driving. It was approximately 50m long (if that) and was found on the Northern side of Wellington. Campervanning in New Zealand would be a hell of a lot easier with tunnels everywhere, but it would also be a hell of a lot more dull. There is also apparently a tunnel on the way to Lyttelton.

11.   Will my campervan fall over in strong winds?

If you are lucky – apparently not. It feels pretty bad and I would recommend pulling over and not driving on. The Toyota Hiace (standard 3 berth) appears to be more unstable than most as it is a little runaround van which has been extended on top. It’s tight wheelbase makes it ideal for a runaround but when converted to a camper makes it a little shaky under wind.

12.   Is it worth getting the camper with the headroom to stand up in?

Yes – the little people carriers look great to drive around in but if the weather is poor you have next to no space. The Hiace’s have a proper little living area. I would on a return however go a size up and get the ‘minibus’ sized campers.

13.   Why are Maori’s so big?

Various answers have been suggested including a simple diet but it appears to be one of those things which is common throughout Polynesia.

14.   What are the most important things to bring when Campervanning?

Warm Clothes (even in summer as at night when you need to pee you can damn well bet it’s freezing)

A Torch (Pretty much same reason as above – it will be bloody dark when you gotta go pee – We had to result in using Kate’s Kindle light for toilet trips. Not many of the DOC drop toilets have lights in them).

Petrol – Always keep then van filled up. Don’t let it go low like you may do at home as you never know where the next garage may be.

Entertainment – It gets quiet out in the sticks. We have been particularly proud of our Kindles. I have read about 20 books while travelling and have had to carry the smallest of weights for the benefit. My kindle allows me to have a little library with me so when I get bored of a book I can just swap it out there and then. A Good example of this is how mid ‘The Two Towers’ I was getting a bit bored of Frodo and Sam marching off with Gollum and so took a side read of ‘Fever Pitch’, one of my favourite ever books. It has left me refreshed, ready to tackle the end of the Two Towers without hating Frodo too much.

15.   Would a cow explode if it wasn’t milked?

I am under the understanding, No – they will not explode. It would be a very protracted test to carry out and I am not patient enough or cruel enough to see what happens though. They probably get a bit uncomfortable for a while and then you would have to call a vet.

16.   What are the stone piles long Lindis Pass by the side of the road (nr Omarama)?

This is random roadside art. Someone did a cairn a long time ago for no reason other than to stack rocks (if you’ve got time, why not?) and since then motorists have just pulled up and made their own. The stretch of road has apparently nearly dried up of loose rock now.

17.   What are the flowers called at the side of the road everywhere in the South Island?

Lupinus polyphyllus have escaped into the wild and grow in large numbers along main roads and streams on the South Island. They are seen as an invasive species by the Department of Conservation as they are not native to New Zealand.

18.   How do you get to Edoras from Lord of the Rings (without paying through the nose on a tour?) and where was the biggest battle of the Lord of The Rings filmed near Twizel (as advertised by a local tour company)?

The pivotal battle at Pelennor Field and scenes involving the Eastemnet Gullies were filmed on the spectacular Ben-Ohau high country sheep station located in the Mackenzie Basin, near Twizel. The farm is nestled at the foot of the Southern Alps in the South Island of New Zealand.

Edoras is found at Mount Sunday, near to Mount Somers. We had a nightmare finding it and turned round but we probably drove right past it.

19.   Should you choose to go on the Kiwi Experience or travel under your own devices?

 Own devices. You can choose your time on your own, you set your own itinerary, and the cost is probably less than the price of Kiwi. These tours sound great and if you are keen on drinking your way around NZ, then it is probably the way to go. However, they also seem a little bit like a university freshers week (wet T-shirt comps etc) and if you are going to University, it is worth waiting for it there (it will be much cheaper and the pubs/bars are better in the UK). The Kiwi stops at a lot of expensive adventure centres where you can go Bungee jumping, Rafting etc – but if that’s not your thing then don’t do it – you will get bored (or so we have been informed). If you are on your own, there is also a magic bus which seems a little bit less ‘crazy forced fun’. We’re getting a little bit old fartish though being married for 3 years already at the age of 26 and 28 respectively, so that’s why we chose against it. We wanted to enjoy the natural New Zealand and that’s what we got. Wonderful.

20.   Why can you not get standard pork pies, the most excellent type of savoury pie in the world in a country known for good pies (as was Australia)? Sub Question – Can you get Jaffa Cakes anywhere?

There is no answer to the first part of this question. I am still struggling without. Jaffa Cakes however can be found at a small shop next to Riccarton Westfield Mall in Christchurch on Riccarton Road. They cost $4.50 for a pack of 12.

It is pretty much the last week of our 5 month long Summer which started in July in the UK, carried on through desperately humid China in September, staying hot and humid throughout Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, getting more comfortable in Australia and being a perfect English Spring/Summer in New Zealand for November. We today bought some thermals in 25 degrees celcius in a sale in Christchurch just before flying to Fiji for our last hurrah of sun. That was weird, but we have to prepare for the oncoming freeze which will greet us just before Christmas in Chicago.

On a side note, we played Crazy golf in a lovely little place on an industrial estate in Christchurch today. I won by a clear 8 shots over Kate who was typically sour in loss. I would have been just as bad had I lost but I found Kate’s bitterness amusing considering early on in the competition she made a big point of saying the reason why she was winning (it soon turned around) was because I put too much pressure on myself and take things too seriously. Considering she doesn’t take things seriously, she sure as hell takes them badly. Nur. Caddyshack, as it was called was a nicely modeled indoor course. It was $14 each and very much enjoyed by both of us. We took in a reasonably priced sundae to finish the round at the Caddyshack Café.

Moving on and hopefully Fiji will be a week of doing nothing but drinking beer (not the draft as apparently it contains methanol), getting tanned (T shirt tans up till now) and swimming around with a snorkel on. We have nothing planned beyond that. If anything exciting happens – you’ll be sure to find out, otherwise I’ll catch up with you all when we are in Los Angeles.
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