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Traveling New Zealand in a Campervan Rental

The best way to travel New Zealand.

Last night we left the relative warmth of the Australian spring to fly into a New Zealand winter and see if we could live in a hired campervan for 2 weeks. Our flight was pleasant enough, with a stand out air safety announcement video from Air New Zealand which was actually quite funny. This plus a mini-bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with dinner, means that Singapore Air has some competition again!

We landed just before midnight and having ticked several boxes on the declaration form (food? Check (jelly sweets); Wooden objects? Check (tacky Australian Christmas decoration); Walking boots? Check; Been in a forest in the past forever? Check!) we expected a long delay at customs. Instead after a quick check of our boots we were through and on our way to the last hotel we’ll stay in until we reach the Cook Islands in October. It was a delightful place and reminded me why I always thought so highly of New Zealand’s motels following my previous visit here. The only odd thing was a jacuzzi bath in the room behind a glass screen, but the bed was so comfy there could have been needle exchange there and it wouldn’t have mattered, Last night in a proper bed for a while!

A restful nights sleep later and we were off to pick up our mobile home for the next three weeks – a two person, or what they call 2 Berth Motorhome, complete with toilet and shower and who knows what else! We were shown what was what by a pleasant German lady and after signing our life away we were up and on the road. First stop was to pick up supplies in Christchurch for the coming week and to find Kellie some reasonable trainers, as flip-flops and sandals aren’t going to cut it when it’s 7°C outside. Eventually, we found a suitable pair for a bargain $9.95 and we were ready to hit the highway, heading for Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain and the pinnacle of the Southern Alps. This was a mere 400km away. We were to be staying in a Department of Conservation campsite at the foot of the mountains, surrounded by the alps and several apparently spectacular walks. The walks may be spectacular but nothing compares the spectacular nature of New Zealand’s scenery.

As we drove from Christchurch, running with us all the way were snow capped mountains, running down the spine of the country. As we turned away from the coast and started heading in-land the road became more twisty and uneven but the surroundings more and more impressive. As we rounded a bend, Kellie at one stage let out an involuntary gasp of “Oh my God!” as she saw the shores of Lake Tekapo Our new home! We pulled in for a photo opportunity and ate ham sandwiches down by the crystal clear waters. By now the sun had started to set and a distinct chill was hitting the air and so we jumped back in the campervan hire and set sail for our destination. The road was nearly deserted as we wound our way down the valley into the Alps, both intoxicated at what we were seeing.

Edmund, our resident New Zealand Sat-Nav did us proud, getting us to the campsite before it was dark. Having fought some ducks who were trying to camp on our roof (bloody freeloaders!) we set about making dinner inside the campervan. I chopped and Kellie became the Mount Cook Cook, knocking up a decent stir-fry with fairly basic utensils. A glass of Monkey Bay wine washed it down, followed up by cups of tea under the stars in the chilly night air. If anything the mountains were even more impressive at night, illuminated by hundreds of stars, wisps of cloud breaking upon their rocky peaks. If I hadn’t proposed to Kellie over a year ago, I think this would have been a perfect time to get her finger out. I think Kellie is beginning to see why I have raved about New Zealand for such a long time now.

Tomorrow, assuming we survive the cold tonight, we’re going to do some walking in the Southern Alps before heading in our trust camper to our next stop, just 20km away in Waikuku, where we’ll be able to get hot showers and turn a heater on! (The DoC campsites we are staying at are basic, with running water and toilets and not much else).

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