43 days in a car in New Zealand...
01.10.2009 - 01.31.2009
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.
For three months we have spent 24 hours a day together and we are both still alive. This is especially amazing since we have been living, sleeping and driving around New Zealand in a very small minivan for the last 43 days. In general, we really enjoyed our time in New Zealand. We suspect that after a week in bustling Hanoi or Bangkok we'll be craving the peace and quiet of Kiwi land, but for now, we are ready to move on to Australia for some new scenery. Six weeks was a good amount of time to hit almost every corner of this small country.
A few observations about New Zealand and then some photos to show you the highlights.
- The people are called Kiwis, not for the popular fruit, but for a flightless, nocturnal bird that has a lot going against it, but is known for being a true survivor.
- There are more sheep than people in New Zealand. In fact we've heard a statistic that on average 500 Kiwis a day are leaving to move to Australia. Thus there is a huge need for migrant workers. Even we could apply for a work visa to pick wine grapes, kiwifruit or apples.
- NZ seems to be built around its wildlife, nature and agriculture, with adventure sports as a bonus. Tourism seems to be the booming business. Other industries seem to be hurting and dealing with recession.
- New Zealanders, in general, are kind, but seem to be abrupt and brief in conversation. Even the trained information specialists are inclined to conceal information, rather than reveal it. Perhaps they are trying to keep the country's hidden gems a secret from tourists.
- No matter where you go in the country, the weather reports always indicate it is FINE with a slight chance of SHOWERS.
- Sandflies are by far the worst creature in the country. They have a mean bite with an itch that lasts a week. The sandflies took at least a pint of blood from Elizabeth. A theory on the street is that Dave was not attacked, because the critters couldn't get through his hairy arms and legs.
- New Zealand is an extraordinarily easy country to drive around in terms of distance. However, the drivers are maniacs. They love to tailgate and to speed on narrow, curvy mountain roads. They make Boston drivers look lame. A British guy we met (who was quite cool and we suspect a pretty suave driver) told us he was pulled over for going too slow, which would be a distraction to the crazy Kiwis on the road. That made us laugh!! Note to Pat, Ellen and Doug.....DO NOT BIKE ON THESE ROADS - we love you too much!
- Campervans are everywhere. We think more people live in cars in NZ than in homes, and there are enough public toilets and showers to prove this point.
- NZ is an ultimate playground. They thrive on adventure sports, even for the youngest Kiwis around.
- We were very surprised that all of the small towns we drove through looked the same - a model from 1970 with one or two strips of shops with all basic stores. There wasn't one that blew us away with some New England charm or character. Dave was expecting a country full of charming villages and was very disappointed with their absence.
- Kiwis have some great sayings:
"SWEET AS" This is used in the following way. "Dave, that hike up Mt. Cook was sweet as .... " In other words, that hike was cool. What's funny is that Dave thought Kiwis kept saying to him SWEET ASS. He said thanks, would smile and quickly move on ; - )
"SAME. SAME" This mean same old, same old.
Queenstown: a view from the botanical gardens and then downtown. Outdoor bowling clubs are huge in popularity with the elderly. Rugby is the game of choice for the youngins.
Milford Sound: Part of Fjordland National Park, Milford Sound is known for its amazingly high sea cliffs. Mitre Peak has the second highest sea cliff in the world. This area was formed by the meltdown of glaciers and are interestingly fjords, not a sound. We got up close by kayak to see the cliffs and the wildlife.
More photos from Fjordland National Park. We opted not to do the famous Milford Trek and instead completed several day hikes in the area.
We did a day hike along the Routeburn Track, one of the Great Walks.
Getrude's Saddle - a fabulous hike to get a birdseye view of Milford Sound.
Lake Te Anau at the head of Fjordland National Park.
How does anyone know how to get somewhere when they speed by signs like this?
Starting from the busy town of Middlemarch, we did a 68k bike ride along the Otago Rail Trail. Again, more sheep than riders on this route which is known for its tunnels and viaducts.
The Steepest Street in the World, Dunedin, NZ.
Moeraki Boulders are a mystery formation in the Pacific Ocean. There are various theories on how they formed and why they formed there. Google it!
Shag Point, NZ: Trying to see animals in their natural habitat has some hidden dangers. Sea lions, who disguise themselves in the rocks, popped up on our arrival, and we couldn't get that close to the yellow-eyed penguins (the rarest penguin in the world), but look close, you'll see them.
Oamaru, NZ: more sea lions and signs of penguins in the area. We could have paid to get up close, but we put a ban on penguin prisons!
Mt. Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain. We got a magnificent view when we approached and were amazed by the turquoise waters at its base. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in for several days of torrential rain, so our planned hike was nixed.
Christchurch was definitely the city with the most character in NZ. It had plenty of bars and craft fairs in various neighborhoods, all with different flavor. They have a great art museum. We also discovered a local drink that we love, it's like ginger ale, but better.
We ventured east of Christchurch to the hilly and winding roads of the Banks Peninsula with it's many picturesque and remote bays. Akaroa is a cute little village out on the peninsula where the French once tried to colonize New Zealand and never left.
On the day Obama got inaugurated, we celebrated with some wine tours in Blenheim, known for its sauvignon blanc. Along the way we stopped at White's Bay and then passed one of many deer farms we saw in our trip, which we found quite amusing.
Up in the Marlborough Sounds area we hiked around the Queen Charlotte Track's hilly bays seeing some birds and relaxing in beautiful coves.
We decided to return to the North Island earlier than planned to hit some areas we missed at the beginning of our trip. So we headed up the west coast pleasantly surprised by the beach side city of Mount Monganui with it's white sandy beaches. We decided to sit still for a few days and soak up the sun like real beach bums! We also noticed a huge increase of people on this beach, plus actual life guards on duty (a first we've seen on a NZ beach). It seems as though vacationers stay close to Auckland, the home city of most Kiwis.
After a night at Ohope Beach, Dave decided to do the flying fox in the playground. Just as Elizabeth was going to try a mean lady yelled at us about the ride only being for kids. We're still not sure why she yelled at us!
One of our favorite things about campervaning is waking up in the morning to a view we couldn't afford in Boston. Beachfront spots were best since we could fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean and not sounds of Dave snoring. Also part of the experience is not knowing who you'll meet at night. We particularly liked Kiwi Steve who baton twirls fire. We survived...proof of the photo the next day at the beach.
We wrapped up our tour of New Zealand in the Coromandel Peninsula where there are beautiful limestone coves and beaches accessible only via hike. New Zealand is a sailor's dream land! Once again, the closer we got to Auckland the more people we found, especially at the hot water beach, where "heaps" (as they say in NZ) of people dig in the sand to expose springs forming their own hot tub.
- An exhausted Elizabeth & Dave