Day 144: A Change Of Vans

Fri. 4th January 2013

That's more like it!Having a smaller van than we had expected was an interesting experiment – for a day. We did much better than just survive in it, even getting a pretty good night’s sleep – though as Janet explained yesterday, the middle part of the bed was unusable (we now know what that ‘useless’ piece of board we were told was not needed, did). Also, we did alternate as to which of us had the cold draft before unceremoniously yanking the duvet back from the other. Ultimately we are encouraged that if we can cope with this, a bigger van will just be so much better. And to cap it all, the sun is shining.

It was so cramped in the old vanThe first order of the day is to drive into town to hop on to a free WiFi hotspot to get the blog uploaded and to top up our currency card – at least we can sit in the van at the table and on comfy seats while we do this. Then it is back to Christchurch where hopefully our proper van is waiting for us. As we drive back, I am only very occasionally not the slowest thing on the road. The steering wheel is practically horizontal, so it feels like you are driving a lorry and it wallows along the road like the head of one of those toy dogs you sometimes see in cars. We couldn’t complain about the engine noise though – there’d be no point as you wouldn’t be heard above the din.

It could have been worse!Fortunately the van is ready for us when we get back to the yard. Not just a bigger van but we now also have bikes, outdoor table and chairs and a BBQ. We’re set! The change is like night and day – quieter, more stable, easier to drive. We are definitely set! The road is pretty straight and flat and so with the improved driveability we should be able to make good progress.

Last night, we decided that we would head south (i.e. clockwise around the island). We don’t yet have a route planned – or even a definite place as to where we are going to spend the night. This is, primarily, because we don’t yet have a feel for how far it is realistic to travel in a day. Not only do we not yet have a feel for the roads and travel speeds in New Zealand (in a sensible van) but also we want to get the balance right between driving, seeing and doing.

Campsite in FairlieAfter our lunch stop – essentially at a layby on the side of the road – we decide to be cautious and telephoned to book a space at a site at Fairlie, the nearer of the two towns that we had earmarked as possibilities for the night. This means that we won’t get to the base of Mount Cook – as we have found generally, with the planning of our trip, deciding what not to do is the hardest part. On the plus side, our decision to get Internet access by having a 3G SIM for my phone and then using the phone to share the connection over WiFi is further vindicated as we can use the phone as a phone (who’d have thought!)

As close as she got to using the BBQ!We get to Fairlie at around 4pm feeling that we could have got further, but glad to be stopping . We’ve covered about 260km in the day. Not huge by UK standards (let alone Aus standards) but none of it was on dual carriageway roads and 80km of that was driving a whale on twisty roads over the hills back to Christchurch. Fairlie is a (very) small town and 4pm on a Friday is packing up time for most of the shops and the tourist office. I suspect that it is more vibrant in the winter as a skiing base than in the summer where people just pass on through.

Home cooking for the first time in six monthsWe moved out of our house on the 14th July – astonishingly, nearly 6 months ago. That would be around the last time that we actually cooked a meal and whilst we don’t miss the hassle of supermarket shopping or the clearing up, we do miss home cooking. So, the additional space in the van and the external barbeque unit (I would call it more of a gas fired griddle) mean that we now have the opportunity. It was only sausage, baked potatoes and beans – but we have to start again somewhere!

Our other major achievement in the evening is to get a draft itinerary for our time in the South Island. New Zealand seems to be incredibly well set up for tourists with a mass of leaflets and brochures available not just from the (plentiful) tourist offices but also from supermarkets and hotel / park reception areas. These leaflets don’t just cover specific activities but there is also plenty of general information of each district in the island. So our (draft) list of stops is:

  • Akaroa
  • Fairlie
  • Oamaru
  • Dunedin
  • Alexandra
  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Franz Josef
  • Arthur’s Pass
  • Murchison
  • Motueka
  • Abel Tasman
  • Blenheim
  • Hamner Springs
  • Christchurch

So that is 15 places and we have 21 days – it fits! Just as well as we want to spend more than one night in a few places (e.g. Alexandra where we want to do some cycling or Queenstown where there are so many different options – I want to do the jet boating!). We think that this will give us some real contrasts – spectacular scenery; fun activities (we’re hoping to do a helicopter trip up to one of the glaciers); history and culture; wine tasting; and perhaps even some ‘freedom’ camping. Hopefully it won’t give us any ridiculous drives to do on a day and will help ensure that we do get to see all of the key attractions in the island.

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6 Responses to Day 144: A Change Of Vans

  1. Fantastic itinerary! Reminds me of our trip there an amazing five years ago – although you have more time! World of Wearable Art in Nelson?

  2. Thanks Carl. Sounds intriguing, I’ll look it up. Any more tips?

  3. Thanks Carl. Sounds intriguing, I’ll look it up. Any more tips?

  4. Milford Sound – we stumped up for a flight in a small plane there from Queenstown – stunning place but too far to drive. It wasn’t too expensive and well worth it.

  5. Ah! We were thinking of doing the bus tour from Queenstown but a plane sounds much more sensible. We’ll investigate. Very timely tip, thanks.

  6. Gavin says:

    I’d second Milford Sound, I recall a boat trip and an overnight stay on the sound.

    That would be 1992, crikey, 20 years plus.


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