We have been on the road for about a week now. It was a bit hard at first to get settled in, mostly because we didn’t really have the van set up. The floor was pretty hard to sleep on, we had no curtains, and we had no way to organize our stuff so it was just spread out in the back. To make the Todo (the van) a bit more homey we got some rubber foam for our bed, which ended up feeling a bit thinner than the 40mm advertised, but with the thermarests on top it feels like a dream. We also rigged up some curtains from some old floral, purple bedsheets. Here is Kelly cooking dinner, with the awesome curtains in the back. The foam rolls up with our sleeping bags quite nicely and fits against the back hatch.
The organization finally happened yesterday when we went to the grocery store and found 4 cardboard boxes that we can put our food in. No pictures, but a vast improvement.
After the farm, we went straight to Invercargill to supply ourselves for Stewart Island. After a quick internet search, we found out it was quite cold on Stewart Island, and decided to give it a week to warm up while we detoured towards Dunedin. The first night we stopped right by the ocean to sleep. We didn’t actually sleep at all because Todo the van was battered with very stong winds and we couldn’t shake the idea we would float out to sea at high tide. We had parked on the grass in a “freedom camping” zone, so we were pretty sure it was safe. We woke up in the morning dry and safe, but when I looked around I did find a high water mark about seven meters inshore from the van. Must’ve been a storm…
The next day we toured through the Catlins, a beautiful rainforest on the south east coats of the south island. The van took a small tumble on a very remote dirt road. We were driving very slowly (40k/h, I swear mum), luckily, and it only ended up being two massive fishtaiils, a bit of sideways driving, and a bit of a bump upon entering the ditch. Unbelievably, the wheels stayed on and we backed up until we were mostly on the road. From there, between my pushing and Kelly’s rapidly improving skills on the manual, we were able to get it on the road and drive away. It is rear wheel drive, and very light in the back, so it is quite hard to manage on dirt roads. We are trying to avoid them, but most of the cool spots are on dirt roads so I am just very careful now. We also went to AA, which is the automobile association in NZ, and got coverage for free because of our Canadian membership. Awesome! Next time we can get a tow!
We drove to a hike by a pretty river just outside Dunedin to sleep for the night. There are lots of waterfalls on the way, along with petrified wood at Curio Bay.
Next stop was Dunedin for the day. The botanical gardens and public Aviary are beautiful, as well as the city in general. It really reminded us a lot of Kingston because of the University feel. There are plenty of houses around with torn couches outside and students partying, which really helped us feel at home. It also reminded us on Vancouver, the vegetation was so beautiful! The houses are all up on the hills and there are flowering trees everywhere. I don’t think it would be too hard to stay here for a while. But alas, we must move on to see everything!
We left town to find a place to camp and traveled up a very narrow coastal road along the Otago Peninsula, until we came across Okia park, which is over a fucking insane (I don’t use the word lightly) road. Worth the drive for the “Little pyramid” total seclusion, and beautiful beach complete with steamship wreck and sea lions.
The site was so nice we stayed for two nights, and just took a daytrip to see the albatross colony. What we learned: albatross look more or less like a large seagull. Great drive though. This is a view from Taiaroa Head, the top of the peninsula looking back at Dunedin.
The next day we went and saw “The chasm”, which required a hike to one of the highest places on the peninsula. You can see mountain ranges in the distance, and beaches up close. It was fantastic. Let me remind you that this is all under 26 km from the heart of the city, what a sweet place! It was hard climbing, so we headed back to Dunedin for a meat pie.
While buying fuel at the outdoor store, we met a guy who was from San Diego who told us about a glowworm spot about 10 minutes from the city. It is fantastic that you can drive for 10 minutes and be way out in the hills. We found the glowworms, which were unbelievably cool. There is a track that goes up to a gorgeous waterfall and as soon as it gets dark, tiny glowing lights appear from underneath all the ferns. It was like looking at the night sky on the banks of a beautiful river. Glowworms need extremely humid environments, so rivers and caves are key places to see them. We hope to see more in the caves in Te Anau. We then spent about half an hour getting the van off the grassy slope we parked on. Thankfully, some guys were heading to the glowworms to smoke a joint, and were good enough to push us out. Friendly potheads!
That night we had our first try at urban camping. We just pulled up on a residential street in Dunedin, closed the curtains and laid out the bed. We walked to the pub for some live jazz and a beer, then when we got back to the van we just tried to be quite. We had no trouble at all, and a very nice sleep. I think we are going to try to stick to the country, but its nice to know it works when you can’t get out of the city.
Thanks to everyone who has been in touch. Free wi-fi is almost exclusively available in McDonalds here, so its nice to get a message when we sit down for a coffee and an egg mcmuffin. Next stop the Catlins (again) then Stewart Island!