Travelled almost another 1000km since the last update. We are now in Fox Glacier and it’s chucking it down and looks like it will be for a week : ( so we are productively updating the blog! Yeay.
I know from experience that other peoples holiday snaps can get pretty tedious. Each of the photos from the 10,000 on my laptop evoke some great feelings so it’s difficult choosing what to put on here and so I hope the pictures of mountains and roads don’t all look same same to you.
Words are soon to follow by Zaz.
Life is great! We had some slight reservations about Barnaby, our Toyota HiAce camper mainly down to his age (he has a 1988 reg, almost as old as me) so we took him into a garage to get a few checks done and get the oil changed yesterday. We watched on from the side lines as Barnaby was driven over the narrow opening in the ground and worked on by 5 men at lightning speed. As we listened in, a few of their comments made us a little nervous “Ey Jason, have you ever seen a 4mm washer on an engine of this size/age”, “It looks like somebody has taken a stone hammer to the side of this engine to loosen it up” “Ey, it doesn’t look like the oil has ever been changed on this thing” (this ‘thing’ had done over 370,000km when we bought it). They were fascinating to watch and so professional. Oil Changers in Invercargill, highly recommended. In spite of this, our minds were put to ease as we paid the bill ($80/40 quid) and Jason, the manager, told us we have a good little runner. Phew.
We’ve been on the road in our camper for exactly 2 weeks now and we’re both having a ball. As simple as it may sound, just having the freedom to stop whenever and where ever we like is such a good feeling. We drive (well Tom does, Barnaby is an old boy with the gears to the side of the steering wheel - not designed for girls) for as long or little as we like then when we feel like we should stop we do. Either by the side of the road, at a rest spots or come the end of the day, at a campground. We have found some stunning campgrounds - we’ve camped in a forest, by beautiful lakes, in open fields, on beaches, nestled in a valley and at the bottom of a mountain where we could hear the avalanches through the night.
The sky comes alive at night with stars and planets glistening so brightly and there is no air pollution so you can often see the Milky Way too. It’s beautiful. When the weather is nice i.e. not raining, we sleep with the back curtains open on the van so we can fall asleep under the stars, watching on in amazement at how quickly they move. Then we slowly wake up in the mornings as we feel the first few rays of sunlight to watch the sunrise over us. There hasn’t been one morning when I have woken without a smile on my face (well, perhaps there was one time when Tom dragged me on a 3 hour hike to climb Mount Cook).
Sheila, (financial controller extraordinaire for Malmaison and Hotel Du Vin) I know you will soon be asking me again “but surely it can’t all be fantastic?’. This next part is written with you in mind…..
Dinners are often fun. As we first started out on the trip, we were cooking fancy meals like Spaghetti Bolognese then we would turn them into a chilli the following night, we would cook thai chicken curry or a stir fry with some sort of meat glazed in a fancy sauce. We soon realised we were spending way too much money on food and gas (food is really expensive here) so gone are those fancy dinners. Nowadays, we mainly eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch (always peanut butter for Tom) and pasta with some sort of sauce from a jar for dinner. Dull I know but needs must. For a treat every now and again we will throw in a jar of sardines and some olives into our pasta. Or if we’re feeling REALLY adventurous, then we have a vegetable stir fry - 1 leek, 1 carrot, 2 peppers and some noodles. Meat is a luxury over here so we’re trying to limit ourselves to meat twice a week. If you think this is bad, we watched a group of Germans making dinner a few nights ago - pasta and butter! Bad times. Poor Tom throws a tantrum every other day and now hates food shopping. He walks around the supermarkets shouting and whining “BUT I WANT BACON”, “I WANT CHOCOLATE” “I WANT PIZZA”. Hungry boys can be hard work!
We mostly camp at D.O.C sites (Department of Conservation) which range from anything from $5 - $15 per person per night the latter offering more facilities such as a kitchen, laundry room, showers. However, after spending $4200 on our camper, we need to keep on track with our budgeting so we mostly stay at the cheap sites with a couple of nights freedom camping in between then stay at the $30 dollar sites twice per week.
A few days in to our trip I\we have come to realise that we take so much for granted in everyday life. Such things are luxuries when travelling around and living out of a camper van. Let’s see:
1. Running water - very rarely available, mostly only at the more expensive $30 sites. Even then, it is not always drinking water. Water can either be collected from a stream or from a tap and then boiled before drinking. On some occasions, we have camped where there is no water source at all. On these days, we keep driving until we find some water, fill up our 12L bottle and make this last for as long as possible. 12L goes very quickly; mostly on drinking water, washing up or on cups of coffee for TomTom. Washing up with cold water at night is no fun at all. The temperature really drops at night (as low as 5 degrees), mostly by 6pm so I’ve promised myself some marigolds on our next shopping trip to stop my hands from freezing. The few places that do have water from a tap very rarely have a hot water tap so things including my face, never really feel clean. The amount of times we’ve used toilets in an Information Centre just to take advantage of their hot water on tap to have a wash is shameful. But that clean feeling afterwards is worth it.
2. Toilets - Unfortunately, I just can’t get on with drop toilets and trust me, after travelling around Vietnam for 2 months using mostly squatter toilets, I have tried. I can’t stand the thought of weeing into something that you can’t see the bottom of. They stink, toilet roll is limited, flies and mosquitoes seem to love hovering around them - there is NO WAY I would ever sit on one of those things. Hand sanitiser is my best friend out here (note to self, must add more to the shopping list).
3. & 4. Showers & Personal Hygiene - Ahhhh hot showers or just any shower at all for that matter. We have a solar shower but can’t ever seem to warm the water up enough to take the chill off. Showers do not exit at DOC sites unless staying at $30 sites, so our personal hygiene is pretty horrendous. At the start of the trip we asked ourselves how often we think we could go in between showers. We both agreed that a shower every 3rd day would be just about do-able. I’m ashamed to say that if we are able to have a hot shower every 4th day then we’re winning. In between those days, we have to get by with baby wipes. We heard some places have public showers where you pay $2 for 5 minutes but we’ve only seen them in one place so far. Have you ever gone without showering for 4 days? The feeling when you then get underneath that hot shower is bliss. To feel the hot water on your manky skin, to be able to scrub away the layers of dirt and keep scrubbing until the shower gel has formed as many soap suds as humanly possible. I like to pretend that I’m in a human car wash (they should invent them here in New Zealand, they’d be perfect for us backpackers. They have car and dog(!) washes so why not?!) and only feel ready to get out when my fingers and toes are wrinkled and my skin feels squeaky clean. Those 10 minutes showering are up there with the highlights of each week.
5. Tea\Coffee - argumentally shouldn’t be on the list as these are definitely accessible to us but what I would do for a kettle! Imagine just being able to wake up on a morning, fill your kettle up from a tap with running water, boil some water and pour it into a cup and BINGO. Tea/Coffee is served. We bought a flask at the start of our trip. It was a fancy double Thermos thing with two cups, all the mod cons a flask should have. I was feeling quite smug showing it off to other campers “Yeah, look at us with our fancy flask. It’s great for storing hot water for tea\coffee and when we go on hikes we can make a big batch of soup. Oooh I know, it was a great idea wasn’t it”. It broke on the second day of our trip! The insides smashed, exploded. I was so disappointed.
6. Internet - Needless to say internet is most definitely a luxury. We’re currently sat in a library using their free wifi so we can keep up to do on the blog. It makes keeping in touch with loved ones, family an friends more difficult but it also makes those times when we do catch up even more fulfilling.
Would I change anything about travelling around and living out of a camper van? Would I heck. We’re in New Zealand for crying out loud and it feels good to be challenged and has made me realise a few more things about us humans.
For me, it’s not what you’ve got in life but who you have in your life that counts.