New Zealand

New Zealand Road Trip

posted by Amy

A month in New Zealand  was quite an adventure for our family.  It turns out that the adults had much more fun than the kids.  Riding in the back of a camper van through mountain roads apparently produces much motion sickness.  They were all troopers though and I for one would do it again in a heartbeat.  Of course, I would still be sitting in the front seat with my great views and my stable seating.

New Zealand is totally set up for travellers of our variety.  The roads are smooth, the visitor centers are well staffed and the people are all friendly and “Good as gold.”  Our route was courtesy of a great resource we found on the internet.  Ron Laughlin, a former Ohioan who has relocated permanently to New Zealand planned our whole itinerary for free.  Yes, I know nothing is free, and truly in New Zealand where the prices are sky high for everything, finding any kind of deal is, a big deal!  Ron gets a commission for referring his travelers to the campervan companies and in turn gives us a custom itinerary.  Here is his info. just in case any of you are planning a trip to NZ in the near future.

NZ highlights:

1.  Jumping off of things

2.  Hiking the Tongoriro Pass (a twelve mile hike that we, of course, did in the pouring rain)

3.  Going to a traditional Maori meal – hongi

4.  Seeing penguins and seals in the wild

5.  Learning (relearning)  how to knit.  Had to put all that sheep’s wool to some good use

6.  Eating a deliciously fresh fish dinner at Fleur’s restaurant.  We had never heard of her, but apparently she’s famous in the foodie world, and deservedly so.

7.  Climbing on a glacier

8.  Cruising in the Milford Sound – some of us even swam in the freezing waters

9.  Meeting lots of interesting fellow travellers while preparing meals in the many campgrounds where we stayed

10.  Spending one full month of uber family togetherness and living to tell the story, mostly unscathed.

Puzzling world. Wanaka, New Zealand

Seals near Kaikoura

This is gorgeous, right?

Rikki post Tongoriro Crossing.

Near the end of the Tongoriro Crossing. This is supposed to be "The most beautiful day hike in the world." We couldn't see much of anything because the weather was so bad, but still a great accomplishment for all of us.

Zorbing! This is an activity involving a human-sized hamster ball, water and rolling down a hill. So much fun!

Maori show and hongi - traditional Maori meal.

Fox Glacier explorers

Milford Sound was a bit windy.

Looking for precious stones at Gemstone Beach

The Catlins, on the Southern tip of New Zealand. The southerly winds are so strong, the trees grow sideways.

Christchurch, a little bit more than a year after the second major earthquake to strike the city in a short time. The city was still working on rebuilding. Here is a creative, and I think attractive use of shipping containers as temporary shops in the downtown area. Our hearts really went out to the people of Christchurch and all that they had been through.

Sunset in the bottom of the world!

Categories: New Zealand | 14 Comments

Toilets Down Under

by Rikki

Toilet optical illusion room at Puzzling World in Wanaka, NZ

A lot of people have asked us, “Do the toilets in the Southern Hemisphere really flush counter-clockwise?”  From my scientific research, I found out that the toilets of Australia and New Zealand d not flush counter-clockwise. The toilets flush exactly as they do at home.  The toilets in OZ (Australia) weren’t very thrilling.  However, the toilets in N-ZED (New Zealand) were very interesting.

First of all, we are living in a camper for one month in N-ZED.  It’s a common way for people to get around.  We stay at Holiday Parks, which are parking lots where you park your campervan or trailer.  There is a toilet in our R.V., but for a while we didn’t use it because it was smelling awful. Every day for some reason, we found toilet water on the floor coming up through the drain.  That was the bad odor we smelled.  So we got some air freshener spray and my dad made several stops at the hardware store and talked to a lot of people and finally solved the smelling problem.

Emptying the toilets takes a lot of teamwork.

It’s never fun to clean a toilet, but think about having to actually empty your port-a-potty every day.  It’s very important for the environment to ONLY dump your waste in approved dump spots.  When we need to dump the toxic waste from the toilet, we go to the dump-station, which is a drain in the middle of the Holiday Park.  We take the tank out from under the R.V.  We dump it, and once we are done dumping it, we rinse it with water twice and put a good smelling sachet inside.  The sachet makes it smell good as it could be and also breaks down the solid toxic waste.

The lovely smelling sachets.

I didn’t think that I would have much to write about toilets in New Zealand, but I did.  I wonder what we will find in Buenos Aires? (Argentoilets

Toilet sign for the women's bathroom at the bungy jumping place

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posted by Maya

How to skydive...

I have never been exceptionally brave. Sure, I have adventurous moments, but I am generally a pretty timid person. I am terrified of needles and I hate rodents, etc. So, if someone had told me a week ago that I was going to go skydiving and bungee jumping, I wouldn’t have believed them. I really didn’t have any interest in either of these things before we got to Wanaka, New Zealand. But when we got to the travel office, and Alana the Travel Agent mentioned skydiving, something clicked in my brain. It was like my Evil Knevel gene that had been dormant all of these years suddenly activated. I knew that this was something I had to do.

Skydiving Fashions

            By the time we got to the airport the next morning, I was freaking out. I suppose that it hadn’t really registered with me that I would be JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE until we actually paid and got into our jumpsuits. I almost chickened out after watching the safety briefing video, but before I knew it, we were getting in the plane and the only way out was down.

Father-Daughter bonding time.

My flight instructor.

See the cute orange plane.

Now, I don’t want you to think that my parents would let me skydive on my own. It was tandem skydiving, which means that I was attached to a professional instructor who pulls the parachute string.  My instructor was a nice Hungarian man who didn’t give me a second to think before jumping.  All the sudden, the two pairs of jumpers sitting in front of me had leaped out, and it was my turn. I was positively terrified. I did NOT want to do this anymore. But my instructor got ready to go, and since I was attached to him, I didn’t have much of a choice. And then we were falling.

Those 45 seconds of free falling were both the longest and shortest of my life. I was screaming, shouting, shrieking. “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” My throat went dry and the wind was coming at me so fast and I was sure that I would never reach the ground. I loved it! Then, the instructor pulled the string and the parachute sprang into action.

“Are you okay?” He asked me over and over. I kept replying “Yes! Of course!” The amazing thing was, that I really was okay. Better than okay! In fact, I had never felt better in my entire 13 years! I was giggling and having a great time.

This is me...

We landed safely on the airport lawn. My face hurt from smiling for so long. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it! After seeing how much my dad (who had also gone Skydiving) and I loved it, my mom decided to go too. She also enjoyed it, but she said after that once was plenty. She doesn’t share my new dream of being professional skydiver one day.

Let's do it again!

Mom did it too!

We decided that one major adventure was enough for one day, but of course, that didn’t stop us from going bungy jumping the next! The bungy was an AJ Hackett bungy rig, invented by none other than kiwi AJ Hackett, the bungy pioneer. It was set up on a high bridge over a flowing river.  Only my dad and I went bungee jumping, although Eva and Rikki both wanted to. (They did the bungy trampoline instead.)

Eva, flipping out.

Rikki, getting some air.

            My dad jumped first.  After watching him jump, I had many of the same feelings I had before Skydiving.  But this time, I knew I could do it.  Extreme sports will change you like that.  The boys up on the bridge tied my feet in a towel and connected my harness to a bungy cord.  In no time, it was my turn. I waddled up to the edge of the platform and turned to the camera. In the pictures, you can see the terror in my eyes. The bungy guy said, “ONE! TWO! THREE! BUNGY!” Without a moment of hesitation, I was jumping.

The fear.

The leap.

The dangle.

The boat pick up.

The most fun ever!

I don’t remember much about free falling, but I do remember loving it.  It was over very quickly, though, and I felt the bungy cord jerk me upside down.  I bobbed and dangled for a while before two guys in a raft came to pull me down. I think my smile was even bigger than the grin I had after skydiving, if it’s possible.  

After giving it some thought, I decided that bungy jumping was scarier than skydiving. When I went skydiving, an instructor forced me to jump. I never had to make that decision. But with bungy jumping, you have to decide on your own to jump. You have to push every fear and second thought to the side and choose to fall. In reality, bungy jumping is very safe, but you have to make the decision to jump on your own. With skydiving, there is plenty of room for error, but once I decided to trust my instructor, I never had to think. Bungy jumping taught me that I could summon the courage- or stupidity!- to do whatever I want to.  And …IT WAS AWESOME!

Loved it!

Categories: New Zealand | 5 Comments

New Zealand – Big Land, Big Car

by Amy

New Zealand is a beautiful country.  There is so much to see and do and describe to you all, and when time permits, I will write a nice long blog all about it.  But, for now, we just wanted to show everyone how we are tackling this trek across the newest land on earth (New Zealand is in fact the most recent landform made.)

Day One, on the road. Yes, we bought the full insurance package.

Some might think traveling for a month in a campervan is a gutsy move seven months into our trip.  Some might think this is even a little bit foolish.  Some might be right about this.  But, still sometimes you just do it for the stories you can tell later.

Maya and Eva's bedroom "upstairs"

Dining el fresco

And, this is why we came here. Seal colony near Kaikoura on the Pacific

More to come…

Categories: New Zealand | 4 Comments

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