Church and a tour of the South Island by RV.... What?
Just the name, Christ Church, makes me feel guilty. It certainly doesn’t conjure up images of a large city with hundreds of hotels... all welcoming us with “no vacancy signs.” Hah, good thing we have travel wiz, Lauri on our team. We blazed through the most thorough custom and bag inspection of any country I’ve visited. Hiking shoes sealed in air tight bags... check... all luggage scanned / X rayed for any unfavorable bio hazards.... check. No invasive species are getting into NZ via the airport. Forget to claim that apple or pear or other fresh fruit and BAM, you get fined $400 on the spot. We were somewhat relieved that our energy bars passed muster and were able to accompany us into Kiwi land.
The cab line was short, but somehow our particular driver missed out on the famous Kiwi hospitality lessons. Lauri and I hoisted our own bags into the trunk and I surmised the driver wasn’t too excited about, what turned out to be, a fairly short trip... I didn’t say cheap... just short. We keyed the code to the lock box at the Airport Palms to extract our room key....and as the clock struck Midnight plus 45... we found the box empty. No key, no employees, no email, no text... no note saying. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Thorley, The credit card company would not approve your reservation because we put the wrong name on your reservation.... You are screwed.
Yea, we were a bit tired, but clearly we have done more difficult things, right? Did I mention it was 50 degrees and starting to rain? Quickly, we donned all the “extra” clothing that we didn’t need in tropical Australia. I was wearing 50% of all the clothing I packed... rain gear and all. What started out as a simple; Let’s just call another hotel, then call Uber and we will be comfy in no time... became, no hotel anywhere has a vacancy. 30 calls, 30 rejections. Hmmm. No big deal right? We will go back to the airport and wait for the sunrise. I’m bringing my tent, next time for sure.
The Uber guy picks us up and and feels awful for us. He has an AirBnB, but its rented. (Ya gotta love Uber drivers that have real-estate investments) He drives slow racking his brain and provides hotel names we have already been rejected by. He mentions that his couch is available if we can’t find another place. THAT‘S IT... the hospitality we were expecting. I can’t do it. The Uber guy is great, but this is a bridge too far. Somewhere there is an expensive suite or a room in a hotel outside of town. The city is called “Christ Church” for crying out loud, there has to be some place for wayward travelers. We will find something.
Our Angel just happened to be the gal behind the information desk. You know the ones. They are in every airport and no one is ever asking for help or even talking to them. At least no males are asking for help. She was awesome. She marched Lauri over to the kiosk with the brochures that nobody ever uses and grabbed a mitt full of hotel brochures. Seems like a waste of time... brochure vs google, brochure, google, hmmmm...but Lauri and I dutifully split the pile up and started the complex task of dialing NZ numbers from a US cell phone. Bingo, on my first try. The sleepy guy at “The Chardonnay Inn” reminded me it was 2AM and that we’d be paying $130 for just a few hours of rest. We were snug, dry and warm 45 min later in an interesting hotel room. Beggars can’t be choosers and after all, we’ve slept in way worse.
So now the “real” fun begins. Renting RV’s in NZ is big business. There all kinds of choices to be made and everyone travels this way... everyone. Lauri and I selected a modest size RV to rent months ago. Wait too long and they will all be gone we’d been told. We took input from Damon and Rachel, who toured here last year and there input was super valuable. Modest... just like Goldilocks... just right. Of course, a modest selection came with USA sensibilities. Tooling around Christ Church, modest was just a bit big, not too bad. We also selected a manual transmission with a torquey Diesel engine... I’ve been driving a stick shift for years... what could go wrong? The first round about had me rethinking the manual tranny as I entered the clockwise flow of traffic two gears too high, looking for my exit and suddenly realizing the turn signal was back on the left side. As my windshield wipers dragged across our dry windshield. Why to many things to think about... stay left, stay left, stay left. Whew... made it.
A modest size RV becomes a very large RV on the rural roads of NZ. We fit in the lane with inches to spare. Our favorite experience became the one lane bridges. Paved rural roads...100 kilometer speed limit (way to fast for a “modest” RV BTW)... single lane bridge ahead. When they say single lane bridge... they don’t mean the car and a bike or the car and a person walking. No, they mean... tuck in your damn mirrors Mr. Modest RV. Approaching the bridge is similar to playing chicken with the guy coming the other way. There is some obscure sign suggesting who might have right of way upon simultaneous meeting. Ahh stress free driving.
Intellectually, Lauri and I wanted to try living the RV life style. Emotionally, we wanted to be slinging our packs on our back and finding our route on some Topo Map as we hiked and climbed to our destination. Every day we made some joke about actually being in the motor home. Then we’d quiz each other why we couldn’t embrace it. The RV is comfortable, convenient, warm, dry and you can poop when ever you want without digging a hole. It has a shower with real hot water. One day we showered right after hiking. Right in the parking lot for the trail head. Blasphemy! There have been vacations that bathing was a weekly luxury. Would this RV thing soften us? Likely. Could we embrace it. Jury is out. I’m drawn to the dirt bag style of some of the smaller RV’s. These, do it yourself, conversion vans or trucks are unique to the owner. They make a statement I can relate to. Lauri must think I’m nuts.
So really the RV is just method of getting to really cool hiking spots. Each day we spend 3 hours on some challenging trail leading to a glacier or some amazing view. Then we sleep for the night before we drive for a few hours to set us up for the next incredible hike or Track as the Kiwi’s say. Nice. NZ is a right to camp country. They call it “Freedom Camping”... see a spot on a nice lake. Park the rig and call it home. Love the view from that two track. It’s yours for the evening. of course you can pay more and get a bit more at commercial camp sites or some of the government reserved land sites. Remember when I said “everyone” does this... everyone does. So in practice, the Freedom Camping thing could easily be a competitive sport if you wanted the best camping spots. Typically, we’d arrive too tired or too late to really care how close to the lake we parked. Often times camping looks like a rest stop along a highway and sounds like a United Nations meeting with all the languages and accents spoken. Pretty fun.
Day 8 of the motorhome experience... this thing has value. It’s been raining. We are dry. There is no condensation on the inside of “The Box” as we are now calling it. It was a bit chilly this morning and I flipped a switch and soon it was toasty and there was hot water waiting for us at breakfast. Very civilized.
We drove a fair amount yesterday due to the rain. We stopped and tried to see a beach that Penguins frequent. Well, we saw the beach, but no real evidence of penguins other than the signs telling us, in detail, how to act if we actually saw a penguin. Don’t get between the penguin and their nest. Just for your future reference. It was a very nice beach and completely understandable why penguins build their nests, raise their young and molt there. We are just a few months early or late to have a good chance of seeing them. Sigh... no penguin sightings. Sorry Damon.
The hike in was amazing. Both of us made comments about feeling like Hawaii as we strolled through a Jurassic Park like rain forest. Lauri became enamored with the tree like ferns and all the colors AND she had her phone/camera with her. When you see pics from the trip... you have been warned.
Have you ever driven a motorhome and wished you were in a Porsche? The roads are like that. Have you ever driven a motorhome and wished you were peddling with the unsupported biker /campers inching their way up the impossibly steep, narrow switchbacks, as tour busses and rookie RV drivers new to the “left” side of the road pass you? Yeah, me neither. These bikers were awesome!l Many looked to be in their 60’s and touring on mountain bikes with center frame packs, handlebar packs and maybe something hanging from behind the seat. No panniers or narrow tires for these guys. Through the rain, mud and all the crazy motorized obstacles; They all have hero status.
6/6/2021 11:12:45 pm
This is an amazing photo about maternity. I think that this perfectly encapsulates all that there is to it. I mean, I am not an expert at it, but I am an expert when it comes to photography. The one who took, this is a master, and I want to congratulate him for a job well done. I hope that I can meet the guy behind the lens, I am a huge fan of his work from today onwards, I really am.
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Denny and Lauri