We found out at 6am that NZ Air had cancelled our 9am direct flight to Christchurch and instead routing us with Virgin Air to Sydney and then Quantas to Christchurch at midnight.
Despite the lateness of our arrival from Sydney the previous night and another 2-hour time change we were up early, breakfasted, and chipper .. we caught the shuttle to the camper van rental place called Maui. We picked up our Mercedes diesel Ultra 2 camper van (length 7.2m) with little fuss and set off for groceries. Bob experienced problems with left turns and went over the curb on the 1st two. In turning left into the grocery parking lot he clipped a work van’s front right parking light. Luckily their office was across the street so he could “turn himself in”. The chap he spoke to was delighted at his honesty and suggested NZD 100 to settle the matter which Bob happily did.
After a fair bit of rain and some very high winds with lots of gusts, we arrived at our first campsite on Lake Tekapo at 3pm on Monday. It’s on the edge of a gorgeous lake with mountains around it but with the pouring rain there was no incentive to go for a walk or take pictures. We think we’ll be comfortable in the van. It’s not too big, says Tarja who is not driving it, but Bob has successfully backed it up several times with minor assistance from Tarja waving her arms about. We plugged into power to have to heat on the first night … at 6C we figure needed or at least deserved it. That night was the first time we’ve cooked since leaving Kingston.
We’ve decided that it’s been an interesting (expensive) experiment having a camper van that we do not want to duplicate but on a muddy, rainy camp site it’s hard to think otherwise. We’ll see if we change our minds after a few more days and maybe nicer weather.
Still windy but a much better day weather wise on Tuesday. The sun came out at noon and pretty much stayed out with the odd sprinkle of rain. The roads here are really well marked for slowing down in curves. There are a lot of ‘pull over’ spots. We figure it’s because there are a many many camper vans and RVs on the road. Bob had to swear up and down that he would not drive faster than 90kph when signing out our camper van but the standard highway speed is 100kph. Slower drivers are pretty good about pulling over.
The scenery has been quite spectacular, would have been even more so earlier today if the cloud cover had lifted. There are many marked scenic lookouts. The first one we stopped at around 11am was incredibly windy and bloody freezing 8C, can’t imagine what the wind chill was but we got out took a couple of pictures – brave souls that we are.
We arrived at a ‘holiday park’ in Queenstown about 2:30 on Tuesday. It’s right in town, a 10 minute walk to the centre. It’s a much prettier location than Monday night, having trees and a less wide open feel. We walked into town and with the mountains in the background and the architecture, it really felt like being in Banff.
On Wednesday we drove only 2 hours with mostly sunshine or at least no rain and just “normal” wind. Arrived at our camper van site, where we’ll stay for three nights, early afternoon and set off to explore the town. Tarja bought a toque (she forgot hers when packing). We made dinner reservations at the highly recommended Fat Duck , all they had was 5pm or 8:30. We, not having had a proper breakfast or lunch, chose 5pm. It was a nice dinner but on the expensive side — to be fair, all meals here are expensive.