Monthly Archives: December 2019

NZ Day 14 & 15: Glentunnel & Castle Hill

Day 14 Glentunnel

The Australian middle schoolers are obsessed with the camp cat. I wish I could be obsessed with them.

The weather was a lot better than yesterday so we were hopeful as we started making our ascent to mount cook. But soon it was pouring again. We couldn’t see any mountains because of all the clouds. So we turned around and started our way back towards Glentunnel near Christchurch. As soon as we got off the road to mt. Cook it was sunny. We found a good filming spot and pulled to the side of the road to do some 5 sec shorts. I will share them with you soon. I made a sign that said “Mordor” with an arrow on it. We put it on a stop sign for filming. When we left I wanted to keep it there. But becca is more environmentally conscious than I so we took it down.

Then as we were passing lake tekapo it was amazingly gorgeous. So we stopped to take a time lapse and eat lunch. So did everyone else minus the time lapse. It was so beautiful with the blue glacial lake and the mountains in the background and these purple and pink flowers sticking up near the edge of the lake. Becca was smart and went further down away from the edge of the road to set up her camera. Less Asians or NZ men with dogs unawaringly roaming in front.

We finally arrived in Glentunnel for our last day of campervanning. We stayed at a free campsite with a sign that had a meter indicating low toxic algae risk. We figured it was okay since it was low.

Then we made dinner, enjoying the sun. Later that evening when it was dark out we watched “Let it snow” on Netflix that we downloaded when we had WiFi last, to help us remember that Christmas is during winter in the States and not during summer. If you haven’t already watched this Netflix gem of a movie then I am seriously reconsidering our friendship. I learned the true meaning of Christmas which is that celebrities have feelings too.

You might be wondering… “but Lena what are you eating while in said camper van?” The answer is hummus sandwiches and freeze dried backpacking meals. Plus chips! We’re averaging 1.25 bags a day. We are also sick of hummus and veggie sandwiches even though they are quite good.

At the beginning of the camper van phase of this trip we got a 6 pack of Bunderberg Australian brewed sodas. They are now all gone. Becca and I ranked our favorites.

My top two are Pina colada and Burgundee (sort of like red cream soda). Becca’s was Burgundee and Passionfruit. Both of our least favorite was Lemon Lime Bitters. We don’t know why that’s a flavor that is popular here. The middle flavors were ginger and sasparilla. Good but not unique.

Day 15 Castle Hill

Drove to castle hill today. It’s a bunch of large rocks sticking out of a mountain. It was really cool looking. It sort of felt like Stonehenge. We decided this would be a good place to film one of our LOTR re-enactments. If I could summarize the South Island in one word it would be “wind”. There was so much of it I thought I was going to blow away a few times. We had to anchor beccas camera down in order to film my excellent Gandalf impression in between wind bursts. I decided wind is my least favorite nature. I was worried beccas camera would film me tipping over backwards while acting. It probably would have made for a better take and I was willing to let it happen, for the fans… but I’m glad I stayed upright.

Then we went to the car to hide from the wind and ate lunch. Hummus veggie sandwiches. The last of our bread and produce. It was better viewing the rocks from the safety of the car. But becca did try to take a time lapse. We don’t think it turned out well because the wind was very strong despite us putting a gallon of water weight on her tripod plus it started to rain in the middle of it. It was still gorgeous and well worth the drive.

Then we headed into Christchurch to drop off the van, Earl-Eowyn-Shadowfax we named her. I’m glad we weren’t directly boarding a flight after drop off. Many other people were. The rental place even has showers in their facilities for people if they need. We just needed an Uber to our hotel for the next 5 days.

We got picked up by our Uber driver who of course was driving a Prius. He was from Fiji and wasn’t wearing any shoes. He did have a nice twisty rat tail going for him. That plus the no shoes made me recognize him as a Jedi. I felt safe riding with him. We asked him what fun things we should do in Christchurch. He said “drink beer”. I thought this was a silly answer, as drinking beer is the best thing to do in ANY city.

We then arrived at our hotel. Double Tree. We used points to book our stay here and we were treated royally which probably looked weird to onlookers since we had just come from camping for 10 days and probably didn’t look like the type to be Hilton Gold members. We got two bottles of water and a cookie. The water is $4.50 for other guests (and probably cost the hotel $0.50) so we felt pretty special.

Once we settled in we went in search of food. One of the helper ladies downstairs told us a street to walk to where there are lots of asian restaurants. We went to that street and found Nando’s. Beccas favorite UK dining experience. At first becca thought it was Indian and dismissed it as we had Indian backpacking meals the night before. But then I saw the chicken and knew it was beccas favorite. So we ate there. Becca said she likes it in the UK better because they have mashed potatoes but in NZ they just have fries. Becca got a veggie burger with peri peri sauce and chutney. I got a regular peri peri chicken burger with a side of spicy rice. Becca likes this place a lot because they have extra sauce so add to your food. We experimented with each level of spicyness. By the end we weren’t sure what was hot anymore. It was a good way to clear the sinuses.

Then we went back to the hotel room and crashed onto our comfy soft non-camper van beds.


NZ Day 12 & 13: Ferry to South Island

Day 12 Ferry & driving

We woke up early to go to the ferry. While in line becca started to get a migraine and then couldn’t see out of her left eye. We felt like this was a good omen to start the day. Normally we might be alarmed by this especially since this is the longest driving day we had. But becca has been experiencing these monthly and she knew she’d be able to see by the time we got off the ship.

The ferry was huge. It felt like a cruise ship. Maybe like a lower tier cruise ship like Carnival. (Jk, I don’t actually know the tiers of cruise ships but I’m sure JP could speak to the cruise ship brand tier levels). It even had a cinema on board. I was hoping they would show things for free. They did not. You still have to buy tickets. Movies were Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw and Abominable. Becca and I opted for the free chairs on deck instead and played ticket to ride and downloaded the next mandalorian episode. The trip was about 4 hours long going from the north island to the South Island. It was a little sad to leave the north island but we emotionally survived. Halfway though the trip the captain came on the intercom and advised us to not go outside on deck. The winds were very strong. 175 km/hr. I thought this might be a good opportunity to take up wheelchair windsurfing. Becca did not. We stayed inside. As we were about to dock in the harbor in Picton on the South Island (and while I was going to the bathroom) the captain came on the intercom and announced that the weather has gotten so bad in the harbor that Harbor Master has closed the port and that the ferry was going back out to sea until the weather got better. Luckily I have seen the first half of the Titanic movie so I felt adequately prepared. We circled the harbor for about an extra 2 hours.

Once we got off the ferry we had a long drive ahead. Basically 10 hours to our next destination. We listened to an audiobook. Starsight. The sequel to Skyward. It’s a YA fantasy novel about aliens and space. It’s sort of like Ender’s Game. It helps becca stay awake while driving. It helps me fall asleep. We both win. Becca is very good at summarizing what I miss while I’m asleep… and awake.

Because of the delay with the ferry and a bunch of construction on the motorway, we got set back several hours from our intended destination. We basically arrived at Christchurch which is half way to where we were trying to make it, around 9pm. It was still pretty light out. The days are long here and keep getting longer the further south we go.

Before we made it to Christchurch we stopped at a gas station so I could go to the bathroom. About an hour before this, becca and I kept smelling something weird. It smelled like rancid onions. We couldn’t tell if it was the farms or something else. Turns out it was something else. When I came out of the bathroom I saw a trash bag with a bunch of orange mush on it. I thought maybe becca was making a hummus sandwich and it was hummus. She is usually very passionate when she makes food so this wasn’t too alarming. But when I got closer becca said “I found the source of the smell”. A bag of pumpkin soup that we took from the gratis item area of the camper van rental agency had exploded. Before we got our van we went to this area where people could drop off supplies they were no longer using and pick up things before their journeys. Neat idea. Which turned on us. We’re not sure if there was something with elevation or temperature change but when becca found the soup bag it was squirting a fountain stream all over the van. She quickly escorted it to the dumpster. I could see the exact trail she took from the spray pattern on the ground. Becca was cleaning up the van when I came back from the gas station. I only had to help clean a few specks off her camera bag. I had missed most of the excitement. It also left a pungent smell in the van the rest of our drive. We’re hoping to remedy this soon. We’ll probably never eat pumpkin soup again.

It was about 9pm when we passed Christchurch and realized we were hungry.  The only options were KFC or Pizza Hut. Thanks America. But then we drove by a Thai place that was about to close. We decided to eat there instead. Much better meal option, less better driving meal option. Turns out curry is hard to eat while driving but we managed not to spill. Another Christmas miracle.

Basically becca drove until she couldn’t anymore. We found a free camper van lot and stayed there the night. It was less crowded than the other places we stayed on the north island. But you could see the stars much better.

Day 13 Twizel

The campground we slept at had an accessible portapotty. The only one for the entire camp. I didn’t want it to be accessible so we left and went into the nearest town to find a gas station. It was SUPER windy. I kept expecting a tornado to pop up and take us away. The best part is that we have no access to news really and so if there was a NZ tornado warning we’d probably just drive straight into it none the wiser while everyone else drive away from it. It was fun to see the trees swaying back and forth like they were dancing.

Wind soon turned into rain. We tried to go to mt. Cook but we couldn’t see anything with the clouds. We could see the gorgeous blue glacial lakes though. Lake tekapo and lake pukaki. And the helicopter take off pads for heliskiing. The lakes reminded me of the ones up in Banff. But much bigger.

We were supposed to drive all the way to wanaka where we reserved a campsite. The lady at the gas station said they’ve been having crazy weather with lots of flooding. This was said while the tornado was raging at her gas station. We weren’t sure whether it’s he worth the extra 4 hours of driving to get to a flooded campsite so we decided to stay in twizel instead. It was raining so hard we just hunkered down in the van and watched movies while trying to stay dry and warm. Around 8pm the rain lightened up and we decided to try to pull my wheels off my wheelchair. Oh! Fun fact, my wheels have been stuck on my chair for the past three days. We hadn’t noticed since we don’t need to take it apart while in the van. But we do need them to come off for when we Uber in Christchurch this weekend. Becca even with her strong muscles wasn’t able to make the wheels budge. We even tried putting grease on the axel buttons and nothing. We were worried they’d been rusted shut from the saltwater bath it had on our kayaking trip. So we decided… here, in Twizel, is where these wheels needed to come off. We went to the porch of the communal camper van kitchen and started to pull with all our might. Becca would hold the chair and I sat on an aluminum porch chair trying to pull a wheel off. I wasn’t having much luck. I kept falling over. Because I only have one ab. Poor Abe. A group of Australian school teachers and kids were coming in and out of the kitchen. Eventually the male teacher with a scruffy beard offered to help. He suggested he and he’s a put their feet together for leverage while he pull the wheel. He also said it was a great get to know you game. I trust him. Then low and behold the wheel popped off! Christmas miracle! We cleaned it and greased it up again and then was able to pull the other one off as well.

Becca could tell this group was not from NZ because of the difference in their accents. She’s becoming an accent connoisseur.

It might just be the rain but it’s definitely colder on the South Island. We are sleeping in our winter pajamas. We’re hoping tomorrow will be less rainy so we can go to mt. Cook and film LOTR re-enactments. You should also be hoping for less rain.

Cheers! Until next WiFi.