Campervan Trip to the South Island

Flying to the South Island

The next two posts were written 6 weeks after the fact so they are more in history mode than the standard in real time mode.  That means they are boring and dry.

We came back from Rotorua, and Katy had two weeks of work orientation followed by nine days off before she started real shifts.  We decided to use that time to explore the South Island for the first time.  We decided to go the campervan route for this trip.  We left for the airport on Saturday to get there about an hour early and discovered that New Zealand domestic airports are very different from US ones.  The New Plymouth airport does not have security.  I mean there is not a single metal detector in the entire building.  The airport also doesn’t believe in ID checks so you just scan your boarding pass and off you go into the plane.  We have since modified our airport plan and believe that you only need to get to the airport around 15 minutes before the flight boards.  This makes short plane rides (like to Auckland, etc) very palatable since you don’t need to get there early.

South Island roads

We flew into Christchurch, which is the largest city on the South Island and according to most statistics the third largest city in the country.  It is also the only city on the South Island that we can fly to direct from New Plymouth.  We were then promptly picked up at the airport by our rental company Affordable Rentals.  The rental was ~$40 USD per day for a campervan that you could stand up in.  The pickup of the campervan went smoothly, and we went to the store to stock up on food for the next week or so.  We then headed up towards Pearson Lake and had a couple stops on our way.  We discovered that our 2002 Toyota Hiace diesel van has a hard time reaching the speed limit of 100kph and when going up a hill sometimes has a hard time reaching over 50kph. We promptly named it Bertha. 

Lava tube on the way to Lake Pearson
Our camping spot the first night in our first campervan

The next morning we cooked some breakfast and hit the road.  A hundred yards later we get a shrill alarm coupled with all the warning lights in the van having come on.  Not good.  Of course we did not have cell phone service at this location, so we drove twenty minutes back down the road until we got a couple bars.  We called roadside assistance and after about 90 minutes, we had a tow jeep (think of a jeep with a car trailer behind it) arrive.  The mechanic promptly diagnosed that something was wrong and that we should go back to his shop.  We then drove another 30 minutes with the blaring alarm until we got into the thriving metropolis of Springfield (population ~220…and a few llamas!).  

Our walk around Springfield brought us to the train station

The final diagnosis was that the alternator had failed, and the rental company’s solution was that they would bring us another van and said it would take about 2 hours.  Four hours later, we had a new van and headed back out.  We named this one Moses since it only does 25kph up hills and moseys along.  This van turned out to be a disaster with a fridge that didn’t work, since it didn’t have a fuse in it, and a water pump that had an air leak resulting in either needing to flood the water tank every morning to get it to work or disconnect the faucet head and suck the water out.  We obviously were not super pleased with losing a day of our vacation and having two other issues to address with the campervan that we hired, but I guess that sometimes happens when you higher from companies like Affordable Campervans.

Bailey Spur hike

We got back to where we had started the day by 3pm and decided to continue on towards Arthur’s Pass.  I was expecting the pass to be a high altitude pass like we have in Colorado, but instead the pass was nestled in a valley at the rather low altitude of 2,425 feet.  We did a hike of Bailey’s Spur and made it most of the way before we decided that we needed to turn around to get to the campsite before it got dark.  We decided to camp at the Klondyke Corner campsite after checking out the other campsites available near the pass. 

Klondyke Corner campsite

We use an app, Campermate, which has a list of most of the campsites around and reviews.  After our last encounter with sandflies, I look closely to make sure that the reviews are not saying that sand flies are all over the place.  We cooked some dinner and watched some large mountain parrots called Kea.  

What a Kea looks like. There are less than 7,000 of them and they actual are semi nuisance birds. They enjoy eating rubber gaskets from campervans and any food that people give them..

 The next morning after breakfast we headed for a hike up Avalanche Peak.  Since Arthur’s Pass is a low level pass, the mountains go pretty much straight up and so does the hiking.  We went to snow line and had a good look around before we headed back down.  

They decided to build a real bridge here.

We have discovered that since it rains in New Zealand (once in awhile), they like their waterfalls, and so we went and saw a popular waterfall at the pass.  We then headed two more hours to the west coast to Hokitika. 

Lounging around on the Hokatika Beach

We decided to splurge and stay at a holiday park near the beach.  The advantage of a holiday park is that they have showers.  Katy likes showers.  I am ambivalent. They also have electric hookups, which means that the microwave and electric kettle work, since the 12 volt battery is not enough to power them.  We watched sunset and then walked across the street to see some glow worms.  Glow worms are the larvae of a fly, which have a glowing butt to attract insects to eat.  

We had a good first four days of our trip, minus losing most of one of them to some mechanical issues.  You can read about part two here.

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