New Zealand by the Numbers: a Wrap Up

Time: 25 days. 3 in Christchurch, 4 in Auckland, 2 in Wellington and 16 spent roaming in the campervan.
Vans rented: 2, Blackhole and Shenzou both from Spaceships, an excellent and cheap option.
Nights Slept in Vans: 19, 4 in commercial campsites and 15 in Department of Conservation sites.
Friends Visited: 1, we spent 4 days catching up with one of my camp friends in Auckland and it was wonderful.
Boat Rides: 3, we took a boat to see glowworms, a boat in fjordland, and a really expensive ferry between the two islands.
Flights: 1, from Auckland to Christchurch in their first snow storm in 15 years.
National Parks: 5
World Heritage Sites: 1
Best Food: After arriving from Japan, we enjoyed all the western food immensely, but our favourite were the cheap and abundant Fish and Chips, the chocolate bar Moro Gold, and, of course, the fresh and delicious Kiwi Fruit.

Worst Food: Not a big fan of Marmite.
Best City: We loved Wellington, with its charming waterside walks and excellent museums. It reminded us a lot of Ottawa, one of our favourite cities. A close second place goes to Wanaka where we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the lake, a ridiculously dangerous children’s playground and the chill atmosphere.

Worst City: Queenstown. We felt it was overrun by tourists, which I know is a little hypocritical, and everything was way too expensive.

Best New Experience: Seeing all the natural wonders of New Zealand. It was amazing to drive through mountains and arrive at crystal clear lakes, boat through giant fjords, and come this close to touching a glacier.

What we learned: Thanks to some excellent museums, we learned a lot about glaciers, fjords, mountains and other natural wonders, as well as about native birds; like the crazy alpine parrot, the sadly disappearing kiwi bird and Maori customs and culture. I also learned that there are such terrifyingly large giant squids lurking in the ocean. We also picked up some excellant slang, like a handle of beer instead of a pint, that L&P is a delicious lemon fizzy drink and that ‘to go’ food is takeaway, not take out.
Travel Tip: If you’re camping, pick up a DOC camping guide. They won’t give them to you at your rental place, because they have deals with commercial campgrounds, but the DOC sites were cheaper, in more natural settings and more peaceful. Their only downside was that the maps and directions in the guide were a little vague and it was quite easy to get lost while looking for the sites, but that only added to the adventure. Also, don’t go camping in Wellington, make plans to sleep elsewhere, because the one campground is way too expensive.

Will we go back? Most definitely. We are already planning our lives as expats there.

 

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Australasia’s Weird Food: Affogato

Again, this may not strictly be an Australiasian food, and given the name it’s probably Italian, but I had never seen it before, and it is available at every restaurant there. And it’s amazing!
Ice Cream and Espresso. We should eat this more often.

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Australasia’s Weird Food: Lamingtons

Popular in both New Zealand and Australia, lamingtons are sponge cakes covered in strawberry jam or chocolate sauce and coconut flakes. For some reason we never actually ate one in either country, but they sure do look delicious.

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Gorgeous South Island

A view from our campsite near Te Anau. Absolutely stunning. 

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The best part!

By far highlight of our trip to New Zealand was reuniting with a long lost friend, Gillian!

We spent four days living with Gill in her gorgeous house in Piha, near Auckland. It was an amazing time full of reminiscing, wine and excellent food. It’s so nice to see people you haven’t seen in years and have no problems jumping right back into the friendship! I can’t wait for my next visit, or perhaps permanent move!

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Camping in New Zealand

After a lot of research in to travel costs and feasibility, we decided the best way to see New Zealand was by car. Having heard about cheap camping opportunities we decided to go for a campervan of sorts. Of course, we hadn’t really planned for the freak snowstorm or other bad weather, and had to delay our trip a few days waiting for the mountain passes to be opened and the driveway to be shoveled. Spaceships campervans are old Toyota lucidas imported used from Japan and retrofitted to sleep two, or if you’re brave and don’t mind a roof rack, four. We picked up the winter warmed pack, a heater, a hot water bottle and  thermos, and were on our way. 

While camping had it’s downsides: the sites were much more expensive than we had planned, it was cold, our van was a little old and extremely embarrassing, we are so happy we choose to camp. 

Eventually we found these sweet department of conservation guides to the free and cheap campsites, and from then on we were set. No more $35 a night to sleep in a parking lot, now were paying $6 a night to sleep in the gorgeous parks of New Zealand. 

While our van seemed a little sketchy at first, other than the hub cap incident, a dead battery, and a few little peculiarities with the glove compartment, it brought us home unscathed.

Spaceships come fully equipped with cooking equipment, a DVD player and bedding, so it was really easy to pick up and go. They were definitely also the cheapest vehicle to be had, if not the nicest. Hopefully the next time we go we can afford one of those fancy motorhomes with bathrooms and a real bed, but for now, this was perfect.

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