In Australia, we had issues with full hotels or overbooked hotels. In New Zealand, we decided to kill two birds with one stone. We wanted to avoid the full hotel issue, and cross camper-van off the list of things we would like to try. We saw camper vans (or motor vans, as they call them) all over Australia and wondered how difficult they could really be to drive and live in. We found out in New Zealand!
We arrived in New Zealand, and got the last camper van they had! Luck was with us! (Most of them had been pre-booked or transferred to the other island for the use of aid to earth quake victims). We watched a movie at the rental place on how to drive it, use all the equipment, unfold the beds, refill the water tank, and power up! (It had no bathroom, so we didn't have to worry about that issue!) We signed paperwork for the rental, agreed on a reasonable, but not full level of insurance coverage, and we were off! The kids were giddy with excitement at the thought of "camping" in New Zealand.
Keeping in mind that we needed to drive on the opposite side of the road, and our chauffeur, (my brave Hubby) was sitting on my right side,instead of my left, in the driver's seat, we made some pre-travel plans. We were going to park far from everything the entire time, to avoid backing up or being in a tight parking space. We weren't going to use the stove at all so we didn't have to re-fill the cooking natural-gas. For the few days we were there, we didn't want to mess with cooking inside.
We went to the Glow Worm Caves first. They were fun, and a once in a lifetime experience. We took all of our own extra vehicle precautions, and did great. It was raining and parking was on a hill, but we did it!
That night we found an RV park, but it was full, so we went to another one and got the last spot. It was not easy to get into, but we made it. We parked at our first RV Park for the night. Getting tucked in the first night was not ideal. I had to figure out the table and beds for the first time. Tom (Hubby) kept banging his head when the bed was folded down. I am only 5 feet tall, and the kids are shorter in height (yet), so the rest of us didn't have that issue! It was pouring down rain, and the vent let in too much water to leave it open, which meant a hot, steamed up van! The Robin William's movie "RV" was playing in my head. It rained all night.
The next day we folded up, unplugged, and headed out. We went to Waimangu Volcanic Valley where we saw lots of hot pots and geysers. It was beautiful. It rained a lot but with such beautiful views, it didn't matter. We kept going! We also visited the Buried Village at TeWairoa Village near Mt. Tarawera. An Indian Guide gave a spectacular tour of the village showing where a nearby volcano had spilled ash and lava down a mountain and into the village. His Grandmother had been in the village the night of the volcano. She helped to save many of the tourists from the lava flow. Years later they dug the village out to show what the village had been like. It once had a beautiful terrace of mineral waters nearby. Indians from the local tribe hosted tourists from around the world on tours of the area, and to bathe in the natural minerals at the terrace. All this changed when the volcano erupted one night. The last sign we saw in the museum at the end of our Buried Village Tour said "Will it happen again?" The answer was YES! History noted that Tawawera had erupted at least five times in the last 20,000 years. Wow! Okay, time to be leaving!
By the end of our visit in New Zealand, we were old pros at refilling the water (for the sink) in the camper van. We knew how to quickly fold out or fold up the beds and table. We were still parking as far as possible from everyone everywhere we stopped, and Tom was doing a great job navigating our Camper Van Beast on our "wrong" side of the road! No problem!
Finally, it was time to fly home. We dropped the van off at the rental place, proud of our accomplishment. Then they told us, after their inspection, that we had a dent! WHAT!? We worked so hard and were so careful! We were stunned. When they showed us, I was amazed. Someone must have doored the vehicle somewhere along the way. I took pictures. Had I known, I would have cleaned the black mark off with a rag and it would have been invisible, but they considered it an incident and filed the paperwork for repair. They would get back to us in a few months, but in the meantime, they would hold the $2500.00 NZD deposit. We'd hear from them in a few months. Sigh!
We just recently received the return of some of our deposit.
-Trip to New Zealand? Less than Australia, but definitely not cheap.
-The tiny black marks on the Motor Van Beast? $400.00 NZD!
-Adventure in New Zealand living in a vehicle, and so many bruises, long walks from parking, fun experiences and silly moments with the family? Priceless!
The next trip will be in a few months and will be Ireland. I'm voting to sleep on something without wheels this adventure. Tom and the boys are crossing their fingers that we can stay in a castle!