A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

Christchurch and farm stays!

[Quick synopsis of the past couple weeks]

Christchurch
3 years after the major earthquake, they're still rebuilding! One really can't comprehend natural disasters if you don't visit places and see the aftermath...
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Farm stay #1: Organic Tomato Farm
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From weeding the garlic
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to clearing the asparagus garden,
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from trimming the tomato plants
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and picking green beans.

Farm stay #2: Redgorton Deer Farm
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From washing the car
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to rearranging stones in the river to ensure we get water at the house,
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from picking up pine cones and driving the polaris around
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to hanging out with the dogs and the highland calf
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We had awesome accommodation and were even fed 3 meals a day, surrounded by gorgeous scenery!
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Sidenote, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Posted by smr1188 11:16 Archived in New Zealand Tagged work help_exchange farm_stays Comments (0)

1554km and 6 Days of Adventure

Our Relocation Roadtrip

Our route covered 1554km.
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Well we drove straight through the North Island the first day. 8 hours of driving through beautiful countryside, past snow-capped mountains, Mordor, and Tongariro National Park brought us to our first night in the campervan.
Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park

Driving past Mt Doom in Mordor!

Driving past Mt Doom in Mordor!


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We didn't have time to explore the North Island really at all since we had a 8am ferry to catch our second day. We drove around desperately trying to find a freedom camping spot, we'd looked up several in the general area but couldn't find any. Eventually (10pm) we gave up and turned to the GPS to find the nearest campground. It was a nice one and actually the cheapest one we stayed at.

The next morning we were up before 6am, not knowing how the rush hour traffic would be between us and the ferry. Not all the ferries are functioning at the moment so there wasn't a choice for us what ferry to take or whether we could reschedule it.

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It's a 3 hour ferry ride between the North Island and the South Island and the ship was huge, 10 decks with lots of windows and a sundeck on the roof. We started out here and I returned at the end for some gorgeous views (saw some dolphins and a seal watch us go past).

Picture from ferry

Picture from ferry

We explored the town of Picton on arrival and then headed to the information center to see if we could get some information/direction. We had 5 days to get to Christchurch (really only a 4 hour drive from Picton) and were looking for suggestions on where to explore. This particular information center was the most unhelpful one we went to! We said we had 5 days, unlimited kilometers, and a self-contained campervan...where should we go?!

Picton

Picton

The response was basically pointing at the map where the roads were and saying well there's lots of options, you've got time so you can go on any of these roads, there's lots to see on all of them. Nothing more than that! No specific suggestions. After the customer service emphasis at St Regis Canoe Outfitters, I was speechless.

We headed west along the northern coast of the Southern Island, taking a scenic drive along Queen Charlotte Drive.

Queen Charlotte Drive

Queen Charlotte Drive

Our second night was in the town of Nelson, Tahuna Campground had the best showers we've had this whole trip! It's amazing how important good showers become when you travel and are limited to cheap hostel showers.

From there we continued west, stopping in Montuka and stopped at another information center. This one was awesome, they were very helpful and took it as a challenge to suggest different sights along different ways and plan out the best way to see a lot of it. They suggested Wharariki Beach, the most northwest corner of the South Island that has a cool beach and a nice campground. Sounded really cool so we headed there for the night...
Wharariki Beach

Wharariki Beach


This was our favorite spot, we were surrounded by a sheep farm that had trails through it to the beach. Very cool. And there were fur seals at the beach! Pups playing in the tidal pools, we kept missing low tide which would have been the best time to see them, but there were still some playing when we were there.
Walking through a sheep farm to the beach

Walking through a sheep farm to the beach

IMG_0007.jpgJust walking to the beach through a sheep farm

Just walking to the beach through a sheep farm

Sheep don't climb stairs

Sheep don't climb stairs

Fur Seal on Wharariki Beach

Fur Seal on Wharariki Beach

Wharariki Beach Cave, this appears at low tide but is underwater at high tide

Wharariki Beach Cave, this appears at low tide but is underwater at high tide

Wandering Peacock

Wandering Peacock

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From there we headed to St Arnaud for the night. A gorgeous lake in the mountains, making us feel very at home. Except there were terrible sand flies there. So terrible..

We made some friends there, had dinner together, then played cards and talked late into the night which was a lot of fun. One was from the North Island and one from California, they were doing a hiking trail that covers all of the South Island.

PC040107.jpgLake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes

Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes

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Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes

We set out for Hanmer Springs the next day. Though touristy, natural fed hot springs sounded awesome. This one was a little bit of a let down, too touristy and just not what we were looking for. We did however find a nice campground just outside of town that wasn't busy so we had a site and surrounding area to ourselves which was cool.

PC050144.jpgSpringtime in New Zealand

Springtime in New Zealand

PC050158.jpgSpringtime in December!

Springtime in December!

The next day we brought the campervan successfully into Christchurch and returned it, slightly dusty but having survived the trip.

This is how new our vehicle was!

This is how new our vehicle was!

PC010036.jpgInside the campervan

Inside the campervan

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Inside the campervan

Posted by smr1188 17:08 Archived in New Zealand Tagged map new_zealand campervan roadtrip relocation Comments (2)

It's All Part of the Adventure!

New Zealand!

New Zealand!

After a slight hitch at the airport (turns out you need a flight out of New Zealand before you can fly into New Zealand) we made it safely to Auckland (North Island) and the next day we picked up our Wilderness Motorhome relocation vehicle. We were driving their Escape 4 (click here to read about it!), a brand new vehicle! When we picked it up it only had 20km on it!

We're so excited!
Campervan!

Campervan!

Yes, they trusted us with a new vehicle after saying we'd never driven on the left, or a campervan (or anything else that big!)
While we enjoyed having the van for 6 days, being the first to drive it (read, guinea pigs!) we found all the faults that a new vehicle shouldn't have.

Some things that we thought were faults were just unfortunately never mentioned to us. One window wouldn't stay open (this was on purpose because of the door, but we thought it was broken) and the brakes developed a very loud squeak halfway through the trip (turns out new brakes squeak at first, but no one warned us about that). We definitely got some stares from pedestrians in towns.

One of the first things we did after driving out of the parking lot was plug in the Ipod, after all music is one of the most important parts of a roadtrip...unfortunately, the radio wasn't hooked up correctly and only the passenger speaker worked. So while the driver could barely hear the music, the passenger was going deaf with it turned up loud. This was probably our biggest complaint.

The other main fault was that the refrigerator didn't work when we stopped for the night unless we were at a powered site. This vehicle had a battery and gas to run all the necessary equipment at night without being at a powered site, but this must not have been connected correctly. At first we thought we were doing it wrong, but after trying all the different ways to operate it, we concluded it was the vehicle.

We were also disappointed that we couldn't freedom camp anywhere. Though the vehicle is self-contained, meaning it had a shower and toilet onboard and storage for these so you can park 'anywhere' and 'leave no trace' (thus making it freedom camping certified) we were unable to find a place to park for the night. The first night we drove around for over an hour, in the dark, trying to find a place where we could freedom camp.

Will we fit on this bridge?

Will we fit on this bridge?

Each town we went to we were met with blank stares and responses of “sorry no freedom camping in the area, and no I don't know anywhere that you can.” We were really looking forward to this ability, hopeful of finding a cool spot, and saving money avoiding campgrounds.

Despite all of this, we did enjoy having our own wheels and getting to explore some of the South Island. There was great customer service on pick-up and drop-off, and more pictures and stories to come in the next post!


Paul in Wharariki Campground

Paul in Wharariki Campground

Posted by smr1188 16:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand campervan roadtrip relocation Comments (0)

A New Zealand Decision

2 days before we flew to NZ, we didn't know we were going to NZ

Ever heard of a relocation deal? Car companies give a discounted rental price if you drive their vehicle where they need it to be, within their time frame. You just cover fuel and, depending on the deal, any extra mileage you go over what they allot for the trip, plus insurance if you want full coverage instead of basic/standard coverage.

What's the catch? There doesn't seem to be one. You just need to have a flexible plan of where you want to be when, or maybe find a relocation that fits your plans if you're lucky.

Rewind for a second, we're just outside of Sydney after turning down jobs in Sydney and have no clue what we're doing. On our list was New Zealand, particularly in the summer months. Since we didn't have a Christmas/New Year's plan, we thought, why not New Zealand?!

One of the things we wanted to do in New Zealand was to rent a camper and explore the countryside. Well, we didn't have more of a plan than that, knowing we wanted to explore both the north and south island, so we started looking into relocation deals after trying to look into campervan rentals and finding that overwhelming, trying to find the best deal for an undetermined amount of time.

After hearing a couple good reviews about helpx, a website that links travelers to work exchange opportunities (ranging from wwoofing, hostels, etc) and luckily 1 membership covers Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe, Canada, and the US. Most of the work exchange programs involve working a couple hours in exchange for accommodation, sometimes food is included, and work varies from hostel, to house to farm work.

Emailing a couple places just outside Christchurch (South Island) and getting promising responses, we decided to go for it all.

New Zealand, relocation, and help exchange.

We booked a plane ticket for 2 days away. Reserved a relocation from Auckland to Christchurch for 3 days away. And let the realization sink in that, we were going to New Zealand in 2 days!!!

Posted by smr1188 17:57 Archived in Australia Tagged planning last_minute Comments (0)

A weekend getaway that turned into a week and a half stay...

(Well, I'll try to catch up (to at least the right coutry after this post, but I couldn't resist one more of the Blue Mountains)

What was originally a 3 night jaunt out of Sydney, turned into working at an awesome hostel for a week in exchange for our stay. We fell in love with the hostel, and are now spoiled as we continue our travels, comparing everything to that one. Called the Flying Fox, it had a woodstove, a cat named Guano, an easy kitchen, welcoming living room (where said woodstove is), and a back patio with a picnic table, bbq, and a firepit.

Living Room of the Flying Fox

Living Room of the Flying Fox

Backyard of the Flying Fox

Backyard of the Flying Fox

Our bedroom at the hostel

Our bedroom at the hostel

Flying Fox beds

Flying Fox beds

We fell for the place, the atmosphere, and the people staying there, and asked the owner to put us to work! We'd work 3-4 hours a day for our stay, mostly cleaning the kitchen (an endless job with so many people cooking), vacuuming (with a terrible cheap $50 vacuum—sidenote, never buy a cheap vacuum!), cleaning bathrooms (those were the cleanest hostel bathrooms ever! Cleaned 2-3 times a day!), and remaking beds/laundry.
The hostel held about 30 beds, plus some campsites out back for tents and free internet and breakfast. Sometimes we even made pancakes for breakfast! Not just cheap cereal and toast. What more could you ask for?!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE

Katoomba's a cool town too. Main Street doesn't give off a touristy feel, there's mostly normal shops and restaurants there. It reminded us of Saranac Lake some, a small town in the mountains.

Staying a week and a half gave us time to get used to the town, and enjoy the varying weather. On sunny days we'd get our butts out on a trail somewhere, and look forward to a rainy day where we could rest and recover. There were awesome rain and thunder storms that passed though, and nothing beats a thunderstorm in the mountains.

We went hiking in the rain too...and then went back the following day to see it in the sunshine...what a difference! We really enjoyed hiking in the rain and the wind blowing the mist everywhere.

Cliff Overlook -Rainy Day

Cliff Overlook -Rainy Day

Cliff Lookout-sunshine

Cliff Lookout-sunshine

Sunshine Views

Sunshine Views

Top of Wentworth Falls -Rainy Day

Top of Wentworth Falls -Rainy Day

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

Sunshine Views

Sunshine Views

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls Lookout

Wentworth Falls Lookout

Ladders!

Ladders!

Wentworth Falls Lookout

Wentworth Falls Lookout

Posted by smr1188 19:34 Archived in Australia Tagged hiking hostels blue_mountains Comments (0)

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