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New Zealand Campervan Catastrophes

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New Zealand Campervan Catastrophes

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Our five month camper van road trip in New Zealand has been a journey we will never forget. With a bed in the back, we have vowed we will be tent camping no more unless we are in the backcountry. Hey, we camped in a tent for four months on our US road trip. We did our time.

Last day with our good ol' camper van, Bernie. You treated us well for all five months and killed those 16,000 km. We'll miss ya, boy!

Last day with our good ol' camper van, Bernie. You treated us well for all five months and killed those 16,000 km. We'll miss ya, boy!

We woke up to new, stunning New Zealand views every morning. We are sold! Forget a house, we are dreaming of living in a campervan! We were outside all the time. We fell asleep next to bubbling brooks and woke up to views we would never have in a house or hotel. We had most of our meals outside soaking in beautiful vistas of coastlines and mountain ranges for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have even stumbled upon the southern lights and an eclipse just because we have been more in tune with nature. It’s been incredible!

Waking up to mountain tops covered in snow! Ah!

Waking up to mountain tops covered in snow! Ah!

We have had our fair share of catastrophes and fails, though. How 'bout that time...

We had our nightmare on the Forgotten HighwaY

We should have known we were setting out for bad news. The name is the Forgotten World Highway for a reason. There’s nothing on it. Well, to be honest, we knew there were four campsites along the route, so we thought we would be okay.

We passed the first two in the daylight and thought we could make it to the next one. One thing we have learned about New Zealand is the distance on maps is incredibly deceptive. In reality, it takes three times longer than you estimate due to the winding and curving roads. Well, this was just the case this time, too. We underestimated our timing.

By now it was dark and we finally got to the next campsite option. Our headlights hit the locked gate. No access. Okay, moving on. We made it to the next site. This is it! We are home for the night. No, no campsite here. It was midnight at this point, we had been driving for hours and Adam finally just pulled over at a rest stop in the pitch black. I looked over and our van was situated on a decline with a cliff only feet away.

As we got into bed, I asked, “Is the parking break on?” My mind was racing of the what if’s. Ladies, you get this. Adam, knowing me too well said, “Lindsey, if we roll, we’ll roll into the tree." Oh, great, we'll just roll into the tree on the edge of the cliff. Hell no! I scrambled out of bed, jumped into the drivers seat and steamed down the never ending Forgotten Highway. Adam stayed in the back snuggled up all cosy in bed.

Driving further and further there was nothing. We were in rural New Zealand and good luck to anyone trying to read road signs in the dark. I kept politely asking for Adam to help me find the next campsite. Silence. “Oh, you’re going to play that game?” I have never been so livid. He always expects me to navigate for him and the time I’m powering through to get us to a safe spot to sleep, he’s not helping me! I’m talking to him, he’s not responding.

I know he’s awake. I turn on the music just to ensure he can't sleep. Again, I ask him to help me. I’m missing turn offs and signs for new camp sites because I can’t see the gosh darn signs. He’s still not talking. I crank up the music, loud, blasting it as loud as the knob will go. It's so loud, I can’t even think straight. I’m fuming at him! I keep missing turns and I don’t know where to go. I keep pulling over to look at maps, but keep missing signs. Oh, sweet Adam is still in the back, cuddled up, cozy and silent. Can you believe him?!?

At this point I’m crying from frustration and exhaustion. I don’t know where to go and when I need Adam’s help, he’s not showing up to help me. Desperate, I just pull into a motel parking lot and fall into the bed in the back of Bernie. If we had a house, I would have kicked Adam out that night. The couch wouldn’t have even been an option.

And the night we were attacked and kicked out of our campsite by the vicious flock of keA

Don't be fooled. Kea fly in gangs, consume rubber, can run as fast as your small terrier, and have beaks sharpened for war. Quite intimidated and outnumbered, we were run out of our campsite!

Don't be fooled. Kea fly in gangs, consume rubber, can run as fast as your small terrier, and have beaks sharpened for war. Quite intimidated and outnumbered, we were run out of our campsite!

Remember that time we were invaded by thousands of ENORMOUS beetles

How peaceful and calm this looks. Our experience was the complete opposite: Hysterics followed by chaos!

How peaceful and calm this looks. Our experience was the complete opposite: Hysterics followed by chaos!

So, we pulled into a green, grassy campsite in a beautiful gorge with a river flowing through and a historic bridge as a backdrop. I started pulling out our camping chairs and tv table to get ready to make dinner. I unfolded our little pink camping chair and immediately went peddling backwards screaming! The chair was covered with tens, hundreds, thousands of black beetles all 2 inches long! (Okay, I know I’m exaggerating, but there were tons! They were HUGE!)

I screamed and started freaking out at Adam. My fright turned to rage and even got stubborn Adam to clean off every one of them as he laughed hysterically. He started flicking them off the chair right next to the van. “What are you thinking?!? Not next to the van!!!” I made him go as far away as possible to execute those buggers. I had the whole campsite gaping at my hysterics.

Dinner was delayed as I pulled everything out of the van and scoured every nook and cranny of every item in every box until I was satisfied that every single beetle had been exterminated. Adam had left the pink chair out all night at a beach the night before and these nocturnal beetles found comfort in the seat of the folded pink chair in the morning. Unknown to us, we shoved the chair and the hundreds of beetles into the van and transported them all day! Disgusting! Thankfully, they were subdued during their transport, so many didn’t escape the chair’s boundaries. Thank God I found them before they became active that night as we slept right above them! Ah! I cringe at the thought.

My meticulous cleanse wasn’t thorough enough, though. We found remnants of other beetles throughout the van in the days to come. You bet no item has been left outside or will ever be left outside ever again!

Oh, and how many nights did we compete to see who could kill more sandflies and mosquitos?

And the time we found a wee bird in our push bike wheel. We felt horrible. 

And the time we found a wee bird in our push bike wheel. We felt horrible. 

Can't forget the Flood of 2015

All right, so Adam, our beloved, intellectual, college edumucated CPA, has a history of making terribly illogical decisions when storing large amounts of liquid. On our US roadtrip, he insisted on storing a gallon of Gain washing detergent in a Ziploc bag stored in the exact spot that we were shoving our gear in and out every morning and every night. Ziploc, I believe in you, but not that much. Turns out, I was right. The bag exploded.

Round two: New Zealand. With Bernie, we inherited an unused thick plastic camping bag that boasted it could hold 5 gallons of water. I doubted that from the moment we layed eyes on it. We already lived through this. So, we argued. Adam didn’t budge, so I gave up. The bag made it the first two months. Surprisingly, the plastic bag got a hole in it! What? Can you believe it? Poor Bernie’s carpet and everything stored under the bed were soaked for weeks.

Every chance we got we hauled everything out of the van and had it air dry. Wonderful Nancy and David on the sheep farm even tried a heater and fan on it for days. We won’t make that decision again. I’m putting my foot down.

Oh no. We are following a truck load of 45 porte-johns up a mountain pass. If anything goes wrong, things could get really sh!$&y!

Oh no. We are following a truck load of 45 porte-johns up a mountain pass. If anything goes wrong, things could get really sh!$&y!

These are the true, imperfect tales of #nuventures. I hear they say, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I'll hang onto that.

These accounts are unbiased, with no name calling or blame, and are objective in all aspects.

"I'll go climb the tree. This will be the perfect picture! Ugh, ugh... hold on a sec. Wait, ugh. I'm getting there."

"I'll go climb the tree. This will be the perfect picture! Ugh, ugh... hold on a sec. Wait, ugh. I'm getting there."

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Learn New Zealand Vocabulary

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Learn New Zealand Vocabulary

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Heading to New Zealand, hey? Good on ya! You speak English, hey? Sweet as! Just to be sure you and your mates will have heaps of fun and your mum won’t be worried, rattle your dags and get keen on learning your Kiwi English! When you do, you’ll be good as gold! If not, don’t get your knickers in a wad, she’ll be right.

We have a brand spankin’ new English vocabulary after five months of road tripping New Zealand in our not-so-flash campervan, Bernie, and tramping through the fern filled bush. The drives around the country were filled with hours of admiring thousands of shorn ewes in green paddocks, being spontaneously welcomed into generous Kiwi homes and served heaps of tea, biscuits and mince pies. It's been a corker!

We hope our stories and pictures have inspired you to explore New Zealand for yourself or return to the inspiring views! We have loved it here in this magical country known as Middle Earth. Make sure to use the US vs New Zealand English dictionary below to prepare for your trip. Don’t forget your sunnies, jandals and togs for the beach and your jersey for the cool nights, hey!

Tongariro Crossing, North Island

Tongariro Crossing, North Island

American mustard: mustard

bach: vacation home

biscuit: cookie

bogan: redneck

bonnet: hood of a car

boot: trunk of a car

Mount Cook, South Island

Mount Cook, South Island

brekkie: breakfast

bush: forest

capsicum: bell pepper

car park: parking lot

cheeky: sassy

cheers: thank you

Moeraki Boulders, South Island

Moeraki Boulders, South Island

chemist: pharmacy

chilly bin: cooler

chippies/crisps: potato chips

chips: French fries

college: private high school

chook: chicken

Nugget Point

Nugget Point

corker: very good

corgets: zucchini

coriander: cilantro

cotton buds: Q-tips

dags: dingleberry

dear: expensive

Hokitika, South Island

Hokitika, South Island

entrée: appetizer

ewes: female sheep

fizzy: carbonated soda

flash: fancy/ high class

flat: apartment

fortnight: two weeks

Route burn Great Walk

Route burn Great Walk

“Gold as!”: “Awesome!”

“Good on ya!”: "Congratulations"

gutted: bad luck

heaps: a lot

hens: chicken

hey: used similar to the Canadian “eh”

Queenstown

Queenstown

holiday: vacation

jandals: flip flops

jersey: sweat shirt

keen: excited

knackered: exhausted

knickers: underwear

Manuka Mire, Invercargill, South Island

Manuka Mire, Invercargill, South Island

kumara: sweet potato

lolly: hard candy

loo/toilet: bathroom

mate: friend

maths: math/mathematics

mince: ground beef

Roy's Peak, South Island

Roy's Peak, South Island

mufti: when students don’t have to wear school uniforms

mum: mom

munted: broken beyond repair

nappies: diapers

naughty: mischievous

paddock: field

Cave Stream, South Island 

Cave Stream, South Island 

partner: girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse

petrol: gas

pie: meat filled pastry

plaster: band aid

pram: baby stroller

push bike: bicycle

Arthur's Pass, South Island

Arthur's Pass, South Island

“Rattle your dags!”: “Hurry up!”

rubbish: trash

“She’ll be right”: all will be okay

shout: pay for something for you

slip: rock slide

sunnies: sunglasses

Pancake Rocks, South Island

Pancake Rocks, South Island

“Sweet as!”: “Awesome!”

tea: dinner

tea towel: dish towel

togs: bathing suit

tomato sauce: ketchup

torch: flashlight

Sunset at Pancake Rocks, South Island 

Sunset at Pancake Rocks, South Island 

tramping: hiking over several days

tyre: tire

university: college

walking: hiking

wapiti: elk

wee: little bit

Fiordland National Park, South Island 

Fiordland National Park, South Island 

windscreen: windshield

yarn: chat and jokes with mates

zed: “z”

A huge shout out and thanks to the Foresters for sharing NZ with us and teaching us our Kiwi-isms!

A huge shout out and thanks to the Foresters for sharing NZ with us and teaching us our Kiwi-isms!

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New Zealand's Kepler Track Great Walk with Tuna at the Ready

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New Zealand's Kepler Track Great Walk with Tuna at the Ready

Who loves some TUNA?!? TUNA! TUNA! TUNA! Let's hear it for tuna!

The view at the start of the Kepler Great Walk. This is gonna be good!

The view at the start of the Kepler Great Walk. This is gonna be good!

We have never eaten so much tuna in our lives! "You are what you eat," they say. Maybe we should lay off the tuna. Who knows if gills are forming under Adam's out of control beard!

Into the bush we go!

Into the bush we go!

This canned fish has become the staple for all of our hikes. New Zealand is the Disney World for walkers. Tramps galore! The stunning views we can only see by foot are why we go walking, but when it gets to ten hours of walking, heck, just two hours of walking, our focus turns to the food we are carting up these mountains on our backs. "Hmm, where's the chocolate?"

Our quick and easy backpacking list:

  • tent (1)
  • sleeping pads (2)
  • tuna
  • sleeping bags (2)
  • head lamps (2)
  • tuna
  • tp (1 roll- never know what's ahead)
  • clothes for cold & rain
  • tuna
  • water
  • water filter
  • first aid kit
  • tuna, tuna, tuna
Steep trail kept us pushing forward until we hit the golden alpine. 

Steep trail kept us pushing forward until we hit the golden alpine. 

Heading into a wall of clouds and rain:(

Heading into a wall of clouds and rain:(

Where there's mist, there's rainbows!

Where there's mist, there's rainbows!

What a landscape!

What a landscape!

For some reason, we have come to feel ready to go hiking as long as we have canned tuna. With a sober reflection on this, why in the world we feel that way, I’m not quite sure. We need new ideas, ya’ll!

"On the boardwalk! We be havin' some fun!"

"On the boardwalk! We be havin' some fun!"

Well, this post is based on true stories.

“How many tunas we got?”

“Six!”

"Good to go!"

With our tuna at the ready, we snap on our backpacks and a walking we go!

Into the fog...

Into the fog...

Our regular menu regiment:

Breakfast: tea, rolled oats, apple

AM Snack: granola bar

Lunch: TUNA, crackers, cucumber, apple

PM Snack: trail mix Dinner: ramon, squash, carrots, onion, mixing sauce

Dessert: uno cookie

See ya blue skies!

See ya blue skies!

After three days on tuna, our trail conversations turn to day dreams and cravings of food! Our voices trail off in longing tones, our mouths get watery and our eyes glaze over with visions of dripping cheesy pizza or a delicious juicy hamburger or what about a burrito smothered and covered with sour cream, salsa and guac! As the days continue, the purpose and excitement of our steps change from the new sights we will see to cutting the distance between us and the lasagna we are drooling over in our dreams!

The mountain ranges were so close, but we were only getting eerie peeks through the clouds. 

The mountain ranges were so close, but we were only getting eerie peeks through the clouds. 

To be fair on ourselves, when prepping for our trip we like to zip in and out of the grocery store with light, dry foods since we are hauling everything on our backs. However, since we have had rolled oats, ramon and tuna so much, we refuse to eat them when we aren’t on the trail. We refuse!

Got into the white out. Smack dab in the clouds. Well, we love to see, so heading back into blue skies. 

Got into the white out. Smack dab in the clouds. Well, we love to see, so heading back into blue skies. 

Anyone out there with lighter, more delicious recipes than tuna? Holla at the Nubern's and share your good news!

Pit stop at Luxmore Hut before making our descent.

Pit stop at Luxmore Hut before making our descent.

We'll be growing gils and flippers til then!

"Blue skies smiling at me! Nothin' but blue skies do I see!"

"Blue skies smiling at me! Nothin' but blue skies do I see!"

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New Zealand's Routeburn Track Great Walk: We  Burned a Route on the Routeburn

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New Zealand's Routeburn Track Great Walk: We Burned a Route on the Routeburn

“I keep wondering if I really like tramping… The cold and the loneliness and the fear- do they outweigh the magnificence, the terrible impersonal glory of the mountains?” – Charles Brasch, posted in Routeburn Falls Hut, Routeburn Great Walk, New Zealand

The start of our tramp!

The start of our tramp!

We walked the same steps, on the same trail, up and down the same mountain two days in a row. Yep, that’s right. The same 12 km’s up and the same 12 km’s down one day after another. We burned our route on the Routeburn. We knew we were crazy.

Hazey valley hiding the montanas!

Hazey valley hiding the montanas!

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We're going up!

We're going up!

"Why’d you do it?" you ask.

The first day was a grey morning with the clouds hanging low and flat. We hoped the haze was just morning fog that would burn off. We were wrong. Those suckers hung on all day without budging. Every now and then along our 12 km climb, a wind would part the clouds and we were able to have a peek at the crests of the mountains that were hiding. My heart ached to be able to see the landscape we were amongst. We knew monstrous mountains surrounded us and we were missing out on seeing their glory!

Only bit of blue sky we saw all day!

Only bit of blue sky we saw all day!

In the clouds!

In the clouds!

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Our destination for the day was Harris Saddle where we heard we would see a stunning range of mountains with glaciers hanging amongst the peaks. I was hoping, believing that God would part the sea of clouds for us just to see for a moment. He’s done it before! In reality, the moment of reaching the saddle was a huge letdown. The clouds were still looming and concealing what we had heard was the grand view. Only seeing more clouds, we turned back to head down the mountain.

Made it to the saddle in the clouds. 

Made it to the saddle in the clouds. 

Hey! We can see down there!

Hey! We can see down there!

We had to traverse the cliffs of Harris Lake again. We had been alone for a while, now. There were few souls tramping the trail with the poor weather. They had the right idea. Turning back with new eyes, I found Harris Lake to be spectacular in the mist with the clouds wrapped amongst the golden, alpine bases of the mountain walls.  It was a mystical landscape. Alone, this spot was ours. We breathed the scene in. I secretly wanted to be in this place again. It was glorious!

An hour into our hike that morning, on our way up, I warned Adam, “If tomorrow’s a clear day, I’m doing this again.” We had hiked from 10 am to 7:30 pm the first day. The initial five hours were all up hill, sweating and clenching our cheeks to get us up and save our calves from exhaustion. The way down was really all down hill. We snagged walking sticks from the forest floor to save our knees. They were over worked as our brakes on the steep decline.

I just wanted to see the mountain tops!

I just wanted to see the mountain tops!

Low and behold, the next morning we woke up to a brand spankin’ new day totally opposite than the day before with an absolute clear sky. Well, dang. We picked the wrong day for our first ascent. My soul ached to see the mountaintops I knew were there. We could see them today without the clouds! My body wasn’t in unison, though. I didn’t want to battle that climb and descent all over again. Adam and I were pretty quiet that morning both independently battling the same inner struggle. Do it again? Or not? Adam finally muttered from the back of the van, “I think you could talk me into doing it again.” With those words, I knew I was in. Knowing Adam’s focus on efficiency, he was struggling with the idea to do the same hike again as anyone would. We already did it! I worked my best persuasive argument. “This would be an entirely different hike than the day before. We would actually be able to see the mountains!” Well, my nonsense worked and we started up the mountain again to complete the exact same hike.

The next morning's sky...

The next morning's sky...

My argument didn’t reign true. An hour into our hike, the clouds rolled in again, but this time it started raining.  We continually second guessed ourselves. However, the clouds were high enough that we could see the mountaintops, our new view for the day, so we kept trekking up and up.

My secret wish came true as we traversed Harris Lake again to get to our destination, Harris Saddle.

As we rounded the last bit of the lake, I caught a glimpse of the anticipated grand view we had worked so hard for. I saw a tiny bit of clinging snow on a black, jagged mountain and a blue sky as the backdrop! A blue sky! The mountaintops! We can see! I started yelping and running. I was so excited and couldn’t get to the saddle fast enough! The view was a true gift! To have worked so hard to see this view with disappointment the day before and to do the same hike without the guarantee of seeing it again, oh, it was a Christmas morning experience! What a gift to see such a stunning view.

The much anticipated view!

The much anticipated view!

We made it!

We made it!

We scurried up Conical Hill to get a grander view while we had a chance with the clouds at bay.

A grander view of Harris Lake

A grander view of Harris Lake

Glorious!

Glorious!

Our second day, we hiked til 8:30 pm and got into camp near dark, but on such a high.

The gifts of the day didn’t end at Conical Hill, though.  Debriefing in the van after a rushed dinner, we were silent. Adam was looking out into the sky and saw curious vertical bands of white light forming like the laser beams of spotlights shooting into the sky in the cities. But, we were in the wilderness at the end of the road at the base of the mountains. It couldn’t be those brilliant spotlights. We sat there watching as the sky transformed and a band of red and fucsia began to grow. We jumped out of Bernie giddy and dancing. We were seeing the southern lights!

To answer the question posed in the quote found in Routeburn Falls Hut, the magnificence and glory of the mountains mightily outweigh the pains and exhaustion that accessing the beauty brings.

Keep on tramping, ya’ll! We’ll be out there with you!

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