RVing in a Mystic Land
I'm back from New Zealand... and it truly is that... a mystic land.
I felt as if I'd been dropped into one of those movies where people land on a strange planet and walk along wide-eyed and open-mouthed at all the strange sights.
It was my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, and I was not prepared to see plants and wildlife so much different from anything I'd ever seen before.
For those who don't know (I certainly didn't) New Zealand is composed of two volcano-created islands, "North Island" and "South Island" in the South Pacific Ocean.
Everywhere we went, there were exotic and beautiful sights in every direction... the whole place is covered with mountains that rise straight out of the ocean with no foothills, and as far as I could see (I don't know the actual definition), the whole place is a rain forest. I asked someone “how can all this lush vegetation exist in volcanic ash?”… and the answer was “That’s what we want to know!”.
One day, we drove from Auckland, near the top of North Island, about 3 hours south to Rotorua (sightseeing all the way, of course... there was not a mile that was without wonders to behold), where there are hot springs, geysers, and some of the most exotic gardens I've ever seen.
Another day we drove to the southern part of North Island, to Matarangi on Coromandel Peninsula, where we spent the night in a beachside "bach", played on the beach -- it's Spring there -- and went sightseeing some more. Then to Whitianga, where my sons charted the Brittany, a 42 ft Jeanneau sailing yacht.
My middle son, Richard, is a qualified sailor and ocean navigator, so we were able to take the boat "bareboat", which means that we didn't have to have a commercial Skipper... Richard was the Skipper and the other "boys", oldest son Russell, his 18-year-old son, Reggie, and youngest, son Roger, were crew. (Mom watched and took pictures, and went below when things got rough.)
On the drive there, Richard had given the other guys a short course in sailing... they had to handle the sails... the boat was much too big for the skipper to do it all... and by the end of the trip they were getting pretty good. We spent a day and night cruising and sightseeing off the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula.
On another day, we flew to Queenstown, on South Island, spent the night in a very nice three bedroom apartment with a beautiful view, went sightseeing in the area, then drove a few hundred miles to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park (again, sightseeing all the way!), where we took a cruise into an area that was so exotic that it simply cannot be described... but I will describe it in a later post.
RVing in New Zealand turns out to be much more "do-able" than I had believed from things I'd heard and read in the past.
Roads are narrow and winding, but well-maintained. It's not much different from driving in the mountains in the US, but it’s that way everywhere. I never saw anything over two lanes except for short stretches in or near cities.
One thing I appreciated... the lack of big trucks. Because New Zealand is surrounded by water, that is the main method of transport, so there are few big trucks on the roads.
I never saw a large RV, but there were about as many small RVs as passenger cars on the highway. They were some small Class C’s, but most were Class B's and passenger vans, identified as rental RVs by the signs on the sides.
RV parking appears to be about the same as in the US... some parking lots allowed it and others had "no overnight parking" signs. I didn't see any RV parks, but am told that there are several very nice ones there.
There were many RV rental places... some at airports, along with rental cars and vans. I didn’t have the opportunity to price any of then, but I could see that they were plentiful enough to make it practical to find one for a New Zealand tour.
We rented a Toyota Mini-Van… the nicest vehicle from the standpoint of the passenger that I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy (backseat and “very back seat” passengers could enjoy the scenery and we could all participate in conversations as we drove along) and stayed at hotels. There were too many of us to fit in one of those small RVs.
Prices, in general, seemed higher than in the US, but some seemed cheaper, so it would be hard to make a decision based on cost.
We went during “shoulder season”… between two major tourist seasons, so prices were, at least “affordable". Some overnight accommodations seemed less than American prices, but, I’m told, it is “insane” during our winter… when it is fine weather in New Zealand.
Food was different but very good (my favorite was the fast food "meat pie", a pastry filled with a choice of fillings), and overnight accommodations reasonable. We paid about $300 for a luxury 3 bedroom apartment and about $120 for a housekeeping cabin with sleeping space for six.
People in general, were very nice and friendly… natives (Kiwis) went out of their way to welcome us to New Zealand, and I never saw a sour face or heard a cross word. It was, however, disconcerting to not be able to understand people who were speaking English. Luckily, my son and grandson have been there long enough to translate.
The price to get there and back… somewhere around a thousand dollars from LAX… and the flight is about 12 hours to Auckland.
The flight wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. Air New Zealand is a wonderful airline... the seats get mighty uncomfortable before morning, but the service is superb. We were served supper... real food in real dishes and complimentary New Zealand wine (in a real wine glass!), and breakfast that was about "Denny's" quality. Every seat has its own TV, and our flights, at least, were very quiet (is understood and expected that everyone is trying to sleep), so if you take the last flight of the day from Los Angeles (LAX) it is quite possible to have dinner, watch a movie, then settle down for the night, and awake to a New Zealand day and little jet lag.
Posted by CJ's Easy As Pie at 10:23 AM