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We're Back! (and tired)

California
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We're Back! (and tired)

Hi all. We are back from a fabulous vacation on the South Island! I’m working on a day-by-day blog entry while my other half weeds through over 1000 pictures he took. In the meantime, I thought I’d post some hints and tips that might be helpful.

A little background: We are a couple in our mid-50s from the USA and this was our third 2-week trip to New Zealand in the past 4 years. The first trip by campervan in the North Island, the second was also by campervan around the top of the South and down the West Coast to Fox Glacier. This trip we thought we’d see how the other half lives and rented a car and stayed in self-contained accommodations. We enjoy day hiking and finding less touristy adventures. But we also did some activities; we were in Queenstown, after all.

Our itinerary:

Queenstown – 1 night

Manapouri – 3 nights

Curio Bay – 1 night

Kaka Point – 1 night

Wanaka – 2 nights

Mount Cook – 2 nights

Queenstown – 2 nights

I had a general outline of what I wanted to do, but sometimes the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to switch things around. So my advice is the more nights you have at a location, the more wiggle room you have if you need to reschedule. Book any weather dependent trip for the first day; it will give you the opportunity to rebook for the 2nd day if necessary. For instance, we booked a scenic heliflight of Doubtful Sound for our first full day in Manapouri. It was cancelled because the weather was deteriorating and we rebooked for day 2 and that was cancelled as well. It wasn’t until the third day there, the day we were driving to Curio Bay, that we got to do our flight. We also booked an evening kayak trip in Queenstown that was rained out, but got to do it the second night. Be flexible and always have a plan B!

Dress in layers. The morning we walked Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook, I had a record 5 layers at 8:30am! Halfway down the return, I was down to my base layer. It had warmed up that much. Another piece of advice about what to wear is if you plan on hiking, bring an extra pair of shoes. One track was so muddy my shoes required washing under a hose and allowed to dry for a couple of days until they were wearable again.

Bring a lightweight backpack. It was great for having a place to put all those layers I was removing. We also carried our lunch in it, and sometimes our camera. I arrived in Queenstown carrying a purse, and actually felt out of place with that. So the backpack was not just used for tramping in the bush. I bought a packable one that folds in on itself into a small pouch. It was lightweight and didn’t take up much room in my suitcase on the plane. I could have also used it for extra items on the way home.

Prepare for rain – bring a waterproof jacket. Even in the driest of seasons, if you aren’t prepared you will be miserable. And just because it’s raining, don’t let it get you down. I think someone here said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait half an hour.” That was very true on a couple of occasions. It would be pouring when we set out driving to a place of interest, and only lightly sprinkling when we got there. I would have hated to miss out because of a little rain.

As for getting around, I was pretty familiar with which direction we were going and what cities lay which direction. Signage is more obvious if you look for a city or town name, rather than a road name or highway number. So, if driving from Manapouri to Curio Bay, follow the signs to Invercargill, and then signs for Fortrose, then for Curio Bay. I also had the advantage of having Geocaching Pocket Queries loaded on my iPad for offline use. It would show us where we were even if we weren’t online. Another plug for Geocaching is that it took us to places we would have never known about, like the two little falls at the Boyd Creek turnout on Milford Road, or the beautiful wetlands you look over at Rakatu Wetlands pullout on the road south of Manapouri.

There was one thing I thought I had well planned, but it didn’t work out was my cellphone. It was a hassle to unlock our phone, so I researched and bought an inexpensive unlocked, quad-band phone for our trip. For whatever reason, it was not compatible with Telecom. So we ended up buying an inexpensive phone on our first day of arrival. It came in very handy for reconfirming activities that required us to do so.

I hope some of this is helpful to others. Once we get the blog entry the way we want, I’ll post a link. Since it’s nearing tax season here in the states, it may be several weeks.

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New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Great to hear from you DeS, looking forward to you travel blog :)

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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2. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Great to hear your trip was a success. The weather has been strange this summer.

I agree about the little folding back-pack for day use. I always travel with one from Kathmandu stores as I do a lot of walking when I travel.

Oz
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3. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Hi,

Glad you had a great trip.

Someone once said on these forums "there isn't any such thing as bad weather just inapropriate clothing" IME this statement is true for New Zealand and solid gold ridgey didge for melbourne.

Before I retired my 'brief case" was a day pack and still is. I use it as carry on luggage on flights and ....guess what........as a day pack when bush walking. How else can you carry, layers, water proofs, water, lunch, camera, first aid kit, binoculars, bird book, etc, etc.

Having had to carry a pager, then a mobile and a two way radio for work one of my greatest joys was not having to have a mobile phone when i retired. Whenever one of the ()*^*(%^$ things rang or beeped it was NEVER good news. My wife soon fixed that but I often forget to carry it with me and never take it overseas so lack of "cell phone service" is bliss to me. However we do share an I Pad and found most places had free WiFi. Certainly where we most recently stayed in Queenstown, Wanaka, Fox, Hanmer Springs all did.

Looking forward to your blog.

Cheers,

California
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4. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

I forgot to mention precautions against sandflies. Always carry a bottle of the highest strength Deet you can find. And keep it in that outside pocket of your backpack so you can grab it in a hurry. We had Jungle Juice - almost 99% Deet! If you are in an area that has any possibility of sandflies, you are best to wear long pants, crew socks or longer, shoes, and long sleeves. That only leaves your hands, wrists, neck, face, and hairline to cover with Deet if needed. The most important piece of advice is if you get bitten - DON'T SCRATCH!

If you don't scratch, the bites will itch for 2-3 days. Scratching won't alleviate the itching, quite the contrary - it will get worse. Scratch and they will itch worse, then they will get infected, still itch, then scab and still itch. You won't get rid of the bites for 5-6 WEEKS if you scratch. So DON'T SCRATCH!

Don't scratch - 2-3 days of irritation

Scratch - 5-6 WEEKS of misery

The choice is yours.

Tonbridge, United...
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5. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Hi, looking forward to reading all about your trip and tips for NZ. Just 11 months until I go!

Photo's from Vietnam and Cambodia now sorted so looking forward to the next adventure. Glad you had a great time.

Surrey England
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6. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Hi,

Looking forward to reading about your trip and interested to know if you preferred car+motel over campervan travel.

Sarawak
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7. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Thanks for sharing your trip report. I'm going next week and this was helpful.

California
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8. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Mummygoat, I really think both modes of travel have their merits. With the campervan, we didn't have to pack and repack when we moved on. We fixed our own meals on all three trips and that meant we had to empty the fridge every time as well when at motels. Also, if we drove to a site and it was pouring down rain, we tended to linger and wait it out in the campervan - either ate lunch, read, catch up on email, or write in the travel journal*. With the car, if we arrived and it was pouring, we shrugged our shoulders and moved on without ever getting out of the car.

Traveling by car had it's advantages and disadvantages as well. I only drove the campervan when my husband was tired. I had to really focus on keeping it within the lane because of it's width. The car was much easier because that's closer to what I drive at home. I enjoyed driving the car! We usually stayed at personally owned, self-contained cottages. We met some wonderful people. And it was nice to spread out a bit and have a roomy bathroom!

*Travel Journal - I should have mentioned this in my first post. Write about your experiences daily. You'll appreciate having it when you return home.

San Antonio, Texas
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9. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Were you guys able to do the Rob Roy Glacier track?

California
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10. Re: We're Back! (and tired)

Yes!

The beginning is over pastureland and is a bit of an obstacle course trying to avoid droppings. Then a fabulous swing bridge over the river. The trail then hugs the mountain and gradually climbs up. Some places a bit steep. But the payoff is totally worth it! There must have been a dozen waterfalls on the rock face below the glacier. We sat there mesmerized by the sights and sounds. It did not disappoint! We both took loads of pictures.

The road out is teeth-chattering rough though. We've driven many unsealed roads in New Zealand, but this was something else once you get beyond the Treble Cone turnoff. The gravel is much "chunkier" and the base is like a washboard! We had been given the advice that faster is better (it smooths out the washboard) and found that to be true. We passed a campervan that was just crawling along and agreed they were in for a long, long, drive.