Thursday, December 27, 2007

Take a Tiki Tour

On a two week tiki tour, you can fly into Auckland, rent a car or RV (movan), spend a day or two in Auckland. Then, check out the Bay of Islands, drop south again,and head west to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, or east and spend time in Napier, the Art Deco town. Farther south, free tours of parliament are available in windy Wellington where you'll catch the interislander across Cook Strait to the South Island, maybe dropping off your rental car and picking up a new one in Picton.

In that two week time frame, you can slip down the west coast of the South Island and cross back into Queenstown, the adventure capitol of New Zealand, about two thirds of the way down the Southern Alps, then cut back up to Christchurch and have time for a train ride back across the Southern Alps to Greymouth or a quick trip out to Akaroa, a former French settlement. In Christchurch, you'll probably end your tiki tour, drop off your car or RV and fly back to Auckland.

New Zealand is clean, green and spectacular, but New Zealand roads are narrow, and sometimes winding and steep. You will drive around solitary lakes, cross river-filled gorges, and climb snow-covered mountains. You can't and don't want to zip through this scenery you've traveled so far to enjoy. To plan your trip and maybe drive less and see more, check Travel Times here. Don't get clapped out. Enjoy that spectacular.


Warning: Don't get your knickers in a knot if that elderly gentleman at the motel desk asks, "Can I knock you up for breakfast?"

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting Around

New Zealand has a unique giveway rule. Check this one out before trying it. Round abouts are easy. Just remember to always give way to the right. Get yourself in there and keep going round and round until the navigator figures out which exit you want-- or you run out of gas.

One-Way bridges are a snap, too. If the thick arrow on the sign points the direction you're headed, you have the right of way. In the South Island, you share very high one-way bridges with a train. Your first trip over a deep gorge clicking along straddling the rails with only more rails in sight, hoping the driver knows what he's doing, will be just as memorable as your first bunji jump.

Warning: Avoid the one-eyed Taniwha, a distant cousin of the Loc Ness Monster. He hangs out south of Auckland near the motorway at Meremere.


Have a question?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Getting Lost

In New Zealand-- you will get lost. If you rent an RV (motorcaravan) or car, they'll give you a map to get you out of town. Most towns have Tourist Information Centers which have free maps. Jason Route Planners are the best. They cover smaller areas and point out major attractions. Top Ten Holiday Parks and HAPNZ (Holiday Accomodation Parks) provide free touring maps with directions to their next park. Each town will also have a free local map and maps of walking tracks indicating length and the kind of shape you better be in to make it back to your car. Even with a map, you'll get lost. You can't rely on the sun-- it's in the wrong place. Even if you know where you're going, there's no warning when you get there--just tiny signs you can maybe read as you're going past with a truck on your tail. And, only the cross roads are marked, so you're never sure which road you're driving on.

Maps are a trick to read. Papakura, Papamoa, Papatoetoe. TeAnau, TeAraroa, TeAwamutu.

"What road are we looking for? Papa--something."

I don't recommend traveling alone. You need a driver-- and a navigator to read the map and yell at the driver, "There it is! We just passed it-- I think."


Warning: Watch those greasy roads.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, December 10, 2007

What About Those Ferries?

There's ferries everywhere in New Zealand, from faster than a speeding bullet to pokey little things that nearby ducks pass. The one you need to worry about is the inter-island ferry. About eight hours south of Auckland by car, the Interislander links the north and south islands. Cars, trucks, and movans ride below, while passengers ride outside on the deck or in one of the lounges. Ferries cross the sometimes very rough Cook Strait, then nose their way through Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton, a small town on the north end of the South Island. Three ferries link the North and South Islands. These are ocean going vessels that zip through the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton in about three hours.

If you're planning to island hop with a car or RV, book your ferry passage in advance at If you pull up unannounced, you'll end up cooling your heels in the middle of a Wellington freight shipping yard.

Cheaper rates are available if you leave at 1:30am. In my book RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand,, I talk about sleeping in TranzRail's parking lot to catch a 6:30am passage. This really isn't as bad as it sounds. There's parking space RVers use behind the main parking lot-- not next to the railroad switching yards where we spent our first noisy night. When RVing, we always liked the 6:30am passage because the ferry passes through Marlboro Sounds during early morning. Ferries depart several times a day. Departures are occasionally cancelled during bad weather. My first passage, a December passage, (I can only guess how bad it gets in their winter) I couldn't even get out on the upper deck without getting soaked to see the scenery that wasn't there, anyway.

If you do have a rough passage, thank your lucky stars you're in New Zealand and not a third world country. Kiwis take their safety standards very seriously.

Have a question?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How's the Weather?

New Zealand temperatures range from sub-tropical in the north to temperate in the south. The main mountain ranges are a barrier to the prevailing westerly winds causing higher rainfall in the west. Remember, New Zealand is reversed-- warm northerlies come from the north and southerlies blow in from the Antarctic.

Wear old shoes and a waterproof hairdo. You will get wet-- that's why they call New Zealand the Land of the Long White Cloud.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, November 26, 2007

What Do You Find There?

I certainly can't tell you what you'll find there all at once, but-- New Zealand is three long narrow islands, spread out more or less north-south for one thousand miles, with hundreds of tiny islands scattered like paint specks, some available only to the birds and Department of Conservation (DOC).

The North Island, the second largest in the area, has the
the largest population. The larger South Island has fewer
people than Auckland alone.

Stewart Island, the smallest and coldest is said to be a good place to tramp. I wouldn't know. The closest we got was Bluff, the jumping off point for the ferry, where we spent three days wedged up against a cement toilet, hoping our New Zealand RVing adventure wouldn't end with our movan blowing over. We slept at night with our heads upwind--if we did go over, at least we'd land on our feet. Those boxy New Zealand RVs don't point into the wind like an anchored sailboat.

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South:
Way South in New Zealand

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How Do You Get There?

It's a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. We like to take an early evening flight, settle in with dinner and a couple of movies, then sleep--or pretend to sleep. An early evening nonstop flight will arrive in Auckland early morning. You can clear customs and change some money in the airport, then pick up your rental car or New Zealand RV (movan) and you're ready to start the day.
Auckland is an international airport about 2/3 of the way up the North Island. You'll probably enter New Zealand there, even if your destination is Wellington at the bottom of the North Island or Christchurch in the South Island.
You'll need a passport and a round trip ticket--Kiwis know how clean, green and spectacular their country is--they want you to enjoy your visit, not move in like an unwanted mother-in-law. If you're staying more than ninety days, you'll need a visa. For a visa, send your passport to your nearest New Zealand Consulate with a copy of your round trip ticket and proof of enough income you won't go on the dole. A credit card statement with available credit will work. You need to provide return postage. And, I always request a delivery receipt since I get a little paranoid about my passport--I don't want to lose that lovely photo. The New Zealand Consulate will stamp the visa in the back of your passport and return it within a week. If you have questions, contact them by phone or at If you're working with a travel agent, they usually handle all your documents.
Don't visit New Zealand if you're afraid of sheep.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Kiwi Connection

With winter lurking and Seasonal Affective Depression ready to pounce, it might be time to head south to the Land of the Long White Cloud. Maybe spend happy hour with a Kiwi, a New Zealand citizen, not the hairy brown fruit or the flightless, sightless, nocturnal bird that spends most of its time grubbing in the dirt.

Why that far south? New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere. Seasons are reversed. Summer is December to March. Time it right in December and you'll leave on the shortest day of the year and arrive in Auckland, New Zealand the longest day of the year.

New Zealand is clean, green and spectacular. Check out
the Lord of the Rings again if you don't remember the spectacular part. Another plus--no creepy crawly poisonous critters. There is a rarely seen poisonous spider but you can slosh through the mangroves or plunk down in the bush without checking first for an unfriendly resident.

Kiwis speak English--sort of. It's a kind of short-hand that's hard to follow. I'll throw in a few words and phrases as we go to get you warmed up so you can pretend to know what in the world they're talking about.

I've covered the where, when, and why--I'll start on the how. Since I'm not a Kiwi, feel free to jump in with a comment. If you have a question--ask. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find someone who does. Just don't ask me about hobbit's feet. I've never seen a hobbit. And I have no idea how to find a man. I was too busy watching the road and reading the map when I was alone--and traveling with a husband kind of limits your finding a man.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, November 16, 2007

How I Got There

A former single-handed sailor, I spent several summers in the San Juan and Channel Islands on my Pacific Seacraft Dana. I later sailed down the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Cabo and lived a few winters along the Mexican Coast from Puerta Vallarta to Zihuatanejo.
I met my husband in a marina in Florida and talked him into crewing for me through the Everglades to the Keys--I'm afraid of alligators and hoped he'd be gallant enough to go under and cut the prop loose if we tangled on a trap line. Another year, I agreed to dive with him in the Dry Tortugas if he'd crew for me to Cuba. When we dragged anchor one night and banged into a Cuban gunboat, I'm sure he regretted that day he helped me dock in Cape Coral.
After two more years varnishing, repairing rusty fittings and leaky water pumps, always checking over our shoulders for that next storm front waiting to rock and roll us, we sold our boats. We took a tiki tour of New Zealand and figured the price was right for our limited income. We returned the next year to buy a motorcaravan--and we've never dragged our movan into a Cuban gunboat in New Zealand.

Stumble Upon Toolbar