New Zeland in 16 days on a 1961 VW Kombi

planning our trip

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We usually like to have a little be of freedom when planning our trips, but with NZ we realized that it wasnt  going to be an option, we were traveling on the highest peak of the season adding that all the Kiwis will also be traveling during the holiday periods. Everythings (ln he south island) was full as we booked, no joke, even the backpacking 30 person yurts to walk accros mountains were full every single day!!! No matter what you wanted to book we had to bok it rightway before it will sold, so we had no chance for freedom and of course non come with refundable options, so you book it, make it or loose it. 

Packing for our trip.

December 28 2016

Packing is always challenging, it’s a compromise between what do we need what we woulc like to bring and  waht we do not need. Since we knew we will be in a wagon for 15 days we were able to take a little more than our past trip to Peru where we packpacked and had to be very selective, but still not too much because the wagon was fairly small (I mean smaller than our own SUV here in the US)

Flight to Auckland

December 29 2016

We started our journey on December 29, flying at 7:30pm from Denver to San Francisco, and then at 11:45pm was our next flight to Auckland. We landed on December 31 at 8:55 am. It was a long day, and we always joke that our 2016 year was a day short since we didn’t have a December 30.The girls are used to travel, so it does make it easy for us now on longer flights. Plus now they are at an age very easy, since TV is a treat at home, as soon as we get on a plane the first thing they do is to turn the TV on and watch any movie available. Sophie would take few breaks and play but mostly both just watch a movie and passed out. The layover was porbaly the hardest close to midnnight they were ready to fall asleep. When we landed in Auckland they both were jet lag just like us, but they were pretty happy kid and mosty super excited for our trip.

Picking up our Camper

December 31 2016- January 1st

We rented a 1979 Wetsfalia via Classic Campers that Christelle randomly found while browsing the internet. For Years it has been her dream to own one of those old Kombi, so Conrad agreed to rent one rather than a bigger more comfy camper. We talk with the owner Bevan over email and over the phone before heading to NZ,  a very nice an helpful guy. We organized with him the transfert from the Aiport to his house where he has all his campers park. And also asked him couple questions about our itinerary.

The 1979 Westfalia, would sleep us all 4 very comfortably, with a small kicthen and a portable bathroom. 

As we landed and turned our phone on, we receive a voicemail and email from Bevan  that our Camper was not broken and nothing could be done fast enought for us to drive accross NZ, and that we will figure what to do when at his house. This news could have ruin our trip, Christelle was very looking for her camper, maybe even more exploring NZ. As we arrived and met Bevan, he really wanted to help us out, it was high season so he didn’t really have anything else to offer, he gave us few options. 

– a VW T5 tdi, all ready to be drived on the same day, not yet equipped or restored to be a camper, but could have been quickly arranged.  Conrad favorite.

– a 1961 Kombi that a friend just aquire, not really ready to drive accross coutry, in need of everything inside being done and including having to spend the night, missed our ferry and being behind schedule. Christelle favorite, she couldn’t think of another way to travel New Zealand than with a vintage wagon.

– a refund for us to try to find another camper. The least favorite, too much time would have been lost trying to get a new camoer of this very high seaon, even worst on a december 31. 

 

For Christelle, all the difficulties that come with the Kombi weren’t gonna stop her from having us driving accross country on a vintage camper, none of the other options were not even considered. 

Leaving Beavan's house

Going with the Kombi options:

-called and change our ferry times and day, hoping we will make it on time for the one we rebooked, the company was easy to work with, amd just make you pay the fare difference.

– we will spend the day and night at Beaven Place, sleeping in the hopefully ready Kombi

– the owner of the Kombi and Beavan had all day to apply new upholstery everwhere, add temporary curtain, fix all around the windows, check the engine, make it driveable accross NZ and getting teh isurrance and paper ready, all in one day. They had so much to do and nothing we could help with. So we went and enjoy the beach for a little while, went grocery shopping, then back to Beavan’s house to repack all our bags into containers that will fit the Kombi, packings dishes/blankets a tiny plug in fridge, a gaz stove and all we could use for our roadtrip. On the next morning Conrad also had to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road, and driving shift with his left hand, we also had to learn how to take care of it, tires needs to be inflate more often, same for oil check… I mean you can imagine all that come with a 1961 Kombi. It was going to be way more tight in the camper so we had to figure how to make everything fit perectly, we lost the top opening bed and will only the girls seat being the bed for the 4 of us, no kitchen, or cabinets, and no option for portable bathroom. lengthwise, we loose a 10in and 6in in height, it might sound not much but when you pass from tight too super tight it does, ha!

The girls loved Beavan’s house, plenty of kids toys, bunnies, trampoline sheeps on the other side of the fence….. a dream for kids that just want to be outside. 

happy New Year to us from inside the Kombi, we could hear fireworks all around and see some from far away, luckly we are not very sentimental about New Year or some other date, so it dient really bother us to do nothing. 

a 643km journey to Wellington

January 1st 2017

We left as soo as we could but it was’nt very early, we had to pack, get the car seat in, Conad test drive, learn about the engine… just so much but by noon we were on our way to Wellington where we will cath our ferry. 

The drive was beautiful, from rain to sun to rain to sun again, with some fog, we started to get the hang of the Kombi, which need refuelling way more often that a regular camper, it cames with no heat so we all bundled in the car, and max speed going uphill was somehow great to admire outside. Conrad kept moving righ-left the gignatic stearing wheel, I reminded him how far right he needed to be, and we could barely hear the kids on the far back on teh Kombi and they couldt really hear us either, kinda nice for us 2 adults to just have a conversation and no sounds of kids (laughing, singing or crying). It was a learinng cuve but we strangely enjoy it a lot, it was a real adventure. 

Ferry from Wellington to Picton

January 1st – Januray 2, 2017

We finally made it to Wellington on time for our Blue Bridge ferry, it was very windy that evening in Wellington and felt like a ghost town (Januray first right), but we had to stop by downtown looking for a pharmacy because Conrad was starting to have a cold. 

We checked in at 7:45pm, depart was 8:45, arriving at 12:15am at Pitcon. We had dinner, it was very good and afforadble (more that grocery shopping), and we upgarded for a room to have us catch some sleep before a long drive again to Abel Tasman National Park.

It was a very short night, couple hours, and a first shower for Conrad. The girls and I just slept a little more. 

 

Drive to Abel Tasman National Park

Januray 2nd, Part 1 

We arrived at Pitcon at 12:15 am, it took us 30 min to get out of the boat, and then we kept on driving 2h to Nelson. Driving small curvy road on our Kombi was very interesting, the lights light up just in front of you, so we coulndt see much, but we got use to it, and just kept enjoying the adventure that camper was giving us. 

In Nelson we stopped at one of this free car park for the night, with bathroom and so many other campers around, it was so late/early the girls were exhausted,  we still had to move  their seat to get all a little bit more sleep, Conrad slept on the front seats, Sophie on top of one of the clothes plastic bin, Emma on top of whatever was on the trunck and got the back seats. It wasnet ideal but no one really complained, we were all very tired, and had to be up and driving by 6am to make sure to arrive at our Kayak tour later that day at Abel Tasman National Park. 

IMG_2287

We woke up early, got the girls car seats back, the girls installed and we kept on going, they enjoy some more sleep and woke up with the sunrise. Direction Tata Beach 2h away from Nelson. Between Jet lag, and sleep deprived, cold and wet from the first few days we had, we couldn’t be more exited to get a break on the beach under a nice sun. For us the road didnt surprised us, Christelle is French anc Conrad Guatemalan, both grew up with small roads, moutains, curvy roads. 

Abel Tasman National Park

Jaunuary 2nd, Part 2

We finally caught up on on our schedule, and this is our first stop where we can enjoy New Zealand and finally relax. 

We had a tour booked with Golden Bay Kayak at Tata Beach, it’s a tour adapted for families with litlle ones. The girls wer every excited to get out of the car play on the beach, do some kayaking ans see some animals. 

The tour was very well designed for families, we stoppped before turning back and they provided hot chocolate and cookies, they also organized a little game and let the kids just explore and pick up shells. 

Cape Farewell

January 2nd, Part 3 

Over the pass we go to Christchurch

direction the beautiful Lake Takepo

Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook and Tasman Glacier

Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka

Te Anau and Worm Cave

Milford Sound

Queenstown and a night in a Hotel room

A long drive trying to escape the rain

Picton- wellington - lake Taupo

Orakei Karoko

Hobbiton

Auckland and flight back home