Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

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MishMich
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Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by MishMich » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:12 pm

Just thought I'd let you folks know. We took the Bongo we brought with us to NZ from the UK 4 years ago right around the South Island of New Zealand over the past two weeks. Started in Hamilton, down to Wellington, over on the Ferry, and then across to Westport, right down the West Coast, past the Glaciers, through the Haast Pass, up into & around the Alps, then down through Central Otago, on to the Catlins & the South Coast, back up to Dunedin, Christchurch, the East Coast through Kaikoura, Marlborough, Blenheim and back on the Ferry and along the Kapiti Coast, through National Park and back home. Only issue was the puncture we picked up between Richmond & Murchison, which we had to struggle with bodged-up as far as Dunedin because the west coast was either closed for the holiday or didn't have a replacement 215/65 (or 196/70). The puncture repair + inner-tube got us through, the pass and the alps, but after Dunedin gave up again, but fortunately we did manage to get a new pair of tyres for the rest of the trip home.

Drive of a lifetime. This is the most spectacular country in the world, and we are lucky enough to live in it, and have a Bongo to see it all in.

Now looking for a proper spare wheel for a Bongo in NZ...

Will post full story and photo's if anybody interested. :-)
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by amauvis » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:45 pm

I did part of that trip in 2006, not in a Bongo though, but in a rented 3.8l Holden Commodore IIRC. I saw lots of rented campers and wished we had one. This was before my Bongo days.

Started in Christchurch where I know a bunch of people from their UK days in London, went across to Greymouth, spent a night just north of their and then south down past the glaciers to Wanaka, then Mount Cook and over eastwards back up to Christchurch. Spent a few days doing it but I loved that trip and can't wait to do it again.

Pics would be great :)
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by Bob » Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:18 pm

Sounds fantastic. :D
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by Gasy » Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:03 pm

Nice
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MishMich
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by MishMich » Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:11 pm

I must 'fess up, we planned a mixed camp & motel trip, but my ulcerative colitis flared up when we set off, so we decided a motel with a loo was a bit of a necessity. Great to have a sleep in with the bed set up both sides of the ferry both ways though. Made the trip up and down from Hamilton to Richmond then back from Blenheim much easier.

Rather than go for a full camper mod, and in order to get through the strict import controls, we kept it in original condition apart from the addition of the leisure battery & electrics running off that. Even then, we only got through because my partner was a returning Kiwi, and we were bringing in our domestic vehicle. Since then, I removed the rear seat, which now works as a lounger on the porch, and build a base for a futon mattress (the futon lives on the porch too), and which we use to stow all the stuff we need underneath. That means the front row of rear seats can still be used as seats, and be quickly folded down with stuff stowed underneath, or on the front seats, or up in the roof if we pop the lid. It works well for a weekend, but we weren't sure how well it would work for us with the Jack Russell (rescue from Ireland, and shipped over with us as well) and that on a long trip. but, because we had all the stuff for cooking, cleaning, cutlery, etc. it made life much easier. It meant I could do a brew, avoid cafe's and rich food as much as possible, make cheese butties while the boss went off to eat something sickly and sweet. We carry two cookers, one of those briefcase types, which is ideal for a brew, and a French Gaz one I converted to a NZ bottle fitting. The Gaz one does toast as well as having two nice controllable burners. The briefcase one provides a great base for one of those aluminium coffee percolater things, and I can get a long black up in 5 mins. We also have a French Gaz top-loading 240/12v cooler box, which holds enough to keep us and the dog's chilled stuff cold for two days. We put a couple of freezer packs in as well, when we have access to a freezer compartment. Motels are really handy here, having cooking facilities and stuff, so as soon as we pull up somewhere, I just shift all the kitchen & food stuff into the unit, and we are ready to stay. The bonus is, if the unit is dirty, or inadequate, or knives are blunt for cutting stuff, we can use our own stuff. We even got our cooker out at one place, because the unit only had an electric frying pan, and we needed to boil water.

I don't think we'll ever set the Bongo up as a full conversion, because it is so handy the way it is. We have a small section with lots of fruit and other trees, and when not in use the Bongo stays the same, but without the camping stuff, and under the 1/2 base I store all the crap I like to know is in the van, and on top of that I can easily fit piles of wood if I happen to take the chainsaw out to somebody's garden, or half-a-dozen pallets if I spot some good ones going wanting, or old tyres for a potato bed if I need some. Such a versatile vehicle.

The leisure electrics is a pile of poo, and the guy in Southampton who fitted it couldn't have had any real idea what he was doing. On one set of blinds, if you press the button at the front, one blind goes up and the other goes down. :-( Plus the lead to the battery burned out about a year after we got here, and we had to put it into an auto-electrician. This trip, even with a battery connector, the plug on the fridge melted going into one of those 3-way 12 adapters, and I had to replace the plug. I got rid of the adapter - I don't think those things are worth bothering with. Also, upon request he switched the stereo from the car to the leisure battery, but it is one of those ones that the front comes off. What I discovered while away was that if you leave the facia plugged in for 48 hours without using the vehicle, it virtually drains the battery completely. Not sure what that is about, but there needed to be some kind of way of stopping power to the unity, which would happen automatically on the main battery when switching the engine off. We never got an electric certificate for NZ, so if we did want to plug it in to a camp site, officially, we would need an electrician to redo all the 240 v as well, for safety and function. Given the mess the guy made of the 12v side, even though the 240v stuff seemed to work OK while in the UK, I wouldn't trust that side of it any more. Being in a metal cage plugged into the mains having been wired up by somebody who cannot even get the blinds to work properly off the leisure battery does not appeal to me.
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by Diplomat » Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:34 am

I regret never having got across to Ireland but two trips to Zealand havve more than compensated for the omission.

On our South Island expedition, as well as seeing just about everywhere except Doubtful Sound (big mistake missing that) I also had a totally unplanned flight in a Tiger Moth at a fraction of the UK price.

Went back a second time to finish off the north. On balance, unmissable though the scenery is in the south, I found the north more appealing because of the added interest of the sub tropical climate and vegetation. I'm convinced that it is the idyllic land depicted in Watch Tower Magazines except that I didn't see any tigers being nice to sheep while eating only grapes.

Had I gone there when I was 30, I wouldn't be living in Britain now. It is exactly my type of place. First impressions count for a lot and we were won over by the way we were treated in airport arrivals, the tourist information office, the car rental depot and the guest house where we slept for the rest of that day until the next morning. then back to the shopping area near the airport where everything was so easy and stress free, before setting off on a completely unscripted itinerary. Everywhere we stopped was a good choice. I don't think there are many, if any, places in NZ that need avoiding.

Fantastic country. Hope they survive when everyone else self destructs.


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helen&tony
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by helen&tony » Fri Jan 16, 2015 4:41 am

Hi
I've wanted to live in Aus / NZ for as long as I remember....BIG envy....Still...mustn't grumble...it's only the food that's awful over here....(thinks)....and the roads, medicine, shops, :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Cheers
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by MishMich » Wed Jan 21, 2015 10:14 am

Here is the link to my write-up about how we managed to drive the Bongo two thirds of the way round the South Island on a flat tyre:

http://wp.me/pUb6O-kW
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by roosmith » Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:22 pm

My other half as a significant birthday this year and I've looked at that special holiday with NZ being top of the list and specifically a tour round the south island in a camper. Problem being the cost of hiring a camper is hideous, add on the extra insurance that you'd be daft not to have and before you know it, you're shelling out near on £300 a day for the camper alone!

I have started to research car hire and hotels now, not quite the same but still gets us round. I'd be silly to sulk at that being the compromise hey!
Vivaro named Stewart however ex '96 4wd 2.5TD owner.
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by Diplomat » Wed Jan 21, 2015 10:44 pm

It is easy to get carried away with touring South Island because of the scenery, remoteness etc. but don't discount North Island as an equally interesting destination.

Arguably the scenery is more diverse in the North Island. There is very fine mountain scenery not far to the south of Lake Taupo. The hot springs area is a must also. Not far from them is an extensive desert. I had to go back to NZ a second time to do full justice to the north which is full of variety compared to the south. I am not a city lover at all but I enjoyed downtown Auckland as much as I did Vancouver on two visits to BC. Christchurch and certainly Dunedin didn't stir me. Wellington might have been ok if I'd treated it as anything more than a ferry terminal and somewhere we had relatives to visit.

Not saying that the south isn't incredible and awe inspiring in parts but, for me, the north won in terms of being a combination of landscapes you would be unlikely to find within fairly easy reach of each other in one country any where else on the planet.

If I went back, I would go south to see even more of the Fiordland, possibly do Stewart Island just to say we'd been that far south and would love the Cook Strait ferry crossing again, a photographer's dream.

Nothing to do with scenery, but a highlight for me as a radio ham was that New Zealand has a UHF repeater system running the entire length of the country, all linked together so that with a small hand held radio (and a licence, of course) it is possible call up a similarly equipped person wherever they might be, and it is hardly ever busy. obviously there are places it doesn't cover but it is quite something to know that if you are in range of any one of the sites, you are relayed over all of them. For mere mortals, the cellphone coverage is excellent in most inhabited areas and always displays the name of the town.

Roosmith, go with a budget car rental and motels. It's a brilliant combination. Cheaper on fuel and usually more practical than a camper.


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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by Rocketscientist123 » Wed Jan 21, 2015 11:24 pm

(Sigh), wish I was back in NZ again. I lived there for 4 years in the North Island back in the 1990's in the Waikato, and it was the best time of my life, excepting of course when i met my lovely wife in Belgium after that ;o)
Coming from Suffolk, and not having traveled much in Europe, i had never really seen mountains (or Volcanoes) before, so the Central North island volcanoes and Southern Alps just blew me away (I took a lot of photos there back in pre-digital days).
Would love to taken the Bongo over there for a road trip, so i'm very jealous!
I rode my BMW R1100GS off-road for the first time there (all the way to Stony Bay at the tip of the Coromandel peninsula), buttocks firmly clenched all the way, with a hellish drop from a mud road at least a 100m drop down to the sea on one side.......

All the best for your future travels!
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by BuddyBongo » Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:26 pm

Hey,

Sounds like an awesome trip and I feel very lucky to say that we’re about to do a similar one when my partner’s dad comes over in a few weeks.
I have to admit to MUCH preferring the South Island, I think the scenery is much more dramatic and as lovely as the sandy beaches of the north island are, I prefer a great big mountain range chock full of lakes and fiords – if I could just scoop up Wellington from the bottom of the North Island and drop it at the top of the South Island (somewhere near Motueka) my life would be complete ;).
This will be my 3rd trip around the South Island (I know I know, stop rubbing it in) so we are attempting to cover some new ground as well as making sure my ‘father-in-law’ sees the top sites too. I’m most excited about going to the dark sky reserve near Lake Tekapo….on a clear night it’s supposed to be unbelievable.
We are all travelling round in our trusty Bongo ‘Buddy’. We’ve only had him since New Year but he seems to be in pretty good shape, will give him a good once over before starting the trip. We don’t have a proper conversion – I just swapped the bench around and removed one of the back seats and popped a table in between the 2 sets of seats so we can all sit together, indoors for a meal if it’s raining. We will be staying in a tent and he will be staying in Buddy with the occasional 3 day stopover in a Bach (cottage).
Roosmith – When do you plan on coming over? We’d at least want to catch you for a coffee and offer some advice on places to go etc. but we may be able to loan you our new best friend depending when it is you’re coming 
"Tents aren't soundproof" - '95 2.4DT AFT - "Buddy"
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by scanner » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:42 pm

I've been twice and did both North and South Islands the first time, but only did the North Island the second time.

I'm another that prefers the North Island for it's variety and diversity. In some ways I found the South Island too big - yes lots of nice bits but some really boring bits in between.

For instance the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound - how do the coach drivers that do it there and back every day stay awake?
It's a "U" shaped route and the drive around the bottom of the "U" is just dairy farm after dairy farm after dairy farm each with it's own bar code sign at the gate so the tanker driver knows where he is.

Drive a bit of it in Google streetview and you'll see what I mean.
http://goo.gl/maps/5zeQr

The interesting bits of South Island would easily fit on an Island half the size.

North Island is much more diverse with as many interesting bits, but with less boring bits between them.

An alternative to a camper or a car and hotels is car and "camping cabins on campsites".
Scroll down this page for an example of one site we used.
http://geraldineholidaypark.co.nz/accom ... ard-cabins
The cabin was only a few dollars dearer than a motorhome pitch.
Our first trip was in a Hiace - a LWB Hi-top with more space than the Bongo but even with that we found the occasional night in a camping cabin or hotel room was a welcome change of accommodation. With the camping cabins you need to have your own bedding, but a couple of sleeping bags and pillows doesn't cost much, certainly much less than paying the extra for a full service hotel every night. Hotel are not that expensive in NZ one night we stayed in a 2 bed bungalow with everything including a washing machine for £35 that enabled us to get our washing done without having to find and pay for a Launderette. If you use the Interisland ferry grab a copy of the On-Board magazine it is full of offers from attractions and hotels etc. that are well worth having.
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by BuddyBongo » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:42 am

Wow, I've never heard anyone say the drive to Milford is boring before :shock: . I went to Milford quite a few times when I lived in Queenstown and I thought it was amazing each and every time. I can only assume you were driving Scanner and didn't get to see the full extent of the scenery.

Don't get me wrong the North Island is amazing too, maybe I'm just spoiled... Anyway, horses for courses, each to their own and all that....... to put it all into context there are some people that prefer Australia!! :lol: :wink:
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Re: Trip of my Life - Driving Round the South Island

Post by scanner » Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:52 pm

BuddyBongo wrote:Wow, I've never heard anyone say the drive to Milford is boring before :shock: . I went to Milford quite a few times when I lived in Queenstown and I thought it was amazing each and every time. I can only assume you were driving Scanner and didn't get to see the full extent of the scenery.

Don't get me wrong the North Island is amazing too, maybe I'm just spoiled... Anyway, horses for courses, each to their own and all that....... to put it all into context there are some people that prefer Australia!! :lol: :wink:
Not the whole drive just the bottom bit of the "U" across the plains. From Te Anau north into Milford is beautiful - but as for the bottom bit after you have seen 20 dairy farms the next 200 don't do anything for you. It could also be the straightness of the road, when you can see the next half an hour of driving straight out ahead of you the ennui can set in. I'm sure it's a reason for some head on smashes (we saw a couple) the temptation to do something to break the boredom must be huge. When roads are that empty how on earth do you manage to hit the only thing to come the other way in the last 10 minutes?


Like this... http://goo.gl/maps/OMWsm just having some mountains in the distance doesn't make it "scenery".
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