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Published: October 29th 2009
After my skydive, I picked up Ralphy in Franz Josef after his glacier hike. Now gasoline is expensive in Franz Josef, in fact a whopping 189.9L. So with a little better then a ¼ of a tank I decided lets fuel up later. The sun was shining and the early evening drive was beautiful. We stopped in a little town called Haast to find the fuel store closed. It was just a little past six. We had a decision to make, it was about 140km through the mountains to Wanaka and we had less than a ¼ of a tank of fuel. I said “Yes lets see how far we can get”. So with one worried passenger and an unconfident driver we took off.
Under the setting sun and the winding switchbacks of mountain roads I was getting nervous. I was not getting the fuel mileage that I had anticipated. I found myself rolling in neutral down the hills and watching the fuel hand got lower while the evening was getting darker. But after maybe 30km of being on the low fuel light we found a sign that said a town was only 16km away. We crossed our fingers and
drove on. We found a little village with gas pumps but of course it was closed. We decided to set up camp for the night.
The next day we fueled up and drove to Wanaka. Then through the mountains to Cardrona. We stopped to visit an adventure park where you can drive monster trucks. We sized up the trucks and talked to the owners. The owner was a South African stunt driver who wanted to show us a video of some of his tricks. I knew I couldn't afford to drive a monster truck but I really wanted too. A 8 to 10 minute drive for only $250 nz. I left before I had time to think about it. Through the mountains to Queenstown.
Our first stop was Fergburger for a jumbo burger. Then we met up with our friends Lucas and Sandy who wanted to put us up for the night. We caught up with our friends and had some beers followed by a night on the town. We all ended up a little on the intoxicated side. I missed a step and ended up hurting my foot. With all the noises that I heard I thought
I really hurt something but I was still walking, so I thought it was okay. The next morning it was sore and a bit swollen but all my toes were working properly so I guess I was fit for fight.
The next we did the tourist thing in Queenstown with Ralph. I don't know why, it may have been the mountain air, but Ralphy was interested in a bungee jump. We drove out to the Kawarua Bridge about 25 km out of town. In no time Ralph was signed up looking nervous on top of a bridge. And in just a few more moments he found himself on the ledge waving to the crowd and then jumping. The bridge covers a river and if requested you can get wet. I guess Ralph requested to get wet because when he bounced back he was wet to the waist. We got he dried up and put him in the van. He was buzzing on an adrenaline high as we gathered up some supplies then head off to Te Anua.
We parked at a trailhead out side the town for the night. The next morning we were off to Milford Sound.
The drive takes about 2 hours as you drive through narrow mountain roads, avalanche areas and a tunnel. Upon reaching Milford we were told that you couldn't just rent a kayak like we had planned. We would need to take a guided tour the following day. So in the morning sunshine we drove back the way we came. Then on a tip from a local girl in Te Anua we parked on the beach in a little surfing town called Riverton for the night.
The next few days were spent driving the south coast of the island from Bluff through the Catlins and into Dunedin. We visited the most southernly point of the island, Slope Point which happens to have a sign that states the distance from the equator and to the south pole. Next we visited a petrified forest at Curio Bay. Spent the night at a little campsite in a little town. The next day more coastal driving, more cliffs and beaches. We even encountered a large sleepy sea lion, that didn't like Ralphy. Well Ralphy got close and he perked up growling and showing his teeth. Then to Dunedin to have a night in a real
town. We met some nice people at the hostel (we treated ourselves) and had a few beers with them.
The next morning we got up to discover another rainy day. So we packed up Lucy in the Sky and hit the road once again. Well first we visited the Guiness record steepest street in the world, Baldwin Street in Dunedin. Because it was a rainy day we decided Lucy could climb the hill. She worked hard to reach its top. It's just a street nothing real exciting. The most fun part of about the hill is pulling the handbrake and dragging the Lucy's rear tires down the street. Most of the tourists walking up the street really enjoyed my demostration. The rest of the day we drove in the rain, stopped to visit a friend for 30 minutes. And spent the night parked in a parking lot, cold, wet and listening to trains pass throughout the night.
The last few days we have seen a lot of this country. Beautiful scene after beautiful scene. Living out of a van is tough, the rainy cold nights, the unrestful sleeps but it has been a lot of fun. The freedom
of it all has been well worth the lack of comforts.
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