In 1990 When our oldest son was three months old Sarah and I did a very fast 17 day grand tour of the South Island and ever since we brought our first motorhome we have been wanting to return for an extended tour. However pressures of the business and various other excuses have always prevented us from returning. So with the business sold last year and the new motorhome purchased it was time to start planning the trip.
If you have been following my blogs you will know that we have spent time in Northland and Coromandel and in these places we have spent time talking to lots of people who had stories to tell about their time in the South and places that we must visit. The one thing almost all of them said was head south in late January it’s the best time to go, so that’s the plan we made.
The house needed painting and we spent the last 5 weeks sanding and painting and with that finished nothing was left to hold us back. Our son James is going to be home to look after the pets, water the garden, bring in the mail etc.
When we owned the rental company it was nothing for Sarah and I to drive to places like Taupo and back to Auckland in a single day if a car needed replacing for some reason but now that we have the motorhome that need is gone. We have over the years seen a lot of the North Island and since the purpose of this trip was to see the south we planned a two stage trip with the first night at the NZMCA camp in Taupo.
Even though our son is looking after the house and the garden Sarah could not be without her beans as they were just maturing and we both love eating them. Great news the planter box fits perfectly inside the shower and we had beans for dinner in Taupo.
The NZMCA camp is right next to the Taupo airport were we spent some time watching the landing and return of the flight from Auckland. We also watched this little jet land so I Googled the tail letters to discover that this is New Zealand’s air ambulance but it didn’t seem to be loading anyone on this day.
From Taupo it was onto the NZMCA camp at Plimmerton just outside Wellington so that we could cross the strait the next day. On first arrival it looks like a patch of gravel in the middle of an industrial area not exactly a great place to stay. However after looking at the signboard next to registration booth we noticed that the walkway that took you to the village of Plimmerton and the beach making it a much more interesting place.
From the camp we walked through the reserve next door and then under the railway line and into the village of Plimmerton from there it was a short stroll to the waterfront and a very pleasant walk towards the boat club maybe about 2 kms each way but with temps in the high 20’s we both wished that we had brought our togs as the tide was in and the water looked beautiful.
That night the wind really picked up with a very strong northerly making the van wave in the wind waking me up a couple of times and start to be concerned about the ferry crossing the next day. Morning arrived and if anything the wind was even stronger doing nothing to allay my fears of the crossing.
Arriving at the Bluebridge Ferry terminal at midday for the 1.30 crossing and with the wind still just a strong my tummy was doing somersaults at this point thinking about my poor sea legs and hoping the boat was well stocked with the right sort of paper bags. Time to drive on and the motorhome was directed downstairs undercover, this was good news as it would be protected from the sea spray as well as being shaded.
We found a good spot on the boat at the rear well protected from the wind even though it was outside. Great views of Wellington as we left and I started to feel a little more comfortable as the boat got underway with the seas not as large as I feared they might be. Even once we got outside the Wellington Heads and into the open sea it was still reasonably calm although the spray from the waves was covering all the motorhomes and trucks on the open deck.
Once we got inside the Sounds the sea turned into a millpond and everyone that had gone inside to shelter from the wind during the open crossing came back out and suddenly it was quite crowded around us. Points to Bluebridge here when we noticed one of the staff using a high pressure hose to wash the sea spray of all the motorhomes and trucks on the outside deck.
The trip through the sounds was really pleasant with some of the time spent talking to another couple of motorhomer’s who were also heading to the South Island for an extended trip they talked about cheap places to stay with that prompting me to check the NZMCA app and we found Reta Tuckerman with a great spot at only $5 per night including water, what a bargain!
Not long after we arrived another Dethleffs camper arrived with the driver also called John (what a small world) we had briefly met him at the camp in Plimmerton when he jokingly informed us that there was a limit of one Dethleffs van per campground so I reminded him of that upon his arrival.
Day one proper of our time in the South Island starts today with temperatures expected to hit 30 degrees plus and a great sign of a great holiday to come!