(This is part of a multi part series – to see the previous entry, click here!)
When I take a trip I do have the habit of working out as many details as I can so I can be sure that there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Planning for New Zealand was very much the same, as this was somewhere I knew had a lot to offer and more than likely I was going to have limited time.
Also, because I was in school for the entire time leading up to the vacation I was holding onto this as my light at the end of the tunnel.
The timeframe was rather fixed and the budget was lean but with room for expansion. I had four weeks off, one of which I wanted spread out as a kind of buffer to decompress from school and then after getting back from travelling. Some of the time was going to be spent in Sydney and in the Outback at Uluru, which when that was planned out, left me with eight days to spend in New Zealand. Was this enough? Was I making a mistake by trying to cram too much in?
I stopped into the nearest travel agent and discussed the various points of the trip. He suggested to us (I should say at this point that I was travelling with a buddy), that not only was a New Zealand holiday like that possible but he did one very similar just last year at exactly the same time. He suggested instead of renting a car and trying to do the hostel thing that we should rent a campervan and just park at the campsites every night, of which there were an abundance.
This all sounded great but I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough time to see it all, to which he brought over the resident kiwi (he said he had to talk slower when she was around – gotta love the Aussie/New Zealand rivalry) and she said if you only have a week, definitely stick to the South Island as they’re roughly the same size but the South has ¼ of the population and much more rugged. Well she had us sold!
All in all, the trip was going to cost us $600 AUS each and include our campervan and return flights – uhh…. That’s amazing. It was a diesel van as well and because diesel wasn’t taxed in New Zealand, it was great for the long hauls and wasn’t even that much to fill. Sadly, we spent as much in Sydney for four days as we did in our entire time in New Zealand – and while I really loved Sydney, it just couldn’t hold a candle to NZ.
With the dates figured out, the fees paid and a guidebook firmly in hand, we started to map out how we wanted our trip to look. There were some things that were just off the table, like big hikes or anything too outdoorsy because it was the middle of winter and who knows what the weather would be like the day we got in. The travel agent told us just to drive the entire island and that would be enough… so we charted out a route that would take us out of Christchurch, through the mountains, along the coast to the south and then back up in six days (first day for getting in, last day for getting out).
It was ambitious, hectic and oh so nerve wracking as neither of us had taken a road trip in a foreign country let alone driven a campervan. We had a solid itinerary mapped out that mostly consisted of driving, stopping to stare and driving some more until the sun went down. We knew the margin for error was slim – if a blizzard hit or our vehicle broke down it would cause major problems that we maybe didn’t have room to accommodate. But we weren’t concerned – it was going to be an awesome trip!