NZ North Island (Pt.1) – Van life!

One of the most popular bucketlist items for a young traveller visiting New Zealand is to buy the crappiest hunk of metal on wheels possible, and eat, sleep, drive and repeat in it.

So, seeming as Sam and I, two seasoned ski instructors from Ohau weren’t getting any younger, decided that for our shoulder season before departing our separate ways to chase the pow again, we’d do just that.

The plan was to drive Sam’s van from Lake Ohau, the centre of the South Island, to Auckland, where we had booked flights out. Complete with 40kg each of everything we owned chucked into a ski bag, or 3.

Our home for the next 3 weeks – minus 80kg luggage!

It was exciting and nerve-racking to say the least. 3 weeks, 2 people, 1 van. Hopefully after 3 weeks, the 3 individuals will have not killed each other.

(Spoiler Alert: we came close!)


The first stop was Picton where we were to take the Ferry with the Sonny (the van) across to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Easy hey?

N.o.t.h.i.n.g. is that easy!

See the problem we had was New Zealand has a legal thingy on transport called a WOF… which has to be renewed every 6 months in Sonny’s case… to declare that the vehicle is still fit to drive.

So Sonny was pretty old… and a pain to drive but… functioning… or so we thought!

Unfortunately for us every mechanic we brought it to on our way to Picton (and we fixed the cause of each failed WOF along the way), insisted on a new part to replace and fix… Ending with a terrible conversation with a pompous money-grabbing chainstore mechanic in Christchurch trying to charge us 1000 bucks for a multitude of unnecessary repairs. He just took one look at us and saw ‘inexperienced tourists’ I reckon.

The fruits of our labour!

So we bit the bullet and drove 3 hours back to Twizel to have the first WOF approved after fixing just one brake line. All the way back…

Freedom Camping at Kimbell

On the plus side, our first freedom camp was at this beautiful lake in Kimbell. The evenings temperature was perfect and a great space to do some sunset stretching beside the mountains.

Hurunui River

As we had wasted a couple days driving round Canterbury, we stopped for another night by the Hurunui river. Its mouth a couple kilometres away is fed from Manuka Bay, if you trace this river (connected to the Ahaura, and Grey rivers) along a map it pretty much cuts straight across the South Island, to Greymouth.

It is a really quiet self-contained campsite, mostly inhabited by fishermen. Great place for a catch we were informed, via Campermate; an app we used daily to find our next home for the night.


To Be Continued…

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