New Zealand

Our Kiwi Experience

During our journey across New Zealand we were welcomed by many caring and genuine people who stole our hearts. New Zealand’s landscape from north to south is magical! This is the first time we have seen so many breathtaking views and diversity from one country alone. We can’t wait till we return.

Mike and I brainstormed a list of things we found fun, unusual and unique about New Zealand. In general, we feel it sums up our experiences of the country and general living in these remarkable two islands.

Green kiwi fruit
Golden kiwi fruit with smooth skin
Strange cuts of meat
Green Mussels
Meat pies
Fish & chips
Lack of malt vinegar
Lack of hot sauce
Only brown eggs
No refrigeration of eggs
$5/bunch parsley
$18 top shelf box of muesli

$115 bottle of Hendricks Gin
Any vodka $60+
Decent wine
Pinot Gris
Decent micro breweries
Long black coffee
Soy flat white coffee
Lemon lime bitters soda

Strange birds such as kiwi, tui, fan tail, NZ pigeon, kokako, ruru, robin
Kiwi, the bird, have no wings
Annoying sandflies

Kiwi fruit grows similar to wine grapes
Two story hedges to protect kiwi fruit
Bright green rolling hills
Bluest blue waters
Snow tipped mountains
Huge rocks of various shape and color
Green Mossy forests
Ancient trees such as rimu, kauri, totara
Funky ferns
Flax plants
Roadside flowers, an invasive species

One lane bridges
Stay left
Unsealed roads
Windy roads
Hair pin turns
Black and yellow direction signs
30km construction zones
South Island full of camper van
Logging trucks
100km roadway speed limit
50km city speed limit
Car Ferries
Roadside lunches

Common Road Kill
Huge rabbits
Hedge hogs

Farm Friends

Barefoot shoppers
No ozone layer (supposedly)
Expensive sunscreen
Unpronounceable Maori names
“Wh” is an “F” sound in Maori
Saying “good on you”
Greenstone jewelry / Pounamu (Maori name) / nephrite jade
Bone jewelry
Maori flax weaving
Tons of expats

Vehicle may be of considerable age!

We found an amazing deal with Ace Rental Cars through the online rental car broker Car Del Mar for a whooping price of $24 US a day. This amazing deal gave us a Category A (CCAR) Supersaver 1999-2003 185,000kms+ car. These are supposedly a Toyota Corolla Hatch or similar, but in the car hire world every car is a similar to a Toyota Corolla. The all caps “ATTENTION” should frighten most people but we ignored the warning attached to it that the “vehicle may be of considerable age!”. The exclamation mark was even in the contract.

We were hired out a Nissan Sylphy Bluebird sedan that started the journey at 213,000 km. When were handed the keys one was broken in half. Apparently it had been lodged in either the trunk or the passenger door. Neither of which would permit a key to be inserted.

From the outside it had plenty of rock chips on the hood, a cracked taillight and a bumper that was nearly falling off. The tires routinely lost air and needed topping off. The trunk also leaked when it rained and soaked our packs.

Inside it had an amazing stale cigarette odor that they tried hard to wash out. The stereo was after market and had an aux jack which made the trip great if you were sitting in the passenger seat where the only speaker worked. The mirrors had hi-tech folding capabilities which helped them from being knocked off when parked on the small city streets that don’t exist in New Zealand. Instead it made them wobble when we occasionally hit 95 km/h on the windy NZ roads. Lacking cruise control meant the driver was constantly going to fast or to slow.

Apparently these models of Nissans suffer a common problem a mechanic referred to as a flooded engine. Where the only way to start the car was by pumping the gas and holding down the ignition for 30 seconds. We had to hire a mechanic to come out to the boondocks of Franz Josef to teach us how this worked. This was an extra charge because of the remote location. Apparently being ten minutes from the nearest AA mechanic demands an extra $50.

Once the car was started Mike attempted to bribe him to disable the annoying backup alarm that went on when you reversed. The mechanic staunch refused.

“Ace” only had to be jump started one time. After our drive though the huge dark one lane Milford Sound tunnel we learned that the car has no notification that the lights are on when you stop the car. We were nearly stranded in the Milf, but $20 buys you a jump from the cafe that also owns the only gas station.

In all we put 7,592 km (4717 miles) on this Category A (CCAR) Supersaver Ace Rental Car. That is just shy of making a trip from New York to Los Angeles and back.

Milford Sound and 300 Tons

The longest drive we did was the 11 hours from Franz Josef to just north of Te Anau. The drive had incredible views of the snow capped mountains, stunning blue creeks and bright colorful wild flowers. Our adventure consisted of two vehicles,  awesome pistachio camper van, Hugo owned by Nickie our mate we met in Australia, and our beloved ancient Ace Rental car, Bluebird. I bounced between the two throughout our journey. It was a delight to have hours of girl chats with Nickie. We had stunning views and random stops to capture our perfect photo along the way.

Our first camper van experience lead us to Lake Gunn where I was quickly introduced the dreaded South Island sand flies. Wow those buggers are ruthless. After a few drinks and amazing sunset views the three of us piled into the van for a good nights sleep. In the morning we made a proper breakfast of coffee, bacon and eggs.

Lake Gunn

Lake Gunn

The next day we did our final push to Milford Sound in hopes of getting on a boat tour. After a few days of rain we wanted to take advantage of our sunny blue skies. Luck was on our side when we arrived 15 minutes for the next tour with Go Orange. We were greeted by our skipper, Denis, with one n, the all time biggest flirt. Denis had eyes for Nickie which worked in my favor when us ladies got invited to the cabin for a personal instruction on how to drive the 300 ton boat! Pretty simple task of moving the little joy stick 2 clicks and wait 30 seconds for the huge boat to move. Of course we were born naturals!


That boat ride has definitely been a highlight of the trip. The tour took us from Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea and back. We saw snow peaks, water falls, penguins and seals during the journey.

The boat was large enough to hold 300+ people but that day there was only 15 passages which allowed us the freedom to roam the entire boat. I highly recommend Go Orange tours!

Chicken, we lost but we won

I’d like to start out saying, I have a high appreciation for motorcyclist but today that opinion was challenged.

We started our normal day driving with sunny blue skies and fantastic scenery when we faced one of the scariest situations in our driving history. I was distracted looking down at my phone when I hear Mike comment, “What the f***! As I look up I see a motorcyclist headed directly toward us in our lane, on the left side.

Immediately Mike and I loudly and quite vocally doubt which side we should be on when we realize we’re correct, in the left lane.  We quickly assess the motorcyclist has either recently passed forgetting which side is correct, fallen asleep or is completely insane. We were traveling at least 100 km/hr headed straight for each other.

At this point we really freaked out with visions of what could happen rolled through our minds. Mike laid on the horn which felt like ages. Finally when we are about 10ft apart Mike made the decision and moved into the right lane to avoid collision. I have never felt my heart beat that hard in my throat. That decision saved the motorcyclist life and possibly ours. Thank god Mike was driving. He has an amazing ability to stay calm in these type of situations!

Greenstone and The Love Shack

On the drive from Greymouth to Franz Josef we were on the hunt to find the perfect jade pendent which brought us to Hokitika. My perfect piece is a brilliant green circularly carved flower jade piece found at Hokitika Craft Gallary. To our delight the artist of the piece, Jayme Anderson was working the studio that day.

I learned flower jade gets its name from the yellow rind that shoots through the outer edges of the stone. The stone rarity and beauty makes it used sparingly.

The drive had incredible views of the glacier water throughout the drive down. We are staying at Chateau Franz Josef in The Love Shack” for a great price! It does not disappoint! The Love Shack is a converted camper trailer with heaps of character that includes pinned red velvet star fabric ceiling, large ceiling mirror above the bed, VHS/TV and hanging swing off the front porch.

The Love Shack

Wisconsin Saying Hello

Today we made the drive 2.5hrs from Richmond to Greymouth. Half the drive hugging the coast and the other half following beautiful rivers. We found a cute place to stay called Noah’s Ark backpackers. Our themed room ‘Cow’s. Decorated to fit it’s name with 6 nicknack cow figures on the mantel, cow patterns sheets and lamp shade. It was a clean and comfortable with a great kitchen for morning bacon and eggs.

Tasman Bay

The entrance to Abel Tasmen National is 11km drive down an unsealed road. The trail is half on a flat pebble path that increases in challenge with climbs over boulders to get to Harwood Hole. There we found an amazing view down the 176m shaft. On our way back, we detoured to Gorge Creek Viewpoint which also has an incredible view. To get to the top, there are jagged boulders with 6-12 inch gaps you need to walk on. Mike and I both took the challenge heartbeat in our throats, bellies clinging to the rocks, peeked over the edge to see the breathtaking drop.

Harwood Gorge Viewpoint

Harwood Gorge Viewpoint

On the way home, we did a small brewery adventure first to Hop Federation, a newly purchased brewery by a couple that brew their own recipes, hand bottles and label each bottle with love. The Red Ale was our favorite. We found it interesting instead of the traditional glass growlers, they bottle 2L plastic bottles. $20 for 2L.

The second stop, Golden Bear Brewery, at Richmond’s wharf. They have a large selection of beers which we happily sampled while sitting in the warm sun by the wharf.

Once back at the Pear Orchard, we were greeted by Baa the 10 week old lamb. He makes me smile with his noisy hellos. Baa, I think, is confused that he is a lamb.


Probably likely due to his bottle feeding since birth. The little guy is getting weened off the bottle fed only once a day with a warm water bottle. I lucked out once again with the honors of bottle feeding little Baa that evening. He happily enjoyed the head rubs, butt scratches and thanked me with heavy leans for more.