Sunday, June 23, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 4)

Our first day on the road ended at a small town called Lichfield. Our destination is a small farm which is one of the New Zealand Native Park's campsite. Our host are Rob and Nancy Flavell, who own and run the farm. One of the limitation of touring NZ during the autumn/winter season is the shorter length of day light. After taking it easy on the first half of the day I found myself pressing for time as the sun started to settle into the horizon at around 4:30pm. At this in Malaysia, I would be having my teh tarik break instead of looking for a place for the night! As I got nearer to Lichfied, the surrounding land was mostly residential area, like what you would see in any suburb rather the rolling pastoral landscape that I have expected. Just when I was questioning the navigational reliability of the GPS, the scenery suddenly changed from sub urban housing division into farm land.

When we finally reached the Flavell's farm, it was already 5.00pm and it getting dark. By prior arrangement the Nancy will also be providing dinner for us in their home. I was initially a bit concerned about the cost of 100 NZD, but my wife urged me not to miss an opportunity to dine with our host. It turned out to be the best dinner we would have for the whole trip. It was not just the food, which was a sumptuous three course dinner, but Rob and Nancy also received us like we are their old friends in their home. Both Rob and Nancy are not full time farmers, they have day jobs and look after their farm with their spare time. Their farm is stocked with cattle and sheep, it is not a full scale farming operation but the place is beautiful, something that city dwellers would dream about.

Our campervan parked at Rob and Nancy's homestead at their farm

The leafy drive way leading to the homestead

The more view of the farm land

Rabbits in the barn

Our children feeding the cattle with carrots

I sign the guest book at the Flavell's dining room

Our gracious host, Rob and Nancy and their house cat.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 3)

After a night's rest at the airport campervan park, we were finally ready to hit the road. Our first destination is to the south of Auckland. Through the NZ Native Park membership, we have a arranged for a night stay at a farm. Problem is we woke up really late in the morning, by the time we have had our breakfast it was already 10am, then I have to do my sewer service duty to empty the camper's black water tank which was almost full form all the night calls ( we were too lazy to walk to the common toilet in the middle of the night ) and also to drain the grey water tank. That took another 30 minutes. I am beginning to learn that campervan trip requires certain advanced time planning and chores like these need to be taken into consideration.

Just 10Km out of Auckland, I was stopped by a police road block! This is not so different from home is it? Anyway, the police officer was more interested in testing for drunk drivers, in the morning! I guess some locals here starts their drinking early. He was waving a breathalyzer as he gestured me to stop. He took one look at me and decided that testing me would be a waste of time, he put away the instrument and asked for my driving license instead, it was good thing that I have an international driving permit (the alternative is to get a official translated document on our Malaysian license). The officer looked happy with it and said "Welcome to New Zealand sir and have a great holiday!". No worry officer, I surely will.

Scenes like this is common theme around Auckland, the city is mostly surrounded by water.

We stopped by a historical site. According to the sign board the site was a stronghold during the Maori War. I later read up about the history of the Maori War (also known as New Zealand war) found it to be a fascinating tale of British colonial land grab, inter Maori tribal rivalries and their attempt to stem British expansion. This particular place used to house a British garrison, ironically it was named after a Maori officer who served in the Bristish Colonial army.

I have made it so far without any incidents!

The site of redoubt was on a knoll, the highest point in the area that provide a commanding view of Waikato river and area surrounding it.
Today, the surrounding area is a beautiful little township.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 2)

The campervan rental company strongly advised us to take a least 8 hours of rest before embarking on a road trip. I think it make sense, especially after a 9.5 hours flight, I was exactly in the best of condition to take on driving an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar country. One thing about day light during autumn/winter season is that it gets dark at 5pm. By the time we collected out campervan and stocked up with our supplies, it was already 3pm, which means we only have 2 hours of day light left for the day, so we really can't go anywhere anyway. It is good thing that Auckland Airport also operate a campervan park. So we have to spend our first night near the airport The booking was done on line, costing NZD 29 per day with credit card. I have expect the place to be a dreary airport car park type of place, but when we arrived there, I was pleasantly surprised by the site, it was a superbly equipped and maintained site. Nothing fancy mind you, just what cempervaners need, like common hall, cooking facility, showers and toilet and a coin operated launderette. The site was right next to a golf course so the surrounding was pretty nice as well, with plenty of greenery. One thing that really impressed me is the cleanliness of the showers and toilet and common facility, what is more amazing is that there is no attendant there, everything is self service and the airport operator expects the users to have a level of civility to keep the place clean as well. If there is anything I need to remind myself that I am far from home Malaysia, this is one of it, I am sad to say. If this is any indication of the standard of facilities that we can expect for the rest of our journey, then New Zealand as a country has to be given credit for it's level commitment towards developing their campervan tourist industry.

Our camper parked at one of the lot, with power and water hookup box.

This building housed the common facilities.

The cooking facility at the common hall, with electric stove and oven. the place is spotless!

The launderette, with washing machines and dryers.

The mirrors at the washing basins has no waters marks on it. The washing basins are brilliantly white.

The shower cubicle

Can you find any public toilets in Malaysia that even approach this standard of cleanliness?

The power and water hookup box for the cameprvans
We had our first afternoon tea here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Road trip at NZ ( part 1)

We were greeted with brilliant sunshine at Auckland after a 9.5 hours flight. The first place I dived into is the toilet after the long flight with Jet Star from Singapore to Auckland. At the airport, we dialed a toll free number provided by Wenderkreisen, the campervan rental company, to inform of our arrival so that they can send a van to pick us up at the airport. The toll free number is a small but very important detail, it make it easy for customer to quickly get in touch in a convenient and painless manners.

At the arrival hall we were greeted by a giant dwarf (is that an oxymoron?) from the Lord of the Rings movie which was shot on location in NZ

Waiting for our campervan rental agent to pick us up at the airport
The driver who showed up is a friendly Maori lady by the name of Sila, who also happened to be the customer service manager of that day. In fact Ms Sila was the only staff working that day. since it was a Sunday.

This will be our home and transport for the next 8 days in NZ
The campervan is a 6 berths type, the largest in the fleet, while I was pondering how am I going to handle the behemoth on the road, Ms Sila led on a crash course on how to operate the sanitary system, gas heater and the power supply system. I was reminded to be careful not to forget the caps for the fuel tank, water tank, black water holding tank, flushing water tank and grey water holding tank. All together there were 5 caps that I should look after!

The camper is based on a Mitsubishi Canter truck with a 3 litre turbo diesel engine, the unit assigned to us is about 5 years old but it is superbly maintained and the interior is spotless. The engine only revs to 3500rpm and it will never win any race, however the moment I drove it out of the depot, it becomes apparent that it is built to pull rather than rev. The first gear is a super low ratio for crawling, for normal driving you can take off in second gear and it will happily waft along in fifth gear all day.

A 9kg LPG tank to supply the stove, water heater and air heater. In cold weather, this fuel is absolutely critical. I was told that a full tank should almost a month. WRONG!

Electric hookup cable for powered site.

The toilet is the cassette type, with slide out black water holding tank and a flushing water tank. Guess who is assigned the duty of disposing the family sewage.

Clean water tank filling hole. This camper can hold 130litres. The grey water tanks has exactly the same capacity, so what goes into this tank will eventually ends up in the grey water tank. Which means when I fill up with clean water, I must also drain all the grey water out, otherwise there will be over flow in the cabin!
Waste water is contained in a holding tank, which need to be emptied when it is full.

The hot water heater air vent. It is powered by gas so that we can have hot shower anywhere!

Our first stop is at the super market located near the airport to stock up on our food and supplies.