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Van Life While Hiking in New Zealand and Tasmania

How I learned to share a very small bed with my buddy and remain friends after 6 weeks

This trip began as the brain child of my good friend Bill. Originally he had wanted to go some 10 years ago while his son was studying in New Zealand, but his wife got sick and the trip had to be called off. At this point his wife was not interested in an intensive hiking experience and so I decided to accompany him. Tasmania was my addition . Some 15 years ago, I had met three Tasmanians hiking in Torres del Peine in Chile. What are the chances of that? At any rate they insisted that I must come to Tasmania, and since it is relatively close to NZ we decided to add it on to this excursion. A bit late, but what the hell.

The van idea was Bill's. That seemed the best way to get around, camp where we wanted to, and save some money on hotels and food as New Zealand is not cheap. We actually rented three separate vans, one in the North Island, another in the South, and finally in Tasmania. Two out of three were actually decent, though the third, Wicked , was cramped and uncomfortable. Your basic cheap piece of shit, meant for young people a third our age. Pictures to follow later. The only saving grace about Wicked was that it was automatic whereas the others were stick shift, and the stick was on the opposite side as here in the states since they drive on the left. Just picking up the van through a driving rain, and an interminable number of round abouts choked with traffic, Bill almost killed us a few times. I tried not to scream too loudly since he was more than willing to drive the thing, and I was not particularly eager to take it on.

After a couple of nights to get over our jet-lag, in your basic, overpriced, Indian run, close to the airport hotel, we headed out of Auckland. It has mushroomed in population in the last several years and I'm sure it has its good points, but we really didn't stick around long enough to find them. We were eager to get on the road in our new home with wheels.

First stop was Mt. Ruapehu, a volcanic ski area several hours drive from Auckland. We donned hiking gear and dutifully headed up along the ski lifts in the rain. After a few hours, and maybe 2000 feet of elevation gain it began to snow. Bill headed down and I followed shortly thereafter.



Given the weather we decided to push on to Tongariro National Park. We arrived at dusk, dutifully put our money in the kiosk in front of the camping area, and of course, found out the place was completely booked. No matter, we found an out of the way unofficial spot and spent the night without the ranger banging on the door in the middle of the night.

Posted by jonshapiro 14:13 Archived in New Zealand

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Enjoyed the write up as usual Jon!

by Guy

Wow ! That's a very long list of countries !! I see its been 9 adventurous years for you guys. Thanks for sharing.

by David Richter

Sounds like a good beginning. But your tale ends abruptly. Where's the rest of the story?

by Natalie Nussbaum

To be continued

by jonathan shapiro

Did I count as one of the Tasmanians you met?

by Janette Wright

You bet

by jonshapiro

Three points:

1) I only "almost killed us" once, not a few times, and you lived to talk about it so keep things in perspective. The other times would have just been whiplash or broken bones, but the Kiwis are used to tourists and managed not to hit us!

2) The campervan approach was my idea, but being the "frugal" traveler that you are, the choice of the cheapest Wicked Van one could rent was on you. I give the Wicked folks (who are noted for old vans with offensive, crappy paint jobs) credit for keen insight into their renter's persona. When Jon posts a picture of the van you will understand.

3) Thanks to Janette for steering us to Tasi, and for a lovely evening with her and her family on the bigger island.

by Bill

Sounds like a great trip. going is wishful thinking for me. More of you and bill in your photos would be welcome addition.

by alan tallman

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