January 8-19, 2013
(Posted by Kristin)

We splurged a little and got a campervan to kick off our tour of New Zealand’s South Island. Because it is the high season/school holidays, it is a pretty pricy venture, so we got the cheapest possible option. I say “campervan”, but our Spaceship Rocket (“the pocketknife of campervans”) — named Riddick — was basically a bright orange Toyota Previa minivan tricked out as a campervan, and he became a character in our play these last few weeks. We accepted him with all his bumps and bruises, hard earned on his 293,000 kms. We encouraged him up those steep passes and apologized to him when we didn’t exactly heed those 30km limit signs leading up to the gravel patches in the road. We also cursed him a little when things got stuck, opened when they shouldn’t, and didn’t open when they should. We thought we were kind of roughing it with Riddick until we pulled into a campsite one evening in the pouring rain, only to see some poor wretched souls on bikes setting up their tent for the night. Xavier went out to pay the campsite registration, and came back saying “you know, they have a kid in that tent!” We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning to find out they had two little kids in that tent! We spoke to them for a bit, and it turns out they are a Dutch couple taking a year off to bike around with the kids (hauling them in a little trailer), destination unknown. Wow, that’s hard core — especially if you know how hilly and windy New Zealand is. Riddick was looking like a luxury ride now.

There are oodles of campervan companies in New Zealand, and somewhere along the way we started noting them down. At last count there were over 30 on our list (in order of sightings):
Happy Campers
Mighty Cars & Campers
Escape Rentals
Tui Campers
Kiwi Campers
Kiwi Autohomes
Cheapa Campa
Rotorua Campervans
Euro Campers
Lucky Rentals
Alpha Campervans
Freedom Campers
G & J Campers
The Pod Campervan Rentals
Easy Go Campers
Go Wild
Pacific Horizon
Backpacker Sleeper Vans
BeeFree Motorhomes

Of course, we were partial to our Riddick, and proud to be astronauts! It was good fun waving to our fellow astronauts as we flew along New Zealand’s windy roads, enjoying the freedom of the open road. We rolled back into Christchurch after spending our last, and possibly coldest, night camping in Arthur’s Pass Village. We gave Riddick a much deserved car wash and vacuum, and with a lump in our throats we returned our trusty spaceship, shifting gears to continue our New Zealand travels by bus.