Friday, 28 January 2011

Isolation and “choose your van”

South Island Farewell Point

There are numerous camper van rental companies in New Zealand, at one small site we stayed at had 12 different companies amongst the 18 or so vans parked up.

Pitch for three

Vans came in all shapes and sizes. The bottom end of the market seems to be taken by

Wicked Camper

“Wicked” style vans – very cheap, luridly decorated, few facilities and significant kms on the clock (400,000 is not unusual). They rent for as low as $20 a day

Van cheapo

Wicked Pooh 2

Wicked Pooh 1

Camper Van

Home made “wicked” conversions are very common and sell on the second hand market for a few $thousand (2$=1£).

More common this year is the space saver van such as these two varieties - essentially a car / van with a tent add-

Van with Tent 1

Van with Tent 2

on at the back for use at night. Their great disadvantage is that a lot of your camp life has to be spent outside of the van which is alright except when it rains which is quite common in New Zealand. They are also “not certified” which means that wild camping is more difficult (no toilets / waste tanks etc) although that does not stop people doing this much to the anger of many New Zealanders. But they are cheap and that is why they are so common.

Epy on site  

Our van seems to be a popular style (toilet, shower etc) and size for couples but above average in terms of specification and fit out. On those occasions where campers have compared their vans and companies, we find that ours (Wilderness) have given us many things which others do not have and they have one thing which our van does not normally have - an electric kettle (except we brought our own because we knew our van was lacking in this regard).

Van with Dish  

Towards the top end are vans such as the above – sleeping 6 to 8 this has most mod cons including a satellite dish, something we are seeing more frequently this year. We have not however seen many of the super large lorry sized campervans (common in Australia), perhaps because New Zealand back roads are quite unsuitable for large vehicles driven by amateurs.

Cape Farewell

The north western most part of South Island is known as Cape Farewell and was given this name by Captain Cook.

Farewell Spit

Farewell Spit is a large sand spit running out into Golden Bay sticking out from the north west corner of the island. People only come here deliberately since it is not on the road to anywhere. We have come here because it is “nowhere”, it is quiet and also there is a chance to go out onto the Spit and experience its uniqueness.

Farewell Bay at dusk Right

Farewell Bay (on the inside of the Spit) is stunningly

Farewell Bay at Dusk - Left

beautiful (here at dusk). At its peak in the 1980’s, there were around 400 people living here mining coal, now there

Remains of Coal Pier

are only around 20. All that remains of the industry is the stumps of a pier that ran out to sea for loading the mined coal and a few rusty rail tracks.

The local cafe / restaurant – The Paddle Crab Cafe offers an astonishing view of the bay to compliment your lunch.

Paddle Crab Cafe View            

North of the bay is the Spit and the only way to get out onto the Spit is to take an official tour in a 4WD Coach because it is a nature reserve.

Tour Bus

Nature is immediately apparent because the Fur Seals

Fur Seal 2

Fur Seal 1

and Birds (Oyster Catchers) are fairly unconcerned with

Oyster Catcher

our appearance as is this Jelly Fish!

Jelly Fish

The Spit is over 30 kms long and of course there is a lot of sand

Nothing in Sight

sand dunes


and not much else

Dune View

Tourists on Dune 

except the odd pair of intrepid travellers who have climbed the dune and quite a lot of driftwood, some of it of


astonishing size.


Towards the end of the Spit is a lighthouse – now automated but manned up until 1985. Three staff and families lived there in

Senior Light House Keepers House 

houses that would now command a premium price because of their isolation. Their duties focused around the


lighthouse with the "Maintenance Reminders” to control their day.

Long Drop

For the convenience of us visitors, a “long drop” loo has been installed.

This area also has its share of rough roads equivalent to good off-road tracks in Australia, tourist drivers here

however seem to have had little experience of rough roads and hence tend to drive at too slow a speed for comfort and too close for safety.

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