Winter is over. Summer is coming.

Well, winter has been and gone. We had a great time learning to snowboard – even if both of us did have brief and intense moments of rage and frustration on the slopes – and got swept up in the euphoria in Wellington as we were in the Westpac Stadium to witness the British and Irish Lions defeat New Zealand.

However, now our attention turns again to the road. The hills are getting greener, the days longer and we’re looking forward to heading out on adventures in our new campervan.

Back in September we traveled up the west coast to Franz Josef where Steph had found a Nissan Serena that was being sold by a German guy who lived there. A pretty standard people carrier or MPV, the two rows of rear seats had been removed and in their place, a wooden bed frame had been built from 20mm chipboard and some pine posts.

With plenty of room to make it our own, we bought it and drove it back to Wanaka the next day.

For the next three weekends, Steph and I used our combined carpentry and textile knowledge to create curtains, mattress covers, modify the bed frame and add shelving.

After much hard work, some glaring errors and a lot of swearing, we had kitted out the van for some very comfortable camping.

We (by which I mean I – Steve) had also managed to cleverly convert the electric slide door into a manual slide door using an ingenious power drill method to completely destroy the door’s regulator. Finally, I was putting my G-grade GCSE in Resistant Materials to good use.

Starting from scratch with and empty van
Starting from scratch with an empty van
Fitting the shelves and bed frame
Fitting the shelves and bed frame
Foam mattress fibres send Steph insane as she cuts us comfortable bed
Foam mattress fibres send Steph insane as she cuts us a comfortable bed
The van nears completion
The van nears completion
The bed, complete with hinge technology for sofa conversion
The bed, complete with hinge technology for sofa conversion
The bed, hinged back to create a sofa
OBSERVE THE POWER OF THE HINGE!
Painting the shelving unit
Painting the shelving unit
The completed van
The completed van
The completed sofa-bed
The completed sofa-bed

Thoroughly pleased with ourselves, through October and November we have taken the van on her first few trips.

Kinloch and Lake Rere

Firstly, we made the short journey over the Crown Range to Kinloch, home to one of our favourite campsites, to celebrate my 31st birthday. Set at the head of Lake Wakatipu, we parked up to watch the sun set on the mountains.

The next morning we took a short hike around Lake Rere, easing ourselves back into hiking season on the four hour loop.

Camping at Kinloch
Camping at Kinloch
Mount Earnslaw, viewed from the Lake Rere Loop Track
Mount Earnslaw, viewed from the Lake Rere Loop Track
Lake Rere
Lake Rere

Akaroa

The next weekend we ventured further afield, travelling the breadth of the South Island from Wanaka to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula on the east coast, near Christchurch.

It was a place recommended to us by a friend back in the UK and had been on our list since we arrived in New Zealand over a year ago.

Here, lush green mountains that constitute the caldera of an extinct volcano surround a natural harbour, formed when the coastal volcano erupted and collapsed, allowing sea water to flood in and fill the crater.

A total change of scene from Wanaka and what was still then a very dusty, yellow Central Otago, Akaroa is a charming little town, enveloped by stunning countryside. Some of the landscape was, at times, reminiscent of Wales, Yorkshire and Cornwall with narrow roads navigating rolling hills that tumble down towards the golden sand beaches and coves. While the rural setting was distinctly Kiwi, it was nice to be reminded of home as we marked the anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand.

Taking a boat trip out on the harbour – a gift from Steph for my birthday – we saw Little Blue Penguins and Hector’s Dolphins (the planet’s rarest and smallest oceanic dolphins), which was a real treat for an armchair wildlife fan like me.

That evening was spent drinking wine in the hot tub at our AirBnB rental, watching the sun setting on the mountains around us.

The rolling green hills of Banks Peninsula
The rolling green hills of Banks Peninsula
Steph takes in the view as we look down onto Akaroa during a scenic drive
Steph takes in the view as we look down onto Akaroa during a scenic drive
Boats moored in Akaroa harbour
Boats moored in Akaroa
A boat ride around the harbour of Akaroa
A boat ride around the harbour of Akaroa
The two of us as we approached Akaroa
The two of us as we approached Akaroa
Akaroa, Maori for Long Harbour
Akaroa, Maori for Long Harbour

Routeburn Track

Most recently we retraced some of those initial steps we took on our travels this time last year.

On our days off last week, we re-walked part of the Routeburn Track with a couple of friends. When Steph and I attempted the hike in November 2016 the Fiordland weather was its usual soggy, grey self as we trudged our way through 32km of rain and the occasional view.

Since then we had promised ourselves we would do it again in better weather, and with the huts booked up from mid-November until March 2018, the weather window that presented itself on 30 October to 1 November this year was realistically our last chance to enjoy the views on the country’s second most popular Great Walk.

The sun shone down on us for most of the two days of our trip this time and we were treated to some incredible views from Harris Saddle, both down the Hollyford Valley towards Lake Gunn and back over our shoulder along the Routeburn River.

Steve and Steph pose as they walk the Routeburn Track again
Walking the Routeburn again
Harris Lake on the Routeburn Track
Harris Lake on the Routeburn Track
Views down towards the Routeburn River
Views down towards the Routeburn River
Walking the Routeburn Track with Fin and Steph
Walking the Routeburn Track with Fin and Steph
The view from Paddy's Point
The view from Paddy’s Point
The view from Paddy's Point
The view from Paddy’s Point
Valley of the Trolls
Valley of the Trolls
Looking down the Hollyford Valley from the Harris Saddle
Looking down the Hollyford Valley from the Harris Saddle
Views from the Harris Saddle
Views from the Harris Saddle
Fin and Steph, our friends and hiking buddies on the Routeburn Track
Fin and Steph, our friends and hiking buddies on the Routeburn Track

This week we’ve had a bit of downtime to get on with some boring life admin and such, but we’ve booked some time off work for the end of November and will be heading out in the van for ten days very soon, so we’ll let you know how we get on.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos Steph took of our aforementioned adventuring and we’ll see you again soon.

Podcast

Some of you who have been following our blog from the beginning may have noticed that we still haven’t got round to recording the podcast we said was going to accompany our writing. Well, quite frankly, we thought it was just a bit too narcissistic, embarrassing and needless a thing to do. Plus we’d also much rather be out enjoying the things we’re doing instead of providing audio commentary and wimbling on like absolute toolbags. So we’re not doing it. The world doesn’t need another podcast.

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3 thoughts on “Winter is over. Summer is coming.

  1. I am impressed with your van conversion skills. The bed/sofa looks very comfortable and you seem to have made maximum use of your limited storage space. Thank you for posting tales and photos of your travels. New Zealand has long been one of the places I have wished to explore – I am doing it vicariously through you two. I can top your van door story — years ago we had a VW bus with a sliding side door. One snowy day I took the youngest children and their sleds to a hilly park for a chilly afternoon’s play. As dusk approached I loaded kids and sleds back into the van and slid the door hard to close it. The door came off the track and I couldn’t get it back in place. We had a slow, cold drive home with the door and some very nervous children stashed in the back seats. Respect the door! And keep blogging!!

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  2. I loved Akaroa when we visited NZ, such a beautiful place. Also really interesting to see your van conversion journey too; did you make the shelving to fit the boxes or get the boxes to fit the shelving?

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    1. Hi Hazel.

      We made the shelving to fit the boxes, but we measured the space and planned the layout before we found the boxes. So it’s a bit of both really. We worked out what area we had to play with, found storage that would fit, then built the shelving around that.

      Had a quick read of your blog. Very impressed with your van conversion! Excellent work. You’ll have some wonderful adventures in it!

      Like

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