Thursday, February 19, 2009

2/14/2009 - Prepare for a Lot of Pictures

The thing about vacations is that there is rarely any good reason to get up early. Why I end up awake and staring at the bug-squished ceiling of my tent at 7AM is beyond me. My guess is that my deflated pad probably helps.

While eating a leisurely breakfast, I meet up with another American bicyclist. He and his partner, Jenn, also just made it into Te Anau. Unfortunately, he has a knee injury and doesn't think he can make it any further, though they would like to. The spidey senses tingling, I ask him a little more about it. It has been quite a while since I was able to diagnose and treat anything.

As it turns out, it looks like a small cellulitis on his left knee right where he would kneel down on something - it's a bit low for a bursitis. I just happen to have a six-day course of Keflex. This saves him having to go to the clinic, and hopefully will allow him to bike. I give the important warnings about MRSA and he is going to mark it to watch for worsening.

IMGP1741.JPGJenn and Dan. They wanted the picture next to the coffee gestapo sign. We didn't actually witness this, but my guess based on the feeling of that sign is that the last person that "borrowed" a coffee cup disappeared and is still building roads in Siberia with a pickaxe.

Anyway, I spend much of the morning talking with them. They are a very cool couple - check out their pictures at

Anyway, as mentioned yesterday, today is the day for Milford Sound. The general rule is that 95% of the time, it rains during at least part of the trip. Today is looking like it is going to buck the trend, though.

We hop in Zod and speed (well, chug maybe) along toward Milford. This part of the trip really starts to feel like Alaska again.

IMGP1742.JPGIn my excitement at getting an "artsy" picture, I may have made it a little hydrophilic. (You're welcome, science majors. I haven't used that word in years, and it took some work to figure out how to fit it in a travel blog.)

IMGP1745.JPGWait - I though 'Merica had a monopoly on amber waves of grain. Looking toward the pass to Milford Sound.

We stop by Mirror Lake, which is kind of a bust unless they're going for the blown glass look.

IMGP1747.JPGErik and Kris in a sickeningly-sweet silhouette in front of Mirror Lake. I am kind of ashamed that I directed this. And yes, they are both standing on the same floor.

IMGP1746.JPGThis must be what Superman felt like as a teenager.

It does not take long for the road to start going up a lot more than down. The terrain closes in, but rewards the claustrophobia with some seriously gorgeous waterfalls and glacial streams.

IMGP1748.JPGI just wanted to dive straight in from the bridge. Thanks to years of TV ads, I expected a group of suave, rugged actors to meet a group of bikinied models and pull a few cold Old Milwaukees from the pool. It just doesn't get any better than this.

IMGP1750.JPGNot far from the waterfall. This was really screaming for a "silky waters" picture, but, sadly, Justin Cox was not present. (For those of you not in the know, "silky water" pictures are long exposures of moving water resulting in a cool effect. Cox tends to get these at any opportunity. He would do silky water pictures of a flushing toilet if allowed.)

We cross over the highest spot in the road, and start down through a long tunnel. It's a 10% grade here, and that only gets more steep as we start navigating the sharp switchbacks once we are past the tunnel. It doesn't seem like the smartest place to do a brake test on a very-used vehicle, but it passes.

The clear skies hold as we board the large vessel and start heading out into Milford Sound. At this point, all of us are shooting pictures at a rate that would bankrupt most people in the days of film developing. I will try to keep it to a few of the best.

IMGP1752.JPGJust getting out into the sound. The fresh air blows away all of the bugs, and it is just warm enough to be comfortable in the wind.

IMGP1758.JPGThe size of that waterfall doesn't register until you realize that the little blip just to the left of it is a really big cruise boat.

IMGP1757.JPGVery commanding from this angle. Between hanging out with 6'10" Erik and cruising at the base of these mountains, I feel much smaller than usual.

IMGP1760.JPGThis picture just HAD to be done. How often can nature make it look like I am snorting a snot rocket on to an unsuspecting man's head?

IMGP1761.JPGMore areas looking like part of a panning shot from the Lord of the Rings.

Shortly into the cruise, we run into the first pod of dolphins. They are a lot larger than the ones I have seen in Alaska, and play around the bow of the ship. Needless to say, the steady ticking of camera lenses from the assembled crowd gets a lot faster.

IMGP1771.JPGThere were hundreds of dolphins overall, I think. Every time I would get ready for a shot, they would be gone. Fast little suckers!

IMGP1777.JPGMore dolphins. They look like a species that would get invited to parties a lot.

IMGP1782.JPGThe sea lions, on the other hand, look like they just got out of a particularly wild party and are sleeping it off.

IMGP1778.JPGHeading back in to Milford Sound from the Tasman Sea. I pause for a bit to let the camera cool down.

IMGP1795.JPGMyself, Kris, and Erik, looking disheveled from the wind. For all of the haters who told us we'd be getting rain in Milford Sound, this picture is for you.

IMGP1797.JPGThe Milford Track (a hiking trail running through this area) is rated as one of the best hikes in the world. Though not able to do it on this trip, I think I will have to return and make that happen when I have 4 or 5 days and a real pack.

We all agree that it was worth the money for that trip, touristy though it may be. We head back to the car, hop in, and I turn the key. Zod gives a little pathetic "whump" just once. Needless to say, the van would not start. I learned another of Zod's many undocumented features - there is no warning tone when you have your headlights on and the door open. I had left the lights on.

Luckily, for ten bucks a guy in the close-by bar brings a special battery jump starter out, and soon enough we are on the road again, Zod gasping like a fat kid at boot camp. We make it up, though, and without the engine exploding. Once again, this is probably not the best place for a torture test as we are about as far away from a tow as one can be in New Zealand.

IMGP1800.JPGBack at the top of the pass. Feels very Alaska-y.

It takes over an hour of driving before we reach the DOT campsite that is 50km outside of Te Anau. This is the spot where we had lunch today, and looks right up into the pass.

IMGP1804.JPGWelcome to my bedroom.

We put camp together, and Kris and Erik perform more vegetarian magic on some Thai or Indian food. Very filling and spicy, to boot. We are, at long last, tired of the majesty of the surrounding mountains, and so we all collect in their tent to watch a movie - neither of them have seen "Spies Like Us". After this little culture lesson, we all head to bed. It is much chillier this evening than last.

Tomorrow, we head for Invercargill and hopefully bike to Bluff and back from there. I fall asleep to the sounds of aimlessly babbling water from the neighboring creek.

2/13/2009 - There's a Willie Nelson Song to Fit This Title

I get Zod to the shop early this soggy morning, happy to note no leaks. I walk to the local cafe and grab some coffee and a paper while they are working on him.

After a few hours, Zod is ready. In addition to the left front bearing repair/gasket replacement, the oil pan had to be dropped and cleaned out and the fuel filter had to be replaced. All in all, a bit more than expected, but still keeps it well under the cost of the other van (that had 100,000 more kilometers). I am set back NZ$450.

Zod is driving well, however. Erik, Kris, and I manage to easily cram all of our gear (which includes my bike, their tandem bike, all of my equipment, their equipment, and 18 feet, four inches of people) leaving plenty of room for breathing. This is an accomplishment given Erik's 6'10" frame.

Soon enough, we are off to Te Anau. We'll be at the 8:15PM glowworm cave tour, something Kris and Erik had really been wanting to see. I saw glowworms during the black water rafting, but am always keen to go spelunking and check out glowing larvae poop. Biology majors are really fun at parties.

The sky soon opens up, leaving the clouds behind. It takes several hours of driving, but I don't have to worry about a single hill the whole way. I have to admit, though, that Zod pants like an asthmatic in a chalk factory getting up some of them. (No offense meant to asthmatics.) He does make it up eventually, to the relief of the somewhat quicker 1986 Ford Tempo-like cars behind us.

We set up camp in a little holiday park in Te Anau, then race over to the dock for the boat ride to the cave.

IMGP1729.JPGTe Anau, looking over the lake. The clouds felt like a blanket fresh from the dryer caught in mid-toss over the mountains. . . Oh, damn. There I go again.

It's quite a crowd waiting to board with us. I was almost permanently blinded at one point when they all flashed their AARP cards in the sun at the same time. (This is a total lie. However, it is true that the heat generated by the combined birthday candles from this group could have powered Tokyo for a year.) (No, that was another lie.) It was a geriatric crowd.

We boarded the sleek-hulled ship and started the trip across the lake, about 17km, to the mouth of the cave. Despite the wind, it was fantastic up on top.

IMGP1730.JPGMust. . . refrain. . . from. . . overdescribing. . . clouds. . .

IMGP1731.JPGNo, I am NOT wearing earmuffs. That silhouette is just my ears.

As the dark took over, we finally arrived. A very nice walkway led to a big room where we watched a quick video about glowworms and were divided into groups.

Into the cave we headed. No photos were allowed in the cave, but they didn't reckon Erik and I falling back on our spy training and skillfully securing the cameras exactly where they wouldn't expect. In our pockets.

IMGP1738.JPGWe were allowed to take pictures out here. The entrance was at about belly-button level, so Kris was able to walk through unobstructed.

The cave is actually quite beautiful. Missouri caves, though pretty vast and full of stalactites and stalagmites, tend to hold a lot of mud. This one looked like it had been kept up by the Swiss. The walls were light and clean, and the river running through it was clear enough so that, in low depth areas, it was hard to tell that it was even there. The waterfalls made it clear, however.

IMGP1732.JPGThis waterfall drops about 20 feet to the pool below. Though my '80s movie watching had me ready, I did not find a single poison dart trap or giant rolling boulder. Must have cleared it out for the tourists.

After about a 15 minute stroll, we reached a boat that fit all 15 of us. The guide for the trip turned off the lights and pulled the boat into a remote part of the cave.

Everyone was completely silent, adding to the mystery. As our eyes adjusted, the glowworms became very obvious. In parts of the cave, it was like looking up into a starry night, except that the bluish glow of the worms could, at times, dimly light the faces of the people in the boat. I know it was a totally tourist thing to do, but this part of the tour really put the three of us in a very contemplative and relaxed mood that lasted for the rest of the evening (for me, anyway). I was very disappointed when we returned to the lighted portion of the cave and had to get out.

Not bad for a bunch of slimy, inch-long larvae who secrete sticky strings of spit covered in paralyzing poison to catch bugs and whose glow comes from a reaction between a protein and their poop.

IMGP1737.JPGA couple of glowworms in the roof of the lighted portion of the cave. The picture was taken on the sly when the guides were preoccupied with helping another person make it down the stairs.

The boat ride back, though cool, helped to continue that contemplative mood. The partly-cloudy sky framed patches of stars, and a bright moon rose just above the horizon.

IMGP1740.JPGOK, so this doesn't exactly stimulate the feeling of wonder and well-being that we felt. That's a half of a moon, scrambled by the coarse vibrations of the boat. For fun, you can draw in a horizon and stars on your screen with white-out.

We returned to the campsite and crashed out. Tomorrow will be a pretty big day - we're driving to Milford Sound and taking a little cruise of the bay. Supposed to be some of the most amazing scenery in New Zealand.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2/12/2009 - Zod Joins the Family

I meet up early with the owner of the van again, around 9AM. We head to the repair shop, and the guys there do a once-over. It needs a new gasket, the left front bearing needs adjusting, and the fuel filter has to be cleaned and changed, but otherwise looks great. I'll bring it in tomorrow to get everything repaired - should be just $200, which is the difference between what I offered him and his asking price.

I withdraw the money and we get all the paperwork done. It takes remarkably little paperwork, actually. All of it is done through the post offices around here, and is very simple. Soon enough, I am driving my own van. For some reason, a name comes to mind. Zod. No idea why, but it seems to fit.


If you get that reference, you are truly a child of the '80s. The above picture is at our campsite.

Zod is actually pretty well off. Here are a few of the little "extras" that split this van from others in its class:

  • 1. Funky-patterned curtains - STANDARD!

  • 2.2 non-turbo, wheeze-inducing liters of diesel power - STANDARD!

  • No owner's manual - STANDARD!

  • Random dents and a broken facade in the back - STANDARD!

  • Faux-alloy wheels - STANDARD!

  • Weird interior used car smell - STANDARD!

  • Extra stickers on the side that (following Hot Wheels logic) make it go faster - STANDARD!

  • Name plate on the back that overdoes the adjectives for this van - STANDARD! (It is a "Super Extra" van. Makes it feel just that much more Japanese, really.)

  • Every printed instruction sticker in Japanese only - STANDARD!

Seriously, I think I picked well. It only has 174,000 kilometers on it (just over 100,000 miles) and the heads have recently been done, as well as the radiator. It is 4-wheel drive and is automatic. It has electromatronic windows and locks. The air conditioning and heat work, and even has rear A/C. It even has bright yellow driving lights on a brush bar in the front. Unusual for a Japanese car, it has plenty of headroom for me.

And it rolls on fourteens, so it is certain to impress my homeboys.

After taking Zod home to the campground, we come up with a basic plan for the next few days. Erik, Kris, and I will hop in Zod and head to Te Anau to check out some glowworm caves, then drive out to Milford Sound to cruise out into the sound, then head to Invercargill and bike to Bluff (basically considered the southernmost point in New Zealand), then off to Dunedin. From there we will part ways and I will head up along the east coast back to Masterton before heading off to Tazmania. Everybody got that?

Before long, though, three-o'clock comes along. Time to head out hang gliding.

I haven't spent much time discussing this. A bit of background first, then. I love to fly. Small planes, big planes, skydiving, bungy jumping, parasailing, it all brings a big, goofy smile to my face. I have never done hang gliding, though, and that is the closest thing to "real" flying. I mean, it is basically sticking wings on your back and hurtling yourself from high places. Luckily, the science has advanced since Da Vinci drawings convinced some future rock splotch to try to jump off a cliff with just some cloth attached to wood. No, the cloth is attached to ALUMINUM now. Much safer. Right?

I am assured that it is. I am doing a tandem flight, and Jim is my pilot. He is an American who quit his job programming in the States and now flies hang gliders full time, 6 months in Virginia and 6 months here in Queenstown. It is his passion, for sure. Also with us is Emma, a very nice Norwegian woman who does the driving between sites and assists with getting ready. She teaches and plays the violin back in Sweden, but is working and traveling at this point for fun.

It's a bit of a drive to the takeoff site. When we arrive, there are quite an assortment of hang gliders and parasailers assembled there. It's a flat bit of ground close to the top of one of the mountains and has a nice, steep hill coming off at several angles.

While I am getting into the harness and Jim is setting up the hang glider (which rolls into a long but compact bundle on the roof of the van), they explain how this goes. Basically, I am going to be to the left and behind Jim. We will both be face-forward in a total Superman position. However, I will be his Lois Lane, really, with my hands holding onto the built-in handles on his flight suit.

We practice the start. This is the most important part, as I understand it. Having just read about a hang glider ending up in the Dunedin hospital when he tripped starting off, I pay pretty rapt attention. We will take two large slow steps and break into a sprint. That's it. No jumping or launching, just running down a hill. Easy enough.

The actual start is a bit of a blur to me. Jim figures out which way the wind is going and faces into it. "Ready?" he says. "Yup," I return. At last, all those years of track pay off. Two coordinated, long steps turn into a sudden sprint forward and down. There is no no time to worry about what I'm doing. In literally seconds, I am Looney Tunes-ing it 50, then 70, then 100 feet over the ground. As soon as I realize we are off and I can put my feet on the trailing foot bar, it hits me.

This is the coolest thing ever.

We're flying.

Not a sitting-in-a-seat-in-a-vehicle flying. Not attached-to-the-land-by-a-cord flying. Not falling-type flying. It's just soaring comfortably in the exact same way most people dream it. Swooping, banking, rising, circling. The wind is cool against my face, but not stinging. It is quiet enough that Jim and I hold a conversation at normal volumes without problem. The air is fresh-smelling and I feel just the tug of the harness over my midsection with direction changes.

IMG_0002There's the goofy grin. Pure exhilaration, even while sort-of hugging another man.

I am loving it. As we continue, Jim offers the controls over to me. When I say "controls", I mean "an aluminum bar". In my head, I am sure that I am the ONLY person he has ever done this for. He probably recognized my natural skill and talent.

IMG_0008I am in control now, baby. Whoa - maybe not so much. This thing is moved just by shifting weight, and it is definitely not as easy as Jim makes it seem. The idea is that your hips will lead the glider, but your head has to stay in roughly the same place. With a lot of correction from Jim, I avoid ending up next to the 17-winged plane on a video of idiotic air crashes.

It is challenging but fun. We catch air currents and keep ascending rather than descending.

Soon enough, we have made our way about 4km and are over the landing field. Jim asks me if I want a relaxed landing or a more"exciting" landing.


He takes the controls and we spiral suddenly downward, catching ourselfs just in time to line up to land. I am laughing the whole way.

IMG_0014The Yanks have once again made aviation history.

Afterward, Jim tells me that it was a particularly good day, and we caught more thermals than usual.

The adrenaline still runs through my veins as I am dropped back by the holiday park. Relax for a bit, then get ready for dinner - Kris and Erik are making Thai food. It's vegetarian, but so far the samples I have tried are actually good. This is a new thing for me, and they are excited to have a chance to turn someone vegetarian.

IMGP1702.JPGThai sauce, rice, sauteed tofu, and a pepper/pineapple/onion mix. I am not convinced.

IMGP1703.JPGNow, I AM convinced. It's actually good. I eat enough to probably feed twenty Thai children without remorse.

So bravo, Kris and Erik. I don't hate vegetarian diets anymore. Especially ones with the amount of oil that's in that sauce.

As we are leaving tomorrow as soon as Zod is fixed up, I figure tonight is a good time to head up the gondola, as well. This was another thing that we did back in 1985 that I was hoping to relive.

The gondola runs up to a restaurant and luge area. Back then, we came up here for a celebratory dinner. I remember attempting to eat what I thought was pudding only to find, on my first big bite, that it was Thousand Island dressing. Ah, the memories. . .

NewZealand4056At the Gondola Restaurant back in '85. The dark blob on the left is my mom, Justin in on the right. Justin looks dangerously close to the wine. I always wondered what he did with his hours stuck in that bike trailer.

IMGP1711.JPGSame spot (roughly) now. Even the overcast looks the same.

IMGP1712.JPGQueenstown. For being the biggest tourist destination in New Zealand, it's not big. My tent is in that bunch of cars in the lower right. Interestingly, even at this altitude, we'd still have another 1,000 feet to the highest point I had just biked across Crown Range. Whew.

IMGP1722.JPGI would make some allusion to the fleeciness of clouds here, but I have been warned that I may have overindulged my 7th-grade creative writing skills in that area already.

I think that is enough for today. Tomorrow we head out of Queenstown in Zod. I am definitely excited to not have to worry about hills.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2/11/2009 - Sub-$4000 Vans Suck

Sleep in a little, take it easy. Meeting with Sam, the guy with the van, today around 5 PM. Erik, Kris, and I explore Queenstown a little, do some reading, etc. They are planning the rest of their trip, as tickets have to be bought early. Queenstown is quite lively, but to really experience the craziness, one tends to spend money. Want to jump off a cliff? Fine, if you have $150. Oh! Those rapids in the river look COOL! OK, you can river sledge it for $200. Look at all those people parachuting around! Another $200 will net you a tandem jump. Restaurants tend to be a bit more expensive than other parts of New Zealand, as well. The town is pretty, but not quite as amazing as some other towns purely on a view basis (though it is close to the top). Camping is also more expensive at $18 per night.

That doesn't matter, though, as I am purely business today. After resting and catching up, I meet the guy with the van. He really wants $5000, and the high-mileage van is pretty beat up along with its 280,000km odometer. It is 4-wheel drive and has a totally converted camper in the back, though. No major mechanical issues other than the exhaust may have to be worked on.

After a quick test drive and some thinking, I offer him NZ$4500. It's higher mileage than I want, but it would definitely do what I want and seems to be ready to go, and there don't seem to be any other real options in this area. I am time-limited and wanting to travel to several areas in the southland.

He says he has to talk to his girlfriend, and will get back to me. I head off, not sure I made a good decision. As I walk down the street, I see a new edition of the local classifieds, dated starting today. There are three reasonable vans listed.

I hop on Skype. The first sounds a bit sketchy when he says "It's a diesel, and diesels are supposed to have some black smoke from time to time." Ssssuuuurrrrre. The second I actually check out, a later-model Mitsubishi. High-mileage, ABS light is on, and it makes a funny sound in the front differential. Perhaps not.

The last sounds much better. 1994 Toyota Townace (Which are basically bulletproof) with "only" 170,000km. This is 100,000km less than the ones I have been checking out.

I bike out to check it out. The guy, from Brazil, forgot to mention that he lives up a hill where, I am sure, several short-wheelbase vehicles per year flip over backwards trying to climb it. Even after my weeks of biking, I am really puffing by the time I make it to his place.

The van, though, is excellent. I test drive it, try out the systems, and just admire it. It is 4-wheel drive, too, an added bonus. It is not made as a camper, but would be easily converted. In the end, I offer him NZ$3300 as long as it passes an inspection. We'll get it checked out tomorrow.

He drops me back by the holiday park. I celebrate by doing two things: setting up my one adrenaline adventure for Queenstown - Hanggliding. Will do that tomorrow.

I also head out for a Fergburger.

As mentioned before, the reason I am so tuned-up for a Fergburger is related to Jon and Sally (OK, basically Jon) - my friends I met in Kerikeri at Christmas. Jon talked for about 30 minutes about the Fergburger. We checked out their website (which is excellent - can't remember the address, just look up "fergburger queenstown" on google). He described the joy of the Fergburger at length. Now it's time to see for myself.

IMGP1694.JPG1/2lb of top-grade NZ beef, plus bacon, onions, and a shopping bag full of excellently greasy fries. You will be glad to see I got the DIET Coke, though. Got to watch my girlish figure.

IMGP1696.JPGAnd. . .

Yeah, it's really good. Like one of the best burgers I have ever had. I also realize that the placebo effect is in full force. I don't care. How do you account for error with special sauce like that?!

IMGP1691.JPGI think I see a Toyota Townace 4x4 van in the clouds. No, I don't perseverate on things at all - why?

I head to bed - tomorrow, will be meeting with the owner of the van early in the morning, and heading for hanggliding later on that day. Almost too much, but this is Queenstown.

2/10/2009 - Resting and Tandem Friends

On waking this morning, a lot of thoughts were running through my mind. If you have been following my blog or know me at all, you realize that the phrase "long-term planner" does not, strictly speaking, belong anywhere close to my current profile. At this point, I plan 1-2 days ahead - that's part of the fun of this trip.

IMGP1698.JPGQueenstown from the holiday park. Really, this is just to put in some filler so all the text doesn't look so long. Oh, and it's pretty, even when overcast a bit.

Consequently, as I rolled into Queenstown, I still was not sure how I was going to roll out of town. There are a couple of options. I could bike the two to three day trip down to Bluff, completing the sort-of end to end biking (I DID bus it over the boring and long bit from Gisborne to Masterton, after all, so it wasn't the entire country). However, this means that I have fewer days to make it back up to Masterton before heading over to bicycle Tasmania.

The second option is to start looking for a vehicle dependent more on long-dead dinosaur remains rather than my personal body calories. After all, once I am done fully with bicycling, I will be back in Masterton for at least 6 months and will need a vehicle.

The biggest bonus of the latter plan (other than not fussing too much about the elevation maps of various routes) is that I can check out the east coast of the south island as I head back up to Masterton. That means checking out some of the fantastic lakes and coastlines, Christchurch, and Dunedin at my leisure.

I have 10 days before I would like to be back in Masterton, allowing me to do several things:

1. Pick up my passport, which is being held by the government until my work visa goes through. I have heard that passports are sort of important when traveling to another country, despite my passport sporting a picture that may actually worsen my chances to enter the country.

2. Deposit my last check from working in Alaska. It is waiting for me in Masterton, sent there by my kindly mother and kept safe by the clinic in Masterton. Though initially very proud of the plan of "low cost cycling through New Zealand", the combined effect of my unplanned bike shop trips (especially including the two weeks of renting a car and waiting for the bike frame to be fixed) have helped to bring my funding to what we would like to call "the Sally Mae and Freddy Mac stage."

3. Set up some housing. It would really be nice to have a place to call home when I return from Tasmania.

I have enough money (with the check above) to afford NZ$4000 for a vehicle and still make it back to Masterton with Ramen Noodle money. My search begins.

I am looking for a small van that is set up for camping. Most tourists planning on staying more than a few months here buy these little vans that usually have full beds in the back and storage under the bed for camp stoves, chairs, and food. Perfect for me, as I will be trying to get to cool places in New Zealand while working here as well, and this would allow me cheap (read: free) lodging. This means that vans are pretty easy to find in bigger cities. Queenstown is NOT big, but it is a place where lots of tourists go, so may be a good source of vans.

Local classifieds only have a single van, but it is outfitted for camping AND has 4-wheel drive. It also has 280,000km on it. Most of the vans available in New Zealand have at least 200,000km on them and usually were made between 1985 and 1993. None of them are available in the United States, so they have unfamiliar names like the "Toyota Townace", "Mitsubishi Delica", and my personal favorite, "Nissan Homy". You can bet that someone, somewhere has outfitted their Homy with 21" gold spinner rims and a bitchin' paint job.

I also check out, which is New Zealand's equivalent to Ebay. They have a bunch for sale, but they are all in Christchurch, Wellington, or Auckland for the most part.

There are a few others I find in Queenstown. The only one that looks appetizing has 280,000km on it, and the guy wants NZ$5000.

I close out my search as the afternoon comes up as Kris and Erik are arriving today. Sure enough, they tandem their way in around 1PM. After they set up camp next to mine, we head down to town for a bit of food (for them, as I have eaten).

IMGP1690.JPGKris and Erik, obviously still feeling a bit wacky due to the headwind they were fighting today. I promise I will NOT insinuate in any way that Erik's gang sign seems like it will fit better on Vulcan than Compton.

We visit the shrine that is the Fergburger. As Kris and Erik are vegetarian, they try the veggie burger, and pronounce them excellent. I hold off as I want to be starving before I test the real Fergburger (Veggie burger? I scoff.).

IMGP1689.JPGJust outside Ferg's house itself. Mecca for burger lovers.

The rest of the evening is spent catching up and calling the guy with the only van that looked interesting. Will meet with him tomorrow.

Plans after Queenstown will depend on whether I can procure the van. . .