Vern: We landed back in Auckland and picked up the camper-van we'd rented for the month from a company called Jucy. The 'Jucy Crib' is a 1998 minivan which has been converted. The back seats have been replaced with two benches facing each other, under each is storage, and when you slot a plank between these, voila - you have a bed. Facing the back door are a gas-stove, a fridge (think electrified cooler box) and a sink. Even a DVD player is mounted to the back corner of the roof. Very clever, but also very snug. Getting two humans and two large backpacks in the back was to be a daily game of Tetris. On the outside it is day-glow green with purple mirrors, bumpers and trimmings. Our good friend Delene insists that a vehicle must have name, so as we drove our new home off of the lot we started spitballing potential monikers: "The Hulk"? Right colours. "Purple Headed Monster"? Not if one day our kids are going to read this. Okay got it: "The Green-Eyed Monster"? Or "Gem" for short. Andrea said she liked this because passers-by were obviously very envious of our car.
After picking up supplies, we headed south out of Auckland and into the night. The roads were full of twists and turns but very quiet and wound through small towns. We even came upon a road block where a breathalyzer confirmed I had 0% alcohol in my system. I didn't mention to the officer that I'd been drinking at breakfast time that day as that may have complicated things. (Mimosas at the hotel in Fiji if you're wondering). Later on, we pulled over at a roadside rest-stop, pieced the puzzle together to assemble the bed and curled up on this Jenga pile to sleep. This was our first night of 'Freedom Camping' - the term used for pulling up or pitching a tent anywhere for the night. It's generally acceptable in most parts of New Zealand but they've been clamping down and erecting 'No overnight camping' signs because thoughtless people have been leaving trash everywhere they stop.
The following day, still southbound toward Wellington we opted for the road which didn't take us through Johnsonville or Colonial**** as the people in those towns sound like d*cks. Instead we passed through a hamlet called Bulls where they are so proud of the name of the place that they have given every business or service in town a second "bull" name: the public loos are signed "Relieve-a-bull", the crèche is dubbed "Nonreturn-a-bull" and the bins all have labels reading "Responsi-bull". We booked our ferry tickets using a public telephone, treated ourselves to two red velvet cupcakes from "Delecta-bull" (wedding cake research, not that one should need an excuse to devour red velvet) and were on our way.
Less than two hours later we were in Wellington, the busy metropolis at the bottom of the South Island and we checked in and queued up for the ferry. A while later I drove the car onto the boat (there's a first time for everything), parked and we went upstairs and spent three hours in the lounge while the ferry bobbed across the Cook Strait. When it moored, we filed off into the small city of Picton. The sun was just setting when we made the scenic drive through the Malborough Sound. A 'sound' if you are wondering is a valley or gorge (carved out by a river and therefore v-shaped) which has since flooded, so mountains burst aggressively out of still lakes and make some great nature-scapes. The road curled tightly round the hills reminding me of Cape Town's Chapman's Peak Drive and we made the odd photo-stop where a sign marked a spot as a 'Scenic Viewpoint'. Personally I think these signs are a bit presumptuous - just 'Viewpoint' would suffice. It's up to me to decide if it is scenic. Andrea backed me up on this and noted that she can't see why people find marinas so photo-worthy. "Well they're just boat parking lots aren't they?"
We drove for ages after the sun went down looking for a rest-stop, but eventually pulled into the unlit parking lot for Hawkes Lookout inside the Kahurangi National Park near to the town of Motueka and camped there. At least we'd wake up to a view.