Once again, here I am in New Zealand! I am really happy to be back in the “Land of the Kiwi”!
First: The Trip West
I left Crested Butte, way back on October 1st. And I now think I have the “world’s record” for traveling from Crested Butte to San Diego: 5 weeks! Yes – that is the world’s “longest” record! 😀
After spending a week visiting friends in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs in early October, I decided the fastest way to get from Colorado Springs to Green River, Utah, was over Cottonwood Pass and then over Kebler Pass. That would take me through Crested Butte and I could stop and get my ballot to vote! Great Plan! At the top of Cottonwood Pass, I stopped and got out of GrayJay to stretch my legs. It was a beautiful morning and the views from Cottonwood are spectacular. When I got back in GrayJay, I turned the key and …. NOTHING! Yikes! How could that be? I opened the hood and looked at the engine (not that I know much about engines). Surely it must be the starter – but I don’t have a clue as to what a starter looks like. So I “blew” on the battery and told it, “Come on now. You should start.” Believe it or not, when I got back in the truck and turned the key, it started! Too funny! But also it would not be “funny” if I was in the middle of the desert and GrayJay decided not to start. So I drove straight to my mechanic in Crested Butte and asked if they could replace the starter. This was about noon on a Friday, so it looked like by the time they got a starter and replaced it, it would be Monday afternoon. I called my friend, Joni, and asked if I could come stay for the weekend while my truck was in the shop.
So that Monday, I once again left Crested Butte (I did get a chance to vote!) and headed to Green River, Utah. Part of the reason for planning this extended trip out to California is to give myself time to work on my book! Yes, I am writing a book. And I am finding out how much work it is to write a book! While I was out camping (without any distractions), I figured I could write on my computer for about 4 hours each morning before the computer battery was drained. Then I could go to a coffee shop or something to plug in till the battery was once again fully charged, and head back out into the desert. It was a great plan and I got tons of work done!
I camped out for a week at Crystal Geiser in Green River, Utah
Finally, I made it to California. I visited Steve and family for 4 days, visited my friend, Mary, in Los Angeles for 4 days, and visited Craig and family for 4 days. I don’t know if anyone can “put up with me” for longer than 4 days! 😜 That took me up to November 15, and that evening I was on my way flying back to New Zealand!
Gates – My favorite Black Belt Kid!
With Craig and Dakota (and Buddha)
November in New Zealand
If you will remember, last April when I left New Zealand, I had arranged to purchase another van from a lovely man who was heading back to England. All the negotiations went smoothly, and while I was back in the USA, I became the owner of two New Zealand vehicles: my little red “PahutaCARwa” and now a Mitsubishi Van. While I was negotiating for the new van last year, I told my niece, Heather, that if she and Grady ever wanted to come to New Zealand for an extended time, this would be the year! If all went well, I would have 2 vehicles. She and Grady were on – so I asked Dianne if she could arrange storage for both the car and the van. What would I do without her!!
So now back up to November, arriving in Auckland, I was able to “meet” my new van. As I sat in it I realized I needed to make a living space for 2 people, so the first thing I said was, “The seats have to go!” The only reason to keep the seats in it, would be for resale value if I was selling it to someone other than a traveling tourist. Probably, I won’t be selling it anyway, and if I did – it could be to another tourist. So the seats had to go and I wanted to build a bed in the back.
“Vinnie” – the new “Van Gogh”
After asking the neighbor across the road for a ratchet set, the next thing I knew Dianne and I were unbolting the seats. It was remarkably easier than I had expected! But the problem was how to get rid of the seats. We called around, but no one wanted free van seats – so we located a “dump” that would accept them, and off we went to the dump! The way they charge you for unloading something like this is to weigh your vehicle with the seats in it, and after unloading them, they weigh your vehicle again and charge you for the difference. No problem.
The seats have to come out!
After being weighed, we were directed the spot where we should unload the seats. Seats are heavy, but we managed to “wiggle and jiggle” and get them out of the van. Then, as I looked under the trash we were next to, I spotted a full size piece of ¾ inch plywood with 2×4 supports all around the edge. PERFECT! “Can we have that?” The dump workers were already amused by these two old ladies unloading this van – then they were even more amused that we wanted to take stuff with us. After uncovering it, we had to set it aside while we went and got the van weighed and paid for dumping the seats. Then we came back around and loaded the plywood into the van! A perfect fit! Wonderful!!
So off we went to Dianne’s son’s house. He is doing a remodel and has all the tools there! So out came the piece of wood, we pulled off some of the supports and used an electric grinder to cut off any nails poking through. Then we took those supports and put them on end to make legs and nailed those on. Once we put it back in the van, we realized that it really was just a little too long, so back out it came. Next thing I knew I was using the skill saw to cut off about 16 inches which we turned up and nailed back on for a head board. Thus separating the bed room from the kitchen!! 😏😳
Yes – it is PINK!
Back at Dianne’s, after smoothing some of the rough edges, I thought it would be good to give it a coat of paint to protect the wood. Mixing together left over paint from some of her projects – I ended up with enough paint to cover the whole bed with a good coat of acrylic paint. But the leftover paint mix turned out to be ….. PINK! OMG – a pink bed – and is it ever PINK!
Off to the store again, and now to buy a mattress for the bed. We had the shop trim about 4” off the end of the foam and it fit perfectly. By this time, I was pretty psyched to have converted the van and the only expense was the mattress! By adding sheets and a duvet (cast offs from Dianne and some that came with the van), at least the biggest part of the “Pink” is covered up. Then I cut up another duvet cover that also came with the van, and, voila: New Curtains!
Of course the van needs a name: Which went like this: Van…. Van Gogh… Vincent Van Gogh … Vinnie! 😀🚐
Getting to know Vinnie
Of course I thought it only appropriate that I spend a week getting to know “Vinnie”. So I took off to explore the Coromandel Peninsula. Dianne wanted to do a bit of a day hike with me – so she took her car and we drove in tandem up into the Hunua Ranges. We were trying to find the Kohukohunui Track (which we never did find…). We drove till we had came to a locked gate – and then we just parked and walked up the road looking for the Track. It is a beautiful forest and we had a lovely couple of hours walking even if we didn’t find the trail we were looking for. Dianne headed back to Auckland and I decided to camp there at the car park by the locked gate. This was my first night in my “new van” – and it is perfect!
The next morning there was lots of activity going through the locked gate, so I wandered over to ask the guy unlocking the gate about the track we had been trying to find. Next thing I knew he asked me if I wanted to spend the day volunteering to cut a trappers line though the bush (and go to a barbecue afterwards). “Of course” was my answer! Thus, there I was traipsing around in the bush again, working alongside other volunteers, cutting back the small trees and bushes. The reason that this section didn’t have a trappers line on it already was because it was too “steep”. So that gives you an idea of what the terrain might look like! I had a great time helping and was rewarded afterwards with a delicious barbecue afterwards!
Cutting track through the bush!
From there I spent 5 days wandering around the Coromandel Peninsula, doing lots of beach walks, a few bush walks, and enjoying getting to know Vinnie. Then I headed back to Auckland. I cleaned out Vinnie for Heather and Grady (who were arriving on December 6th) and I moved all my gear into PahutaCARwa once again. It’s a lot smaller than the van, but I am sure I can “make it work” for another summer down here (if you look closely you can see the “Crested Butte” bumper sticker on the back).
Leaving Auckland, Dianne and I stopped and spent the first night at Kinloch – on the shores of Lake Taupo. We stayed with Dianne’s cousins, Pete and Glennis, at their “bach” (holiday house), in Kinloch. We had a lovely evening catching up and laughing a lot!
The Rhododendron are blooming in Kinloch!
Then Monday, Dianne and I drove to the Ruahines and the Sunrise Hut trail head. The trail went up, up, up, but it wasn’t that long, and in 3 hours we were tucked into the cozy hut (in the clouds unfortunately). Not much of a “sunrise” either day! But it was fun getting there and being back in a New Zealand hut. The next day we day hiked over to the next hut (which was not quite so “flash”) called the Maropea Hut. It was lots of ups and downs along the ridges of the Ruahines. That evening, we were joined in the Sunrise Hut by Claire and Cane (a Kiwi and an Aussie) and we taught them how to play Farkle. Way fun!
Start of the hike to the Sunrise Hut
The Sunrise Hut
Cain, Dianne, and Claire at the Sunrise Hut
Coming down from the Sunrise Hut, we drove to the home of Dianne’s friends, Gaye and Bruce. It was great to get a shower and do laundry after a couple of days of hut living. The next day Dianne flew from Napier back to Auckland, and I headed South for a ferry crossing on Friday the 4th.
So now I am back on the South Island – YEA!
Heather and Grady are now in New Zealand and traveling around in Vinnie
Heather and Grady’s new home!
Vinnie – with new curtains, pink bed, and ready for travel!
The South Island …
I’ve been camping along the beach, been to the Mt. Fyffe Hut for a couple of nights (finally got an outstanding sunrise on the second day) – then I took the Spaniard Track down (it was straight down) and my quads are so sore I can hardly walk! Now I’m visiting with Myles and Margaret in Christchurch – and on Tuesday, Heather and Grady and I will meet up and make our plans for the summer down here!
Overlooking Kaikoura from the Mt. Fyffe Hut
On top of Mt Fyffe
The Spaniard track goes straight down there – all the way to the river!