We looked inside the Wicked Camper van, and then we looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. Since our sons had joined us for a couple of weeks in New Zealand, we reminded the representative that we needed a van that would fit all five of us. We were eager to see Fiordland National Park and other South Island treasures.
Road Trip to Fiordland National Park!
After some discussion that included a call to the Wicked corporate office, we were told, “This is a five person van.” We realized there’s no point in arguing. This is what was available, and it was the best we were going to be able to do. So the five of us squeezed into the Wicked, with Bev sitting on the hump in the middle of the back seat — where the two real back seats came together leaving a slight gap in between. We headed toward Fiordland National Park, simultaneously yelling out, “Road trip!” just as we’ve always done. See ya again in a couple of weeks, Queenstown!
The Imperfect/Perfect Van for Us!
We’d selected that particular Wicked van because, in addition to being advertised online as a five-person van, it had a handy pop-up tent on top. It also came equipped with dishes, pots and pans, utensils, a camp stove, some camp chairs, and a fold-up table. It also had a cool Albert Einstein quote on the side that read, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” We are all about making mistakes!
We hadn’t even made it out of Queenstown before the cough that Bev had been trying to keep at bay since Auckland really kicked into high gear. This was not a pleasant sound at all, and she began to feel worse and worse with every spectacular kilometer that we past on our way to Gunn’s Camp.
Eventually, we pulled into Gunn’s Camp and unfolded ourselves as we walked into the office to get checked in. The owners showed us to our cabin, which had two bedrooms and a total of three sets of bunk beds. It also had a basic kitchen with a pot-bellied stove and a small dining room table. The female owner provided firm and explicit instructions on the use of the shared toilets and showers in a separate building a few steps away. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”
After getting settled into the cabin and waiting for the sun to set, Gerard, Steven and Nick grabbed flashlights and took a short hike to go see some glow worms. As we wrote about when we posted about our week in Kakahi, the glow worms are always a peaceful, beautiful site to behold. The boys agreed.
Sharp Rocks and a Spectacular Hike
Sometime after our spaghetti dinner that night, Dirk noticed that one of the tires on the van was going flat. We originally thought we’d all hike the Lake Marian Track the next day. But by sunrise, Bev’s cough was so bad, she knew she would not be able to do the hike. Instead, she volunteered to drive the van, now with the spare on it, to a tire repair shop in Te Anau while the others hiked what ended up being a really spectacular hike.
“I’m Sure She’ll Stop”
We all reconvened at the cabin shortly after Gerard ran in, out of breath, and announced to Bev that she’d sped by all four of the others as they waited for her to return from the tire shop. They’d had an exhausting, seven-mile hike while she was in Te Anau, and they were waiting for her at a picnic table at the trailhead about five miles down the road from the cabin when she drove by.
Dirk had assured the boys that she’d watch for them on her return from the tire shop and that they’d be able to ride back in the van. But that hadn’t occurred to Bev. She had the Eagles tunes cranking, as she zoomed along that windy, narrow, dirt road — on what she knew was the wrong but proper side of the road — without noticing anyone. Wicked. The Tim Tams and hot chocolate that she brought back almost made up for it.
There’s More to See Here
After resting for a little while, the five of us drove to the end of the road where the trailhead for the hike to Humboldt Falls is. The short hike is a must-do if you are ever in this area. These impressive falls drop about 900 feet and are on the New Zealand Must See Waterfalls list. It was worth it, even for the one of who was suffering from bronchitis.
The next day, we drove to Milford Sound and did the boat cruise. That ended up being one of our favorite days on the South Island. Milford Sound is the best known of the fiords in the park, and the only one that can be reached by road. The landscape formed by the retreating glacier so long ago is absolutely stunning. There truly is no place else like it, and our Canadian tour guide did a great job explaining the geography, geology, and the wildlife (including the whales that were lazing on the rocks). When the boat tour ended, we toured the floating underwater observatory, where you can descend below the surface to view some marine life.
On Our Way to More Cool Stuff
We squished ourselves back into the Wicked, leaving Milford Sound behind us as we headed back to civilization. We camped that night alongside the Eglinton River and then started the long drive toward Franz Josef Glacier: yet another must-see on New Zealand’s South Island!