When planning our trip to New Zealand, we knew we would probably have to rent a car. Our research showed us that Kiwis rely heavily on driving, and public transportation options are limited outside of the larger cities. Since we are traveling on a budget, we didn’t want to spend exorbitant amounts on a car rental, so we looked through all the brochures we had and then discovered: Spaceships!
You may or may not know that campers and campervans are very popular in both New Zealand and Australia. Lots of people who travel are looking for outdoor adventure and these provide that flexibility. The Spaceship considers itself the Swiss Army Knife of campervans. Housed in a Toyota minivan is our daily transportation as well as our nightly accomodations, if we so desire. There is a double bed complete with linens, a small refrigerator and cookstove, pots and pans and a DVD player and screen. The back of the van opens up and can be covered with a tent to provide more space. There is also an awning that can be put up on the passenger side door to provide shade. It is pretty awesome. Are we now planning to camp every night? Not necessarily. But campgrounds are in abundance here and it is nice to know that option is available to us. It is also a major bonus that we are in the off season: the Spaceship was by far the most affordable car rental we found at $29 NZD a day.
Once we picked up our Spaceship named Vela, we continued out of Auckland and began our journey south. This seems simple enough, except they drive on the left side of the road here and the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car. It doesn’t seem like this would be that hard, but suddenly turning left and right takes a lot of thinking first. Luckily, Phil agreed to be our inaugural driver. He really did an awesome job, though he occasionally veered a little too close to the edge of the road. I can’t blame him–everything is so different. Merging traffic comes in from the left, you pass slow cars on the right. Turn signal is on the right of the steering wheel, windsheild wipers on the left. It didn’t help that we were taking some crazy, winding roads to get to Raglan, today’s destination. It felt a bit treacherous at points, and when we saw a car had flipped on its side after taking sharp turn around the hills, we decided we should definitely be a bit more cautious and watch our speed.
Luckily, Astronaut Phil piloted us safely to Raglan, a surf town just west of Hamilton. We took a long walk along the black sand beach where we saw a woman training her horse and a rainbow gracing the sky. Of course, often when there is a rainbow, there is rain. Unfortunately, we were about a 45 minute walk from the hostel when it began pouring. We looked like drowned rats when we returned. Luckily, Raglan Backpackers is a really nice hostel and they have electric blankets on each bed. Yes, please! We spent the next hour warming up and drying off.
We ended our night at the Harbour View Hotel Sports Bar which was packed with locals who came out to cheer on the Hamilton Chiefs in the Super Rugby finals match against the Sharks. We didn’t really know what was happening, but after about 15 minutes, we picked up on the basics and we are smart enough to follow the flow of the crowd. They cheer. We cheer. They boo. We boo. Not too hard. Besides, it doesn’t take any practice wincing at some of the hits they laid on each other. Have you ever seen rugby? Geez, that sport is violent. Now I understand why people think American football is for wimps.
–Brooke (Astronaut in training)