Meet Queenie

Tuesday February 1st

10.55am, sat outside the Holiday Inn ten minutes away from Auckland airport and we’re getting the jitters. When Kip phoned the bank to let them know we’d be using our bank cards in Oz and New Zealand the very helpful man on the other end of the phone managed to scare the shit out of her. “What will you be using the card for madam? To pay for campervan hire. Have you seen the campervan madam? No it’s in New Zealand. Can’t you pay for it when you get there? No you have to book in advance. Are you sure the rental firm exists, it could be a scam?  I think so, I’ve read the reviews and they seem quite good. Well don’t you come crying to me if you get ripped off you reckless fool you.” Okay so he didn’t exactly say that but he was damn close.

We should have been picked up twenty five minutes ago and we were just in the process of working out what to say to that “I told you so” smug bastard at the bank when a big Maori guy came trundling around the corner in a campervan with his smile on full beam. It was Eddie from Roadrunner Rentals (you see they do exist smug bank man git). We didn’t know whether to kiss Eddie or kick him in the crutch. We settled on a handshake.

A few minutes chat and he dipped his smile and said “We have to do a quick check on the van for marks, bumps and scrapes.” All four of our ears immediately pricked up. We were nearly had a few days ago (see the previous blog). We’ll show you how to check a van Eddie boy. With noses pressed to the paint work we started reeling ’em off and twenty minutes later, with his smile now down to fading side lights, he surrendered. Our copy of the check sheet had “too many to mention” written on it by Eddie’s fair hand and he’d signed it. 

This makes the van (who we’ve christened Qeenie) sound like a proper wreck. She’s not, but there are a few dings and scratches – what would you expect for a hire van that’s done over 190,000 kilometres?

We left Eddie sobbing into his tee shirt outside a local supermarket. He didn’t want a lift back – he was going to phone a friend. Or maybe it was his therapist.

Down the road we went, the first 500 yards in 1st gear. The cars in Oz tend to have automatic transmission and we’d both spent the first week with our left foot playing hunt the clutch. Now, just as we’d gotten used to it we get to NZ and back onto manual gear change. 

Kip had downloaded a brilliant app onto her iPad called Camping NZ. It shows stacks of places for wild camping as well as proper camp sites, with maps that you can download all for free. She found a lovely spot for the night, way off the beaten track called Hamilton’s Gap. It’s about fifty yards from the sea and has hills either side. There were a couple of other campervans there but plenty of room. We went for a walk along the beach – the sand for the most part is jet black and incredibly smooth and the sea was quite warm, but a bit choppy.

Hamilton’s Gap takes its name from a Scots couple who settled there in 1863 and built up a business growing blah blah. You can read it on the photo if you wish.

We had a celebratory drink. did a bit of work on some new songs, ate (prawns), played scrabble (1-1) and slept like logs.

The next morning a couple who were on their way home gave us a packet of cereal and six toilet rolls, we’re treating the cereal with suspicion. We took another walk along the beach and then we’re on the road heading for the hot springs at Rotarua. Kip was driving “What’s that thump thump noise?” A quick check reveals a large screw stuck in the front driver side tyre. Fortunately we were within a hundred yards of a tyre depot. Twenty five bucks and half an hour later we were back on the road.

I hope Eddie doesn’t see this blog otherwise he’ll be pissing himself.