Campervan Hire in New Zealand
Planning for our trip to New Zealand in February 2018 started the previous summer, immediately after I proposed to my girlfriend Debbie on 14th July, 2017. Thankfully she said “Yes” and the seed of thought was immediately sown…….”Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have our wedding in New Zealand and get married out there?”. This is where the campervan hire in New Zealand began!
We are lucky enough to have family in Wainuiomata, who are the proud owners of a lovely Ford motorhome nicknamed ‘The Fly Fifer’. Aptly named after the county of Fife in Scotland, where my family hail from and arrangements were soon in place to borrow her again and hit the road in both the North and South Islands. Unfortunately, as the months and wedding preparations swiftly passed, we received the catastrophic news in late November, 2017, that ‘The Fly Fifer’ had experienced a major gearbox malfunction and would be out of action when we needed her. As such the search for a suitable replacement motorhome was on but the availability from most hire companies was slim to say the least.
Whilst searching a major NZ supplier, we noticed that ‘Mighway’ was an option and after some research of reviews, we were happy to try it out. And, from there, we secured a lovely motorhome for the duration of our South Island trip. There were maybe only two of us, but given that we were planning for our big day, we weren’t exactly travelling light, so required a sizeable vehicle. There was great communication with the owners and a very good price too.
Everything thereafter went like clockwork and we flew out to New Zealand on 3rd February, 2018. We stayed with family and then toured the North Island before returning to Wellington and getting the all-important Marriage Licence on 16th February, before running the Wellington ‘Round the Bays’ Half Marathon and 10km races, then jumping on the plane to Christchurch on 21st February.
However, fate was not on our side. Shortly after our return to Wainuiomata, we received the devastating news from ‘Mighway’ that our intended motorhome from Christchurch had suffered a major breakdown on the West Coast and was no longer available for our trip. Thankfully our marriage plans had been known to the owners of the motorhome and staff at ‘Mighway’ did their utmost to source a suitable alternative vehicle, despite it being peak season. Contact and communication from ‘Mighway’ could not be faulted.
The new van, named ‘Kiwidre’ was older than we expected but in essence, the same model of Ford that my family in Wainuiomata owned. We were a little uncertain to begin with, given the importance of our intended journey but communication with ‘Andre’ the owner was fantastic and he reassured us that ‘Kiwidre’ would not let us down and that he knew our intended route extremely well without issue.
On 21st February, we finally flew from Wellington to Christchurch without issue, after the tail end of the last cyclone departed New Zealand shores the previous night and we were met by Andre at the airport and driven out to his place near Burnham, where we were introduced to ‘Kiwidre’.
The handover was completed, we were loaded up and Andre urged to try out the new portable barbecue that he had just put in the van. The weather that day however wasn’t kind and it rained and it rained and it rained some more, all the way to Oamaru, where we stocked up on supplies then checked into the ‘Top 10’ site there. Then the rain stopped! Steak for dinner that night followed by a trip to see the wee blue penguins and our first night in the van. The following day saw some beautiful sunshine before a walk around the ‘Steampunk’ area of town and then on the road again but this time to Dunedin.
We were stopped for a while about 10km short of Dunedin on State Highway 1 due to a caravan that flipped over but thankfully no one had been hurt, the road was re-opened and we were off again. We found a place to park and were made to feel at home by the sound of a guy playing the bagpipes in front of the train station. After a spot of lunch, we just missed a pair of celebrity chefs from the UK, who were filming a TV series in the area and had just visited the Scotland shop shortly before us. A spot of shopping and a water stop at The Speights Brewery tap, then off to the Dunedin, ‘Arron Lodge Top 10’ site, making use of their spa pool after our trek around the city.
The following day, we made our way to Gore where we stopped for lunch, then state highway 94 to Te Anau, where we stayed at the ‘Lakeview Kiwi Holiday park’ and ‘Kiwidre’ was allowed a rest for a couple of nights. Here, we tried out the portable barbecue with excellent results! On the second day we took in a cruise and kayaking trip to Milford Sound which was followed up by a fantastic Patagonian barbecue dining experience at The Kepler restaurant in town that evening.
Sunday, 25th saw us move on to Cromwell via State Highway 6, taking in the spectacle of the strong winds blowing up Lake Wakatipu towards Queenstown, before stopping in Arrowtown for ice cream then reaching Cromwell ‘Top 10’ in the late afternoon. We had stayed in Cromwell once before but the main reason this time around was meeting with our celebrant Glennys, over a coffee the following day, to discuss our fast approaching nuptials.
After an enjoyable meeting with Glennys, we were off to Wanaka, our wedding destination, where we met with our photographer Ruth and started making final preparations for the big day! That night we stayed at Wanaka ‘Top 10’ and enjoyed spectacular views of the sun setting over the north side of Wanaka and the mountains beyond.
Wedding destination: Wanaka
Tuesday, 27th saw us head to Wanaka Alpine Lodge, on the outskirts of Albert Town, where we were welcomed by our hosts Sarah and Ged, who made us feel at home straight away and settled us into our separate rooms, as tradition dictates, for the night before our wedding! Once all the final preparations were taken care of, ‘Kiwidre’ took us out to the beautiful Cardrona Valley, where we sampled the delights of the Cardrona Distillery which had sprung up since our last visit in 2016. This was followed by a fabulous lunch at The Cardrona Hotel where we were treated to a repeat on the TV of the earlier Scotland victory over England in the rugby union, Six Nations Tournament. It was easy to see who were Scots and who were English in the hotel that day.
Heading back into Wanaka, we found enough time to sample the delights of a wine tasting session at ‘Rippon’ Winery, nestled on the banks of Lake Wanaka and some 1196 feet beneath our destination for the following day! It was then back to Wanaka Alpine Lodge for the evening where ‘Kiwidre’ was parked up for a well-earned rest and the hot tub was put to test and a cheeky bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was shared before Debbie and I parted to our separate rooms.
It should be noted that I sampled more than enough alcohol that day for both of us, while Debbie kept a clear head and stayed behind the wheel.
The big day!
Wednesday, 28th February, 2018!!! The big day had finally arrived. Our mode of transport would be somewhat different and ‘Kiwidre’ had the entire day off. The most fantastic homemade breakfasts were devoured, at separate times of course and our fellow guests at Wanaka Alpine Lodge from The Netherlands were slightly less nervous than us but super excited at the events about to unfold that day.
The bridal bouquet and buttonhole were delivered and the hair and beauty girl was spirited into the lodge to help Debbie prepare. I donned my traditional highland dress (kilt) outfit in true Scotsman fashion then brought Debbie to tears by playing her favourite bagpipe music through the lodge’s sound system. Our photographer Ruth, videographer Robyn and celebrant Glennys all arrived in due course and started recording our big day. Now all that had to be done was await the arrival of the bride, so Ged kindly provided some fine malt whisky, to calm the nerves of course.
When Debbie appeared, she did not disappoint, looking as radiant and beautiful as ever and that’s when the day really did take off…..quite literally as we soon heard the familiar sound of a helicopter rotors as Tim from ‘Aspiring Helicopters’ swooped in and landed effortlessly on the lawn, in what was to be ‘Kiwidre’s’ replacement for the day.
We were soon all loaded into the helicopter, then we were off, following the path of the Clutha River towards Lake Wanaka and beyond, landing with pin point precision on Coromandel Peak with fabulous panoramic views all around where Debbie and I exchanged rings, said “I Do” and became Mr and Mrs Peebles. This was swiftly followed by the sound of a champagne cork popping and the beautiful return flight to Wanaka Alpine Lodge, where we said farewell to Glennys and Robyn and headed off for more photos at Waterfall Equestrian and on the scenic shores of Lake Wanaka.
A few more celebratory glasses of bubbles were consumed after our return to the lodge and the most delicious wedding meal thereafter at ‘Bistro Gentil’ in Wanaka. It was then back to the honeymoon suite but that’s another story……..
Back on the road
Thursday, 29th saw us take to the road again in ‘Kiwidre’ and say farewell to Wanaka Alpine Lodge but not before another of Sarah’s fantastic breakfasts and this time the front dashboard and rear window were dressed up with ‘Just Married’ banners!
This time we were heading back towards Christchurch but stopping for the night at Geraldine ‘Top 10’ Holiday Park. The journey there saw quite a few stops, firstly at Lindis Pass, then High Country Salmon on the Omarama Twizel road for lunch, the pastel blue waters of Lake Pukaki, some relaxation at Tekapo Springs and hot pools, the Church of The Good Shepherd and the Mackenzie Sheepdog Statue.
Our last night in ‘Kiwidre’ at Geraldine was lovely but our final day took us back to Burnham via the scenic Route 72 via Mount Somers, Oxford and Rangiora before stopping at The Kaiapoi Distillery where we stocked up on several bottles of their Duck Shooters Port.
The last hurrah!
From there we checked into our airport motel before returning ‘Kiwidre’ back to Andre at Burnham and we said our goodbyes to him when he dropped us back at our motel. It was the end of a truly unforgettable trip and experience with the added appreciation that despite ‘Kiwidre’s’ advancing years, she was extremely reliable, well looked after and furnished and more than a match for many of the newer commercial motorhomes on the road. Most importantly though ‘Kiwidre’ managed to get us to the church on time….so to speak!
Written by: Gordon & Debbie Peebles
Cupar, Fife, Scotland