The fourth trip to New Zealand #02 – Travel stories

A van purchase in Christchurch and many sunrises

After the meet up the day before, today is the first day of a new week. To be honest it is Monday and my motivation to go looking for a van is somehow manageable.

In the morning I drove Terry with his car to work in New Brighton, so I'm more flexible to look at cars myself afterwards.

Having started looking for vans in Christchurch a few days before I arrived, my yield is quite small. Although I feel I know New Zealand pretty well, I just can't seem to find the right time to visit Christchurch.

In Christchurch there are apparently only soon departing backpackers and many Toyota Estima. After I had already looked at a Toyota Estima yesterday, I have a second viewing appointment today with a backpacker who also drives a Self Contained Estima.

By the way, the sunrise in New Brighton at the pier is a dream if you are an early riser, this is the right place to enjoy the beginning of the day in Christchurch on the beach. There are also plenty of parking spaces and there are never too many people out in the morning. Only a few surfers are regularly on the beach in the morning before work.


Sunrise New Brighton Beach

Sunrise New Brighton Beach


Many vehicles and yet not the right one

So now that I have seen two Estima, my decision has generally been against this vehicle size. This time I want to treat myself to something bigger. Already in the run-up to my trip many people warned me, New Zealand in winter and then to the South Island. A lot of bad weather and rain was predicted for me.

For this reason I would like to have a bigger vehicle, ideally with a high roof, in which I can stand halfway comfortably.

After some consideration I decided on vehicles in the size of Toyota Hiace, Mitsubishi L300 or Mitsubishi Delicia. Since I already know from previous trips that New Zealanders drive their cars into eternity, even the older cars don't shy me away. But it is important to me that the condition of the car and the mileage fit. Vehicle construction years starting from 1990 as well as mileage up to 250000 kilometers I include in my search. With diesel vehicles I would even take 350000 kilometers into the selection. And no matter which vehicle I buy, I will do a Pre Buy Check. On my word of honour, I promise…


New Brighton Beach Pier

New Brighton Beach Pier


My choice of vehicle and yet no luck

Today is Tuesday and I am looking at several larger vans. The vendors are willingly driving through Christchurch to visit me at my current location and advertise their vehicle. As I am not a fan of dealers, I only write to various backpackers whose vehicles I basically like.

Two vehicles especially catch my eye today. One is a Toyota Hiace that formerly came from a car rental company. With a roof height of 2,70m it would be perfect. Unfortunately the mileage is not right at the end, so I decide against it. More than 450000 kilometers are too much for a good feeling. But apart from that the interior fits and the ex rental vans simply have an enormous potential for expansion. Even a solar panel would have been included here. Well, so what, next please.


New Brighton Beach Pier

New Brighton Beach Pier


A van with roof tent

In the afternoon I look at a Mitsubishi L300. It fits in terms of mileage and age, only the price makes me wonder. Big plus on this van, an already mounted roof tent, an exciting variant as I had already been interested in roof tents in Germany in order not to lose the camping feeling completely. But due to the lack of cars in Germany I never pursued this further.

But after a look into the engine of the Mitsubishi it is clear that a lot has to be done here. After a pre buy check in a garage in Hoon Hay a not inconsiderable amount of money comes together quite quickly. About 1500NZD plus wages should cost the repair. Starting from the original price of 7000NZD I offer the seller half of this amount with reference to the not inconsiderable repair costs and the risk involved. With the old vehicles, unexpected things can still appear in the workshop, which should ideally be repaired as well.


Sunrise and my gear

Sunrise and my gear


A Drama and no end

After a long negotiation we agree on 3700NZD for the Mitsubishi and I book an appointment in the workshop. A mistake that should cost me even more time…

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The handover of the van is conveniently scheduled for Wednesday, so I can withdraw enough money and prepare everything so that the purchase goes smoothly. Well, apparently Karma had other plans with me, so the seller spontaneously cancels 15 minutes before the scheduled handover and because of another buyer who offers more, the van had already been sold without my knowledge. After a hint about the already booked appointment and the ordered spare parts in the workshop he is baffled, he apparently hadn't thought that far ahead.

Fortunately, after a few phone calls the workshop is halfway relaxed, so I can at least cancel the workshop appointment for Thursday and also the ordered spare parts can be cancelled.

Nevertheless, it is Wednesday noon right now and I don't have a van.


Plan B for the van purchase

As I didn't want to stay in Christchurch for more than a week, I slowly see my time fly by and start to visit several dealers in Christchurch already in the afternoon.

This time with clear words, looking for a big van with a high roof. The choice is much smaller than for normal backpacker vans, so it is easy to find all available models. Another shortcoming in Christchurch is that it feels like all backpackers drive back to Auckland with big cars. Unfortunately there are not many large cars available in Christchurch.

After I had a look at 5 big vans, I finally drive a Toyota Hiace test drive. Despite the year of construction 1992 it has only 223000 kilometers, also the test drive is good. So we agree directly afterwards on a fair price of 8500NZD and a date to pick up the car. A mistake I made, I did not do a pre buy check, this will take revenge later. But the seller does a good job and calms my concerns, I have learned my lesson now. Never again a car anywhere without a check by a garage. Really NEVER AGAIN, please remind me when it is time again!


My Hiace on the dealers yard

My Hiace on the dealers yard


Picking up a lot of money and the pitfalls of the ATMs

So after it is clear that I can pick up my van the day after tomorrow, I need money. A lot of money ideally. Unfortunately my credit card is limited to 1000€, so I can only pick up about 1700NZD per day. Beside the limitation of my credit card, I have to go to so many cash dispensers until I have exhausted my daily limit. Funny thing, at Westpac I can withdraw my daily limit with my DKB credit card in one go, but only at the machines in the branch. At the open machine in front of the branch this is not possible.


Friday and the van pick-up

After I haven't done much except the sunrise and money withdrawals, it is now Friday and time to pick up my van. After a last money withdrawal I finally have enough together. Joyfully expecting I drive to the dealer and look forward to my van. But the joy only lasts for a short time. After I have paid, I inspect the van again before departure. Already with the radio it is noticeable that the radio goes on, only music does not come. The dealer cursingly takes care of the radio even before I have driven one meter and finds out that the necessary speaker cables are not connected. Good that I have already tried this.


Van pick-up part 2

After the radio is repaired, I drive off the yard and realize on the way home, the left mirror does not stay in its position. Cursing I call the dealer and complain, luckily I can turn around and drive to his garage again. From another Hiace we take the mirror and mount this replacement. Luck in misfortune, the used mirror fits and holds better. So I can finally drive off with my new own van and get going.

Funfact by the way, this van is my second ever owned vehicle with four wheels. At the same time I have owned both of them in New Zealand. In Germany I never got beyond a motorcycle.


First van upgrades and improvements

Arriving at Terry's we inspect the van again together. It's Friday afternoon and I'm troubled by an important question. How can I safely store my equipment in the van. The reports of broken vans and missing objects make me deeply insecure. I like Terry's suggestion to install a stable toolbox and drive my van to the hardware store. Once there I borrow a folding rule and measure the space under the bed. This is not really luxuriant and the choice of suitable toolboxes is also small.

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A safe built inside the van

A safe built inside the van


A safe in the van, crazy upgrade

After my question, the salesman suggests that I install a real safe in the van. After I have told him my maximum measurements, he shows me a suitable safe. With 100NZD it is surprisingly priced identically to a toolbox. But at the same time it provides more space and can be installed neatly in the van. Without much thought I hit here.

Terry as an old craftsman fortunately has all important tools at home. So I can borrow a cordless drill and a few screws. How the safe in the van looks exactly, we show here in the video.



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The departure from Christchurch

Yesterday the safe was completely installed, on Saturday morning I stow my luggage in the van and think about a system. I'll put the valuables in the safe. My camera equipment as well as my drone and laptop are somehow of considerable value and I already feel much better through the safe.

After a short stopover at the supermarket the adventure finally starts. My goal for today is to leave Christchurch and drive towards Mount Cook. As I have already seen many places on this route, I drive without any significant stops to Freedom Camp at the south end of Lake Pukaki.


First Shopping for the road trip

First Shopping for the road trip


Changes through mass tourism in New Zealand

Where once there was a small Freedom Camp at Lake Pukaki, there is now a fenced off and precisely measured parking lot. Fortunately, it is still possible to stay overnight here, but unfortunately not as extensive as in the years before. At least the sanitary infrastructure has also been brought to a better level, so there are now more toilets and a few clearer signs explaining the rules for camping.


The first night in the camper

The first night in the camper is super nice, finally feel the freedom again and the real adventure New Zealand is just beginning. Terrific.

Full of adrenalin I wait for the starry sky and make a few first steps with my new camera and the other equipment I brought to New Zealand this time.

Thanks to the lack of light pollution, the starry sky is great and around 11pm I go to bed with a good feeling. As it is still almost winter, the temperatures are quite fresh and I am glad to have brought a jacket, cap and gloves.


My van in front of Lake Pukaki

My van in front of Lake Pukaki


Mount Cook and the camping site White Horse Hill

You remember backpacker Lukas from earlier this week? I arranged to meet him at Mount Cook to do some hiking together. So I start the Sunday relaxed at the campground at Lake Pukaki and then drive the remaining way to the White Horse Hill Doc campground. Here all relevant hikes along the Hooker Valley and the surrounding mountains start. A danger I did not have on my screen, in winter many trails are closed because of avalanche danger. So the choice of hiking possibilities is spontaneously smaller than expected. My thermos flask and my stock of tea from the supermarket help to survive the fresh temperatures well. In the evening at Mount Cook I also take a few photos and then go to bed early. So much driving is exhausting. Left-hand traffic, unknown vehicle and so many new impressions. Exactly for this, for these experiences, I returned.

Next week I will continue with bankruptcies, bad luck and breakdowns as well as great travel experiences from New Zealand.


Rainbow at the Hooker Valley

Rainbow at the Hooker Valley


Travel period and interesting facts

Our fourth New Zealand trip took place from 15.08.2019 – 13.11.2019. Without much planning but with a lot of knowledge we explored New Zealand in our own van and got many updates to already existing knowledge. So we can continue to be a relevant and important source of knowledge for you as a New Zealand interested person. If you want to get information about New Zealand, this blog is available for free.


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