Exploring New Zealand From the Left.


Engineer In Residence

With a little time, and a few breaks in the weather, we did a loop of the region around Taranaki.

Mt Taranaki, a dormant volcano. You may recognize it in the far distance on the Tongariro Crossing post.


Sheep blocking the road. Typical rural NZ.

Single lane tunnels? Also typical rural NZ.

The remainder of our time was spent out of the rain, usually in a garden or art museum.


This art museum has an awesome building (art itself). Check out the wavy walls.

On the outside they were covered with polished stainless steel mirrors.


Some of the kinetic displays would make any engineer proud.

Finally, here is a very unique bridge,



and a beach.



Engineer In Residence
As an aside, this particular fall/winter was one of the cloudiest and rainiest on record in NZ. On the South Island, Christchurch had the 2nd cloudiest June and July ever recorded, with June only have ~80 hours of sunshine for the whole month. Wellington was even less!

It was a challenging time, avoiding developing seasonal affective disorder, keeping our batteries charged, and staying dry. I can't imagine how miserable it would have been without the van, warm and dry despite the wind, clouds, and rain. In the end we returned home a few months early, simply because of the weather.

Recommended books for Overlanding

Into Africa
by Sam Manicom
From $25.52
Overland: A Mercedes-Benz Journey Through the Americas
by ri M. Stroh
From $20
Tschiffely's Ride: Ten Thousand Miles in the Saddle from ...
by Aimé Tschiffely
From $10.99
Motorcycle Messengers: Tales from the Road by Writers who...
by Lois Pryce, Mark Richardson, Carla King, Sam Manic...
From $9.99

b dkw1

We are battling the weather right now LOL. Many of the roads on the south island have washed out from all the rain.


Engineer In Residence
Most of NZ is just soft sedimentary rock uplifted from the ocean floor. Combined with heavy rain and steep geography, slips and wash outs are a common occurrence. The far west city of Haast had only a single long road up the coast until the the road through the Haast Pass was completed in 1966. They were often without road access for months at at time!


Engineer In Residence
Last Bit in NZ

By Jen.

By this time, we had chosen a shipper and found out that we could drop off our vehicle for shipping the next week. So, we just had a few days to spend until we had to prepare the van for shipping. First stop for spending some time was Hamilton, the lovely city in the center of the North Island. We stopped at the Soldiers Memorial Park.

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The paddle steamer, Rangiriri.
The main reason that I wanted to stop at this park was to see the paddle steamer, Rangiriri. This ship was ordered by the government to be used during the Waikato wars, but arrived too late to see any action. Instead, it spent its days transporting goods and people up and down the Waikato River. It was left abandoned after running aground over 100 years ago, and thus is in a pitiful state. But, it had some interesting features during its day, including a secret weapon. This secret weapon consisted of a series of pipes with holes that when a lever was pulled could pour out scalding clouds of steam along the sides of the boat!

Walking along the river provided views of interesting artwork.

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We also made a visit to the Waikato Museum, another wonderful free museum in NZ.

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From Hamilton, we thought we should make a visit to the infamous Rotorua again. Upon arriving, we found too much of it to be expensive tourist traps, so we ended up just heading to Rainbow Mountain. This is a colorful volcanic mountain with a walk to the summit. It has cooled in recent years, allowing vegetation to recover, but it still has hot spots. In fact, as you walked, you could feel the temperature differences.

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It still has steam vents.

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Fun colors.

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From the summit, you could see a typical NZ highway and why you have to go so slowly on them.
Because I missed my own cat, I decided to go to a cat cafe there in Rotorua. It wasn’t quite as fun as I had imagined (the cats are more interested in each other than you), but it was still pretty fun.

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Engineer In Residence

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Then, to do something different, we went to a really nice restaurant for lunch that specialized in using native ingredients. It was very tasty.

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To finish off our travels in NZ, I really wanted to observe the night sky and have some southern constellations pointed out to me. So, we made our way to Whakatane, where they have a small observatory that was going to be open Friday night. This meant we had 2 days to spend here.

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We went to the museum, where they had some interesting local artifacts.

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We visited a cave that was once big enough to accommodate 60 people, but has since filled in.

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We made a visit to the top of the hill in Whakatane where you can see out to the surrounding islands.

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Whakaari/White Island, chain-smoking volcanic island with a nefarious past.

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Finally, that night at 730pm, we visited the observatory. It was a bit slow to start, but it only cost $15 per person, and we got nearly a private examination of the stars through a stellar telescope. I learned how to identify Scorpios, Centaurs, the Southern Cross, and the celestial south, which is not conveniently marked by a star (unlike in the north).

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The night sky.
Then we made our way to Tauranga to get the van prepared for shipping, a multi-day process.


Engineer In Residence
That was a very unfortunate incident, and my condolences for those who lost someone. To be fair it is a very active volcano, which has produced steam and rock eruptions with some regularity over the years. They still let people walk the rim!?


Engineer In Residence
Leaving NZ

"What?!?! You are leaving already? Why are you leaving in June? Weren't you planning on sticking around until August? What is with the change in plan?" Well, the weather was getting to us. My mother has a saying about winter, "If it's not snowing, blowing, or negative [temperatures], it's good!" And, while I agree with that statement, we (especially Jen) were really just not enjoying ourselves much with the constant rain, especially since our daily routine often takes us to the outdoors. Apparently we weren't just being wimps, the weather was actually much more rainy and cloudy than normal.

The final, but definitely not the simplest task, was shipping the van. This time around, we would be loading the van ourselves. Previously, our service has done the loading, as we were sharing a container. First up was installing the shipping wheels. Our factory jack finally died during this process. It could have been worse, being NZ, it could have been pouring rain!
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Loading with the steel shipping wheels is tough. They have very little traction. Of course, our service had gotten a single door container, so we couldn’t just pull it through.
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We eventually got it loaded though. It is a tight fit!
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Our part done, we changed clothes, caught an Uber to the airport, and started the long trip home flying out on the 19th of June.

Our first layover was half a day in Honolulu. A bit warm, but otherwise a nice stop (minus the jet lag). After weeks languishing in our wardrobe, we got to wear some shorts again! With a few hours to burn, we visited the Pearl Harbor Museum, got some lunch, and generally tried to avoid falling asleep.
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From here it was another full day flying, and two flights. No delays and catching the first flight out every time, and we arrived in Missouri in the late morning. Only 36 hours after we left Auckland.

Our plans were to pick up the van in LA in 5 weeks, and spend some time on the west of North America.


Engineer In Residence
North Island by the Numbers

We found the winter weather (cold, cloudy, and rainy) to be a bit annoying, so kinda hustled through the North Island. Here are some interesting statistics about travels through NZ's more populous northern half.

For an interactive map, visit this link: https://goo.gl/maps/JxEQ4WvPAhr

  • Time
    • Time zone:
      • UTC+12:00
      • DOES participates in DST.
    • Day entered: 4-Dec-2017
    • Day left: 26-Dec-2017
    • Day entered: 21-Apr-2018
    • Day left: 19-Jun-2018
    • Total # of days: 82
      • Nights slept in van: 72
      • Nights slept in tent: 0
      • Nights slept in hotel/etc.: 9
      • Nights paying for lodging: 18 (does not include places where purchased passes were used)
  • Distance
    • Driven: ~11,234.5 km (~7,021.6 miles)
    • Hiked: 154.3 km (96.5 miles)
  • DateLocationDescriptionDistance (km)Distance (mi)
    Maungauika/North Head Historic ReserveTunnels Loop
    Rangitoto Island Scenic ReserveSummit Track
    Rangitoto Island Scenic ReserveCrater Circuit
    Rangitoto Island Scenic ReserveKidney Fern Glen
    Rangitoto Island Scenic ReserveLava Caves
    Rangitoto Island Scenic ReserveWilson's Park
    Cornwall ParkOne Tree Hill
    RotoruaKuiriau Park
    Okere Falls Scenic ReserveOkere Falls Track
    Wairakei Tourist ParkCraters of the Moon
    Tauhara ForestMt Tauhara Summit
    Coromandel Forest ParkThe Pinnacles
    Tongariro NPTaranaki Falls
    Otari-Wilton's BushRimu Walk
    Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic ReserveStream bed track
    Kaitoke Regional ParkRivendell
    Manawatu Gorge Scenic ReserveTawa Loop Walk
    CastlepointLighthouse Walk
    CastlepointDeliverance Cove Walkway
    East CoastEast Cape Lighthouse
    Mahia Peninsula Scenic ReservePeninsula Walkway
    Te Urewera NPLou's Lookout
    Te Urewera NPAniwaniwa Falls Track
    Te Urewera NPHinerau Walk
    Te Urewera NPTawa Walk
    Te Urewera NPRata Walk
    Te Urewera NPLake Waikareiti
    Kaimanawa Forest ParkTree Trunk Gorge
    WaitomoRaukuri Bushwalk
    WaitomoMangapohue Arch
    WaitomoMarokopa Falls
    Coromandel Forest ParkCoromandel Walkway
    Coromandel Forest ParkWaiu Kauri Grove
    Coromandel Forest ParkCathedral Cove
    Coromandel Forest ParkCollins Drive
    Kaimai Mamaku Forest ParkKarangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
    Coromandel Forest ParkKaueranga Kauri Trail
    Tiritiri Matangi IslandWanderings
    Tiritiri Matangi IslandWanderings
    WaipuMangawhai Cliffs
    WhangareiQuarry Gardens
    Ruapekapeka PaTrack
    Gumdiggers ParkWalks
    Omahuta Forest ParkKauri Sanctuary
    Waipoua Kauri ForestTane Mahuta
    Waipoua Kauri ForestKauri Walks
    Tongariro NPTongariro Alpine Crossing
    New PlymouthPukeiti Gardens
    Rainbow Mountain Scenic ReserveSummit Walk
    • Fuel fill-ups: 19
  • Money
    • Total spent: $3,806.91 USD ($5,214.94 NZD)
      • Consists of the costs of traveling full time in the North Island
      • Does not include gear or van conversion costs
      • Does include 1 ferry crossing
      • Does not include shipping costs
    • Average cost per day: $46.43 USD ($63.60 NZD)
    • Average cost of diesel: $1.259 NZD per liter ($3.478 USD per gallon)
  • National Parks visited: 5
    • Ben Boyd
    • Te Urewera
    • Tongariro
    • Whanganui
    • Egmont
Interesting observations about the North Island:
  1. It has over 3/4s of the population, about 3.677 million residents.
  2. It only has 12 main urban areas, only 6 of them are officially considered cities.
  3. The population density is about 32.3/km2 (83.7/sq mi).
  4. It is the 14 largest island in the world.
  5. It houses 5 of NZ’s 14 national parks.

b dkw1

Fun fact, the average rainfall at Franz Joseph glacier is 3987mm, almost 4 meters or 156" or 13 feet. It rained the whole time we were there.


Engineer In Residence
Fun fact, the average rainfall at Franz Joseph glacier is 3987mm, almost 4 meters or 156" or 13 feet. It rained the whole time we were there.
It would have been amazing to see the gigantic ice floes during the last ice age! Here is a shot from several thousand feet up gertrude saddle. You can see the sound way down the valley. The ice would have reached above us by several hundred feet!


The hanging lakes created by the foot of a glacier are pretty cool too.


Recommended books for Overlanding

Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World
by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
From $14.59
National Geographic Road Atlas 2021: Adventure Edition [U...
by tional Geographic Maps
From $23.44
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Wo...
by Rolf Potts
From $14.29
Tortillas to Totems (Every day an Adventure Book 4)
by Sam Manicom
From $9.99
Road Fever (Vintage Departures)
by Tim Cahill
From $6.99


Engineer In Residence
New Zealand Summary

We did it! We meandered across five major islands of New Zealand. Here are some statistics and answers to common questions about our trip.


  • Time
    • Day entered: 4-Dec-2017
    • Day left: 19-Jun-2018
    • Total # of days: 198
      • Nights slept in van: 176
      • Nights slept in tent: 3
      • Nights slept in hotel/etc.: 18
      • Nights paying for lodging: 39
    • Islands:
      • Most time spent: South Island
      • Least time spent: Ulva Island
      • Most paid camping (ignoring hotels): South Island (ignoring Stewart, Ulva, and Tiritiri Matangi)
      • Least paid camping (ignoring hotels): North Island (ignoring Stewart, Ulva, and Tiritiri Matangi)
  • Distance
    • Driven: ~26,690 km (~16,681 miles)
      • Island with most distance driven: South Island
      • Island with least distance driven: Stewart, Ulva, and Tiritiri Matangi Islands
    • Hiked: 578.42 km (386.45 miles)
      • Island most hiked: South Island (by a long shot, nearly 2.5 times as much as 2nd place)
      • Island least hiked: Ulva Island
    • Fuel fill-ups: 50
  • Money
    • Total spent: $9,933.78 USD ($13,607.92 NZD)
      • Consists of the costs of traveling full time in New Zealand, including insurance, etc.
      • Does not include gear or van conversion costs
      • Does not include shipping costs or flights
      • Islands:
        • Most total cost: South Island
        • Least total cost: Ulva Island
    • Average cost per day: $50.17 USD ($68.73 NZD)
      • Island with most average cost per day: Stewart Island (includes ferry costs)
      • Island with least average cost per day: South Island
    • Average cost of diesel: $1.246 NZD per liter ($3.442 USD per gallon)
      • Island with most average diesel cost: North Island
      • Island with least average diesel cost: South Island
  • Favorite Experiences (roughly in order of appearance per island)
    • North Island:
      • Craters of the Moon by Taupō
      • The Pinnacles in Coromandel Peninsula
      • Hobbiton Movie Set
      • Putangirua Pinnacles
      • Viewing the eels at Pukaha-Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre
      • Lou’s Lookout at Te Urewera National Park
      • Mangatutu Hot Springs/Pools
      • Orakei Korako Geothermal Park
      • Waitomo Caves and surroundings
      • Hot Springs Beach in Coromandel Peninsula
      • Kauri Coast
      • Kauri Museum
      • Tongariro Alpine Crossing (in fall)
    • South Island:
      • Kayaking to and walking through Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary
      • Kayaking Otago Harbor at Harrington Point
      • Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass
      • Slope Point
      • Invercargill’s Southland Museum & Art Gallery
      • Borland Saddle
      • Greenstone and Caples Tracks
      • Croesus Track
      • Eating at Jackson Bay’s The Cray Pot
      • Viewing Fox Glacier
      • Oparara Basin
      • Driving Highway 6 from Westport to Greymouth
      • Driving to Milford Sound
      • Key Summit
      • Gertrude Saddle
      • Driving through Skippers Canyon
      • Spotting a Hector’s Dolphin in Akaroa Harbour
      • Dusky Dolphins and Sperm Whales at Kaikoura (last try and afternoon sailing)
    • Stewart Island
      • Sunrise
    • Ulva Island & Tiritiri Matangi Island
      • Walking through a predator-free island filled with birdsong
    • All the different birds and ferns. Varieties you wouldn’t expect!
    • Playing ultimate frisbee throughout the islands
    • And of course, meeting great people along the way! Thanks for those who opened their doors to us and helped us along!
  • Why New Zealand?
    • Step into an isolated pocket of the world to see the land of great films like Lord of the Rings (LOTR).
    • It is a birder’s paradise. See how birds behave in an environment originally free of mammalian predators.
    • There are very little poisonous or dangerous items here. Probably the most dangerous thing is the weather if you are hiking, or traffic if you are driving.
    • You can readily see how humans impact the environment. And the effort that another country is going through to restore some of its native landscape.
    • It is a English-speaking that has its very own and entertaining twist.
    • Lots of hiking of all difficulty levels available, often with huts for sleeping.
    • Beautiful places and scenery in a fairly compact area.
    • Friendly people.
  • Food
    • Nothing too interesting here. Immigration here from SE Asia was greatly curbed earlier, so it is only now starting to get interesting food.
    • There isn’t anything in particular that I would classify as Modern New Zealand.
    • I didn’t really get to try indigenous food, but the staple meal of European settlers there has traditionally been meat and three vegetables (potato, sweet potato, and carrot).
    • Uniquely Kiwi:
      • Hokey Pokey flavor (ice cream, etc).
      • Homemade salad dressing of sweetened condensed milk mixed with vinegar.
      • Original marketers of the kiwi fruit (came from China).
      • Feijoas (also not native, but they really like them here).


Engineer In Residence
Overland Travel in New Zealand

By Jen.
Did our journey through New Zealand inspire you to do the same thing? Or, perhaps you just found this page as you searched for how to prepare for your own journey. This post will discuss what we recommend for anyone else looking to explore New Zealand by vehicle.
Check out the accompanying post: Shipping Vehicle to Australia or NZ

Choosing a vehicle
You have 3 options for your overland trip:
  1. Rent/hire a vehicle.
  2. Buy a vehicle.
  3. Bring your own vehicle.
Renting a vehicle is pretty standard. Most people have done it. Make sure to verify whether you are able to drive on unsealed roads. However, this doesn’t make sense at all if you will be traveling for more than a few weeks. We looked into just renting a vehicle and staying for 6 weeks. In the summer when we planned to visit, for a vehicle of similar convenience and quality to Fernweh, it would have cost $10,000 NZD per month!

Buying a vehicle in New Zealand is a great option. Unfortunately, this is a common thing to do here and the sellers have gotten this figured out. For most of those small (low-roof) vans, they will sell it to you for several grand more than they will buy it back from you. Most people loose $2000-5000 NZD in their transactions. And, all that is generally required to register your purchased vehicle is a local address. Just borrow a friend’s or your hotel’s, etc. The cons are fairly obvious. You don’t truly know its history or reliability, and you have to arrange for a sale at the end. For us, since it was going to take less than 2 weeks to ship from Australia, we felt we might as well as travel in the comfort of our own home. Plus, we didn’t want to stay in country when we were done trying to sell it, or try to sell it remotely from another country. Those were just hassles we didn’t want, though many people do it with minimal trouble.

Obviously, we chose to bring our vehicle over. Why? We had a heavily-modified campervan, suited perfectly for us with established reliability. Plus, we had just finished with our van in Australia, so it made sense to bring it along. We knew we would be in New Zealand for several months, probably 8-9 months. Our travel style is low cost using free/cheap camps and cooking our own meals. Our vehicle greatly supports this. When you take the cost of shipping and divide it over that time, the non-refundable cost was worth it for us.

Preparing the Vehicle

To temporarily import a vehicle into NZ, you either must pay the cost of the vehicle plus GST up front when you bring it and then have get it reimbursed when you leave, or bring it over using a CPD carnet. We chose the CPD carnet route. The NZ government has good instructions on their websites. As a note, when the vehicle arrives, it will be inspected by Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) for any biosecurity issues. Your importer may try to say that it needs a NZTA inspection at the port, but it is not necessary for temporarily imported vehicles.

Before you can drive your vehicle on NZ roads, your vehicle must receive either a certificate or warrant of fitness (COF or WOF) and pay Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). You do this at an entry certifier. Some of these require appointments, some don’t. Most only certify WOF, which are for vehicles under GVM 3500 kg. So, if you have a vehicle like ours, which has a 3800-kg GVM, then you are limited to only a few VTNZ or VINZ. Fortunately, at these two locations, if you are NZMCA member (see section below), you can also get a discount. I highly recommend calling ahead, explaining that you are temporarily importing a vehicle, that you need entry certification and a COF/WOF, and see if they know what you are talking about. Only one place that we called that could certify COFs knew what I was talking about, had a list of what I needed to bring, and didn’t require an appointment two weeks in advance. If you ship to Auckland, I would highly recommend them:
So, first choose your entry certification location. Then, you must get your vehicle towed there. Since NZ has very clear delineation between vehicles at 3500kg, if you are under that limit, you won’t have an issue. If you are over that limit, there are only about 3 towers in Auckland that can get you. Additionally, if you did RORO shipping and your vehicle is at the wharf, you have to have a tower that has security clearance for the wharf. Alternatively, you can pay a stevedore about $50 NZD plus GST, to drive the vehicle to the wharf entrance and have a tower pick it up from there, but you will probably be paying more for that. Only one company responded to my emails and didn’t require a full 24-hour notice:
They charged $150+GST NZD for towing anywhere in the Auckland metro area. They corresponded with me via email, which was great for coordinating this prior to getting my NZ SIM. I had to pay before they delivered my vehicle, and I did so by going to a branch of their bank and depositing cash into the account they provided. They picked up the van from inside the wharf and dropped it off at the VTNZ without needing me to be present. They just gave the keys to a VTNZ mechanic and parked it on the grounds.

Entry Certification
The VTNZ takes people at a first-come, first-serve basis. It took us less than 2 hours, between the queue and the tests. You can fill out and print the form (MR2C) in advance. They will have to type it all into their computer, but at least you don’t have to ink it out while you are in the queue. They let us choose whether we wanted to certify for a year or 6 months (even though we were a COF-diesel vehicle). The entry tests plus the COF plus the ACC cost us only $190.55 NZD. According to the NZTA temporary importation guidelines I mentioned earlier, we may have had to pay Road User Charges (RUC), since we were a diesel vehicle. But, upon investigation at the VTNZ and later confirmed via email, temporarily-imported diesel vehicles are not required to pay RUC. This was great news, as it saved us a decent amount of money. We were able to pay all fees via card. I think they charge a $1.01 fee for credit cards, though.

Now, while not required, it is highly recommended to get vehicle insurance. ACC is not vehicle insurance, it only covers medical bills for an accident, not any damage to vehicles or property. (HINT: ACC covers medical bills for any type of accident, not just automobile accidents, which is helpful.) After calling around, there were only two companies that would accept a temporarily-imported, left-hand drive campervan that was permanently lived in: Covi Insurance and Star Insure. Covi is the insurer of choice for most NZMCA members (see section below), but they only offered yearly, nonrefundable terms. We went with Star Insure, which allowed us to go on a month-to-month basis. If we had stayed a year, Covi would have been cheaper. But since we knew we would only be there less than 9 months, Star was cheaper for us. See below for examples of quotes.

Covi Insurance. Important to note that all the deductible/excess was only listed as $500, as a non-New-Zealand resident from a country that drives on the right-hand side of the road, it would actually be $1250.

Star Insure.