Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Great Kiwi Road Trip, Part II: Episode I

-a.k.a "Lord of the Rings and Easy Listening Music"

Lord of the Rings (hereby referred to as LotR) and easy listening music should never be in the same sentence, but no two themes better represent our first few days of touring the South Island of New Zealand in a rented camper van.

As mentioned in my last post, we opted for a bigger van this time around, which not only gives us more space for the 17-day excursion, but also ends up being a cheaper deal (don't ask me, Vincent's the accountant in this operation). So when we booked online, we knew we were upgrading from our little camper in the North Island, but we had no idea we would be getting this beast:

We call him: "Chunk."

Despite his bulk, Chunk has actually been the perfect companion on our trip. Unlike in the North Island, where we could eat our meals outside, the South Island is cooooold and as a result, we spend all of our downtime inside. Chunk's extra pudge might be embarrassing, but damn he's comfortable.

And frankly, a little comfort doesn't go unnoticed on nights when the temperature gets below freezing, which has happened a few times since we started. Some nights, we succumb to our weenie-ness and go to a powered campsite to plug in our heater, but we have also made an effort to do some "wild" camping- i.e. no heat or hot water (or bathrooms for that matter).

Trying to keep warm by wrapping ourselves in comforters while we eat our hot soup.
One of our more beautiful (and more freezing) campsites
But let's go back to those themes I mentioned.

First, for those who are a little less dorky than I am (and I assume that's all of you), let me explain why Lord of the Rings has played such an integral role in our road trip. The three LotR movies- all 11 hours(!) of them- were filmed in New Zealand, principally in the South Island. When I watched those movies, I was enchanted by landscapes that played almost as big a role as the characters themselves (that is, when I wasn't distracted by all of the dramatic, homo-erotic looks of longing shared between Frodo and Samwise- god, those two were into each other...) Behind the wizards and goblins, the talking trees and hobbits, there were always soaring snow-capped mountains, deep blue alpine lakes, vast rolling plains, moss-covered forests. Even if you aren't a huge LotR nerd, the film sets of those movies are magnificent.

So, as we began our journey in the South Island, we set out on a quest of our own: to find the same scenery that was in the movies. And we weren't disappointed.

Now that's a picnic spot

Frodo and Sam, gettin' their gay on

We have been spending our days driving and hiking through breath-taking natural beauty. Then, as soon as the sun goes down (which it does early down here), we retreat to Chunk, curl up under our comforters and watch the LotR films, getting even more excited about the places we'll see next. Between the incredible scenery we are seeing every day and my stubby- and, let's face it, hairy- legs, I totally feel like Frodo.

Or Gollum, if I haven't showered in a couple days.

You may be wondering where the easy listening music comes into play here, but believe me, it does. The Kiwis, in all of their wisdom, have created something called "Tourism  Radio," which comes free with rented camper vans. The radio has a GPS system, so as we approach a town or sight, the radio tells us a little bit about it: the highlights and history, what to see and do, where to stay. It's genius, really.

Even more genius is that in between the recorded messages is hilarious easy listening music from the 70's, 80's and 90's (and some recent stuff, but honestly, who listens to Michael Buble??) So, the beautiful views and picturesque drives of the past few days have had the unexpected soundtrack of The Eagles, the Steve Miller Band, Celine Dion, REM, and my personal favorite, Sir Elton John.

Picture it: us flying through the countryside of New Zealand in Chunk the camper van. Vincent driving. Me navigating.

And both of us belting out at the top of our lungs, "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit, ya know I read it in a maga-zah-eeeeeene-whoa hooooo. B-b-b-Benny and the Jets!"

There may have been some dancing involved as well.

"Zat's me in za corner. Zat's me in za spot-light, losing my religion..."

Between the stunning landscapes, the embarrassingly awesome easy listening music, the non-stop Lord of the Rings references and our friend Chunk- the Great Kiwi Road Trip, Part II is gearing up to be even more fun than Part I.

And for those of you who now have "Benny and the Jets" stuck in your head:

You're welcome.


  1. Beautiful photos! And yes, I DO have "Benny and the Jets" stuck in my head!

  2. Oh my god! how you made me laugth... And thank you: I have B and th e J stucks in my head now!