Posted from Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand.
On my last day in Nelson the RV company contacted me and asked if they could drop the RV off that afternoon instead of waiting for the next day. I said sure. The guy brought it to my apartment, parked it right out front and spent time going over all of the systems. Great customer service.
From my apartment I could see it sitting on the street. I admit I had a high sense of anxiety thinking about driving it the next day. They drive on the wrong side of the road, the driver is on the wrong side of the car and this one was a 6 gear manual with the stick on the left side not right. I had spent the past weeks observing from the back seat as John drove (very well) and Kathleen provided navigation and warning advice (also very well). They were an excellent team but it took two of them to get us anywhere. I was just one!! Luckily for me the RV included a nice GPS system. It provided directional advice as well as warnings (narrow bridge, speed reductions, saying I was driving to fast…). I affectionately named it Kathleen.
So the next morning I packed up my stuff, loaded the RV and climbed into drivers side. I adjusted mirrors, figured out lights, blinkers, windshield wipers and gear shift. I couldn’t put it off any longer, I started the car. Success. I put it into 1st and started. I immediately killed it. The parking break was on. I took a deep breath and tried again. I moved into the street, shifted to second and killed it. I coasted back to the curb and a passing car honked at me. I got 5 feet and had my first honk. Amazing. Only 2 weeks to go. Once again 1st, pulled out, 2nd, still going, 3rd this is easy. Kathleen (the GPS) is telling me to turn left soon. So I turn left. Too soon,Kathleen starts telling me to do a U turn. Half a mile and I’m lost. I get turned around and head out. Luckily I had watched John drive in Nelson so I had a sense of where to go. Through several traffic circles (they drive the opposite direction on them of course) a few turns and I’m out of town. What I’ve noticed about NZ is the roads are narrow (even main highway), there are no shoulders, they wind around and are all two lanes. Other than knocking over a few traffic cones and running the tires on the curb I was underway pretty well.
After the successful outing with K&J to Abel Tasman I decided to start my tour there. A road goes about 3 hours to the far north end of the park (actually the only road in the park). Well the first two hours to Takaka was across a mountain range along a narrow, steep and winding road. I got much practice shifting. Fortunately there was very little traffic. I bought groceries and headed on. At this point the road became gravel was less than two lanes and very windy through the rain forest. Finally I arrived at the Totaranui campground in Abel Tasman. Beautiful, the drive became worthwhile. The entry was along a tree lined road ending at a beach.
The beach was two miles long, golden sands, blue waters and no people. It looked like paradise.
The campground was huge consisting of about 25 bays outlined with trees. Each bay had about 15 camping spots in a grassy area. In true Harvey form I spent an hour checking out each bay for the perfect spot. Each of the bay’s only had 1 or 2 campers (when full this place would be a zoo). I finally choose bay R and picked my spot.
All the bays were lined up along the beach so I was 15 feet from the sands. It was unbelievable to be on a beautiful 2 mile beach with only 2 or 3 people visible in the distance.
I went for a walk along the beach that ended in an estuary. The tide was out and once again just like in Nelson there was a big flat sand expanse.
I headed back for appies and a beer sitting out enjoying the peacefulness.
All in all an amazing day. A successful driving experience taking me to a small corner of paradise. I’ll be here 3 nights so no driving. I’m safe for a while.