As full-time RVrs, living and traveling in a motorhome without a “sticks and bricks” home base, we used to say that we are houseless, not homeless. After nine years on the road, it’s time to have a home again, one that’s made from sticks and bricks. Our news: we’ve moved out of The Dip into a single story villa/apartment in a 55+ complex in Olympia, Washington.
A combination of things led us to this change. We’re in good health, but not getting any younger and just couldn’t see ourselves aging to the point of needing assistance in the motorhome. A broken leg or stroke or even Covid would create an incredible hardship while living in The Dip.
RV travel has changed in a number of ways since we started in 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession. RV parks averaged $35 a night back then. Today, they range from $45-60 per night. When we started, reservations could be made a few days (or even a few hours) in advance. Today, reservations need to be made months in advance. It’s gotten crowded and crazy out there now. (Covid has changed this, but once people can get out again, RV parks will be very busy.)
This isn’t the end of our travels. Instead, it’s the beginning of a new way of traveling, one that will take us to the far ends of our earth after Covid-19 calms down. We have a trip to Antarctica scheduled for next January. If not 2021, then 2022. We also want to spend extended periods in one place. Riley has a cousin that owns property in Malta that we would like to visit. We also want to return to Africa, Japan, Europe, and many other places.
It’s the beginning of a new chapter for us….
More later about the challenges of moving during the Covid-19 crisis with minimal furniture.
Captain Cook first wrote about the Māori people in 1769 after discovering New Zealand. Little did he know that the Māori were a Polynesian people originating from south-east Asia that had sailed to the islands in search of a new home. We learned that the Māori didn’t settle on the South Island because conditions were more favorable for survival on the North Island.
The Māori people and culture are well established and visible on the North Island with settlements found in many villages and towns along our route. All of the following images were made on the North Island.
It started raining in the western side of the South Island and it seemed like it wouldn’t stop. Sure, there were short periods of no rain, but we found ourselves always carrying umbrellas and wearing raincoats ready for when it started again. We put the cameras away and enjoyed the drive up the west coast, getting the cameras out when the weather permitted. Which wasn’t often.
The west coast of the South Island gets a lot of rain. The town of Franz Josef, which is located about mid-way along the west coast, has an annual rainfall of 157 inches. Which is why it’s so green. All that rain is a perfect growing environment for New Zealand’s national symbol – the fern.
You can’t travel far in New Zealand without seeing a fern. They come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny maidenhair fern to the fern tree which can reach 49 feet. After a while, we were saying (sarcastically)”Look! A fern!”. Sarcastic humor aside, they were beautiful, and they were everywhere.
The locals were relieved when we said that we were booked on a tour to Milford Sound. They said that we should leave the driving to someone else, too many tourists had died while gawking at the scenery on the narrow winding road.
We had booked ourselves on a Juicy Zest (yes, that’s the company name!) small group bus and boat tour of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. However, it was starting to rain when the bus picked us up. You know, one of those days that make you want to stay in bed with a book and mug of hot chocolate. We were afraid that the rain would obscure all of the views. After all, Milford Sound gets 21 feet (yes, feet!) of rain per year. I guess we should have known….
So, we got on the bus thinking “what a waste of money” until our tour guide and driver, Simon, said “what a great day, we are going to see waterfalls that many people never see and the forest will be glowing in the muted light.” We liked him immediately and found that his knowledge of the flora, fauna, and local culture was extensive.
We went on short hikes in the rain with our rain coats and big umbrellas, stopped at all of the view points, and were gobsmacked by the spectacular waterfalls cascading down the tall vertical cliffs.
And then, we got to the sound. The boat ride was foggy, moody, and just as spectacular as the canyons we drove through to get there.
We were treated to sightings of penguins and fur seals.
The rain stopped about the time we were dropped off at our hotel, but we really didn’t care. It had been a spectacular day.
It’s pretty easy to get lost here. Not in the physical way where you wander around not knowing where you are, but in a emotional or metaphorical way. It’s easy to get lost in the green of the landscapes, in the easy manner of it’s people, and in the grand panoramas of the coastlines.
Southland is the southern most region of the South Island of New Zealand. We’ve traveled through the Canterbury and Otago regions to get to Southland and have been loosing ourselves in the beautiful scenery of the eastern and southern coasts, visiting the cities of Dunedin, Invercargill, Te Anau, and others along the way.
It is a beautiful country that is hard to describe. So, here’s some selected images that illustrate what we’ve been seeing.
New Zealand isn’t far from Australia, but when you get here it feels like it is a world away. It’s a little like we’ve been magically transported to home to the Northwest. It’s cooler, there’s rain, it’s green, and there are trees here in Christchurch. And it’s spring!
Christchurch may be the most resilient town in the world. Two earthquakes, a magnitude 7.1 in September 2010 and a 6.3 five months later killed 168 people and leveled whole blocks in the downtown core. Nearly 11,000 people chose to leave Christchurch for good. Yet, there are signs of revival all over the downtown area where whole blocks have been restored or rebuilt.
There are artworks throughout the downtown core that include sculptures honoring the indigenous Maori people.
It’s possible that Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster don’t actually exist because surely someone with a cell phone would have made a selfie with them by now…. But I digress… Everywhere you look, someone is taking a photo with their cell phone, a photo that probably will be stored on the phone and never seen. That’s the inspiration for this blog.
For our last Postcard from Oz, we’ve selected a few photos from our cell phone. They are odds and ends from our six weeks trekking around the country and are not in any particular order. Take a look at the caption to see what they are about.