Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Zealand Van Travels: All The Way To Orea

We picked up our camper van at Gateway Motorhomes Tuesday morning, the outfit now affiliated in some way with Wilderness, from whom we rented in 2009.

It’s actually a little bigger than the previous model, The only difference that makes is that we have a King bed at the back, once we set it up. As promised, this model has an automatic transmission. As the manager (owner?) pointed out to us, it seems to function more as a manual transmission that shifts itself, causing it to lurch almost as much as a van with a manual transmission shifted left-handedly by Brian. Still, it removes one annoying task.

We left the modest Gateway premises around noon and drove to a nearby supermarket to stock up on supplies for the week. At first glance, a typical New Zealand supermarket looks very much like a North American market, but there are some differences, especially when one checks prices.

Let’s get this straight: We love New Zealand and we find New Zealanders to be among the friendliest English-speaking people on Earth, so our comments about prices are not meant as criticism, just reflections on similarities and differences.

In this market, at least, there were numerous “two for…” specials. However, if you buy just one you pay the original price. For example, a sign reads “Two for $6,” but then below “Single Unit price $3.49” or something similar. Kathy chose a pack of hamburger buns, @two packs for $5. In that instance, one pack cost $4. A shopper whom she asked about this joked, “You can’t just buy one.”

We shopped carefully for our wine. We can buy our favorite Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at home for as little as $11.50 (while Costco carries it) or as much as $14. Here the same wine is $25.

The single most spectacular price difference we noticed was on a display roasted whole chickens. At home, our little market down the road sells 3-4 pound chickens on a Wednesday “Four Buck Cluck” promotion for $4. Here, two 2 ½ - pound chickens were on special for $25.

Some items seemed not that far out of line. For one example, we bought some quite good coffee on special and we’re enjoying in our van as we tap this out. The van’s coffee-making “system” is a plunger, quite common in Australia and New Zealand, and allows one to make very good coffee.

Ultimately, we tried to shop specials and to some extent ignore the prices for our own peace of mind. Now we’re stocked up.

Once we were through at the market, we took a few minutes to store items away, and headed for the motorway. We drove through Auckland on the six-lane motorway and only drove a few miles north before finding our first destination, a Top10 campground in the small town of Orea.

We have a beachfront space, ($40) and celebrated our first stop by walking for miles along the beach.

We’re in no hurry to hit the road today. From here to the northernmost tip of New Zealand (at least as far as the road goes) is only about five hours of driving, so we have all the time we want to enjoy the sights along the way.

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