Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 12. The Kepler Tramp.

Damn! Just when we thought we had the camping thing figured out I found a ticket on our windshield. We were being fined, NZ$ 200, for violation of the Freedom Camping statute. I was speechless. How can you violate a statute that says that you can camp pretty much wherever you want? There were 10 other camper vans parked in the same lot, and only we and another camper had gotten a ticket! OK, so the others were bigger campers than us, but if it was a matter of size I felt we had been badly discriminated against.

Back into Queenstown to attempt to argue the ticket at the Council Office. A nice young lady greeted us with a smile, and without losing it explained to us that the Freedom Camping rule only applies to self-contained campers (check) that have a toilet (oops) and have a special decal certifying them as self-contained (double oops). Bummer! This piece of education was not only expensive, but now we are paranoid about where we park for fear of another fine.

This reminds me to mention that some things in New Zealand seem very expensive. In New Zealand dollars we have: A pack of cigarretes $25, a beer $8, gasoline $7/gallon, a coke $3, a cup of coffee $4. I have to continuously remind by self to multiply the values by 0.75 to turn it into US dollars, but I am still on a bit of shock about the prices. To be fair I should add the counterpoint that most museums are free, and that camping fees in public campgrounds are very reasonable (NZ$10 to NZ$15).

Leaving our problems behind we took the 150 km ride to Te Anau, where the headquarters of the Fjordlands National Park is located, at the shore of the fifth, and largest, of the big lakes, Lake Manapouri. We decided to do the first leg of the Kepler Tramp, but just then Anna realized that her ear had been plugged for several days, an fearing an ear infection decided to go to the doctor. The local clinic made room for her at 12:30, but she had to wait until 1:30 pm to be seen. The doctor checked her up and reassured her that all was well, and told her she was just experiencing the leftover effects of a cold. With this assurance in mind we finally made it to the trail head, and spent three happy hours tramping through an open forest along the shores of the lake. I guess we should call it a rainforest, with ferns that grew to the size of small trees, but to our good fortune the day was sunny and beautiful, so we got the benefit of a Cretaceous landscape shining under the sun.

Still a bit spooked by the fine we got last night we decided to splurge on a campground where we can do laundry and connect to the internet.

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