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  • Writer's pictureEvelyn Roberts

New Zealand

New Zealand, 2018

Some questions you wish you'd never asked: "What is the duty-free allowance going into NZ?" 3 bottles of liquor and 6 bottles of wine. So much for travelling light.

But it is almost a month long road trip, with a very dear old friend. And I didn't get the wine... I've heard rumours they make their own.

2 old friends in a borrowed 1988 Charade, touring the South Island of NZ. We call the car “Char”, and we are Melma and Eloise, a senior citizen version of an old favourite tale.

It has begun. 3 words for New Zealand so far. Simplicity, kindness and beauty. Each in abundance.

Pure, clean, clear water straight out of the tap. New Zealand; you are rare and precious for this fact alone.

Falling in love again.

Gorgeous early morning boat tour. Then arrived at lovely new friends of friends farm, who casually asked us to, on our way into the property, do them a favour, and persuade an escaped bull into returning home. Luckily he was smallish and cute.

I knew I would love this country, but nothing prepared me for its essence. Nothing pretentious whatsoever, and a deep respect for nature. I'm sure if you scratch the surface enough there will be all kinds of negative stuff reveal itself, but so far I can muster nothing but awe for their respect and relationship to this glorious land.

Today we took the mail boat through Queen Charlotte's Sound. An actual postal delivery service to all these beautiful places, only reachable by boat.

Inaccessible places with perfect wifi... my personal idea of heaven.

Another fabulous day, and photos do nothing for it.

A landmark occasion on our adventure through New Zealand. We just passed our 1st moving vehicle in 1,000+ km. It was a tractor. Marcia Davis is the star of this feat.

To be kind to all the other drivers in New Zealand we decided it was best to label ourselves and “Char”. We bought L (learner) plates.

We’re heading south, the world is suddenly wilder, more dramatic and much chillier. It reminds me a lot of my birthplace, Aberdeen, on the far, opposite end of the planet. Tomorrow we start the search for glaciers.

Char the Star Car is a real champ on this marathon NZ tour, especially when it comes to fuel. We just realised we are spending more on wine than we are on petrol.

Glacial waters are beautiful... mica dust reflects the light, so I’m told. Sounding smart through quoting others.

We drove to where the paved road ends towards the southwestern-most end of NZ; Jackson’s Bay. Most gorgeous day imaginable, colours almost too beautiful to be real. But oh, that New Zealand traffic, we saw about 10 other cars in 50 km... positively shocking. The fish and chips were illegally delicious. And still desperately seeking penguins.

We’re not quite sure how the slowest vehicle in NZ managed to get a speeding ticket, (we’ve only passed 2 tractors to date… and one was practically stationary), but somehow we did.

Going through the wee village of Cardona, apparently, I was going 62km in a 50km zone. We were pulled over by most charming young policeman, who was quite intrigued as to why someone my age would have learner plates, and he was also quite apologetic about the $53 it cost us. Marcia was most relieved when I didn’t offer him a bribe, (or a little “tax”), as you normally do in Asia. NZ just doesn’t quite have that same vibe. And then he kindly posed for a photo.

On another note we are now in the far south at Te Anau, and on our way to Milford Sound tomorrow. Every single mile is breathtakingly beautiful.

How hope inspiring to be this floored by the beauty of a place at 66 years of age. There really are no words. I’ve travelled the world and never seen anywhere quite like it. And it is so beloved and protected by the people. The tour guides have all been brilliant and funny, they so deeply love and appreciate what they have. There is zero trash to be seen anywhere.

Apparently, it rains 200 days a year in Milford Sound, and they get 9 meters of rain annually... 3 times as much as the Amazon. Don’t know what we did right, but we have had near perfect sunny days wherever we go. It rains when we sleep.

If I were 30 or more years younger, wanting to start a family and the world was as scary as it currently is, I would definitely do all I possibly could to live in New Zealand. It has clean air and water, a low crime rate, very little traffic, socialised medicine, free education, zero pretensions, strong environmental awareness, a sane Prime Minister, low population, kind and helpful citizens, and it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Oh, and it has no snakes or poisonous lurking creatures whatsoever, except for one itty bitty spider. It is extremely hard to find anything to dislike about it.

We found our penguins... after waiting for 2 hours + on a very windy beach in Curio Bay, we were rewarded by seeing 2 of the rarest penguins in the world, there are only 3 nests on this beach. They were females on their way to feed their fledglings, being babysat by hubby. So honoured to see them. May their #'s strengthen.

Curio Bay has been our closest thing to a Youth Hostel stay, it was as near as we could get to the penguins, but tonight we have an Airbnb with a jacuzzi, in Dunedin. Looking forward to hours of soaking, and also a very cool train ride to the gorge.

On the road again. Proud to say that Char and I, after 2000 km, finally passed a moving vehicle.

Marcia - 2 tractors

Evelyn - 1 mower

But I do have a bit of a lead in Scrabble... despite what Marcia might say.

Our final stop before back to our wonderful new friend in Christchurch was a 150 year old cottage on a sheep farm, and we got to feed the lambs. Airbnb has been an extraordinary resource, we’ve met the loveliest people and stayed in absolutely gorgeous places.

On another note; we have not lived up to the “Thelma and Louise” name in any way. We have decided we are far more of a cross between the Golden Girls and 2 female Cheech and Chongs, except with no need for drugs of any kind. We have our very own hilarity.

And on another another note we passed through the NZ St Andrews, (I lived in the original Scottish one as a child). They have a golf course too, only their green fees (posted) are $10 NZ ($6.80USD). Tain’t that cheap in the Highlands... or anywhere else I know of.

Everybody exaggerated about the weather in NZ. It is always perfect.

Tekapo hot springs. Another gruelling day.

Right back where we started. Journeys end. Christchurch. 3,000+ km later. Every single day has been brilliant.

Saying goodbye this morning to my friend of 42 years, Marcia Davis. Best travel companion imaginable. And Char the Star Car, 30 years old and not a single problem, (she’s just a bit of an oil guzzler).

More in love with this world than ever. The name, New Zealand, will forever rekindle the wonder of what it is.

Thank you, Peter and Grace Kelly for the inspiration, and the wheels, and all the exceptionally warm and friendly people of NZ.

In 2 more days I will be back in my beloved rice fields of Bali.



Indian Visa in hand - always a happy moment. Cannot wait for the next adventure, 3+ weeks and counting. Although spending a month in Bali in between is not so bad.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.― Mark Twain

Power is out, but sometimes all you need is a nice hot bath and an iPhone. Now the battery is about to go dead on my phone, so it will just be a bath, me, and the jungle. To tell the truth I don’t know of anywhere I feel more secure and safe. And my kindle paper-white still has a full battery, and 530 books on it.

Stunned by the disasters in Indonesia over the last year. We have felt the tremors in Bali, sometimes almost daily, and now a tsunami 2 islands away. We are perfectly safe and sound here, and the whole island is relatively untouched. Tourism is way down, the island is very quiet... and if there was ever a time they needed support it is now. Ironically it is a perfect time to visit. I'm only leaving because I have commitments that take me elsewhere, but I'll be back just as soon as possible.

American football and the stock market completely and utterly baffle me. I understand and can explain pixies and goblins with far more clarity and logic than either of them..

Grrrrrr, to guests who take our drivers away from their important ceremonies then beat them down on the price, so they only just cover their costs. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a foreigner here.

Sometimes I bizarrely love sleepless nights, especially here in the jungle. My buzzing mind feels in harmony with all the mysterious humming, chirping and deep active silence.


A dear Balinese friend, who has only learned English through the spoken word, wished us a "Heavy New Year". My counter wish is that 2019 get lighter by the day.


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