If you’re traveling for 5 weeks in an old van, originally a work van, and since then used repeatedly by all sorts of travelers, one would expect it to fail on you to some degree, at some point. A blown tire is about the BEST thing you could ask for. Frustrating at the time? Of course, but in retrospect, we felt so lucky. We were deep in the wettest pass in all of New Zealand when it happened, but that’s about the worst aspect of the whole ordeal. I started hitch-hiking, headphones goin, tucked tight in my rain jacket, and within 10-15 minutes 2 women (a Scott, and Englishwoman, that have both lived here for many years) picked me up. We tried to get a call in to get some assistance along the way, but service was awful in the pass. Oh, to explain, I’m an idiot… although I HAD checked that there was a spare on the vehicle, I had NOT checked if I could get it off with the small wrench I had seen in the toolkit, and I had NOT looked for the jack. Turns out, the bolt was rusted pretty solid, and when I tried to loosen it, I bent all the metal in the wrench rendering it useless. Furthermore, upon checking the manual, and investigating the storage compartments, it turns out the jack and associated tools had been removed long ago. Whoops.
So, I got to the nearest town, and they dropped me at a mechanic, who said he COULD go out and help me out, which would cost a fortune. But instead he found the number for AA (NZ’s AAA), and offered me his cellphone to take care of the whole thing, as well as translating the names of the towns nearby to the woman on the phone. We had heard that AA and AAA work together before we came here. Turns out it has improved over the years. All you do is call them up, give them your AAA membership number, they put you in the system, and give you a domestic AA membership number here. You use that number whenever you need assistance, and bingo, you’ve got roadside assistance, tows, everything! Didn’t pay a dime!
On the road again, we headed to Wanaka where the guy’s shop was (the guy who came to help us out), as he was going to fix the tire for us as well. The tire was a complete mess, I had felt something odd the entire morning, like we were on a washboard road, turns out the tire was completely deformed. He gave us some advice, and options, once again offering the best option as one that did not benefit him, and we moved on to Queenstown, eager to keep moving, and resolve all of our vehicle woes in one fell swoop.
Before we split Wanaka actually, we had a beautiful sunset picnic on Lake Wanaka, and Zoe took a nice ice cold dip.