First order of business in Queenstown was getting a WOF (Warrant of Fitness). The way this works is the owner takes the vehicle to a registered mechanic of VTNZ (Vehicle Testing New Zealand) and you get an assessment done of the vehicle. If it passes, you pay approx $50 and they put a new sticker on the car and you’re good for the next 6 months (sort of like emissions tests in Oregon, but the whole vehicle gets checked). If you fail on the other hand, you have 28 days to rectify whatever aspects failed, and you can bring it back to the same location and they’ll recheck it for free, and you’ll get your WOF sticker. Well, we failed, but not as bad as we expected. Some minor brake issues, tires needed replacing (basically all of them, we previously thought only 2), and “excessive exhaust smoke” which we fixed with a handy bottle of what they call “stop smoke”.
*By the way, I love the straightforward nature of some of their products and services.
We shopped around and got new tires taken care of, but seemed to be getting mixed messages on the brake and exhaust issues (plus everyone was closed or busy for 3 days). In the end we decided we’d continue our journey out of town, and we’d circle back to Queenstown later on, once we fixed the problems in another town along the way. A few days later we actually ended up finding a rugby player/mechanic who seemed keen to our desire to simply get the vehicle to pass inspection. He fixed up the brake pressure alignment, and deemed my fix on the exhaust completely sufficient, and sent us on our way within an hour with a passed WOF.
Back to Queenstown, which was, as I have neglected to mention… the MOST BEAUTIFUL city/setting in my opinion so far. The town isn’t amazing in it’s own right, lots of tourists etc. But factoring in the lakes, mountains, skydivers and paragliders falling from the sky RIGHT over the city all day long, and the clean parks everywhere, I was amazed. Our guide, Scott, once again sent us to a free camping spot of shear beauty. You drive just out of town and then 4 kilometers up a dirt road. Travelled only in winter to a ski resort, the road leads to a viewpoint overlooking the lake and city of Queenstown glowing below you; none of the urban sounds, only the loud bellows of deer and elk in the expansive farms below.
Since it’s on my mind… Deer farming seems VERY popular here, as well as cows and sheep of course, but more fenced deer than I’ve ever seen. Factoid : Sheep outnumber Kiwis (New Zealand persons) TEN to ONE!!! We also found out from a friend along the way that Kangaroos outnumber Aussies! No joke! Other small animal bits. Kiwi birds, are super hard to come across, generally only at night with a red headlamp so as to not frighten them away, and I don’t expect to see one the entire trip. Possums are slightly different from the ones in the States, but are apparently a HUGE problem here, and almost universally drivers are encouraged to hit them (as well as rabbits we hear) if possible. There is a cross street affectionately dubbed Butcher’s Corner, on which stands a small shop with a sign claiming to pay for possum pelts. They were introduced here from outside, and have made a significant negative impact on the ecosystem here. I’ve also seen an astounding number of birds of prey here (I’ve come to find out the vast majority are Kahu, a NZ species of Harrier Hawk), which I did not expect. On average we seem to see, but always fail to photograph, 10 to 20 each day.