Tips for visiting the two islands of the country (north and south).

The Road Trip of Seth & Lise in New Zealand.

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Their trip in New Zealand.

  • 1Road Trip in New Zealand.
  • 2Daily Life in a Minivan.
  • 3Meeting With the Kiwis.
  • 4How to Manage the Travel Budget.
  • 5Auckland or Wellington?
  • 6An Earthquake Experience!
  • 7Working to Continue the Adventure.
  • 8Finding Good Deals.
  • 9What if You Had to Do It Again?

Road Trip in New Zealand.

The mini-van offers an incomparable feeling of freedom. But a good car and a hotel room can be more interesting if you need a real bed to sleep.

And a 6-month road trip in New Zealand awaits!

The adventure of Seth and Lise is the one everybody dreams of, but the one almost no one dares to follow. Questioning them about their stay in New Zealand was a pure moment of happiness because they have so many great moments to share! This is reflected in the interview, rich in practical advice.

Guillaume : New Zealand is just so far away from Europe, so how did you feel after a 24-hour journey without sleep (or almost)?
Seth : Once you get to the right destination and when you finally go to bed, you are exhausted and you say to yourself, “never again!”. We still succeed to sleep a little during the flight, but the trip seems really endless.
Guillaume : Especially since one must drive right after... What advice would you give to someone who has never driven a minivan?
Seth : Apart from the dimensions, there is not really any difference with a classic car. There is an even higher driving position so it's even nicer.
Lise : It's a little more complicated to park! And it is better to drive at a slow pace if you want to save gasoline.
And here is Gigapudding, the van of Seth & Lise in NZ.

Daily Life in a Minivan.

If it is theoretically possible to sleep in a car, it is recommended to opt instead for a mini-van. However, the mini-van is not heated and you will have to invest in a good sleeping bag to avoid the cold in winter. Even so, the conditions are far from ideal. If your means allow you such expense, you should consider a motorhome rental.

Traveling in van: absolute freedom, but some disadvantages.

Seth and Lise chose to travel in a minivan, certainly the most economical solution. But the comfort is not the best and the experience of our two travelers can be useful if you are considering such a road trip.

Guillaume : We are not going to lie ... sleeping in a minivan in winter, is not it a solution invented by the Spartans?
Seth : [laughing] Uh ... yes! The worst thing is that we did it on purpose! At first glance, making a road trip in winter in New Zealand seems like a crazy idea, but if we have chosen to do so it is for several reasons. First, one should remember that the law of supply and demand works well in the automotive field in New Zealand. Because of the high concentration of backpackers in the country, there is a kind of minivan market that has emerged.
Guillaume : I suppose that the long distances to travel in then country explains this situation. How does it work?
Seth : The rule is simple: before the winter, everyone wants to sell his minivan, and prices go down. Just before the summer, everyone wants to buy a minivan, and the prices are rising ... By choosing to buy a vehicle before winter, we got a very good price and we were also able to resell at a higher price than the purchase! The gain allowed us to reimburse practically all our three months of road trip!
Lise : And there were also fewer tourists and backpackers on the road! We were able to go hiking without crossing hordes of travelers from the tour operators! Last positive aspect: storing food is easier when it's cool outside! However, the big negative point is the cold, rain and especially snow ...
Guillaume : I was going to ask! Traveling in winter is great to save money and avoid tourists, but you also have to endure winter in a minivan!
Lise : In the South Island, during early spring we slept with negative temperatures. The steam was turning into ice inside our minivan. It is therefore recommended concentrating on the North Island if you want to make a road trip in winter, then go down to the South Island when the temperatures rise. In Fiordland, we were lucky to be able to reach the Milford Sound because an avalanche had blocked access for a week! But with good blankets, this is already more feasible…
Read the advice of Seth and Lise to choose a van.

Meeting With the Kiwis.

The sense of hospitality of the New Zealanders is not an urban legend. Most travelers who come back from New Zealand have an anecdote to tell about the kindness of the population.

To meet the New Zealanders.

New Zealand has a reputation of being a wilderness country populated by formidable All Blacks. Yet, New Zealanders who are nicknamed Kiwis have the reputation to be warm and welcoming people.

Guillaume : New Zealanders welcoming and generous, always willing to help spontaneously, is it a reality?
Seth : That's right! We've never had a problem with them, they're even even more in the “no problem” mindset than the Australians. In road trips you can quickly pass for a parasite in the sense that you squat everywhere, but as long as you respect the place, the Kiwis have no problem with the backpackers. It is sometimes the opposite! Once sleeping on the edge of a road, a farmer came knocking at our window to find out if we needed help …
Guillaume : It's almost too perfect, there must be counter-examples?
Lise : We were just thrown once by a gardener because we had spent the night in the parking lot of a botanical garden. The place was neither closed nor prohibited, and we had done nothing wrong ... we did not understand why, but we left and that's all. During our stay in Auckland, we shared an apartment for three months with two New Zealanders including a Maori, and our relationships have always been excellent!

How to Manage the Travel Budget.

The only way to save money on the food budget is to prepare meals by choosing healthy but inexpensive ingredients like beans and fresh seasonal fruits. With a little bit of goodwill, it is possible to eat well without breaking the bank.

Beware of junk food, one must eat healthy to keep fit.

When you visit a country for months, you cannot afford a restaurant every day and you have to manage your budget to every cent. A challenge for French people accustomed to good gastronomy, but Seth and Lise found a formula that works.

Guillaume : On the road, what is the gourmet menu of the hungry traveler after the hikes?
Seth : I do not know if we can really talk about gastronomy... It's more about food survival! Just know the basics of a good diet and adapt to the backpacker lifestyle. When one spends a lot of energy, the body needs a lot of protein so we cook everything that looks like beans! There is a fairly impressive variety on the shelves of New Zealand's supermarkets! Mixed with noodles, ketchup sauce, mango chutney, soy sauce, sweet chili, Cajun, satay ...
Guillaume : But isn't it a bit monotonous after a few weeks?
Seth : We always have two or three different ways to cook the beans. When it is cold, we drink the broth of the noodles. And we always have fruits and vegetables to bring a little freshness and vitamins! For the breakfast we take a glass of milk with biscuits. And throughout the day, we eat snacks and fruits when we are hungry.
Guillaume : There must be occasions when one cry for a good burger or a real restaurant?
Lise : All this may seem a bit extreme, but one must know how to enjoy every occasion. We had the opportunity by discovering local specialties. In road trip it is necessary to consume intelligently and be reasonable. It's certainly not funny to eat noodles and beans all week, but it's healthy and this allows you to travel longer! What is important is to eat ingredients that have little or no need to be cooked, because reducing the consumption of the cooker gas is synonymous with savings. And if you cook outside, wind and rain complicate the task.

Auckland or Wellington?

Auckland has over fifty beaches and its central location is ideal for the weekend activities. On the other hand, Wellington offers more charm and more stimulating cultural activities, including the famous Te Papa Museum or Weta Cave, Peter Jackson's studio souvenir shop.

The heart swings between the city of sails and windy welly!

Between the metropolis of Auckland and its dozens of beaches, and the capital Wellington and its red funiculars, it is difficult to choose. Lise and Seth know the two cities by heart and can advise us.

Guillaume : Here is a tricky question I like to ask ... Have you preferred Wellington or Auckland?
Seth : Ha! There are dozens of arguments and counter arguments that come to my mind ... Frankly, both have very different characteristics and can please everyone! Wellington is a very small capital with a great quality of life, but can be boring after some time. Auckland is far much bigger, but more impersonal. But for the simple fact that we felt good back there, and because it seems more authentic, I vote Wellington.
Guillaume : And for you Lise? Auckland or Wellington?
Lise : I preferred Wellington which has a village spirit, a lot of dynamism, great fishing spots and a more active cultural life. We felt right at home in a few days.
Seth : As long as we talk about cities, I would like to point out that Napier is really a city that stands out as well, with a unique style in New Zealand since it was rebuilt in the “ Art Nouveau” style!
First days in Auckland, the city of sails. Seth & Lise introduce you to Wellington, the capital of the country.

An Earthquake Experience!

Contact the French Consulate in Wellington for the safety instructions to follow in the event of an earthquake. In order not to be caught off guard, you could also ask a New Zealander when you arrives in the country.

A fault formed by the powerful earthquake of Wellington.

The Christchurch earthquake is in all memory, but that of Wellington seems to have already been forgotten. Probably because it did not make victims (although more powerful). Seth and Lise were there.

Guillaume : Have you witnessed an earthquake, and I am not talking about the little jerks that are quite frequent?
Seth : Yes and many of them! Our first one was in Napier. We sought it out a bit because this city suffered one of New Zealand's most devastating earthquakes in 1931. We were in a supermarket when we felt the ground moving.
Guillaume : To have experienced it, I know that this is quite destabilizing (without bad pun). How did you react?
Seth : We realized that the lamps were moving at the ceiling. It was an earthquake! Each centimeter of our epidermis had goose bumps and we discovered that the New Zealanders who were shopping did not panic, so we finished our shopping by doing as if nothing had happened.
Guillaume : But did you experience the powerful earthquakes that struck Wellington?
Lise : We have experienced them twice. A first time, when visiting the Te Papa Museum where an earthquake moved the artworks hanging on the walls. But it was nothing compared to the big earthquake that came a few days later. We were in our van in front of the bay when we felt our vehicle stirring in all directions! From left to right, from front to back, from top to bottom! As if the All Blacks were training on our poor minivan! The earthquake lasted about twenty seconds. We thought we were safe because there were no buildings near us until a ship (converted into a restaurant) stowed to the harbor lost its moorings! The sea level had to go down suddenly to explain this.
Guillaume : I imagine it was panic, how about the passengers of the boat?
Lise : They went out, quite afraid and we asked them if they thought it there was danger, but there was no tsunami warning, so we stayed on location. Shocks and aftershocks continued throughout the evening. One feels very small by imagining the tectonic plate moving. The next day, Wellington looked like a ghost town. The city center was prohibited from access, with damages on the ground in some places. It was a frightening and intense moment, but we are somehow glad to have experienced this.
Read about the earthquake in Wellington on the blog of Seth & Lise.

Working to Continue the Adventure.

According to Lise, the North Island offers more job opportunities. On the South Island, the population is smaller, but it is still possible to find work if you are motivated.

Having small jobs and the time to explore the country.

It is often forgotten, but the letter W of the acronym WHV (Working Holiday Visa) is essential. If one is not able to find small jobs, it becomes impossible to pay gasoline to continue traveling. Seth and Lise are regulars of this type of stay and they knew what to do far before departure.

Guillaume : What small jobs did you find during your Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand?
Seth : As usual, we have targeted ciblé les jobs that are easy to find. I say “easy to find” because there are many where you will be given your chance even if you have no experience. But these jobs are not necessarily easy to exercise! Thanks to our numerous stays in Working Holiday Visa we have a good experience in catering (kitchen for Seth and service for Lise), which allows us to find jobs without too many worries. Beware, however, it is possible to get fired very easily.
Guillaume : We must make clear to our readers that we are not speaking of internships and that the employee is expected to be deeply involved in his work. What was the rhythm on a daily basis?
Seth : We worked a lot, the salary was correct, we met people, we practiced English, and with some luck we had tips and free food at the end of the service!
Guillaume : Did you practice different professions from those you were both used to?
Lise : We also did a little wwoofing to discover another facet of New Zealand. It was not paid (it is the concept with free accommodation and free meals against a few hours of work), but it was very rewarding!

Finding Good Deals.

With its typically Montreal decor, Al's Deli serves poutine as in Canada. If you have the blues or if you want to retreive the atmosphere of your home coutry (assuming you are Canadian), it is a must-see address in Auckland.

Al's Deli, Auckland's only Canadian restaurant serving poutine!

The traveler who stays several months in a country always discovers good addresses that are not included in the travel guides. Seth and Lise have agreed to share some good plans with us.

Guillaume : Do you have some good addresses to share with the readers of Kiwipal?
Seth : Auckland has a large Asian community, with many great restaurants. I recommend N°1 Pancake which serves Korean pancakes, cooked in front of guests. Sweet or salty to choose from, really cheap and exquisite, served by an always smiling staff (a must-do for us!).
Guillaume : And what about the local specialties, what discoveries have you made?
Seth : We recommend the smoked mussels of the Coromandel Smoking Company (to Coromandel necessarily). This is one of the great discoveries of our trip. Speaking of New Zealand culture, the Te Papa in Wellington is a must! Even if you are in transit from one island to another, you have to visit this museum!
Lise : I was forgetting, but there is also the Al's Deli restaurant in Auckland that prepares Canadian specialties to die for, including the authentic poutine!
Seth & Lise present their Te Papa visit in an article on their blog. The best Pancake in the world at # 1.

What if You Had to Do It Again?

If, like Seth and Lise, you come face to face with a stray animal in New Zealand, please call the DOC. Keep your distance, however, as a frightened animal can be dangerous despite its innocuous appearance.

Encounter with Smoky, the lost cat of Rotorua.

New Zealand has a fairly capricious weather, but with paradoxically more sunny days than a city like Paris. Before letting Seth and Lise continue their new adventure, I wanted to ask them few questions about their stay with the Kiwis.

Guillaume : I continue with a direct question, since it is the spirit of this interview, can the weather spoil the stay?
Seth : r that... It's a pity especially when you are traveling and you do not have the opportunity to retrace your steps. We have accepted for a long time that we cannot claim to know 100% of a country. So in general we go ahead, hoping that it will be better elsewhere!
Guillaume : Even if it is not the rule and it also depends on the regions, are there moments when the incessant rain is exhausting (special dedication to the town of Hokitika I have never visited otherwise than under rain).
Seth : Seth: When you live in a van and it rains for days, the situation becomes really problematic. Moisture is really difficult to manage. Nothing dries, from the carpet of the van to our mattresses, even clothes or shoes ... When everything is soaked, one depresses quickly with a feeling of impotence. The situation becomes even more problematic at night when drops on the bodywork prevent you from sleeping!
Guillaume : If the trip had to be redone, would you prefer the North Island or the South Island?
Seth : It depends ... if it's to make a road trip or to find a work. Each island has a true identity.
Lise : The South Island offers more diversity in the landscapes and the North Island more jobs.
Guillaume : I finish on a little bit of nostalgia. Do you sometimes dream of Gigapudding, Smoky or Lonely during the night? To understand the meaning of this question, I invite readers to consult your blog.
Seth : We do not dream of it, but it's true that we sometimes think about it. And we wonder what they have all become ... In whose hands is “Giga” our good old van? Did Smoky the lost cat get out of trouble? Did Lonely Smoky le petit chat perdu s'est sorti du pétrin? Est-ce que Lonely (a solitary sea lion) find her friends or her family? If only we could do a second Working Holiday Visa, we could have the answers to these questions!
Guillaume : And here's another new interview for Kiwipal that is coming to an end. Thank you both for taking the time (and I know you are very busy) to share your experiences and advice with our readers. Our small interview has only scratched the surface and hundreds of tips, photos and drawings await the curious on your blog. I wonder what countries you are going to add to your long list, but what is certain is that we will follow you closely on Kiwipal, hoping to see you back in New Zealand. Thanks again !

© Photos copyright Seth & Lise (

Seth and Lise crisscross the roads of the planet.

Seth & Lise interview

Real Globe-Trotters in NZ!

Find the story of our travels (in New Zealand but not only) and practical tips to prepare your stay on our Blog

  • 6 months in NZ
  • By mini-van
  • On foot and hitchhiking
  • About 2000 € / person
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Places visited during the travel in NZ

This map gives you an idea of the itinerary.

Best memories

  • Living an earthquake
  • Lake Tekapo in spring
  • To be alone ar Cape Reinga
  • The Milky Way
  • The Taranaki volcano

Some regrets

  • Having left too soon
  • To have not done the Tongariro
  • Not having seen a rugby match
  • Not getting tattooed
  • To have left Smoky
Guillaume picture in the mountains

Interview by William.

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Useful Links

The recommendations from Seth & Lise in New Zealand.

Guillaume picture in the mountains

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