This is the second post (2 of 7) of a series on our two-week road trip in New Zealand’s South Island. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.
After leaving the campground in Springfield, we continued on Highway 73 toward Arthur’s Pass.
Highway 73 is one of the only three roads crossing the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The scenery along the road was getting better as we left flat farmlands behind. We could see snow on the distant mountains. I was already excited for our adventure in the next 2 weeks.
Driving in a little green JUCY campervan made us stand out on the road; not only by being noticeably green, but also by being slow going up hills. We felt that local drivers were less patient with our little green JUCY clogging up the road. After a few unwelcoming honks and gesture, we promptly learned to get out of their way as soon as there was a spot to pull over. It wasn’t a nice experience from New Zealand. My guess is that locals are experiencing more tourists on New Zealand roads as the country is becoming increasingly popular for its natural beauty.
JUCY community, on the other hand, was great. Shortly after we hit the road, most of fellow JUCY campers either waved, raised their hand, or flashed their headlights for us. The camaraderie among JUCY campers was infectious. It got us started greeting other JUCYers in no time.
Highway 73 winded through hilly terrains as we got closer to the mountains. We started to see patches of colorful lupins blooming on the side of the road. David pulled over for me to take photos of the flowers. I wasn’t aware that we came to South Island at the right time. Lupins were abundant in some areas in South Island and we would be seeing more of them later during our road trip.
Our first stop was at Kura Tāwhiti Conservation Area (Castle Hill). There were flushed toilets at the parking lot, so it’s a convenient place to stop to stretch your legs. A short walk from the parking lot took us to the base of extensive limestone rock formation for a fun walk up the limestone boulders.
After the Castle Hill stop, we entered Arthur’s Pass National Park. We stopped at the Visitor Centre, then continued to Otira Viaduct Lookout. Since we still had several hours of driving to get to Franz Josef, our destination for the day, we didn’t spend time checking out more of what Arthur’s Pass National Park had to offer. We also skipped Hokitika Gorge because it would’ve added at least 1.5 hours to the travel time.
Soon we left Highway 73 and followed Highway 6 down the West Coast. As we were approaching the town of Hokitika on the coast, we passed a public dump station. Since we didn’t empty our holding tank (sink water) when we left in the morning, we wanted to take an opportunity to empty it. So we turned around and went in to dump our holding tank. After positioning our JUCY and hooking up a sewer hose, we pulled the knife-valve……nothing happened……no liquid coming out of the hose. This wasn’t good. I’m sure fellow RVers know that sinking feeling or can relate. Now what?
Fortunately, my phone showed that we had a cell signal (there weren’t cell services in many parts of South Island, especially away from big towns). Next, David called JUCY for help. He got someone from JUCY on the phone. While on the phone with JUCY customer service, we tried to pull the tank valve again and this time a very small amount of liquid came out, but nowhere near the amount we had used for washing and rinsing to that point. We told JUCY customer service representative that we were heading to Franz Josef tonight. The customer service representative said they might have someone that could take a look at the problem in Franz Josef and that someone would call us tomorrow morning. In my mind, I just wished that we didn’t have to go back to Christchurch or make a beeline for Wanaka or, worse, Queenstown.
Next morning another JUCY customer service representative called. They had arranged for a mechanic in Fox Glacier, a town about 30 minutes south of Franz Josef, to help us. I had already planned for us to stay in Fox Glacier after leaving Franz Josef, so it looked like we wouldn’t have had to alter our plan at all. After breakfast, we drove to Fox Glacier. The guy at the shop wasn’t there. We were told that he had a service call this morning and should be back in about 30 minutes. There were several other people at the shop waiting for the same guy (looked like it’s a one-person shop…not very promising). I think we waited for at least 2 hours before the mechanic was back and ready to look at our issue. We were quite unhappy with his lack of communication while we and other customers were waiting. It’s clear that no one knew when they would be helped.
Nevertheless, the next few minutes were a good education for us as RVers. After we explained our dumping issue, the mechanic brought a garden hose out and, with a tank valve opened, back-flushed a sewer pipe connected to the holding tank. The sewer pipe accepted the water from the garden hose (meaning it’s probably not the problem of the valve) and when he removed the hose, the water came out with some gunks from the pipe and the holding tank. As simple as that and the problem was solved. It must have been a combination of a minor blockage in the sewer pipe above the valve and not having enough liquid in the holding tank to push out those debris in the pipe. If we were to wait until the tank was fuller, we wouldn’t have had this problem. However, in our own defense, there was no tank-monitoring system to inform us of liquid level in holding tank. In addition, we must have been frugal with our water usage and misjudged how little we put down the drain. Oh well, at least we learned something and, besides, it didn’t affect our trip.
After the dumpling problem was solved, we booked a camping spot in Fox Glacier and drove back to Franz Josef for the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. That evening we also did the Lake Matheson Walk, about 10 minutes drive from Fox Glacier. It was a lovely sunny day. Somehow we were in the West Coast when everything was quite dry, but you could tell from the look of the forest, which had abundance of ferns and moss, that this area was wet most of the time.