After three weeks on the road we were keen to arrive in Wanaka for our first official house sit. But first here's a sneak peak of our home on wheels (before all the junk goes in).
A huge thank you to Glen (interior designer extraordinaire). Having a bed that is the full width of the van is a dream. Also to Jamie and the guys at Motorworks for kindly taking all our money to help keep the old girl running.
The drive down to Wanaka was one of best drives yet. We skirted down the West Coast, cut inland over the Haast Pass and then down the side of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Once again the weather was kind and the scenery lifted straight from a jigsaw puzzle.
Newbies at the house sitting game, we signed up to three sites and started to receive dozens of daily notifications. People wanting their house and pets looked after whilst away. The sitter gets to have a roof over their head for free and the pet owners save the kennel/cattery fees. Win, win.
Every now and again we get a new listing that just sounds fantastic. Like the one in Costa Rica for 12 months, no pets, just wanting somebody to keep the house safe and sound. Or the small Tuscan castle with two cute rescue dogs for 6 months. This could be a great way to keep our costs down as we travel, although competition is fierce.
Our first assignment was for a wonderful couple, Maggie and Andy. They have a great home just a short walk from the lake front. Our wards for the long weekend were Mollie & Hettie, two gorgeous springer spaniels and Toby, a cute and friendly cat. As soon as we walked in we all became firm friends. Maggie and Andy invited us to stay for dinner the night before they left so they could give us the run down. I think Andy just needed an excuse to open a bottle or two of wine.
We had the use of 'the dog car' for the weekend and soon fell into a relaxed routine of walking the dogs in the morning and evening. There are some fantastic walks around the edge of the lake. Plenty of opportunity to recharge the vitamin D levels with a soak in early morning sun. Unfortunately one of those walks left both dogs covered in hundreds of grass burrs. Julie spent a good hour combing each dogs and cleaning them up. Not sure Mollie was too impressed, she sulked the rest of the day.
We burnt some extra calories by walking to the top of Mt Iron for fabulous 360 degree view over the surrounding valleys. Diamond Lake also delivered stunning views rewarding us for the 3k uphill walk.
Other exercise highlights included, a bike trail that takes you around the lake front (we did about 15k of it). And the Dean's Bank Mountain Bike Trail, a 12k, grade 3 loop in nearby Albert Town. This adrenalin pumping ride was quite taxing at times.
If you are in Wanaka for a few days, then a visit to the wacky Paradiso Cinema is a must. We saw 'Wild', a film based on a true story of a young woman walking the Pacific Coast Trail in the States. The cinema seats are a mixture of sofas, airline seats, a Morris Minor back seat, all rather eclectic. The best came at the intermission. Yes folks a real intermission where they wait until the last person retakes their seat before restarting the movie. The smell acting as the Pied Piper as we queued for the delicious homemade cookies, they are to die for.
Wanaka is a fantastic place just to chill, we highly recommend Kai Whakapai as a place to have a coffee or iced tea and watch the world go by.
Driving around in the Kombi you get to meet some great people. Lots of folks have their own Kombi stories. Student adventures in Europe or kids thrown in the back of the van for another 12 hour journey through NZ. Often in supermarket car parks you get strangers coming up and wanting to chat. In fact, Julie came back to find me chatting to a rather attractive young woman drooling over…..yes you guessed it the Kombi.
Having finished our house sit we decided to stay in Wanaka for another day. We booked ourselves a scenic flight over to Milford Sound, complete with cruise. Imagine our joy as we rushed to the wee airport as the sun rose on another cloudless day. Eager pups we pulled up and jumped out, only to have our excitement squished as the weather over in the Sound had turned to custard.
It's hard to pick a favourite from all the wonderful places we have visited so far. But Wanaka is top of the list for both of us, the relaxed nature of the place and the outdoor lifestyle make it easy to fall in love with.
Next stop Otago & Fiordland.