Posted by: Matt | August 5, 2008

Bongo Bongo Bongo

This is a rugged, rustic, beautiful country. It’s taken awhile for that to completely settle in, but it’s really the best way to put it. The people here are wonderful, but they have rugged element to them disclosing the undeniable fact that they live very close to the land that they inhabit. The land that they live on is still a rustic land that I haven’t found a comparison elsewhere. And, obviously, it’s a beautiful place, probably all the more because of the fact that it’s sitting out here at the corner of the world, where things happen a little slower and it’s not uncommon to drive for an hour and see eight hundred sheep and only one other car.

Bongo after a hard day's work

Bongo after a hard day's work


Buying Bongo and setting out on our own has completely changed our level of appreciation for New Zealand. Bongo came into our lives a little less than a week ago and since then we’ve been left-hand-side-of-the-road junkies. We took off from Christchurch on a 6 hour trek to Queenstown to meet up with Madeline, who would be flying in the next day. The trip started out on a flat plain, but we were soon climbing and descending through the Southern Alps. I swear I’ve never seen lakes so blue and peaks so captivating as they peered out from behind cloud cover, but we were riding a solid emotional high that came with our new-found freedom and the beginning of our trek through the mountains we’d been hearing about for so long. Pretty much right after that it got dark and we realized just how far out there we really were. At one point we didn’t see a man-made light in over an hour beyond our headlights. I can say with some certainty that I’d never experienced anything like that while driving at night.

Along with the blessings of owning vehicular transportation come the downsides. For example, I got to put incorrectly sized snowchains on Bongo on the side of a mountain the other night. We were trekking up from Queenstown to see the New Zealand Burton Open when we ran into snow heading from the highway up the access road to the resort. Both the terms “highway” and “resort access road” need to be defined here for full appreciation. First of all, the definition of a highway in New Zealand is a two-lane road that doesn’t switch back on itself so many times in the matter of five minutes that even the compass can’t tell which direction you going anymore. The resort access road, on the other hand is a dirt road that will wind up the side of a mountain with absolutely no guardrails or anything else to obstruct you from the pure New Zealand air that is thinning at a rapid pace outside your window. Fortunately, we didn’t have to put the chains on while we were going up the road, we made it to the parking lot before we got stuck. On the way down the mountain both of the chains managed to fall off. We went to get new ones the next day.




I’m now sitting in Bongo as we cruise up from Fijordland to Wanaka. Liz has taken to driving the UK-way with a 5-speed, no problem. Fijordland was wonderful. We visited Doubtful sound and took well over 200 pictures. The good ones will be making their way to the Flickr link at the right very soon. Wanaka is supposed to be one of those places you talk about for the rest of your life, so we’re excited to see it this afternoon. But for now, I’ll continue to sit in the back of Bongo rolling from side to side as we plow our way up a “highway” through some of the most magnificent scenery that anywhere has to offer.

Liz & Maddie overlooking Doubtful Sound in Fiordland

Liz & Maddie overlooking Doubtful Sound in Fiordland


  1. Glad to see that Maddie arrived safely. Sounds like you’ll have lots of memories with Bongo. Miss you both, and am really enjoying reading about your adventures stateside.

  2. Hi Liz, Matt, and Maddie! Seems as though you all and Bongo are taking good care of each other. Take care! LOL Mom/Mary

  3. Matt — that pic of you and the Bongo would be one hell of a senior pic 🙂

  4. Please keep these posts coming! I check back every day to read about your adventures.

    Remember not to eat any wild potato.


  5. Totally jealous as I’m sitting here on hold with Time Warner. That makes you really miss the real world huh?

  6. Bongo? Really? Brady mentioned a camper, but what a camper she is! IF you ever come back, forego the flight: arrange to ship Bongo back to the US by freighter, stow away inside Bongo, float all the way to LA in the hull of the ship.

    Great to read and catch up! Happy trails for you; happy trials for me.

  7. Love the photo with the chains, B! You’re such a handyman these days.

    Looks like you guys are having a blast. SO JEALOUS!

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