Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Pinnacles

By Jen.

After Taupō, we went up to Auckland to pick up our Certified-Self-Contained documentation and get some mail. However, we found out that our mail still wasn’t even in the country. After some calls, we found out that we could have our poste restante mail redirected, which gave us the freedom to head to the South Island. We had a few days to spend still until the ferry departure. Not having read much about the area yet, we weren’t sure where to go, but remembering some postcards of lovely hot-spring beaches, I thought perhaps the Coromandel Peninsula would be a good choice, so we went that direction. Upon arriving and researching some more, we found out that this is where Auckland goes for the holidays and was, thus, the busy season. So, the plan was to do one long hike there and then head somewhere else, which we (I) decided would be Hobbiton!

The walk we decided on was to the Pinnacles. While it seemed like it would be a fine day on the coast, driving just a kilometer or five inland to the mountains increased the cloud cover significantly. It was still dry, though, so we started off. Near the beginning was a max-1-person suspension bridge.

I love these things! They are so bouncy! Jonathan always warns me not to break them.

There was evidence of previous floods and landslides. Apparently these mountains can be quite treacherous in heavy rain.






They apparently have carnivorous flowers here too!


However, the farther along the track and the more into the mountains we got, the more rainy it started to get. By the time we got to the top, you could barely see anything!

The last bit was a bit of a scramble and quite fun, even in the rain.

While still quite impressive, I think we will have to come back when it is sunny.



Monday, January 15, 2018

North Island Wanderings

After some debate we decided to spend the bulk of the summer and fall on the South Island.  This meant we needed to take the Cook Straight ferry.  The ferry is often booked months or weeks out during the peak season (right now really).  Our NZMCA membership lets us book ferry crossings at a discounted rate, but we still need to find an open spot!.  After a few hours of fiddling around with poorly-designed websites, we were able to book the second to last open slot with BlueBridge on December 26th.  This was the only opening for several weeks.  This gave us some time to go pick up our self-containment certification (from Auckland) and to attempt (unsuccessfully) to pick up my hiking boots.  I have been trying for over 6 weeks now to get a new pair of boots shipped to us.  AUS had a terrible selection, and egregious prices, so I opted to have them shipped from Europe.  Well, the shipper never actually sent them (some mix-up, I guess).  And the NZ customs service is atrociously slow, taking 7-14 days to process international mail!

So, with a week to burn on the North Island, we took a meandering path towards Auckland. Our first stop was the Taupō (pronounced Toe-paw).  This lake sits amongst a number of dormant and extinct volcanic cones, with the nearby valley being very geothermally active.
Of course, Jen can’t help but take photos of every wildflower she sees.




We hiked up Mt Tauhara for some views of lake Taupo and the volcanic mountains of the interior.   The track was a bit eroded in places.




Several mountains here are snow-capped for most of the year.  This one has a crater lake at its summit.

The vast majority of NZ's native old-growth forests have been logged for timber farms or agriculture.  So it is always interesting when we hike in the remoter, untouched patches, as there are very old gnarly beech and other native trees.

This whole area has a number of rivers and dams which are used to produce hydroelectric power, most feeding from lake Taupo.  Huka Falls was nearby, so we gave it a visit.

About 5 Olympic swimming pools plunge over these falls per minute.


The Craters of the Moon park (not nearly as moon-like as the Idaho park of the same name) is a large geothermal field covered with craters, steam vents, mud pits etc.  Beneath this valley is a large water reservoir, heated by the volcanic magma chamber deeper in the crust.  The resulting steam often finds its way out to the surface.  It is so active that a nearby geothermal power plant is powered by the steam.  When the resulting high pressure steam finds its way to the surface, very strange things can result.

Notice the lack of trees?  Well just a few inches below the surface, the soil is boiling hot.  Only small plants and shrubs can grow in the cooler shallow layer.

Every few years a vent gets blocked.  The steam builds up and the resulting explosion creates a new crater.

Hmm, I wonder what's cooking? (Some smell like rotten eggs.)






Most of the wildlife you will see wandering about was imported by Europeans, or the Māori natives.   Here are a couple examples of the European imports.

A very fat hedgehog.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shipping a Vehicle to Australia or NZ

So, you want to drive your own vehicle in NZ or AUS? You have decided to do it, and determined its worth the effort and cost? Okay, I won’t try to dissuade you. Make sure to read the companion post on Overland Travel in Australia here.  There are some very good reasons to go this route.  It may seem like black magic at first, but it's not!

First off, we need to talk about shipping methods (no, not FedEx or UPS).  There are two major ways to move a vehicle overseas. Roll On Roll Off (RORO), and Container. 


RORO shipping is done inside specially-designed vehicle ships.  Your vehicle is driven on and off the ship(s) by dock workers.  Often, you can deliver the vehicle to the port yourself (save some $$$).  RORO accounts for much less volume of shipping than container.  It may use different ports.  RORO routes are more likely to be canceled/delayed due to cargo changes.

  • Can be cheaper depending on vehicle size
  • Only option for large/tall vehicles
  • Staging, Loading/unloading times may be reduced.
  • No crane-loading G-Forces
  • Dockworkers will be driving your vehicle
  • Vehicle is parked at wharf for days at each end of the route
  • Personal effects and/or customs-flagged items may result in delays/confusion at the destination.
Here is a basic outline of RORO shipping.  Our only experience with this method was from AUS to NZ.  There are generally only a few RORO ships/lines that run between any two major ports.  Sometimes they will deal directly with individual customers, usually they will require you to have a shipping agent.  A few google searches will usually turn up some options.  Your agent will generally handle transporting your vehicle to and from the port/wharf, booking the ocean freight, and export/import customs clearance.  We opted to deliver and pick our vehicle up from the port to save money.  We also cleared the carnet ourselves as the fees to have it cleared by our agent were exorbitant.

Most agents and RORO companies will tell you NO PERSONAL EFFECTS ALLOWED.  Let me be completely honest.  This is total BS.  They may not want you to have personal effects in your vehicle, but there is no technical reason you cannot.  That does not mean you should, though.  Because your vehicle will be accessed by dock workers, and sitting on a wharf for days at both ends, theft is a real risk.  The risk varies from country to country, and port to port.  Ideally, you would have all your gear/effects in a secure location: a locked compartment, a divider, etc.  Take note that in the very unlikely event that customs needs to access your vehicle without your knowledge, they are empowered to gain entry in any way necessary.  So use a lock that can be cleanly cut off if needed.  In our case, all our valuable goods were secured in locked compartments with combination locks.  The combination was made available to the shipping agent.  Another option is a combination lock box with the keys to locked compartments. (The combination ended up not being communicated to the right people, so might be best to include it in the customs/quarantine paperwork as well.) That said, if you ship this without their cooperation, you will need to submit the personal effects declaration to customs and biosecurity yourself, even if the company is handling the carnet for you. This government website identifies the process for your unaccompanied goods in your vehicle:

We delivered our vehicle to the wharf, even though our agent told us that was not how it was done, originally. Normally the general public cannot drive a vehicle to the huge staging area on the wharf.  Generally you must have completed a short safety course to drive onto the wharf (often not easy to do).  The stevedores/port workers often will do this for free, or a ~100$ free.  We got it done for free, as they simply did not want to deal with charging for a single vehicle (they normally move hundreds of cars at a time this way).  Getting hold of the correct person can be a challenge, so ask around.  Wharfage fees generally start accumulating 4 days before the ship departs the origin port, and 4 days after the ship departs the destination port.  We delivered our van on the first “free” day.  Since the same company was handling both ends of our shipment, we did not pay until shortly before we picked the van up.

On arrival in the destination country, the ship will be unloaded. Take note that you MUST declare the contents of your vehicle to customs and biosecurity in detail.  Do NOT attempt to classify your vehicle as an RV with minimal equipment, or a empty vehicle.  You don’t need to count the pills in each bottle, but the general contents, with specific attention to items subject to heightened scrutiny is advised.  In NZ our vehicle had to be inspected twice, as the biosecurity inspectors had not been provided with details on how to access our personal effects. As a note, our shipping agent said that a NZTA border inspection was required, but upon further investigation, we learned this was not required of temporarily-imported vehicles (see point 3.2.c here) and saved us $120 NZD.

Upon our arrival in NZ and before the van arrived, we cleared our carnet and vehicle contents with customs.  Fairly painless, though depending on your van's contents, you may need to pay GST, though you can get it back on export. 

In NZ, all vehicles need a safety inspection.  So, we arranged for a towing service (with wharf access) to transport our van to a local vehicle inspection location that was familiar with temporary imports.  As a note, if your vehicle's listed gross vehicle mass (GVM) is over 3500kg, then only a few locations are qualified to do the certification. In Auckland, there was only the VINZ in Mt Wellington and 3 locations for VTNZ (Sylvia Park, North Shore, and Avondale). We used VTNZ in Sylvia Park because they didn't require booking ahead and knew all about the temp imports. Temporary import vehicles (diesel ones) are exempt from road taxes called Road User Charges (RUC) so there is no need to pay them when getting inspected. We did have to pay the Accident Compensation Corporation Levy (ACC - accident insurance). Our inspection and fees cost less than $150 NZD and took about 30 minutes. A temporary import vehicle notification form (MR2C) is needed.  The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has several fact sheets with the required details.  After which we were issued a Certificate of Fitness (CoF) which allowed us to drive the van (Finally!). The NZ requirements are identified in this government website:

On a more personal note, we used Taurus Logistics to ship our vehicle from AUS to NZ. They were really annoying to work with, especially with the carnet and a vehicle larger than 3500kg. I highly recommend using SEA GO. They were very pleasant to work with when we used them from the USA to AUS.

Here was our checklist for this shipping:

Due DateTaskNotesCountry
11/1/2017Obtain quotesSee belowAUS
11/1/2017Choose shipping agenthttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/AUS
11/8/2017Supply needed paperworkhttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/AUS
11/24/2017Receive needed paperwork to present to customshttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/AUS
11/27/2017Present carnet and documentation to customsAustralia Border ForceAUS
11/28/2017Pick up carnet and documentation from customsAustralia Border ForceAUS
11/28/2017Provide copy of processed paperwork to agenthttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/AUS
11/28/2017Obtain Port Escort.MIRRAT site at 46 Kooringa WayAUS
11/28/2017Deliver vehicle to Port.AAT WEBB DOCK WEST BERTH 1 & 2AUS
12/3/2017Vessel ShipsTRANS FUTURE 7AUS
12/4/2017Receive needed paperwork to present to customshttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/NZ
12/5/2017Present carnet and documentation to customsAuckland CustomhouseNZ
12/6/2017Pick up carnet and documentation from customsAuckland CustomhouseNZ
12/6/2017Provide copy of processed paperwork to agenthttps://tauruslogistics.com.au/NZ
12/7/2017Vessel Arrives at DestinationTRANS FUTURE 7NZ
12/12/2017Inspection(s) scheduled and accomplishedShipping agent scheduledNZ
12/12/2017Tow vehicle from wharf to entry certifierCaptain Cook WharfNZ
12/13/2017Pay ACC levy, receive inspection and COFNZTA RequirementsNZ


Container shipping is by far the largest volume of goods crossing the oceans.  With container shipping your vehicle will be loaded into a container, usually at a warehouse or staging facility.  It is then trucked, and crane-loaded onto one or more ships, and unloaded at the destination, trucked to a warehouse or staging facility, and then finally unpacked.

  • Can be cheaper for longer routes or with a shared container service
  • Vehicle is isolated from dockworkers
  • You can load the container yourself (sometimes), if using a private container  
  • Additional items besides your vehicle can be shipped in the container
  • Personal Effects and other items (such as food) will be considered normal
  • Can be expensive if using a private or large container
  • Additional loading/unloading and transit time at both ends
  • Loading/unloading of the container by a third party may be the only option
  • Not an option for tall/oversized vehicles (see shipping wheels and dimensions)

Here is an outline of the basic options for container shipping.  In general you will not be allowed on the port to load/unload the container.  Some countries/ports may allow this, many don’t.  This means that you will need to use a warehousing and/or loading service.  If you are using a private container, you can usually deliver the vehicle, and load it yourself, or have the service load it.  Most will require you to pay a lashing service to secure the vehicle.  If you don’t know what you are doing, let the professionals do it.  At this point you can put the seal (and a lock if you wish) on the container doors. 
If you are using a shared container service, the company will load the container for you.  In general, you will deliver your vehicle in advance.  When they have enough goods to fill a container, they will load it at the warehouse, and truck it to the port.  For example, our van shared a high 40ft container with three other classic cars (from USA to AUS).

So who coordinates all of this?  Hopefully your shipping agents will (you will have one on each side).  They will arrange for the ocean freight, customs clearance, container weighing, trucking the container to the port, etc.  Can you do this all yourself?  Possibly, the barriers are high though, all the separate actors in this play are not used to dealing with individuals, and the information needed is not readily found. 

Here is the basic process for container shipping.  First identify the dimensions of your vehicle.  Length, width, height, and approximate weight.  Determine if your vehicle will fit in a standard or high cube container.  The dimensions will vary slightly for each shipping line, so make sure they are accurate.  Containers come in 20 and 40ft lengths.  Now you need to start looking for quotes.  Intensive google searching, and talking to other travelers is a great place to start.  There are websites that will quote you on container ocean freight.  Don’t be fooled, these are quotes for business that do international ocean shipping regularly, and thus have trucking, warehouse, and staging facilities available.  You have none of these things.  Be prepared for workers who don’t read your emails completely, are rushed, or simply ignorant.  If you are shipping to a country that requires a CPD carnet, you must make your agent aware of this.  While you can usually do the carnet clearance yourself, they will need the carnet details in the paperwork. 

Once you have a number of quotes you can start narrowing down your options.  Shipping frequency, cost, insurance rates, etc.  Make your choice.  Be aware that the agent/company on destination end will likely be completely different, and only loosely affiliated with the departure end.  Make sure you have accurate estimates for the destination charges.  They will need to include customs clearance, biosecurity, unloading, and/or wharfage (when applicable).  Book your shipment. 

At this point, you will need to deliver your vehicle to the warehouse, or have it trucked there.  In general, the shipping company will load your vehicle (unless you are doing it yourself).  Once the container is bound for the port, you will receive a bill of lading.  This is basically a receipt and contract with the vital details of your shipment. Note that the ocean freight company will often be different than your agents.  If you are traveling under a CPD carnet, you have the option of clearing your carnet with customs yourself.  This should be done shortly before, or shortly after delivering your vehicle.  A few days is generally acceptable. Carnets usually must be cleared in person (by you or an agent on your behalf).  In some circumstances they can be done by certified mail. We have found that most require 24 hours for processing, so you will drop it off one day and come pick it up the next day.

Now you pay the shipping company and wait. If the same company is handling both ends, they will generally have you wait to pay.  Due to differences in currency, it may be easier to pay the origin fees before leaving the country.  If you are uncertain of what fees apply, or about their amount, ASK!  We have saved hundreds of dollars by questioning and eliminating unnecessary or inapplicable fees.  It can take days or weeks for your container to get on the ship depending on the schedules, etc.  On Our Los Angeles to Melbourne shipping experience it took about 7.5 weeks from delivery to pick up.  Depending on what items you are having the destination agent do, you may need to clear your vehicle with customs and or biosecurity in the destination country.  In Australia this means clearing the carnet and personal effects with customs (generally painless, and inspection free), and scheduling a biosecurity inspection (can be expensive if they have findings). Generally you cannot schedule a biosecurity inspection until the vehicle has been unloaded.  It may be possible to do this at the unloading area on the wharf, but that requires you to have wharf access. Generally in AUS this will be done at the destination warehouse.  Assuming you pass, the agent will clear you with their digital system.  A few hours later you will get electronic clearance, and you can drive away.  This will vary greatly from country to country.  Before they release your vehicle, the receiving company/agent will require you to pay the relevant fees.  This can usually be done by bank deposit beforehand.  Usually, no credit card options are available.

In order to legally drive a temporary import in AUS, the rules vary by state.  We never had issue traveling between them, but they are not uniform from state to state.  In Victoria, we were not required to pay any additional registration fees.  However, we did have to purchase Transport Accident Commission (TAC) insurance coverage.  It may throw the VicRoads worker through a loop, but there is a form specifically for “Nonregistered” vehicles.  TAC was about $402.60 AUD.

Insurance.  There are several types applicable.  The first is marine shipping insurance.  We opted to insure the van for about $15,000USD.  Our rates were 1-2% of that valuation.  In RORO shipping the insurance does not cover loss or damage to personal effects, and the deductible was around $500.  While in the country, comprehensive and/or collision insurance is usually available.  In AUS, we bought comprehensive cover through Ken Tame.  This required a CMCA membership, and cost about $600 USD (including everything: membership, valuation, premium) for a year. In NZ we have comprehensive cover through Star Insure for about $40USD a month.

On a personal note, we shipped with CFR Rinkens from the USA. They worked with SEA GO to receive the shipment in AUS. We enjoyed our experience with SEA GO. With CFR, we had mixed results. They damaged 2 of threads on our hub and they were a little difficult to work with. Another couple we met used them and loved them.

Due DateTaskNotesCountry
11/1/2016Obtain quotesSee belowUSA
11/1/2016Choose shipping agenthttps://www.cfrrinkens.com/USA
11/25/2016Obtain Employer Identification #https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jspUSA
12/2/2016Supply needed paperworkhttps://www.cfrrinkens.com/USA
12/2/2016Drop off vehicle at staging facilityCFR Rinkens - ParamountUSA
12/24/2016Vessel ShipsCAP CORRIENTESUSA
12/24/2016Pay shipping agenthttps://www.cfrrinkens.com/USA
1/14/2017Vessel Arrives at DestinationCAP CORRIENTESAUS
1/16/2017Present carnet and documentation to customsAustralia Border ForceAUS
1/17/2017Pick up carnet and documentation from customsAustralia Border ForceAUS
1/17/2017Provide copy of processed paperwork to agenthttp://seago.com.au/AUS
1/17/2017Pay shipping agenthttp://seago.com.au/AUS
1/20/2017Obtain compulsory third party insuranceProvidersAUS
1/23/2017Van is unpackedSecon Freight LogisticsAUS
1/24/2017Inspection(s) scheduled and accomplishedSecon Freight LogisticsAUS
1/24/2017Vehicle clearedSecon Freight LogisticsAUS
1/24/2017Pick up vehicleSecon Freight LogisticsAUS

So what does shipping cost?  There are a lot of variables, but I will break down our two shipping experiences below.


All values in USD.  Shipping total $3,910.  This includes marine insurance, admin fees, etc.  It does not include Australian customs (Carnet) and biosecurity clearance.  We opted to perform these ourselves.  The only additional fee for this clearance was $98 for biosecurity inspection. This was via container, as that was cheaper.  However deals on RORO shipping for this route are sometimes available. Total transit time from drop off to pick up was 7.5 weeks.

Other relevant costs:
  • CPD Carnet $3,415 ($2,080 refunded upon carnet discharge).  USA CPD Carnets are ridiculously expensive. 
  • Vehicle road insurance $927 (TAC, Comprehensive through Ken Tame, CMCA membership, and Valuation).
  • Accommodation and flights prior to vehicle clearance will vary with location.
  • Vehicle rental to visit customs and biosecurity for clearance.
  • Additional cleaning required for quarantine clearance can be $200-400.


All values in USD.  Shipping $2,653.  This includes marine insurance, admin fees, etc.  Does not include customs clearance, as we did this ourselves.  This was via RORO, due to significant cost savings compared to container. From delivery to pick up was approximately 2 weeks, but would have been about 1.5 weeks if there hadn't been a hiccup with inspecting our personal effects.

Other relevant costs:
  • Towing from wharf to Entry Certifier (VTNZ) $120.
  • Personal Effects inspection fee $129.
  • Renewing Carnet, and shipping it $426.
  • ACC levy and entry certification $134.
  • RUC is NOT applicable to temporary imports.
  • Comprehensive insurance $40/month.
  • Accommodation will vary.  We did not need a rental car, as Auckland public transit is adequate. 

Shipping Quotes
Finding shippers was one of the hardest things, so we will share our research/findings with you. I requested a lot more quotes than I received back and they often take forever to reply back:

CompanyDate RequestedDate Received
Taurus Logistics9/30/201610/2/2016
McCullough Limited9/30/2016
Aussie Car Imports10/17/2016
West Coast Shipping (WCS)10/17/201610/17/2016
Schumacher Cargo Logistics, Inc.10/17/2016
Shipping 2 Australia10/17/2016
Ever Global International10/17/201610/23/2016
Auto Car Shippers10/17/2016
Able Auto Transport10/17/2016
Kiwi ShippingExceeds Dimensions
Ship OverseasDon't ship to AUS/NZ
Colless Young Pty Ltd11/2/2016
Alliance Intercontinental Pty Ltd.11/2/2016
McCullough Limited9/29/201710/9/2017
Car Transport ExpressSeems to only be AUS
Conroy Removals10/2/201710/3/2017
Taurus Logistics10/2/201710/3/2017
First Logistics10/3/2017
Australia Trade10/4/201710/6/2017
Colless Young Pty Ltd10/4/201710/13/2017

The quotes that I received varied greatly: