Two girls, two islands, one campervan: Camping it up in New Zealand
“Dude, where’s my bra?” I called out to Betty on more than one occasion during our two week road trip around New Zealand.
It’s not that I usually have to ask my best friend where my underwear is but when the two of you are living out of the back of a van for two weeks it becomes very easy to lose and misplace important items.
I’ll be honest. I hadn’t really expected my round the world trip to include camping. But a true Travelette, I am game for most things and prior to my arrival in New Zealand I began to daydream about Betty and I in a classic VW campervan to parading around wearing Thelma and Louise-esque double denim outfits complete with headscarfs and oversized shades.
Of course, this wasn’t to be. We had neither the budget and it was frankly far too hot for skin tight jeans in February. So it was with some adjustment that myself, self-confessed flashpacker, and my best friend began a two week adventure touring New Zealand in what was essentially a converted workman’s white van.
However, within just a short day I was hooked and convinced we’d made the right decision. Road-tripping and camping is the only way to see as much as possible of this stunning country in a limited time frame.
And boy did we cover some miles; over 1,600 in total during just twelve days of driving. We explored a large chunk of the South Island from Christchurch to Queenstown and up the beautiful west coast and then navigated through the North Island to Auckland with stops in the wine region of Martinborough, on the east coast and in the geothermal spring centre of the island. The long roads, often perilous hills and ever-changing roadside landscape and horizons made for a genuinely beautiful journey. There were more wow moments than I can list and most of them we would have missed out on had we not hit the road. And with every turn came new photo opportunities.
It also transpired quickly that most campsites in New Zealand are incredibly civilized with wireless internet, hot showers, well-equipped kitchens, TV rooms, BBQs and often hot tubs on offer. I wasn’t really camping, this was glamping.
Of course, for a more authentic experience there are many places where you can just pull over on the side of a road and responsibly spark up a campfire (unless there are signs explicitly telling you not to!) and be surrounded by nature and silence. We did this one night albeit just down the road from a pub (you can take the girls out of England…). Alongside the remote southern edge of Lake Wakatipu we pitched up and watched the sun go down sipping warm cider. I have to say despite the persistently nibbling sandflies and our outdoor bathroom experiences in the dark, it was a special night I won’t forget in a hurry.
The long roads, often perilous hills and ever-changing roadside landscape and horizons made for a genuinely beautiful journey. There were more wow moments than I can list and most of them we would have missed out on had we not hit the road with such gusto. The places we stopped where equally epic – Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo, Fox Glacier, Pancake Rocks – but sometimes it was the miles in between that made the experience what it was. It was quick and easy to forget the frustration of dropping your toothbrush in mud on your way to the toilets in the dark or sleeping on a temporary bed, which tended to collapse in the middle night.
And although I’m not quite the camping convert yet I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living on the road and I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better country than New Zealand to accommodate two girls with a newfound thirst for the open road.
So if you’re like me and a little doubtful of your ability to camp it up for a week or two, throw caution to the wind, find a friend who doesn’t mind accidental-snuggling at night and start organizing the ultimate road trip playlist. Oh and thank you Betty for helping me find my bra on more than one occasion and for sharing the best two weeks with me…