Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Like a rolling stone

There have been several days on the trip that have essentially just been driving days. The longest drives we did in one go were around 6 hours on paper, but it inevitably takes longer with breaks and so on, plus we aimed not to drive at night, so it was quite easy to spend most of a day driving. These days tend not to be wildly exciting, so I've glossed over them mainly, but I have a few photos from the trip between Queenstown and Christchurch which are quite nice, so I'll use the opportunity to write a little bit about life on the road.

Most days, we were up around 8 and out of the campsite around 10, which was usually check out time. Campground life usually doesn't lend itself too well to lazy mornings in bed, plus we had plenty of early starts, so were pretty much in a rhythm of getting up at a reasonable hour. It is possible to "freedom camp" i.e. just park your van any old place, in many areas in New Zealand, as long as your camper is self-contained (has a toilet, essentially). We never took advantage of this, mostly so we could plug in to electricity each night and also in order to use the facilities like toilets and showers. There is a toilet in the van, but what goes in must come out, so it was pretty much for emergency use only. I, personally, classed needing the loo in the middle of the night as an emergency. Jules tried to argue that I should get up and use the campground facilities, but I argued that represented an undue burden on me, since I always have to get up at least once and he never does (TMI?) I won that round, although since he was the one who ended up emptying the toilet, one might question who was, in fact, unduly burdened by that arrangement.

I've never been particularly attracted to the idea of camping. Sleeping in a real bed instead of in a tent made things a lot easier of course, and for the most part it was fine.
Things I didn't like:
- even in not in the middle of the night, it's a pain to have to go out of the van and inside to use the bathroom/shower etc. It was always a dilemma, since I've not a big fan of wandering about in public in my nightwear, but on the other hand I basically want to be in my jimjams as soon as I'm "home" for the evening. A dressing gown my mum got me came in handy for this.
- talking of the bathrooms, none of them were horrible, but a shared campsite bathroom is never going to be that great. Sometimes you had to queue for the showers, sometimes they were cold, or you had to pay, or they were on a timer, or they weren't that clean, etc.
- we had great kitchen facilities in the van - an oven, four burners, a microwave, a fridge-freezer, etc., so we can't really complain. But we did learn that we had to scale down the ambition of some of the things we wanted to prepare. We didn't have a pot large enough for pasta, so ended up making spaghetti in the frying pan, for example, and anything that required multiple pots and pans at once was pretty much impossible due to space constraints. We started off basically wanting to cook like we did at home, but it just needed a different mindset, really.
- Obviously, the van's pretty big, so good for sleeping in, not so great for popping down to the shops. Parking and manoeuvring was sometimes an issue. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with a motorhome in a city.

Good things:
- We never did freedom camping, but we also never booked anywhere in advance. It was great having the freedom to adjust our plans, knowing in the absolute worst-case scenario, we would always have a bed for the night. It was easy to decide on the fly to stay an extra night somewhere or move on earlier.
- Everything in the van always needs to be stowed away securely before you drive, otherwise the consequences range from annoying rattling to potentially dangerous objects flying around. This took a bit of time each day, but you quickly get into a routine with it. It's definitely quicker and easier than having to haul bags in and out of a hotel and live out of a suitcase the whole time. There's something kind of nice about the "a place for everything, and everything in its place" set-up, and the van has all kinds of cute little buttons and latches and hidey-holes, so it can feel quite fun tidying up!
- The cost. We didn't have to pay rental fees, of course, but paying for campsites was at least half the price of any motel rooms we saw (and I imagine those are not your fanciest motels). It usually cost around $50 a night, which seems a bit steep considering they don't have to clean up after you or provide anything much beyond electricity and a bathroom (and even then, they sometimes charge you to take a shower), but it still definitely helped our budget.

Overall, I'm probably not going to be signing up to spend a week in the woods in a tent, but the motorhome lifestyle is quite fun!

Some things we ran across in our travels -

Ye olde New Zealand custom

Kind of didn't want to put my hand in here

The real white man's burden: having to come up with names for everything all at once. 
(There were many such imaginatively-named "no. 1 and no. 2" landmarks. I think the record was up to about no. 10 or 11.)

Back to our drive from Queenstown to Christchurch. We toyed with the idea of breaking the journey at Tekapo, staying the night and doing a tour of the observatory there. Supposedly it's a great place to see the stars, due to the lack of light pollution. However, it was a cloudy day with more clouds predicted for the evening, so we just made a brief stop at Lake Tekapo and kept going.

We crossed over the middle of the South Island via the Lindis Pass, 971m up

"Roaring Meg", a stream flowing down from a dam, generating hydro electricity

Mt. Cook, NZ's highest peak, is hiding in the clouds there
We hadn't been intending to visit Lake Tekapo, but I heard so much about it on the internet and from people in real life, that we decided to make the small detour to go see it. All the photos you see online of it are basically this:

Well, when we got there, it was a bit cloudy, all of those flowers (lupins?) were pretty much dead, and we were suffering from major lake fatigue. Over the previous few days, we had been to lakes Wanaka, Te Anau, Manapouri, and Wakitipu, so when we got to Lake Tekapo, we were a bit meh about it all, to be honest. It's a fine lake, but for once, not really living up to the postcard image.

Beautiful clear water


  1. Looks like a very cool trip! Although I do not understand the sandwiches hand dryer.
    I'm okay with sleeping in a tent---I try to make it cosy, with two thin camping mattresses and, extremely important, a pillow. But I definitely need toilets and bathrooms nearby. And of course when I'm sleeping in a tent, I always wake up in the night and have to pee. The campgrounds I've stayed at in France and in Spain have all been very clean though you do have to deal with Other People. (Eugh)

    1. Other people are the worst!

  2. I'm not a camping person at all. I need all my modern facilities! I guess a van would be fine for me, but it would definitely depend on the state of the campsite bathrooms. When I was young, my friend and I used to "camp" in her yard. We'd set up a tent and sleep there. We were always so excited for that (unless we scared ourselves silly and ended up back in the house).

    Also, love your dress! You have so many pretty dresses!

    1. Thanks! That's one of my new purchases :)

  3. "...since I've not a big fan of wandering about in public in my nightwear." Really?! Not even the cold woods at night?! Hahaha, I'm so with you. I'm not a big camper. But a van is definitely an improvement to a tent.

    HOW did you make spaghetti in a frying pan? Was it, like, canned pasta?

    And about that photo...who poops like that? Apparently someone or that image would not have been designed.

    As usual, thanks for the giggles (I've had to muffle with my hand because the baby is sleeping = I get to party like reading blogs. I'm unstoppable tonight.)


    1. No, not canned! I filled the pan up with tomato sauce/broth and cooked it in that. It took a while, but it works!

      Apparently squatting on top of the toilet is not uncommon in some Asian countries (not so great for the seat).

  4. Yes, nice dress (and sandals)! xx

    1. Yep, will be handy for summer!


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