We both had a few weeks off work over the Christmas break (I can hear those in the USA gasping now!) so decided that was the best time to head off for our first proper trip in the van.
Obviously here in New Zealand, Christmas falls in our summertime. This has been quite a thing to get used to for us, coming from England which was mostly just cold and grey in December. There weren’t many classic movie-scene snowy Christmas Days in my memories – mostly just cold and grey!
Here in NZ they tend to have a large (commercial) build-up to Christmas – as in most countries – but we find they do Christmas for just a day or two and then BAM… it’s summer holiday time!
A lot of local businesses close for the holidays. Not just for the statutory holidays or a few days either side, but close for the summer holidays. A couple of weeks, maybe more. We were amazed in our first few years here that the normally busy town we lived near simply emptied during January. Two, maybe three, days after Christmas and the streets were empty. Supermarkets were the busiest places and you could still park almost by the front door and bump into nobody whilst there! And if you needed any work done; a mechanic for your car, a sparky to wire in a new electrical thing, or any such kind of task – then you’re pretty much out of luck – unless you have a mate, who has a mate, who knows someone that has NOT gone away on holiday and can *maybe* get to you in a week or two.
Cars, trailers, boats, campervans and any other types of wheeled vehicle (this is New Zealand – you see things here you literally couldn’t imagine!) get loaded up for the big summer roadie. Tents and beach games are loaded into cars along with the average 2.4 children and a hairy dog or two. Surfboards and/or bikes are strapped to roof racks – trailers are hitched up, and the compulsory roadtrip snacks are put up the front to be handed out when the ‘are we there yet’ moans get loud or frequent.
I realise this scene could be repeated anywere around the world and you’re thinking this is nothing new. And it’s not. It’s just it still surprises me that it’s full on focus for Christmas for a month, or even more, and then as soon as we get Boxing Day over it appears that a large majority of the country whips the decorations down and disappears to the beach.. or the lake… or wherever their holiday spot is that year. And I love it!
And while I don’t really want to blog about that horrible C word I have to recognise that we are very VERY lucky here in NZ that we can currently freely travel and do all those fabulous summer holiday things that we want to do. All except get on a plane and fly to have a holiday somewhere else. But why would we want to when we have all of this amazing country to explore.
A few days after Christmas we disappeared on our summer holiday – in the campervan! Actually four days after Christmas in our household – and we didn’t rip the festive decorations down before we left as some of the family stayed at home and would have been quite upset by that move!
This was to be our first proper holiday in the van. Up to now The Hubbie and I had only managed to get one night away in it. So it was quite exciting to load it up and do a mini ‘moving-in’ session, finding out what would fit into all the cupboards and little storage spots etc. I was amazed by how much it actually did take. I filled two small lockers with my personal clothes (packing for all seasons as anyone sensible should always do in New Zealand!) and I didn’t get through half of them in the ten nights we were away!
The fridge also took more than I expected it to, along with the kitchen/pantry drawers, and then we still had a really large storage area underneath the rear seats – that we access via the rear doors – where we could throw outdoor seats, tables, bike helmets, BBQ etc.
Overall I was very impressed with how much stuff it held but at the same time we’re trying not to clutter it up with too many things that we’ll leave to mount up in there. We’d rather stick to doing a small pack-in every time we want to go away, just leaving absolute basics to live in there all the time.
Once loaded up, included our two bikes on the bike rack, we filled up the fresh water tank and set off.
Our camper has a pretty large solar panel and house battery set up (please don’t ask me what size in term of watts or whatever technical lingo is appropriate – I have no idea!) which means we don’t need to stay on a campsite with power to hook up to. Yay!
And one of the best things about campervanning in NZ is the huge number of motorhome-friendly towns, villages, businesses, pubs, tourist attractions etc. that have dedicated spaces for motorhome overnight parking.
Important to note here is that in the majority of cases, vans need to be fully self-contained to be able to stay in a lot of these ‘freedom camping’ spots. This is all done via the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association – the NZMCA. For a vehicle to be officially approved as self-contained it is physically checked to ensure it complies with the Association’s requirements to meet the ‘ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days without requiring any external services or discharging waste’.
I won’t harp on too much now about self-contained vehicles. I’ve posted about Freedom Camping in NZ in the past, and even though it was way back in 2012 I don’t think much has changed since I wrote: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly about Freedom Camping
I’ll leave it there for today but here’s a taster of what’s to come soon; our ten-night break took us the following overnight camping spots and some amazing nearby adventures in each destination – all to be blogged about very soon!
- Tongaporutu / Three Sisters
- New Plymouth
- Ohawe Beach, South Taranaki
- Whanganui – site 1
- Whanganui – site 2
- Kapiti Coast
- Putangirua / Cape Palliser
One of the joys of travelling in the Kiwi Blog Bus in New Zealand is the ability to freedom camp in some of the most scenic spots you could imagine.
But on the other hand we are sometimes made to feel like criminals.
Freedom camping in New Zealand has received a lot of publicity over the last few years, unfortunately it’s not all good.