Going to New Zealand has been on our bucket list since before we got married. In fact, we considered going to New Zealand for our honeymoon. There were several times we considered coming here, but we kept putting it off because of the distance and expense. As we started planning Leg 2 of our journey and where we would go, we decided we must go to New Zealand. We wanted to come here while we were still both fit and able-bodied. Of course, we plan to be that way for many years to come, but there are no guarantees in life and we certainly aren’t getting any younger. We just didn’t want to put it off any longer. So, needless to say, we are beyond excited to be making the dream a reality. I just hope we can soak in every little moment and really be present in each moment. I’m sure that our five weeks here will go by way too fast. But, we will be left with experiences and memories that we will cherish for a lifetime (and continue to relive back home through all the pictures and videos we are taking).
We flew into Auckland and were met at the airport by the owner of the campervan company (we rented from BANZ, a small family-owned business). There are so many different vehicle options and rental companies from which to choose, it’s a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Jay gladly took on the responsibility of booking the vehicle. He has always dreamed of living out of a campervan. For those of you who know him, this probably does not come as a surprise.
We ended up renting a Toyota HiAce campervan (a 2/3 berth hitop). It’s basically a full size van that has been converted to include a small kitchen and a seating area/table in the back that folds down to make a double size bed. There is a third birth below the roof (sized for a child) that we use to store our backpacks. The campervan is self-contained and comes with a small chemical portable toilet. This was an important feature for us because we wanted more flexibility in places where we could park overnight (places without toilet facilities require a self-contained vehicle). After all, flexibility is one of the biggest perks of traveling in NZ via campervan.
For a short tour of our campervan, check out this video we made: http://youtu.be/Hm2sXzwyVWU
A little note about the video – when pointing to where we keep the dish soap, I said “dishwasher” – ha ha, wishful thinking! The dishwasher is ME! Jay and I definitely had our assigned campervan roles from the start. Jay’s roles included:
My roles included:
Having our own little kitchen on board is nice. Just like at home, Jay prepares the food and I do the dishes. It’s an arrangement that works well for us. We’ve ended up with some standard staples we do for breakfast (oatmeal with bananas & yogurt) and lunch (sandwich & fruit). For dinner, Jay mixes it up. We’ve certainly had plenty to eat.
Traveling by campervan is an extremely popular way of exploring NZ. The country is a bit like the U.S. in that it is hard to travel around if you don’t have your own vehicle. But what NZ lacks as far as public transportation, it more than makes up for in places to camp. NZ has an extensive network of campsites – ranging from places that offer just a free place to park overnight, to government campgrounds with pit toilets, all the way up to holiday parks that offer a full range of amenities (flush toilets, showers, kitchen facilities, laundry, wifi). We’ve opted to mostly stay at free places or low-cost campgrounds, with stays at holiday parks mixed in between for access to the amenities – the most important being a shower. I’ve found that my preferred “no shower” limit is 3 days – beyond that, I just feel gross (especially when you are out hiking all day!). We went six days without a shower when we first arrived in NZ. That was definitely a lifelong record for me and one I do not care to repeat.
A few things I have learned so far about the campervan experience:
-Filling the gas tank is expensive (gas costs over $8/gallon in NZ). We knew gas would be a a big expense and had factored that in, so I have to tell myself there is no point in fretting about it every time we visit the pump.
-You will sleep better if the campervan is parked on an even surface. If an even surface is not available, the most preferable lean is all feet leaning downward. This way, blood does not rush to your head and you are not continually rolling to one side of the van throughout the night.
-It is a strange feeling to take off to your next destination without packing bags.
-Although there is no need to pack bags when you head out, you do need to secure all your belongings. If you forget to lock a drawer or secure an item, guaranteed it will go flying when you hit the road. If NZ roads were a bit straighter, maybe you could get away with it, but that certainly is not the case.
All in all, I have really enjoyed the campervan experience. I was concerned that the novelty would quickly wear off and I’d regret agreeing to five straight weeks of campervan living, but thankfully, that hasn’t happened and I don’t believe it will. We are enjoying every moment!