With the season over at the ski slope and a few dollars in the bank it was time to leave the mountain behind and head off exploring New Zealand and the best way to do that? A roadie!
I successfully exploited the fact that my birthday was rolling around to convince my remaining friends in the country that they needed to accompany me to the first stop at least. And two days after the ski slopes closed on a bright, sunny spring morning with a car full to the brim of stuff and three of us somehow cramped in we set off on the longest most roundabout route to stop one; Raglan, via the forgotten highway and, of course to make it a proper road trip, Mcdonald’s for breakfast!
Top tip number one New Zealand roads are (like the weather) very variable and you will often find yourself on a gravel road as we did on our very first day. They are, however, also very stunning. And the Forgotten Highway is one of these stunners, it’s a beautiful, remote drive through rolling hills, forested gorges, mysterious tunnels and you can even get your passport stamped at the self-declared Republic of Whangamomona! It is everything I wanted New Zealand to be and that first day I really felt as though I’d stepped right into Lord of the Rings. Just brace yourself for a bit of a rough ride.
(An actual passport stamp from the Republic of Whangamomona’s passport office aka the pub)
Top tip number two springtime will still be a wee bit chilly so it may not be wise to down a load of beers go skinny dipping and jump into bed soaking wet. Our roadie (and my birthday celebrations) started true to form with a few drinks. After succeeding in putting up the tent for the first time the beer was cracked open and giddy on the high of freedom from our jobs and a new adventure we got “a little bit lairy!” And in the spirit of a new adventure I decided that it was the time to tick another item off the bucket list and take a dip in the, pardon my French, fucking freezing sea at midnight. As exhilarating and hilarious (we may have had to climb over the very tall locked gate to get back into the campsite and I am very not tall) as the experience was, once the excitement and the alcohol coat disappeared boy did we feel the cold. Just one word when you’re camping people, Layers! And lots of them.
Top tip number three get an air mattress that does not deflate. As well as dealing with the sudden shock of not being in a warm bed we also woke up to the realisation that we were sleeping on the floor, it turns out our air bed had a very well hidden hole in it. Within one night we had gone from a warm comfy bed to sleeping on the floor in the cold, and we had a whole six months of this to look forward to!
Top tip number four get used to the fact that complete cleanliness is not a thing. To be honest I always feel a little bit grubby. Camping by beaches, everything very quickly gets full of sand and even if the nights were cold to start with, the morning sun is hot especially the closer summer gets, and it gets sweaty fast (sorry gross I know). If it isn’t sunny it is raining and then, well then, everything is damp.
(It takes a little ingenuity to try and keep as dry as possible. And to make sure the coffee gets made!)
After our first four nights of camping topped off with 24 hours of rain, we’d had enough and convinced ourselves that economically it was better to get an air b&b during our time in Auckland and treat ourselves to some luxury. But alas when you’re on a backpacker’s budget Air b&bs are a one off luxury and despite a few days of living it up once our numbers dwindled we were back to the good old camping.
Top tip number five campsites come in all shapes and sizes. There are the more luxury holiday parks and there are the more wallet friendly DOC sites. The department of conservation campsites are cheap and varied, some have a wide range of facilities, some just have taps and drop toliets and some have nothing! But when they’re $10 a night and when you can go to sleep with views like these do you really care? Plus the lake makes for a pretty good bath in the morning and well, it’s all part of the adventure!
Top tip number six make sure your car is fully equipped. By this I mean it is probably a good idea to make sure you have a full puncture kit, some oil, water, perhaps even road side assistance. Because if by some chance you’re driving along a particularly bumpy gravel road and you get two flat tyres and then discover you have no tools to change the tyres anyway you can very quickly (or actually slowly) find your car on a tow truck and a hefty price to pay!
(My poor baby)
Top tip number seven if you don’t like the tent you can always sleep in the car. Just under one month into our travels and we were down to just the two of us and this meant we could set up the car and make it our home. It may be a little on the cosy side but as both of us are short we make it work. Bonus it saves time on setting up, all we need to do us pull up at our spot for the night, shift the bags into the front seat and settle in for the evening. Sure it may not be a fancy jucy camper but we’re on a budget. And let’s be honest the zombie repeller makes for a pretty cool home for the summer!
(Home, cat unfortunately not included)
Top tip number eight try and make a little bit of a plan. Yes it is awesome to just go where the wind takes you, to change plans and directions depending on what you fancy and who you meet but it is probably best to have rough idea of where you want to visit and what you want to do otherwise you can very easily find yourself aimlessly cruising down the coast, dodging the rain and wandering around townships spending your money on coffee and pointless purchases. And times like these will make you miss home and all its comforts and have you wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life BUT…
Top tip number nine roadies are fun! You may wind up soaked to the skin, burnt to the crisp, sweaty, dirty and with chronic back pain. You may sometimes get sick of the endless wandering, particularly when the weather is crap. You may run into troubles and you may end up in some weird ass places. But you will also end up in the most beautiful places, go on the most ridiculous adventures and have some of the best experiences of your life. Could there be a better way to see New Zealand? I don’t think so!