This travel blogger’s first-hand account of a trip through New Zealand is all the convincing you need to know why hiring a campervan is a good idea. By Kitty from The Next Check–In
I wake up after a peaceful nap to the sound of birds chirping in the holiday park. I had fallen asleep after a heavy lunch of store-bought frozen macaroni, tossed with herbs and delightful sauces. It is 06:00 pm at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park, and the sun is shining bright in this little town of Tekapo in New Zealand. It is our (mine and Navin’s, the second-half of The Next Check-in) first afternoon travelling in a campervan, and we are on a carefully designed, unplanned slow trip in the South Island.
“Just imagine: you don’t have to unpack and pack every day during the trip, as we wouldn’t jump from one Airbnb to another,” I say while convincing N to come onboard to spend 11 days in a campervan. You see, it’s been my childhood dream (with Enid Blyton to blame) to drive across a beautiful country in a caravan, visit remote corners, cook meals, stop wherever I wish to for the night, pack picnics to eat at the end of a hike, and—most importantly—play old retro songs on the road.
We’ve hired a seven-metre-long campervan from Wilderness Motorhomes. It is self-sufficient, and comes with a tiny washroom-cum-bathroom, a kitchenette, a dining table for four, an extremely comfortable double bed, and ample storage space—both, overhead as well as beneath the bed. The van has an inbuilt space heater, sky-light vents, large windows, ample lighting, charging points, cutlery for two, and curtains for complete privacy.
Driving out of the Wilderness office after a thorough orientation session on the van’s features feels oddly comforting yet unfamiliar at first. Everything in the van is moving. The wine glasses are making clunking sounds, and the vessels and the contents in the fridge are moving around. We get used to this feeling quickly and have learned to lock up all the cabinets with a latch designed specifically to solve this problem.
The campervan enables us to see each place leisurely and to have flexible plans. We’ve chalked out a rough itinerary and we’re following it loosely. Over the next 11 days, we drive and stay across beautiful campsites with clean common kitchens, showers and toilet facilities in the South Island. We stay at different campsites such as those with views of Mount Cook, beside lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, next to the famous Fergburger burger joint in Queenstown, near Milford Sound, on a desolated beach on the west coast, and on the hills in Akaroa with ocean views. We’re making friends from different countries at the campground, and are spending our time talking about our love for travelling over a cup of chai.
We have our fair share of adventures as well, such as waking up one morning to find no electricity in the cabin at Milford Sound, a location with limited internet or phone connection (it turns out that a small switch needs to be turned on for the power to return!). On another day, our car’s battery drains out completely and we need to rely on roadside assistance to jumpstart the vehicle. Besides, there’s no fun without adventure, right?
If someone asks me my favourite part about travelling through New Zealand in a campervan, it’ll be a tough call. Is it being able to see the stars from the sunroof all night, or is it being able to cook my own meals and saving money? Or is it the fact that I have different views to wake up to every morning? Is it how I can slow down, play the guitar on the beach, riverside, or amid snow-clad mountain views? I think I’ll merely smile and say, “My favourite part is that I am travelling to places from the comfort of my home, and that’s extraordinary.”