I have a confession to make. I miss our camper.
Our motorhome was cute, cozy, and comfortable. Her name was Natasha.
She became our home for the 12 days we spent touring the South Island of New Zealand. For a change, instead of suitcases, we lived with out stuff neatly deposited in Natasha’s plentiful compartments. She gave us freedom — to go where we wanted, stop when we wanted, and sleep where we wanted (with minor limitations). No hotel check-ins and -outs, no dragging luggage, no new room every night. I miss it.
But, as I’m writing this, Natasha is presumably someone else’s home and we are back in the world of a normal rental car and hotel rooms with space. Andrejs is all the way over the other side of the room. “How does this compare with Natasha?”, I asked him. His answer: “favourably.”
It is true — Andrejs doesn’t miss the camper like I do. Now, I agree she wasn’t perfect. She was easy to drive, but also surprisingly noisy, especially when the wardrobe door randomly decided to bang open mid-drive. Roughly every two days her toilet and waste water had to be emptied, which isn’t super pleasant, but, honestly, I didn’t mind too much, since, you know, that’s what an Andrejs is for. (Just kidding — he’s good for one or two other things as well.)
Every night you have to construct your bed and every morning you have to deconstruct it. You do not have a lot of space between you, which makes it cozy, but it is best if you really like the person you choose to be in a camper with. After a while, you start to miss having a proper bed, a decent shower, and regular Internet. This is all true. But the advantages of Natasha mean that I miss her.
Our camper could be electrically connected at holiday camps, but we didn’t stay at a single one, generally settling in for nights instead at free campsites, or even just stopped at a random spot where ‘freedom camping’ was allowed. What this means? It means quiet, serene, open spaces with very few or even no other vehicles around.
It means beautiful sunsets from your windows.
It means arriving in the dark and waking up to realise you have an amazing view.
It means baa-ing sheep or mooing cows all around you. It means waking up to the sound of roosters crowing, then realising they are freely roaming literally right outside your camper. (I thought this was quite amusing, but Andrejs referred to the roosters with an unprintable expletive.)
For many nights, we were also entirely cut off in remote places — no Internet and no phone service. Sure, this made work and keeping up with people a tad tricky, but it also meant I devoured a full book about forensic pathology. (I recommend it. It’s called ‘Unnnatural Causes.’) Being cut off also meant peace and time for reflection.
But, perhaps the best part of having Natasha was our flexibility. Booked hotels means fixed routes and a set timeline, but when your home is your car and your car is your home, you have no bookings. So, when we had finished exploring Milford Sound and found the town of Queenstown too touristy for our taste, we realised we had time to drive south to Dunedin — something we previously had assumed would not fit in our 12 days.
As it turns out, just outside the town of Dunedin lies the Otago Peninsula, which was for me probably the highlight of the South Island.
We saw seals, from a lovely boat tour, and several different species of albatross, including chicks. These babies are about 3 months old but already weigh about 7kg. The adults have wingspans of up to 3.2m, and are stunningly beautiful.
We also saw many other special birds, including the fantail, and, for the first time in decades, wild hedgehogs.
I guess New Zealand served as a reminder of how much I love wildlife. Outside Kaikoura we braved some pretty heavy swells to see sperm whales.
But New Zealand certainly delivered in terms of flora, too. I don’t think I have a particular location that was my number one, but the numerous stunning views along the way are certainly memorable.
Having now been travelling for many months, we have definitely made a few questionable decisions along the way, with some choices that I wouldn’t suggest emulating. But, unless you really hate the idea of small living spaces, or you wouldn’t be able to handle the Facebook-withdrawal, taking a camper around the south of New Zealand is something I truly, whole-heartedly recommend.
If I haven’t convinced you to go to New Zealand yet, please note that Tim Tams are also readily available in New Zealand supermarkets. And if you don’t know what Tim Tams are, find out, or go to New Zealand or Australia and eat them. (If you do know what Tim Tams are but don’t like them, who are you?!)
P.S. For my very keen readers who noticed that I didn’t deliver on my promise to post about Iguazu Falls (i.e. one or two of you), I apologise. If you really want to see photos, get in touch and I can send them to you.