So, it’s official, a campervan is probably the cosiest thing ever. It’s a tiny little house, on wheels, and it was exactly what we wanted it to be. Everything has a little place, and you have everything you need, and you don’t need as much as you think. Wake up, unmake the bed, skip a shower because it’s really rather cold, being July in NZ. Make breakfast, stare out the window with your coffee, pack everything away into its perfect little place, and start driving. You pull over for lunch when you feel like it, stare out the window with a cup of tea… or a beer… or a wine… maybe drive some more, or maybe not, maybe read a bit… or maybe not… and let the hours roll past, let the landscape roll past, let the tunes roll past and let the good times roll.
We travelled in our camper a lot differently than we would overseas. We’re the kind of people that like to have some down time most days anyway, but we still felt that the entire trip moved at a slower pace. In saying that, our first few days boosting it down the North Island disappeared on us, but once we decided it was time to slow down, we really did slow down. And when we decided to stop, we really stopped. The first night of living this dream was in Kaikoura, on our country’s sublimely ragged and gnarly east coast – perfect pipe waves in front of us, and a pretty perfect range of mountains behind us, with a fresh dumping of snow. We spotted a gypsy bus from a distance and pulled off the main road to check it out, and sure enough, perfectly prepared nooks along the shore, private and isolated, yet comforting in there being just a few other campervans 100 or so metres away. That would’ve been enough, but there was a little left over fire pit too that had us like kids in a candy store. Literally, jumping in my seat with excitement at having found this spot. That was it. That was what it was all about. And I’ve just realised I’ve used the word perfect, like, three times. I’m not going to edit them out.
And there were more of those nights, where we knew we were amongst the luckiest people on earth, being in this country, belonging to this country, and just living our damn life. But let’s not lie, there were a few nights that weren’t so perfect – for instance, it gets really really windy about 10.30pm (yes, we’re well and truly in bed by then) when you’re parked up high on a cliff to get a sunrise over the ocean. And the camper does rock and roll a bit (quite a bit) in high winds. When you’re freedom camping, very alone, in a very dark, very small place, with no other campers in sight, and no cellphone reception… it’s not always the best sleep of your life either. But those who have travelled will know, you don’t come home from an adventure and feel fulfilled in your soul if everything was easy. And actually, if there’s no adrenalin, and no challenge, then there’s no adventure anyway.
There was this other vanlife affirming moment for us – after a three hour fun and challenging and windy and icy tramp up the Diamond Lake track over Lake Wanaka (do it, it’s gorgeous). We got back to our camper, took off our boots and layers while the fresh air blew through the camper, the kettle boiled and the baked beans heated up. We were tired and exhilarated, with our blood pumping but cold exposed skin, with sniffly noses but warm muscles, with frizzy beanie hair but happy hearts. What a simple moment, thinking back on it now, but damn it was awesome. And we totally felt sorry for everyone without a camper.