Oceania Travel

Taking On The Tiki Tour

Chapter Six – Caravan Life

Location: New Zealand

I expected living in the camper van (caravan) to be similar to our six weeks living in beautiful pink Betty last fall as we traveled across the United States.  It does have some similarities, but to be honest, I think I enjoyed Betty more.  The most important reason is we could set up Betty at a campsite and then take the car and go off to tour or do whatever we needed to do.  With the van, the entire campsite moves with you no matter if you need to run to the store or travel 500 miles.  But we are getting used to that.  I slept really poorly the first few nights but I’m getting used to the van bed now and we made some adjustments to the cushions that has helped.  Arne finds he sleeps much better in the van than he ever did in Betty – but I loved the custom foam mattress we had made for Betty.  Wish I had that now.

The kitchen in the van is small, a bit smaller than the kitchen I had to work with in Betty, but I do prefer the propane stove in the van over the electric stove we had in Betty.  And the van has a working sink which Betty did not.  I make a point to cook good, healthy colorful meals, no matter how small the kitchen.  I believe just because we are essentially “camping” we don’t have to eat bland or instant food.  Since I love to cook and try creative things its just as fun to try that in a tiny kitchen.  We have had everything from Chicken Tacos to Swedish Meatballs. Our system is Arne sits at the table with the cutting board.  I hand him things to chop while I stand at the stove and cook.  It works and its fun too.

But alas the van does not have a toilet, just a port-a-potty.

New Zealand has an amazing caravan culture and caravan tourism is huge business. No matter where you drive in New Zealand hundreds of caravans and campers are driving with you – as are rental cars and tour busses.  Even in March which is past the peak season and well into Fall.

Along with the caravan culture comes fabulous services provided by the government including restroom facilities frequently along any and all roads as well as FREE campsites through out the country.  Some of these sites have services but most don’t.  We spent our first two nights in free sites.  The first one had no services (no bathroom or running water) but the spectacular view made it worth it.  The second night had sanikans only, and not as nice of a view, but just down the road was a visitor center where we headed first thing in the morning for coffee and a “flush”.

We spent the next three nights in a beautiful campground in Milford Sound that we paid for, about $25 US.  It was very pretty, had power and water and we had access to bathrooms, showers, laundry, restaurant and bar.  But no wifi or cell service in this very remote area.

But the van doesn’t have heat and the nights have been pretty darn cold – dropping into the thirty’s one night in Milford.  We sleep in warm clothes and wool socks and huddle under a warm comforter.  In Mount Cook I pulled out my fleece hat for the first time in our four months of travel – and in Milford I pulled out my gloves.  I’ve now used every item in my suitcase. It should warm up when we head North.

We are now as far south as we plan to go.  This photo shows what territory on the South Island we have covered so far (both in the car and in the caravan) and now it’s time to do an about-face and begin the drive north along New Zealand’s South Island’s West Coast.

Stay tuned as our Tiki Tour continues!

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