The Life of a Freedom Camper

It’s been around four days in New Zealand and what an adventure it feels like already!

We arrived in Christchurch expectant of a grand scale of devastation from the horrendous quake they suffered a few months ago. The place is not in rubbles, but there are bumps on all of the roads and many buildings have had to be taken down. Having been toured around by our shuttle bus driver, we promptly made our way to our camper van collection place, picked up our home for the next 2.5 weeks and set off on our very unplanned route! Who says I can’t be spontaneous and laid back? 🙂

Despite it already being around 3.30pm, we thought we’d stop for a leisurely late lunch at Subway before getting going. To add to our stupidity, we stopped off at a grocery store to pick up food for the dinner we planned to cook that night. Note, the operative word in that sentence, planned! Ha! Suffice it to say that by the time we reached our first stop off point, Hanmer springs, it was pitch black and we were marving. We were still 80km away from our camp site! But who cares? We’d seen an indian restaurant!

It’s hitting 9-10pm by this point and so we consider the option of staying at one of the local holiday parks or hmm, driving 80km down country roads, kind of tired from the 4am wake up this morning to our free DOC site. (DOC = Department of Conservation camp sights). Yes, you guessed right, we went to the DOC sight, singing Antakshari on the way and trying to swerve from the numerous possums on the road who just wanted to play “aaah, headlights”. They survived though and we were at the stunning river side camp site which had only one other tent there. Looking up we could see the most spectacular stars, and could even spot, what appeared to us as, another galaxy. I cleverly deleted the video showing this! Doh!

The adventure for our first day was not over though. Our campervan man had suggested that we leave a little ventilation open as we slept so that there is no steaming up and supposedly that would keep the van warmer..



It was blisteringly cold and we froze our assess off. It was bloody hard to get out from under the duvet the next morning. We learnt our lesson though. Window = closed!

The fun part of campervaning now revealed itself to us… How to shower… Hmm, how to brush our teeth.. Hmm and what about relieving onself of ones bodily fluids?! Well, we brushed our teeth at the back of the van in our water tank sink and luckily there was a drop in hole toilet at the DOC site.. So that’s all one needs right? 🙂

We drove through the Lewis Pass that day, which is the route through the mountains from the East to the West coast. Being the lazy buggers we are, we only stopped at view points visible by car or a maximum 2 minute walk! Lol. That’s how we discovered our brekkie stop, on a stream which still has gold leaves flowing through it!! Didn’t catch any though, dammit. But can’t complain about the view while we munched on our coco cereal!

Not meaning to, we arrived early to the West Coast so thought we’d take advantage and head up to Punakiki, the pancake rocks where there is a huge blow hole that spurts the sea water around 20 metres into the air! After a quick snack and ‘picking up’ some sugar from the restaurant.. (For my back of van teas).. We walked over to the pancake rocks which are definitely different and pretty.

On to the blow holes… “Where are they?” “That’s it…” “Uh no,” ..” Ye sure it’s that..” Yeeah so the blow holes weren’t blowing so much. The fabulous weather we were experiencing meant the water was just chilling. No blow today!! BOOO!

All good, we headed down the stunning coastline to Hokitika, spoke to mum and dad (Rish’s), did some bits and bobs and decided to be brave for the night and FREEDOM CAMP!! Oooo yeeeaah!!

What’s that you ask? .. Hello, freedom camping is the art of finding a cool place to camp overnight which is not actually a camp site… O and not get moved! Lol… Our cool place was on a suburbanish road with a railway track on one side and a church on the other!! Aweeesome huh? Hehe. We were super nervous but we did it. One night, no camp site, just us and in our campervan hiding away!

You’ll be happy to know… We made it through the night!! Wooooh!

By Day 3, we’d got the hang of this camping business. We headed over to Lake Manhinapua, enjoyed the views over brekkie.. Brushed our teeth in the toilet facilities there, took a few photos and set off towards Franz Josef, the big ass West Coast Glacier we were going to CLIMB (Anand insisted we CLIMB not trek!).. Bring it on.

The views on the way were beautiful. To be fair, all the views while driving have been beautiful. New Zealand is a ridiculously scenic country!

After arriving at Franz Josef, we actually spent most of the afternoon in the info centre. (That’s after driving up and down the time a ridiculous number of times for god knows what reason). Now, campers, listen up, info centre for us is like a electricity hot point, charge up all your devices so you don’t need to stay at a powered camp site!! We felt like real outbackers now and chatted away to another couple of campervaners exchanging stories and also trying to psyche myself and the other girl up to do a skydive! … Unfortunately…(Hmm) the weather wasn’t right for me to do one yesterday as its just a little too smoggy. O darn it! …Maybe in the next place ei?! (Aaahhhh)

Anywho, today we went for a full day glacier hike, which was brilliant. I’d done a heli-hike in Alaska years ago with Anand but Rish hadn’t been at all, so I was excited to see his reaction. We were worried it would be a bit dull because we signed up for the trek rather than a climb (sorry Anand, weather said NO to climb!) BUT as luck would have it we were in Group 3.. This means we let 2 groups rush ahead of us but when our turn came, a bit of confusion, a bit of melting snow and the fact that we had a senior group leader meant we took a VERY scenic (aka in and out and up and down some major ice crevises) route. Scary but so much fun.

We got to venture into two caves, one of which was about to fall in on us so we had to be careful, not that our grumpy tour leader minded. His response to the other tour leader was ‘they’ll work it out’. His grumpiness actually worked out well for us.

We even got to sprint down the glacier (we really weren’t meant to)… Which at the time seemed NUTS but at soon as we got to the bottom we were all very happy at how much fun it was.. Especially because we’d survived!

The wet day was followed by absolute bliss chilling out in the hot water glacier pools. (Excuse the pun). These are really funky as they have a rainforest environment with 3 different temperature pools but most importantly for us, we had a hot shower! YES! How amazing is that? Bloody fabulous I tell you!

All you need after that is a niiice Indian meal… But noo, stupid indian restaurant charges an extra $10 extra just for eating in. Out of principle we refused to do that, so got a takeway and ate on our make shift dining table.. Uh that’s the middle seat of our van. Hey, a table is a table!

Anywho, its been a really fun few days and as we settle down in our camp site for the night (a little area on the drive up to the glacier!) I feel just pumped and happy to be here and be experiencing this amazing place. Not sure if I can explain in words how cool it is, but it is great fun and the people have been really friendly too, not to mention the jokes we’ve had by travelling and staying in our psychadelic camper van…

What’s next?! 🙂

Chilly in Chile

Next stop Santiago in Chile for a spot of skiing! Just what you’d expect on your honeymoon right? … Wrong, I hadn’t packed for the cold weather at all! One pair of trackies and a hoody for just in case is all I had! Well, I had said that I wanted our honeymoon to be exciting and that’s what skiing was.

Having never been skiing in my life, this was certainly a pretty cool way of trying out the sport! I knew I’d be on the black slopes in no time!

Alright, so perhaps a little bit of practise may be required… But its those pesky ski lifts that are the real problem! I know I would have had way more time on the slopes if I hadn’t spent so much time, face flat on the floor after another failed attempt at the lift!

On the upside though, the mountains were breathtaking. The scenery made running up and down the baby slopes completely worthwhile.

We had stayed in Santiago city centre and had arranged for a shuttle bus to collect us at an ungodly hour, get us kitted up in the attractive ski gear and drive us up to the slopes. There are around 3 ski resorts to choose from so if you go for several days you can switch between resorts!

We decided to have a brief tour round the city itself. Santiago was a rather grey city with some beautiful architecture, interesting gardens and dodgy side streets. The city still retains its own character and hasn’t been totally globalised with the standard buildings and shops, which made the sight seeing and atmosphere more enjoyable to experience.

Without doubt, a fab place to go skiing. But then you may say I’m a little biased as this is the only place I’ve ever skiied!