Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 23th, Camping and Other Accommodations.

35 out of our last 56 nights (and still counting) have been spent tent camping. Pitching tents, unrolling bags, and inflating sleeping pads – we can set-up & breakdown camp in record time at this point. Camping in NZ is quite easy and readily convenient. There are many options from traditional campgrounds with a honey bucket and spicket of water, to more rural accommodations with no water or honey bucket. Both of these options are typically (DOC) Department of Conservation Campgrounds and cost about $15-$30 NZ per night (about $8-$18 American). Alternatively, for more deluxe NZ camping, Holiday Parks/Motor Camps allow tent campers to set up in their designated tent spots, and give tent campers access to hot showers, laundry facilities, a lounge with TV, internet, and usually a large cooking facility. Holiday Parks and Motor Camps are a bit more expensive ($35-$45 NZ dollars per night/about $18-$27 American). A third option that we tried was to camp in vacant spots of Mobile Home Parks – which also gave us access to a warm showers and indoor kitchens - two things that seem quite decadent after going without these luxuries for a few days.
My initial research and readings on traveling NZ left me with the impression that one could camp just about anywhere for free, but we found just the opposite. NZ is quite restrictive on where you can and can’t camp. And some of the rural campgrounds would only allow camping if you were in a self-contained camping van or R.V. (no tent camping). It appears the Government has cracked down on the riff-raff that might throw up a tent anywhere - I heard the fine could go as high as $200 NZ if found camping in the wrong spot, so we didn’t take too many chances. While the DOC campgrounds did allow for rural tent camping, they were spaced out across the country and off the beaten path - often times not convenient to our route – making the “Pricier” Motor Camps our best option at times.
A few of our more memorable tent camping experiences were: tent camping with our “Earth-Friendly” friends at the “Luminate Festival” in the mountains above the Able Tasman Sea. We found this camp after venturing down a very rough gravel road for about 20 kilometers. The Festival was promoting “zero waste” and “environmental practices”. Compost port-o-potties with “Poo in the Loo; Pee in the Trees” signs, nocturnal drumming and chanting, fire dancing, teepees, bonfires, and the sheer number of dreadlocks made this camping adventure stand out as one we won’t soon forget. All in all, we met some really nice people that evening and slept like babies… Hmmm. One night we camped in a farmer’s field across from a bungee jumping canyon. Gravity Canyon was a bit removed from any camping or lodging facilities and we arrived as the place was closing for the night. The staff offered up the field adjacent to their canyon to sleep for the night – warning us not to go sleep walking or wander off star gazing in the dark – Yikes! Another night we slept in our Van - (RT), in a BP gas station parking lot. (This adventure is described in detail under our post “Miracle at Franz Joseph.”) And a few times we camped outside of backpacker lodges and got free use of their kitchens and baths, and mingled with the backpackers from other countries. Another really special spot for us was camping above Queenstown at Lakeside Christian Camp. In the evenings we could watch the sunset over the lake and then see Queenstown light up across the lake. Once we had a simply beautiful spot on the slopes of Mt. Egmont in the ski fields’ parking lot. This was such a dramatic setting - we saw the sun rise across NZ from the East Coast. Most of our camping was quite pleasurable, only on a few occasions did we rush to break camp in order to avoid ferocious sand flies or pelting rain. In total, the camping was wonderful, and added greatly to our New Zealand experience. We would have missed out on meeting some really cool people and building relationships with fellow adventurers/travelers from abroad had we not tent camped. In the future, we are certain our paths will cross the paths of some of the great people we have met along the way.
Other places we called “home” while away in the Cook Islands and New Zealand: 2 nights in a hotel in Christchurch; 2 nights in a backpackers floating house boat on the Abel Tasman Sea; 1 night on a small cruise ship in Doubtful Sound; 3 nights on cattle and sheep farm, in the farm house; 2 nights at a petting zoo farm, in an adjacent cottage; 11 nights in “Rustic Beach Huts” on Aitutaki Island in the South Pacific; backpacker huts on Rarotonga; in the car; 4 nights in a home in Auckland; a few nights in quad share bunk rooms in Motor camps; several nights in backpackers hostels; and last but not least, on the plane as we travel back to our own beds in Snoqualmie…

1 comment:

tiger_hunt said...

Those campsites are wonderful. Do you see many other tent campers? We did a 4-week tent camping trip once and were surprised by the few tents. -Wayne