Morning dawned calmer but mizzly. The mizzle soon turned to rain and we began our 300km journey to Wellington in the clouds, which were trying to drift along below our 800m altitude. Busby’s temperature read 7°C. Yuk!
We’d made the right decision; the part of North Island between Ohakune and Wellington was almost as drab as the weather, compared to what we had experienced further north. As the kilometres ticked away and we neared Wellington, spells of sunshine appeared. The temperature soared to 16°C and the price of diesel soared from NZ$1.15 to NZ$1.45. No matter, having a full tank is more important than the price, which is still cheaper than in England, even at top dollar. Actually, though we’d been warned not to pass a fuel station without filling up, I suspect that relates mostly to the more sparsely populated South Island. [80% of Kiwis live on North Island.] Fuel stations have been frequent in North Island.
We arrived at 15:00
Since there is little else to report, what of the camping experience so far? We are trying two things for the first time: a campervan and New Zealand campsites.
Our unit is a Mercedes van conversion. It drives very well. It’s 7.2m long and 2.8m high. I can stand up in the middle without worrying about my head. Any activity to the side requires care but a little more familiarity is lessening the occurrences of [Bump] “bugger!”.
The weather has not been warm enough to live outside so we have had to put the bed down and up every day. This activity is a back killer but then my back is 64 years old. For some reason, perhaps because I’m stretching the length of it rather than the width, it’s more difficult that in our caravan. The bed is full width but you sleep lengthwise, the van not being as wide as a caravan. The bed is firm and comfortable though not quite my length – I assume a slight angle and let my feet overhang beside the “wardrobe” door. The day time configuration provides a very pleasant wrap-around seating area with a cleverly adjustable rear table.
The fridge is excellent and the 3-burner hob is adequate though I suspect you’d really use only one ring at a time, the hob being recessed with no overhanging pans possible. (Modern caravans suffer the same problem.) It has an extractor hood, which is great even if noisy. I suspect we’re weird cooking and eating in the van – most of our fellow travellers both cook and eat in the well equipped campsite kitchens (see below). Bugger that, I prefer my privacy.
Storage was tough to begin with but we’re coping, now, though remembering where you hid something specific can be challenging, as can getting complacent about movement resulting in another [Bump] “bugger!”
The necessary-for-our-overnight-comfort toilet compartment is adequate but very dangerous on the [Bump] “bugger!” front. Too loud a [Bump] “bugger!” may result in a woken partner, resulting in yet more physical or mental pain.
There are two tables, both necessary as central supports for the bed. One table may be mounted on a pole at the front behind the driver and passenger seats which can be spun around to face backwards. In fact, the seats have to spin around before the table can be mounted. Spinning the seats around is a game. Driver and passenger doors must first be opened, the chair must be slid fully one way (forwards, think), then it can spin 180° given pulling on the correct lever. This, of course, upsets my driving position which must be reset after the reverse operation. I’ve tried it only once, so far.
Living in the van is a bit like one of those children’s puzzles with 15 tiles and 16 (4×4) positions, only one of which is empty. Shuffle the one empty space until the desired arrangement of tiles is met.
Everything sort of scrooks or rattles in transit. It isn’t just the contents of some of the cupboards which could, given practice, be stuffed and quieted, it’s some of the cupboards themselves. You get used to it and it isn’t too bad. It was expected.
It is cramped, though. Our caravan is a full metre shorter than this van but is considerably more spacious. I could live full time in Guillaume; I could not live full time in Busby. The van does the job but that’s it and the job is touring New Zealand. The job is not camping for the fun of camping. It is nice being able to stop in relatively regular car parks en route to see sights or go shopping; that isn’t often possible with a caravan in tow. So, as we’d suspected, it’s designed for a different use.
We have been camping, mostly in France, for over 30 years, going from a tent to a caravan (very small at first). A normal French campsite has a pitch size of 100m2. An Aire Naturale pushes the pitch size up to about 200m2.
When we retired and thought of camping further afield, like Spain or Italy, I got concerned about campsites advertising pitch sizes of 84m2. or less, say 60m2.
We have been staying on Top 10 campsites in NZ thus far. Top 10 is a franchise that supposedly sets standards, a bit like ACSI in Holland/Europe. [Mark of the devil but that’s another story.]
As I have mentioned, the NZ campsites seem generally to be very well equipped with cooking, washing up and dining equipment. These facilities save your own gas, water and waste water. Very good. What they are not well equipped with is space. Our first few sites gave us hard-standing of the same length as the van with a pitch width between units of a similar dimension. That’s a paltry 50m2. That was the largest pitch we’d had until today, which is slightly longer. Fortunately, thus far, all fellow campers have been considerate and quiet.
No sites seem to have been equipped for hand washing of clothes, either. That’s a Francine thing – rinsing manually washed clothes is nigh on impossible. The expected form seems to be a machine load or nothing.
Our site at Ohakune last night, whilst perfectly pleasant, pushed shoe-horning in campervans to new extremes. We saw multiple units with less than a metre between them. Even if the weather was good, you wouldn’t sit outside in conditions like this. Pictures speak a thousand words so cop an eyeful of these.
Our first site facing Shelly Beach was a site we could’ve stayed on for the enjoyment of being there but none of the others have been. Once again, the campsites do the job but that’s it and the job is specifically touring New Zealand. The job is not camping for the fun of it.
We are used to being away in our caravan just for the enjoyment of being on a campsite in the caravan. That attitude gets you disappointed here. Both van and campsites are a means to an end rather than an end in themselves. Both enable you to tour and see New Zealand. Stopping on a campsite and sleeping is just something that must be done to achieve that goal.