“Welcome to Noo Ziland,” the lovely Maori airport official welcomed us as we stepped off the plane into Kiwi Country. I was charmed.
Our time in New Zealand marked the nearing end of our world travels – three weeks in a camper van exploring the north and south islands. I am hopping with excitement to finally witness New Zealand’s beauty.
The idea of camping, however, has never fired me with much enthusiasm. On this trip, we discover I am a truly lousy camper.
Yesterday we drove down South Island's west coast. Some pretty great views through misty mountain villages and glacier country. Not to mention milky turquoise waterfalls, vast blue lakes, snow-topped mountains and stunner beaches. Definitely compensates for sleeping in the back of a converted transit van!
Our first night on a campsite, I unplug the power of our neighbour’s camper van, plunging the family inside into darkness. Night two is, regrettably, even more shameful.
Returning to our van from the showers, I pull open the door and start to clamber into the wrong van. Of course, the owners are lying on the bed at eye level as I wrenched open the door. I mumble my apologies and hastily back away. Oops.
Hitting the open road
I may be a crappy camper but I adore New Zealand and our time in the van. We can go where we want, when we want, for as long as we want – it’s heaven.
The nicest thing is spotting a beautiful lake or beach, pulling up and grabbing a spot of lunch al fresco, surrounded by the beauty of nature.
New Zealand’s north island is a delight of green, rolling countryside and wildflower-filled meadows. Tiny birds dart in and out of hedgerows like something from a Disney movie.
No two days are the same from the rugged beauty of Bay of Islands, mesmerising iridescent glowworm canopies in Waitomo and thermal springs in Rotorua.
“This is nothing. Just wait until you see the south island,” folks keep telling me. Turns out, they’re right. The north island is gorgeous, but wowzers, the south island is mind-blowing!
South island’s stunning scenery
Have you seen the show ‘West World’? The premise is an entire world, created solely as a playground for humans. This is how New Zealand’s south island makes me feel.
Each landscape is as impressive, and unbelievable, as a movie set. Every twist and turn of the road presents a new landscape – each more stunning and dramatic than the last.
From red rocky outcrops and volcanic terrain, to snow-capped mountains, glacier country and crystal clear turquoise lakes. Sometimes we turn a corner and I laugh out loud the view is so insane.
Starry skies at Lake Tekapo
One of the trickiest things about sleeping in a van are bathroom visits in the middle of the night, necessitating a dark schlep across the campsite to the toilet block.
The first time I staggered out the van at 2am cursing my tiny bladder, I looked up to see thousands of stars twinkling brightly in the clear night’s sky. It took my breath away.
Between the lack of pollution and some scientific stuff I don’t understand, stargazing on south island is mind-blowing. I got a sore neck on those midnight bathroom-visits from peering upwards – just heavenly.
Our last night we stop at Tekapo Lake, dubbed New Zealand’s ‘bluest’. This is big talk as we have seen some pretty amazing water in a million shades of blue so far. And not just lakes – seas, waterfalls and rivers too.
Tekapo Lake lives up to the hype as a show-stopper. During the day, the glacier-fed lake is pure turquoise, slowly turning to rose gold at dusk as it reflects the changing colour of the surrounding mountains.
The next morning, it has morphed into a shimmery silver and for about the millionth time on this trip, I marvel at the beauty of nature.
New Zealand is easily the most jaw-droppingly beautiful place I’ve ever visited. Real, unadulterated bucket-list beauty. If you can, please go.
Next blog post, we’re back to Blighty where it’s time for us to start cracking on with our ‘new’ reality. Hopefully the sun will be shining as our arrival coincides with British spring (…or perhaps this is wishful thinking!)