What it’s like travelling around New Zealand in a campervan

TOO much tequila. Dolphins. Bungy jumping. A tourist has revealed what it’s really like travelling in a campervan around New Zealand.

Vanessa CrollmXMay 7, 20143:52pm

Vanessa Croll at Lake Pukaki.Source:Supplied

“OPEN the door! I’m going to be sick!”

Abruptly torn from a tequila-induced micro coma, it hits me that if I don’t slide the campervan door open within the next 10 seconds, the next six days of living and travelling in this vehicle will be an unbearable sensory assault. I make it. The door slides open and just as soon as the crisp morning air hits my face, my travel buddy’s tummy contents hit the bitumen. It’s at this moment I’m grateful for the rain outside, as too, I imagine, are the holiday-makers sipping cups of coffee in our direction from across the caravan park. My head hits the pillow like a lump of metal to a magnet as I try to pull my thoughts together. Outside our campervan the rain creates a melancholic soundtrack. We’re in the beautiful alpine resort town of Hanmer Springs. It’s about 110km north of Christchurch, where we arrived the day before to pick up our Hippie Camper, ready for a ­”recharging” New Zealand adventure. It was the 1L bottle of duty-free tequila that got us. Sitting in the Hanmer Springs TOP 10 Holiday Park the night before, Jess and I began to plot out our trip. Well, as we plotted, one shot turned into … What the hell happened last night!? Memories trickle back of a German tourist, a boisterous scooter gang and jovial story sharing. Needless to say, we drank far too much and this morning we’re paying for it. Hanmer Springs is built around natural hot springs. So to recover, we head to the open-air thermal pools, accompanied by our German buddy, Rene, who is spending six months travelling in the South Island. It’s mid-November but there’s a chill in the air that makes half an hour in a sauna followed by a soak in some of the 12 thermal pools feel like heaven. The afternoon is taken up with a 2½-hour scenic drive east, along meandering picture-postcard countryside to the seaside town of Kaikoura. Kaikoura — a true natural gem The alarm wakes us at 7am the next day. Today we’ll be swimming in the open ocean with wild dusky dolphins. We arrive at the Encounter Kaikoura centre and are fitted with wetsuits, goggles, snorkels and flippers before sitting down for a briefing on our ­impending dolphin encounter. “Because the dolphins are wild, all interaction will be on their terms,” we’re told in the briefing. “This encounter is more about you entertaining the dolphins than them entertaining you.” And doesn’t that prove true. After a 30-minute boat trip, our skipper has located a pod of dolphins. Now when I say a pod, I’m talking more than 400 of these playful, energetic, acrobatic creatures. Full of excitement and fear, I plunge into the freezing water. With “entertaining” the dolphins in mind, I start doing my best Xena Warrior Princess cry via my snorkel. It works. Like a flash, three dolphins whiz past, then zip back, circle me a few times then disappear. Within seconds, more dolphins come by for a look and play. It’s amazing and exhilarating. I don’t know exactly how long I’m in the water but for that period of time my mind is blown. These creatures are genuinely interested in us. When I hear the bell ringing from the boat, signalling it’s time to head back, I’m sad. It’s an experience that will be hard to top. Queenstown — let’s bungy Standing on a platform, dangling more than 134m above the Nevis River, I am not ashamed to say I am seriously shit-scared. “Three … two … one… jump!” I don’t hesitate and push off the platform. The scream released from my body shocks me as much as the rocks and water hurtling toward my face. It’s an eight-second free-fall. I can’t think, just scream. After a few bounces I ­realise I’ve done it. The adrenalin kicks in and I could actually cry. I’ve just jumped the highest bungy in Australasia and even hours later, when I close my eyes, I can still feel an icy rush of air on my face and see the scenery flash by. Now, I have a confession: After an eight-hour drive from ­Kaikoura to Queenstown the night before we checked into a five-star hotel. I know, it’s cheating the whole “campervan” idea but, after sleeping on the side of the road and dying for a hot bath and fresh towels, we felt it well deserved. And if you’re looking for luxury, The Rees Hotel does not disappoint. We have a TV, king bed, fireplace and dressing gowns. So, don’t judge. Our room has a panoramic view of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains — the perfect backdrop for a wine and relax before the long drive back to Christchurch. GETTING AROUND Seeing New Zealand’s South Island in a campervan is a joy. With snow-capped mountains usually in our line of sight, a plethora of multicoloured flora and land, sea and sky animals, we feel spoiled by nature. The roads are mostly easy to drive. At times they get windy and steep, but we’re in no hurry. Also, with a fridge, gas cooker and bed in the back, taking time to stop, recharge and take in the scenery helps. www.hippiecamper.co.nz/holiday Pick up/drop off from: 24 Logistics Drive, Harewood, Canterbury PLAYING AROUND Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa http://www.hanmersprings.co.nz Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura http://www.dolphinencounter.co.nz/kaikoura/ AJ Hackett Bungy www.bungy.co.nz The Rees Hotel www.therees.co.nz 


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