Thursday, November 18, 2010

They Call It Freedom Camping

Kiwis call what we are doing "freedom camping".  It's essentially camping outside of motorhome parks and designated campgrounds.  We do it for many reasons.  Number one, it's free, but just as important is that we aren't packed into a small space next to another campervan.  Most of our freedom camping has been in amazing locations overlooking an ocean, a river, or the mountains.  Inevitably we've had to "park up" (that's another Kiwi and Aussie saying) on a neighborhood street or in a paved parking lot.  The last time we had to do that, the Christchurch earthquake shook us awake at 4:30 am.

In populated areas, freedom camping is frowned upon.  Part of the reason is because there are so many rental campervans roaming the small country from December - March, and they all seem to "park-up" in the same locations.  It doesn't take long to learn that the beaten path is not the best place to find peace and quiet.  Locals blame trash and "human waste" on freedom campers.  We take huge issue with this accusation as all of the freedom campers we've ever seen are more likely to pickup garbage than leave it.  I think those McDonalds bags, empty cigarette packs, and beer bottles are probably from the local kids enjoying their secret party spot.  In fact, this past Friday, we were awakened at 1:30 am by a car full of people throwing their beer bottles over the cliff into the vegetated sand dunes above the ocean.  In the morning, the parking lot was littered with garbage from the Friday night partiers.

One of the more beautiful camping spots we've had recently

When we are in populated areas, finding a good camping spot takes some patience and ingeniuty.  We usually spend time looking at maps, riding around on our bikes, walking the area, or hiking to a lookout to scope things out.  Our general requirement is that we aren't in view of any houses, we have some sort of a view (sunset, ocean, nestled in a forest, etc), and that it's quiet, without any threat of hoons (punk ass Kiwi kids) waking us up in the middle of the night (that's the hardest requirement to meet).  Bonus points for a flat spot, light winds, and no trains.  Generally, we park in a public location -- never on someone's private property.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Summer Has Sprung in New Zealand

It doesn't seem like very long ago that the sun was setting at 4:30 pm and the relentless rain caused everything in our van to grow mold.  I remember looking up the sunset times online, desperately yearning for the days when the sun would set at 9:30 pm and the rain would end.  Despite my catastrophizing of the rain and mold situation, we've survived to see some really fabulous weather and long days. Summer is definitely knocking on our door.  We've already managed to kiteboard a couple of times, which is surely a sign that the weather (and water) is getting warmer.  Plus, the dank smell of mold in the van has been replaced by the sweet mango-like aroma of the local wildflowers.

Scott taking a freshwater dip before dinner

We are currently in Dunedin on the southeast coast of the South Island.  Dunedin is a very large city for New Zealand standards (pop. 125,000), with a third of the population being students (Otago University).  It seems that we've fallen into a familiar pattern of staying somewhere for at least 2 weeks before moving on. This allows us to learn about the area, the recreational opportunities, the secret camping spots, and the good shopping (mostly groceries since we eat a lot).  Since this will be the last big city we'll see for a while, we are spending a fair bit of our time doing chores, bike repairs, van maintenance, and stocking up on supplies. Also, Scott is desparately searching for a used surfboard before we hit the desolate area south of here that we call the Baja-of-NZ.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Trout Drought is Over

by Scott

I was secretly hoping that  writing about my poor fishing performance would reverse jinx me. It apparently worked. As the sun was setting on a small lake outside Alexandra, I decided to make a few casts. I tied on a black rooster tail spinner. On my second cast, retrieving at a moderate speed along a rock ledge, I felt the unmistakable bite of fish lips on steel. The fight was on. I landed what may some day be a 5-lb perch.

He'll have to get smarter if he ever wants to be a 5-lb perch

A few casts later, I also caught a small rainbow trout. I had to throw it back because we'd already eaten dinner, and Heather wouldn't allow a dead fish in the van overnight.