New Zealand

Observations & Ramblings From Two Months Camping Around New Zealand

March 25, 2017

Here are a few things that I’ve noticed while camping and housesitting here in New Zealand for the past two and a half months. This post is a bit of a ramble (kinda like this one) so enjoy…

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

New Zealand is expensive. I knew it would be. But like, it’s more expensive than home. Gas and booze especially. And it kills me that I can’t really afford to eat out at all the great-looking restaurants while staying on budget.

Losing things in the car makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. When you have literally all of your belongings in a finite space and you can’t find your chapstick, it’s excruciating. Because you know it’s in there somewhere and you’ve just misplaced it, or it’s fallen out of the car never to be seen again…

Related: I have to stop setting things on top of the car.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

Every drive here is beautiful. There’s rarely a time when you’re not looking out the window at some gorgeous view of mountains, lakes, or coastlines. It’s absurd really.

It’s also great because the radio in our car doesn’t work anymore…

All backpackers here have the same stuff. It’s like, “Oh you have that tent? I have that tent. You have that salt? I have that same salt!” Because we’ve all bought the cheapest version of everything…

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

Electrical outlets are such a hot commodity on the road. You must charge everything before you leave a place that has them because who knows when you’ll have power (and actual physical access to the outlets) again. The set-up that we use to charge everything – the tangle of adapters and USB ports we have to use – is ridiculous.

There aren’t that many dryers here. Most people use clotheslines to dry their clothes. It’s pretty eco-friendly and it works surprisingly fast on a sunny day. I dig it.

Two of our housesits have had their own chickens. So we got fresh eggs every morning. The yolks are so bright yellow that they’re almost orange. They’re way better than the eggs at home.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

And SO much produce and meat here is actually from New Zealand. (I mean, I get it, it’s an island.) But it’s amazing they can farm and grow so much stuff locally and they actually sell it in the mainstream supermarkets.

Why is wifi not free or readily available in New Zealand? WTF, the Internet was better in Southeast Asia. To echo so many of the Google reviews for places here: “It’s 2017, how do you not have wifi?!”

Lots of the houses here are really cool. People in New Zealand seem to prioritize having more outdoor space over having a bigger house. So they have really great backyards (“gardens”) to hang out in. And there’s way more modern architecture and different kinds of building materials used here. It’s refreshing that not all houses are made out of straight brick or wood.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

Fish and chips is a thing in New Zealand and I love it. And battered sausages. Can you tell I’m dating an Englishman?

It’s not just travelers and foreigners out here camping. I feel like half the locals have their own campervan. Two of the housesits we’ve done were for people taking some time to go out and camp around New Zealand. You don’t see that nearly as much in the US.

Sand flies. God. I can’t decide if I hate them more or less than mosquitos. Just know, if you have a hole in a sock or even a tiny exposed piece of flesh anywhere, they WILL find it. And their bites itch like hell. At least they don’t carry diseases. Wait, they don’t, do they?

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

The back of our car doesn’t stay open unless you prop it up with a broomstick (which yes, came with the car). When we bought it, I was like, “Uh, no big deal!” And now it’s the bane of my existence.

Speaking of, this happens to me at least once a day: *Walk to car, prop open door with broomstick, get stuff out for dinner. Assess to make sure that’s everything I need. Close door and lock car. Forget salt. Return to car, pull out broomstick, prop up door, search for salt, close door and lock car. Leave. Forget plates. Repeat.*

I sleep like a champ in the car and in the tent. It’s akin to my ability to sleep on any and all public transit.

Hiking is so hit or miss for me. Some days I love it and I’m like, “Oh man, let’s do more hikes ALL the time! And let’s do longer ones!” And some days I’m like, “F this hike. F these rocks. F this steep ass incline. This is just exercise outdoors and it hurts!” Like I loved it in Nepal and some days I love it here. But other days I complain a lot and hate everything around me.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

It’s not that warm in New Zealand. Like even in January. I don’t know why this is so surprising to me.

Housesitting is fab. I want to do it everywhere! It makes travel here cost SO much less. Granted, we don’t do much but lie around and cook and watch TV (and use all the glorious wifi that we have to ourselves) so that’s probably why it’s cheap.

And we get to play with dogs.

Speaking of housesitting, I’ve made the best lasagna of my life TWICE now. Like with a béchamel sauce and everything. Sure we had to buy nutmeg, but it was worth it.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

Some of the beaches here are absolutely incredible. They have great sand, dramatic cliffs, and clear, bright blue water. You’d think you were back in Southeast Asia. But like, the water is cold. Geography, I guess.

Kiwis are super friendly. They’re always down to help you out, give directions, create a great travel itinerary for you, whatever you need. It’s nice to speak the language of a country for once, because they’re so helpful and kind (and funny).

I said it before, but alcohol is especially expensive here. The best deal for beers we’ve found while out and about is $6 NZD ($4.22 USD), and that’s usually in smaller town sports bars (the ones with lots of old men gambling on the horse races). Or like $7 at happy hour in bigger cities. But it’s usually more like $9 NZD ($6.32 USD) or more. And thank God I’m not one of those “I don’t drink beer” girls because cocktails are outrageous. New Zealand wine is great, but it’s also not cheap. Shame that our trick to save money on booze is buying the three liter boxes of wine at the grocery store. #SorryNotSorry

They have NCAA Basketball on TV here. Thank God.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

New Zealand is the most pristine country I’ve ever been to. It is so clean, there’s no litter, and people really seem to care about the environment. Like they take care of their stuff so they can have nice things. We actually drank from a stream the other day on a hike and it was totally fine. The water was cold and delicious and I would not do that ANYWHERE else I’ve been.

Camping as a form of travel isn’t nearly as social as staying in hostels. Aside from a few occasions at meal times in communal areas at campsites, nobody really mingles or tries to make friends. But that’s usually fine because I’m just happy to set up camp, have a glass of boxed wine, and go to sleep when it gets dark.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

#CampingLife Hack: Buying stuff at the Salvation Army is the way to go! Why didn’t I think of it earlier?! It’s way cheaper than you’ll get anywhere else in New Zealand and of decent quality too. I now have a fleece, a coat, and a hat from their stores. And we got two sets of utensils (fork, knife, spoon each) for 60 cents, along with some cord to make curtains for the station wagon. If I have to actually create a winter wardrobe (God forbid), I know where I’m shopping.

Did I mention how stylish I am nowadays?

Um, the stars here in New Zealand are incredible. They are the brightest I’ve ever seen anywhere. Like wow. Do people from New Zealand just think that stars look that amazing all the time? Do they just think the Milky Way is always visible? Holy cow.

Pak ‘N Save is life.

2 Months Camping New Zealand - Trailing Rachel

the car smells like garlic now


My New Zealand itinerary and actual useful stuff will follow… I hope. Right now I’m just writing about whatever I want.

What’ve I Missed? Any tips for more cheap stuff in New Zealand? I’m listening!

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5 Comments

  • Reply Julie March 26, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    I always knew N.Z. was gorgeous from a mountains perspective but I had no idea about its beaches! Mon dieu and then some! They are beyond stunning and as you said, what you’d equate with those stereotypical beach paradise locales (i.e. Philippines, French Polynesia, etc).

    And I meant to say this before but your short haircut looks so great on you! I’ve tried short styles before and I just can’t pull it off. Having one’s own kitchen makes the world go round I feel. That’s one of the things I miss the most when I’m “away.”

    P.S. I’d never make it as a backpacker/budget traveler in N.Z. I’m a cocktails gal all the way (beer and coffee, I’ve tried the stuff…tried to embrace the stuff, but nada). If Spain (coffee) and Mexico (beer) couldn’t do it, yeah 🙂
    Julie recently posted…A half-day visit to SedonaMy Profile

  • Reply Katie March 29, 2017 at 1:49 am

    I always love reading travellers observations of my home country. Yep – the free wifi situ sucks – not that it effects me much as I am staying with family and friends most of the time I spend here. The sandfly thing must be more of a South Island thing – I have never encountered sandflies in the North Island, that I remember, but got eaten alive when I did the Kepler track in Fiordland. You guys should do a Great Walk! I am doing my second one – the Tongariro Northern Circuit – over Easter: very excited! If you think the beer is expensive here (you can get great deals, but they aren’t always easy to find) DON’T, for the love of God, go to Australia. THE most expensive country for beer. I am loving being home but very much looking forward to all the craft beer in Colorado when I am back in a month. Have you noticed that loads of Kiwis don’t wear shoes? Like walking down the street, in shops etc with no shoes on. Such a Kiwi thing that always makes me laugh 🙂
    Katie recently posted…Digital Nomad Life: Month Twenty OneMy Profile

    • Reply Rachel April 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Haha, I JUST mentioned the other day how there were multiple people in the supermarket not wearing shoes! And yes, we’ve been warned about Australia! It’s like okay, $7 USD for a beer would be sorta understandable if it were a nice, fancy craft beer, but this is like Speights or a cider we’re talking about! Loving New Zealand so far – literally it’s so beautiful EVERYWHERE we go – but not sure how I’ll deal when it gets cold here! Housesitting has been amazing, but camping when it’s freezing out? I dunno… Ah man, we tried to just do the Tongariro Crossing (like just the alpine crossing in one day) but the weather was terrible. We did a day hike into Abel Tasman, but so far no multi-day Great Walks. Bet you’ll have an awesome time!

  • Reply Trisk April 14, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Great travel account, especially a reference to the beaches. NZ has for long been associated with great scenery in the plains and mountains, thanks to a bunch of movies shot there, but I did not know the beaches there were so breathtaking. Thanks again for posting this !!
    Trisk recently posted…Best travel guides for International TravelersMy Profile

    • Reply Rachel April 30, 2017 at 1:50 am

      Thanks Trisk! I was super surprised about the beaches. They’re fab. (I’m not into all the LOTR stuff either.)

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