Kato and his girlfriend Whitney recently spent some time travelling around New Zealand in a campervan. Taking every opportunity to check out the local surf, here is Kato's take on how to explore New Zealand with a surfboard!
It's a Van's World! - Top 8 Things For Surfers Driving A Van Around New Zealand
The great Dutch seafaring explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first European to see a new sea land in the south pacific. That was in 1642. 127 years later a 12 year old servant boy yelled "Land Ahoy!" from the eagles nest of Captain Cook's Endeavour. Captain Cook named the landing point Young Nicks Head and gave the young lad 12 gallons of rum!
A campervan is somewhat like a ship. Blown on a whim and driven by the spirit of exploration, the country side is your ocean. Storms will blow you off course onto dirt country roads and more than a few times the safety of calm bays will give you respite. However, veering off course is highly regarded if you're on the helm. Talking with other captains, they'll often reminisce of mistaken turns and unchartered roads and, behold, a paradise discovered.
Follow the road to the end, turn left at the big rock and take the second dirt road, there won't be a sign....and on and on they go. One man's directions to the end of the rainbow.
Over every horizon and around every bend, there's adventure to be had.
1. If you see something that catches your eye, stop.
More often than not, it's the unexpected signs which add spice to your experience. And even for horrendously tacky, touristy things, which, for good reason aren't worth a mention in travel guides, they still turn out to be weirdly memorable moments. For instance, a giant sculpture of a raging bull caught my eye whilst passing through a miniscule town on the highway. Whit and myself were in desperate need of coffee so I slammed on the breaks and we hopped out in 'Bull Town'. We grabbed a coffee at a quaint cafe then had a peek inside. It turned out the owner raised steers and had a fascination with turning Bull into everything edible under the sun. Strangely enough, bull sperm was a key ingredient to most of his products. There was bull sperm sauce, bull sperm moisturiser, bull sperm cheese, giant rugs laid on the floor and a throne shaped for.. king of the bulls! It was quirky, maybe a little arousing for some, and definitely worth the stop.
There is plenty to see for a travelling campervan. You can experience a jam full of berry plantations, kiwi plantations, endless green paddocks of sheep and cows, vineyards, boutique honey makers in the middle of know where, raging bull shops in quiet country towns, exceptional country markets on the weekends, hot spring rivers, waterfalls, film locations for Lord Of The Rings, the longest wharf in the world and the list goes on and on.
2. Remember, wrong turns are good.
I can't remember a wrong turn which ended in disaster. That's because even if they did seem like a disaster at the time, it actually ended up being a highlight, somehow. If you've got a schedule, make room for some well timed improvisational self guided tours of isolated country roads, deserted coast lines and conversations with sheep.
3. Empty the water tank before long drives.
You'll cut down on about a tonne of weight which will allow you to handle the vehicle better and save petrol. There's no shortage of petrol/gas stations where you can refill your water. Just keep an eye out for the tap, usually somewhere near the air pump.
4. Ask for directions.
New Zealanders are famously friendly people. We pulled over on a country road. There was a small light plane landing strip and hangar just ahead. A leather clad motor bike rider came zooming up the road, slowed as he passed my van and then doubled back. We sat there in awkward silence expecting to be told off for stopping on private land. Instead the biker made himself at home, resting his arm inside the passenger side window and launched into animated story telling, starting off with directions detailing houses, mountains, and paddocks, delving into self indulgent tangents of his life all around the world. Half an hour later we were on the road again, with the biker leading our way before waving us onto the appropriate turn off; the little known scenic route.
Locals know best. The Ta Moko (face tattoos) may look vicious but don't be intimidated of these respected Maori elders. Smile, say kia ora and strike up conversation with everyone who returns a smile.
5. Don't drink and drive but drink plenty of local wine and beer.
NZ is big on wine. NZ is also pretty talented in brewing beers. All supermarkets sell alcohol and require you to show passport identification when purchasing (if you're baby faced like me). Kiwi fruit is named after the rare Kiwi bird. Green out on kiwi fruit, drink kiwi fruit wine and run around paddocks like a flightless Kiwi bird.
7. Use the on board toilet if you really have to...and definitely don't use it whilst in motion.
There are plenty of camping grounds and amenities which are very well maintained. Disposing of the campervan waste bucket can be traumatic, if you have a weak stomach like me. After a few days on the road you and your partner will get into a rhythm of who does what, maintenance wise. Clean living is good living.
Campervans are bigger than your average vehicle but surprisingly responsive. If your girlfriend is busting and insists on using the toilet whilst you're driving, maybe let her, because it'll be the first and last. LOL. In order to keep it clean, let's stop here.
8. Stop. Remember. Stop at street signs printed 'STOP'.
By Kato Simpson
Get in touch with Kato @Katokatoworld for more insights on what to see and do.