Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
I read somewhere during my campervan trip planning with kids to limit our daily driving distance to about 200km/124mi a day. We pushed the envelop on that piece of advice a little and did pretty good overall, but windy roads, rain, and rest stops together made for long days of driving (poor G and poor kids). Pressing on from Haast to get to Lake Wanaka in particular seemed especially long because we couldn’t find the campsite we originally wanted and had to backtrack to make camp. Luckily, the kids were good sleepers in their car seats and we caught an amazing sunset with clear skies along the absolutely gorgeous drive in between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
The thing I most loved about being in a “self-contained” campervan was the ability to freedom camp anywhere that wasn’t restricted, and not confined to join the crowd formal campsites. We found that the Department of Conservation campsites in New Zealand were more similar to American campsites in that they just have basic facilities (only drop toilets and dump stations for your waste), unlike “holiday parks” found everywhere in South Island that seem to go overboard with fancy facilities to the point where you don’t really feel like you’re camping any more. I’ve seen ones with not only showers, kitchens and laundry facilities, but have huge playgrounds (M&O did not complain), computer rooms, movie/game rooms, restaurants and bars. They provide a nice break from being remote (and dirty) but they were not what we were looking for on this trip.
So having missed the turn-off for the DOC campsite we had planned, we had to drive back to another site we passed 1/2 hr ago. The sun was setting. The kids were no longer asleep. The driver was tired. And I started to regret pushing everyone so hard on this trip. In the end, we drove back, decided against the DOC campsite because it was not on the lake and we would have had neighbors. Instead, we opted for freedom camping down a nearby steep gravel slope to a lake shore spot, all alone (how happy was I?). I grilled salmon, made mac-n-cheese, and opened up a local craft beer while G and the kids threw rocks in the lake. All is good again.
Clear skies from the previous evening was not to be, but the kids’ call to “go outside and throw rocks into the lake!” as soon as they woke up really brightened my spirits.
On our way from Lake Wanaka to Queenstown, we stopped in the town of Wanaka to check it out and to have a restaurant meal (my campervan meals were not that creative). Wanaka is a quaint little lakeside town with beautiful mountain backdrops and a family-oriented feel to it. I mean, look at this public playground right on the lake with a stream running through it. It looked like an ideal place to live other than having to deal with a bunch of tourists all year round.
(I promise, there WILL be sunshine on this trip. You’ll see.)