“Thanks so much for paying your $15 camping fee,” said the Ranger. “By the way, there’s a big storm forecast for tonight with some serious winds.”
“Thanks for letting us know,” I said. “Do you think there’s any reason to worry about sleeping in our tent up there?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she replied. “If it gets really bad, just all pile in the van.”
With those encouraging words, a thin layer of canvas to our sides and a plastic roof above us, we spent the night witnessing one of the most impressive forces of nature–complete with howling winds, rain, thunder, lightening and hail–any of us had ever seen/felt/heard. It was exhilarating, even if it was difficult for us to sleep at times. Bodhi, however, in the comfort of his cozy travel cot inside the van, had a seemingly perfectly peaceful night of rest.
Over the past two months camping has become a bit of a way of life for us. First it was in a van equipped with a rooftop tent as we spent three weeks driving from Sydney to Brisbane. Then, when we arrived in the North Island of New Zealand, we spent a day in Auckland loading up our rented truck with all the supplies we’d need to tent camp as we explored the rugged Northland and surrounding areas.
There is something about having everything you need to eat, sleep and live with you at all times that we have found really liberating. And there is simply nothing like the feeling of falling asleep–and waking up–to the sound of a river flowing or waves crashing just feet away from you, and birdsong filling the morning air.
Some of the places we have stayed have been simply incredible. In the Platipus Flat Campground, tucked deep in the bush on the central eastern coast of Australia, we were way off the grid. The gentle rapids of the Nymboida River lulled us to sleep each night, and an inner tube was the perfect device to enjoy those same rapids during the day. There were wild Bush Turkeys and several large lizards called Goanas. One of the goanas made off with Bodhi’s friend LaLa when we weren’t looking, and since she was high up on a camping chair to start, we suspect that one of the turkeys might have provided an assist. Lala survived with only minor stitches.
At one point we were starting to get worried that we might leave Australia without seeing a single kangaroo. And then we chose to stay in Yuraygir National Park. This was the coastal campground with the storm described above. There were kangaroos EVERYWHERE. There was also a very cool surfer vibe at this campground and the beach was perfect in the warm springtime sun.
Here in the North Island of New Zealand, we have so far been treated to some absolutely incredible campsites. If you aren’t careful on the black sand beach next to our campground at Whatipu Bay, you might get stuck in some unexpected quicksand. At Doubtless Bay we marvelled at this most peaceful cove which was full of small rock pools at low tide, perfect for a warm swim or for grabbing some fresh, delicious oysters. The mystical Spirits’ Bay overlooks the northernmost point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, and is said by the native Maoris to be the place where souls leave Earth upon death. The beach at this Department of Conversation campsite was full of perfectly smooth, beautiful shell sand unlike anything we had seen or touched before. Time and time again, our senses have been delighted when we pull into our “home” for the night.
Come to think of it, you might actually be wondering, what does it look like to “make” home when we arrive at a new campsite? Well, it’s something like this…