Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Free (and not quite free) Camping!

(Warning  -I’ll be talking about peeing & pooing behind bushes –If you prefer not to think about such things, well, stop reading now!!!)


 You need to learn to do the necessary really quickly when you’re free camping. Why – because otherwise you’ll end up with an insect bite on the butt!!!

You also need to know that this planet belongs to all of us, not just YOU!  Get with it. Read the book.  I do not want to see your toilet paper strewn all over every green space that I visit. I particularly do not want to stand on your crap (literally or figuratively).  And yes, I can comment because I free-camp too.  AND I’ve read the book.  I even own a copy.

Not that your average Kiwi who has spend any amount of time in the outdoors actually needs to read the book. We have manners and common sense. We know how to use a stick or a shovel to dig a hole.  And besides – we have the Department of Conservation to remind us about how to do things right. We value our green spaces – because they are ours!!

Now – I can’t honestly say that every New Zealander  is OK with pooing behind a bush or that every tourist leaves the evidence strewn all around (after all, an American wrote the book) BUT the tourists are taking the rap for the crap.  Particularly the people who travel in Spaceships  and Escape  vans and similar vehicles that are not self contained.

In our local newspaper recently there have been a number of articles written about the topic of free-campers and their pollution (the kinds caused both before and after alcohol & food consumption), and a lot of defence of the different points-of-view in the letters to the editor.

There is even talk  of getting vans that are not self-contained banned from our roads, and of outlawing camping and overnight parking other than in actual camp ground and designated areas.  In my opinion, it’s a bad move – and short-sighted. I’m quite fierce about people being able to have access to green space frequently, easily and freely. It’s good for us.  It keeps our bodies, minds and spirits healthy.

 But I also think that it is economically short-sighted.  Sure, these folk (me included) don’t PAY for their accommodation. But they do buy food & fuel, go out for meals, get drunk in our pubs, go to every attraction and activity that anyone cares to make available, use our internet cafes, buy quirky New Zealand gifts for their friends and family, and spend their money any other way they can find.  Plus, they stay here for a long time – a  month, two months, even six months. And all that time they are spending their money here, in New Zealand.

Why does it bother me that fee-camping may be banned?  Because I love free-camping. Not because it’s cheap (though some times that is a consideration) but because a major reason that I go on holiday is to see as much of nature as I can, and as little of other people as I can.  The two are not always mutually exclusive, but frequently they are.  It certainly seems to me that the MORE I’ve paid for a place to lay my head for the night, the LESS likely it is to be place that meets my requirements.

I love the peace, quiet, restfulness and refreshment of remote areas. I love waking up in the morning with only a vista of sea and sky, or bush and river, visible.  I don’t want the first thing I see to be the back window of the cabin in front of me and some old ugly guy scratching his armpits. I don’t want to see or smell the row of camp rubbish (garbage) bins as I stumble to the amenities block of a compulsory camping ground.

 I love to hear the frogs and birds and lapping waves in the evening and the morning, not the scream of annoyed babies and grumpy parents and children fighting over toys.  And speaking of the amenities block, I definitely don’t want to hear the person in the next shower cubicle enjoying themselves far too much for a public place (yes, that HAS happened).

So, I want to keep free camping. And for that reason, as often as we can we find the place to park up for the night that DOES have a public toilet nearby. (A lot of picnic areas, roadside rest areas and trail heads do. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t allow camping or ‘overnight parking.’)  And when our parking spot doesn’t have a public toilet, we make darn sure that we’ve left no evidence that we’ve been here. I mean, how hard is it to dig a hole.  We take any bottles & cartons and wrappers with us, regardless.  We make sure that WE are not adding to the mess that is slowly having an effect on the green space around us. We just wish that others would do the same.

So, enough of me ranting – the bit you’ve all actually been waiting for – the photos!!These are the free, and nearly free spots we found, and a couple of more expensive places too.

Night One: Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes.

Cost: $0

View: Priceless    

Toilet: Very swanking modern glass & concrete block design with flush!   

Shower:  A swim in the lake if you choose

Lake View

Night Two: Accommodation Courtesy of  PB’s relatives, Blenheim.

 Cost: A thank you card (Oh cripes – which I haven’t sent!!) 

View:  Urban street (But the welcoming teddy bear and the fry-up for breakfast more than made up for the view!)

Toilet & Shower: All that you’d expect from a three year old house.  Actually the shower was excellent – the kind you could stay under forever.

Welcome Bear

Night Three: Pelorus Bridge, Department of Conservation camp ground

Cost: $14 bucks each  

View: OK, once we manoeuvred in amongst the trees.

Toilet: Concrete block building with flush.

 Shower:  There WAS warm water and it wasn’t too bad considering – so long as you had lighting.  

This was a night that we had planned to free camp, but our guide book badly let us down on three counts, and we didn’t want to back-track, so we went on – further than planned – to  Pelorous Bridge because we knew what was there.

Tree View

Night Four:  McKee Domain, Ruby Bay

Cost: $6 each

View: Priceless    

Toilet: An interesting concept in moulded fibreglass – kind of little all in one units including toilet & shower, or a good old long drop. 

Shower: See above.  With cold water only.  Briskly invigorating cold water.  I’m not convinced that the water in the bay would not be warmer.

Lights of Nelson

Night Five:  Paturau River mouth,  Anatori River Road .

Cost: $0

View: Priceless    

Toilet: Dig a hole   

Shower:  A swim in the sea if you choose.  

We had tried to stay nearer to the Anatori River and the ‘end of the road’ but there were sandflies – masses of them – deviously clever ones that could climb THROUGH the mosquito net. I had no intention of providing my blood to allow this particular population of sandflies to continue to reproduce, so we packed up again and moved on.

River Mouth Sunset

Morning view from the door

Night Six:  “Farewell Gardens,”   Puponga, Golden Bay

Cost: $28

View: of the house across the fence.  And on the other side, not to be seen, but heard – German tourist talking loudly. (Just because most of the other camp residents most likely can’t understand you, doesn’t mean they can’t hear you!!)  

Toilet: Complete with signs about washing your hands very carefully due to the possibility of Norovirus (particularly nasty form of gastroenteritis)

Shower:  Warm but in other way mediocre.

We’ll have to look a bit harder for other options in this area if we go back. The bonus here would be the exceedingly friendly and helpful camp ground owner/manager and the TV on which I managed to watch most of Grey’s Anatomy.

(There was only one uninspirational photo of the van – there was obviously nothing I felt motivated to take a photo of.)

Night Seven:  Milnthorpe, Sort of near Collingwood (ish.)

Cost: $0

View: Priceless    

Toilet: Long drop – but it was clean and had toilet paper!!!    

Shower:  A swim in the estuary if you choose

I loved this spot. We’ll be back.

Estuary view

Night Eight:  Pohara Top Ten

Cost: $36

View: Of the rubbish collection area and the back of some cabins.

Toilet: Your average long row of cubicles that you get at such places.

Shower:  Where you have to be quick in case your 50 cents of warm water runs out.

This was the day that we got completely soaking wet, and somehow the van leaked as well, so our bedding got wet.  So we decided to head for a bit of luxury where we could plug in the laptop and catch up on the world. We ended up going far enough that the weather changed. Or maybe it would have changed anyway. It ended up being scorching hot for the afternoon, so all our wet stuff got sun baked dry. Which was good.  And we did get the laptop, PDA & camera charged as a bonus.

Drying Out

The cliffs BEHIND our camping spot

Night View

Night Nine: McKee Domain, Ruby Bay  – Take Two

Cost, View, Toilet & Shower:   See above!!


Night Ten: Slab Hut Creek, near Reefton,  Department of Conservation  camping area.

Cost: $5 each

View: Pretty good   

Toilet: Slightly smelly long drop   

Shower:  A swim in the river if you choose.

This is the area where our cache GC1N6PQ Slab Hut Creek is located, so it was an easy 100 metre stroll to the other side of the area for PB to check it in the morning!!!  We’ve been wanting to stay there for years, but it’s only an hour from home, so we’re always just driving past.  So this time – we stopped.

River View