Here it is, the long-awaited blog about my weeklong trip living out of a van while traveling down the North Island! For a lot of people, the idea of living out of a car is more about not having the financial ability to find a less-mobile place to live, but for me, it is something I have wanted to do for a really long time. One of the best things about being abroad is having the opportunity to get a taste of a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do. That way I really know what I do like and want to do in the future, and what I absolutely do not like that all.
I’m not going to lie; I was a bit nervous about living out of the van (there was actually 2 to accommodate the several other people on the trip with me). The fear mainly stemmed from a worry that I wasn’t going to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. As I said earlier, having a converted van is something I’d really like to have at some point in my life so it would be a bit of a dream crusher if I hated it. Luckily, I absolutely loved it. There were definitely a few hiccups here and there but all in all, it was an amazing trip.
Similar to my last post about Raro, I could literally go on for hours about everything we did during our week on the North Island, but here are a few of the highlights of van life:
1. The cooking: This might seem a bit odd, as, between all of us, we only have 4 stove burners in the 2 vans (but honestly that made it all the more fun). Luckily, we had onboard refrigerators so we would make grocery runs every day or two. Usually 2 people would cook per night and then one person would take over washing pots and pans while everyone did their individual dish (washing dishes in public restrooms was definitely not one of the highlights). We actually ended up eating really well every night, including tacos, bolognese, breakfast burritos, and pesto chicken to name a few meals. A lot of my favorite memories were cramming around one of the little tables and enjoying meals with some of my favorite people. Also, having a main sandwich and a dessert sandwich during lunch is a must, a potentially life-changing experience.
2. Cathedral Cove: This was our first real stop on the North Island other than the campsite for the first night. We decided to go pretty early in the morning which was a good idea since it got super busy right as we were leaving to go eat lunch. The walk is pretty easy, and the beaches are unbelievable. After spending a week in Raro I thought I was beached-out but turns out that was nowhere near the truth. We walked the beach, peeked in some cases, and waded through the water. A few of the boys brought some balls to play with so we played makeshift baseball in the sand with a piece of wood as a bat. It was an amazing start to the trip.
3. Huka Falls: This stop was one that didn’t involve a lot of hiking but was still really cool. Huka is one of the rapids of the Waikato River, which eventually drains into Lake Taupo. It was crazy to see how much power the water creates, so much so that in one of the most intense parts the water actually looks to change color as it gets pulled by the intense undercurrent. Definitely not a place I would want to go swimming!
4. Nightly cards and cuddles: The benches in the van convert into pretty big beds so before we all went to sleep every night (which was usually around 8:30pm) we would pile into one of the vans and play cards and talk. It’s funny when you come abroad and meet all of these amazing people because sometimes you forget you’ve only known each other for a couple of months even when it feels like they’ve been your friends all of college. So, when we would hang out and chat, I actually learned a lot about the people that I’ve been spending almost every day with since July. I also learned that I am not very good at cards, but that isn’t too surprising.
5. Tongariro National Park: This was my favorite stop of the whole trip. It was pretty drizzly and gross all morning, but it was our last day and nothing was going to stop us from getting one last walk in. We just did a 2-hour loop, but it ended up being really fun. We got to go down by a stream, past a waterfall, and then up the side of it so we could look down on it. The best part was that the fog and rain clouds all cleared up, so we got clear views of all of the surrounding volcanos. Another plus was the visitor center! They have movies they play on loops about the park and other little interactive exhibits that were really cool and interesting.
6. The Redwoods: No, we did not take a really fast flight to California, there is a massive Redwood forest in Rotorua! We walked around the park for a while and looked at the beautiful trees and it was amazing. It’s crazy how tall and wide they all are! There are also little blue and green streams all around which are really cool to look at. It was also a plus to get a quick break from the intense sulfur smell from all the hot springs around Rotorua (which are also totally worth visiting).
There are a ton of places and activities I couldn’t fit in this post, but in summary: the North Island was spectacular and a highly recommended trip for anyone in this neck of the woods (however, South Island rules) ((not like I’m biased or anything)).
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<p>Hi! My name is Lexi and I am a junior spending my semester abroad at the University of Canterbury. Although my home university is in a city, I absolutely love being outdoors! Some of my favorite activities are hiking (especially with dogs), swimming in lakes, and trail running. I can't wait to explore the beautiful South Island of New Zealand and share some of my adventures!</p>