• Travel Savvy Guide

Van’mad Diaries, Wild West Coast of South Island

Well my Savvy troops I hope you’re all well and staying occupied as you have probably seen on my instagram I have well and truly lost the plot, but it’s all fun and games am I right?

I felt that even though I’ve lost the plot that it’s no excuse to carry on falling behind on my Van’mad diaries and after popular requests I have got back on the case.

New Zealand van life

Eddie, Ben and I headed on down the coast towards Grey Mouth where we observed some absolutely stunning scenery from inside of the van due to the BLOODY SAND FLY’S!!!!

Stopping off in Westport, in all honesty there’s not a lot there but it lined our route up nicely for the road down the west coast, which was absolutely amazing, the most wackiest of scenery I’ve seen in New Zealand, wind swept couldn’t cut it.

Lots of white horses, windy F**King roads and cliff faces, after which we arrived in Grey Mouth, again not overly blown away by, but a good stop off point if you’re wishing to do the Arthur's Pass Crossing by Rail. Ben and I split ways here, he caught the well known train across the Pass and I of course drove it.

New Zealand van life

What an awesome drive, long long long straight roads through some of the most untouched dramatic scenery around, I would definitely recommend. The thing about New Zealand is I’m very aware that we’re always a natural disaster away, and especially with my White Island close call I’m quite on edge. When I’m staying in free camps by the sea I always have tsunami’s going through my head, and then I drive inland to have constant earthquakes and then bloody volcanos on the mind. I know the likely hood is slim but after White Island and the earthquake’s after, I think I have a right to be a little wary. Anyway, driving through Arthur’s Pass there were lots of bunkers for landslides, great all of a sudden I’m thinking shit yeh, if there’s an earthquake and that triggers a land slide, you would be pretty screwed! Out in the open in-between all these mountains, for sure you would get buried, to say the least I did not sleep well that night.

Road trip in New Zealand

I stopped off half way through Arthur’s Pass in a free camp, next to a lake which was quite stunning although the pass is quite a wind tunnel. Anyway whilst I’m cooking I realised the group of lads in the 2 van’s next to me are English, WHAT that never happens, no one in van’s are ever English!

So I popped over to chat to them and we ended up playing cards for most of the night, another awesome night to add to my memory collection, to be in the middle of Arthur’s Pass on the lake front, under the stars playing cards until early hours!

The next day I headed down the rest of Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch, where I met up with some of my fellow van lifers (the two german girls) and spent a few nights with them messing around until their departure flight to Bali, the lucky buggers enjoying some of that Bali sun whilst New Zealand is embracing autumn/winter weather. We messed around making some van life cookies for my Van’life cook book (coming out soon), to my Fathers dismay we may have made some space cookies with the left over batter as a bit of an experiment to see if it worked, it did, and was a jolly good laugh!

Van Life

With winter creeping in, hastily I decided it was wise for me to get on with my plans to head South and get a job in Queenstown ready for the ski season, and to find myself somewhere to live whilst the winter nights were creeping in. I’d been putting off heading down South you see, as it was getting progressively colder with every stop, but hey you gotta get on with it, nothing a few layers wouldn't sort!

First stop whilst heading down South was the awesome Lake Tekapo, such a stunning spot, I’d been getting super excited whilst in New Zealand for this lake as I heard there was an awesome free camp right on the lake front with the mountain view in the background and the pictures everyone were popping on the van life Facebook page were breathtaking. However, I quickly realised that all the free camps around the lake had been shut down sadly. So I carried on down to Lake Pukaki where there was a stunning free camp right on the lake front where I sat and watched the sunset on Mt Cook with a glass of Vin Rouge in hand.

Again a truly special view and moment.

It’s at this point in my van life adventure that I have made a considerable amount of friends in vans traveling around the country, I was at a pretty big free camp so I thought I might know someone in the camp, but sadly I saw a van I recognized but the people I knew had sold their van a few days previously. Sad times, I guess I had reached that point where everyones either settling down for winter or jetting off to somewhere warmer.

Lake Tekapo

I woke up from this spot with a man flu. I felt so ill, my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding all day, I couldn’t do anything without it starting to bleed and doing anything in the van required considerable amounts of effort. I couldn’t eat without it starting again, around 4 pm I still hadn’t eaten anything and got so pissed off I shoved a tampon up my nose so I could eat something, I mean it worked but F**K me it hurts, bloody expands doesn’t it, I mean I’ve seen it in films, but to be fair it worked but definitely hurts I can tell you that! I was having a miserable time, therefore I skipped Mt Cook and headed straight to Wanaka where it rained for day’s but in all honesty I was quite content with doing nothing but drinking coffee in cafes and sleeping because I felt so shit.

Lake Tekapo

I’ve found in New Zealand if they want tourists to go somewhere they will make something a tourist attraction that shouldn’t necessarily be a tourist attraction. For example Cathedral Cove in the North Island, don’t get me wrong lovely spot, but thousands of people visit it each day because it’s one of the must sees in NZ, but the whole coast in NZ is full of similar coves and stunning spots with no one around it’s crazy. But most annoying as this is, you still have to go check it out because what’s the point of missing it out? Because you’re being anti tourist? Silly isn’t it. Anyway the thing in Wanaka is ‘The Wanaka Tree’ it’s literally just a tree in the water and there’s people queuing to take a picture of it, it’s so stupid but great for people watching. Other than that there’s not a lot else to do in Wanaka it’s more a Winter destination, there’s so much skiing all around it. I also bumped into some fellow van lifers that I met up in the Tongariro crossing, so was both unexpected and lovely to catch up with them, it’s really nice to catch up with fellow van’life friends otherwise it really can get quite lonely.

On route to Queenstown I stopped off in Cromwell because Lake Dunstan was just too beautiful to carry on driving past, plus what’s the point of the van life if you can’t just stop when you like and enjoy the moment and views - so I did. I stopped off in the stunning free camp again right on the lake front, an absolute treat! I met two lovely Scottish fellow van lifers who were ever so friendly and real rays of sunshine to chat to as well, a bonus!

Stay tuned for more #Vanlife

For more follow me on my Instagram @travel_savvy_guide

New Zealand's tourist marketing campaign is to wish the world good morning everyday, as it's to be said that New Zealand is the first to see the sun rise everyday so only right to wish the world a good morning and a good day. So of course I thought HELL YEAH, I want to join in. So I've been wishing the world good morning every morning from each of my locations, so stay tuned.

Next I am off to Queenstown.

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