Once we reached the South Island, it became apparent that sleeping in hostels or holiday parks was not a sustainable option for our trip. Showers and flush toilets would need to become a luxury. Full kitchens and indoor lounges, unthinkable. So our first stop on the South Island? Was a parking space.
Camping for free at the Alfred Stream Reserve for the night was not our first venture in “freedom camping”. We had done a similar thing by Hot Water Beach on the North Island (though we did actually pay for parking there to keep up our good karma). We had thought of it in Rotorua, Taupō and Wellington, but every time opted for the more customary option of paying someone.
But this night, we went for it. Parked our car next to at least half a dozen other travelling vehicles, most foreigners but a few domestic tourists too. Pitched our tents and ate dinner on the sole picnic bench with a group from Finland. Just like any other campsite. No water source except for the stream. A drop toilet that smelled horrid. And friendly locals who, purposely or not, honked away as they crossed the adjacent bridge while we slept.
On to Nelson. On to another parking lot. This time Montgomery Carpark, with paid parking only from 8am to 5pm. Flush toilets, paid serviced toilets and hot showers, clean drinkable water. So, paid for parking for the remainder of the day and toured the town as normal, stopping by the Anglican Nelson Cathedral.
As dinner time approached, we set to cooking. Beside our car, crouching on the pavement, I boiled water for my noodles, as locals collected their cars to drive home for the night, and other travellers parked their cars next to us as their home for the night.
The next day we drive to Mapua, another coastal town. I toured the local art galleries and extensive beaches.
And as the air began to chill, and the night began to rise, we headed to our car once more for a night’s sleep.
Another sunset. Another parking lot.