We have had our first taste of wilderness camping. When we bought our campervan we got something that was capable of being used in the depths of nowhere (without power and water on tap etc). This weekend we headed out for its first test.
The restaurant received its final building consent on Thursday following the final inspection and to celebrate we decided to head into the wilderness for a night away with Dean, Diana and Jack (their first night off in several months). After filling up our fresh water tank, emptying the smelly-water tanks and stocking up the fridge we headed North to Wanaka and on towards the Matukituki. Just outside of Wanaka the rain clouds started to drop their contents, but the mood remained good as w enjoyed spectacular views of Lake Wanaka, the mountains and lots of waterfalls. Half-an-hour later the road ended as a narrow dirt track led us into the valley.
Our speed on the dirt track quickly fell away, ranging from 20kph up to 40kph depending on how rutted the road was and how many sheep were on the track. In the back of the van the boys really had their teeth rattled, but fortunately they were kept entertained waving out of the back window at Jack in the truck behind. The rain steadily grew heavier and as progress was slower than expected (due in part to a troublesome clutch on Dean's truck) we decided to make our dinner stop and park up for the night.
We found a place where a gate opened out onto a clearing beside a large river (no idea what river it is - but it feeds into Lake Wanaka eventually) and parked up. The rain eased off a little and we managed to eat dinner outside and cross into an island in the middle of the river for a walk and some stone throwing (a favourite pastime for boys young and old - the girls stayed at camp and chatted). After getting the kids down for the night surprisingly easily whilst Dean built us a lovely camp fire the adults sat out for the night, or so we thought. Eventually the rain picked up again and finally forced us in for the night.
Overnight it rained and rained and rained some more. By morning we woke to find the river had risen and was now a lot closer to camp than it had been when we arrived. The island we had walked on the previous night was less than half the size and the mountain tops were covered in a fresh layer of snow! It was agreed that the best plan of action would be to get back on the road ASAP and worry about getting dressed and fed later. Fortunately the ground we were on was slightly more firm than most of the area and both campervans managed to make it out without any spinning wheels or flying mud.
Back on slightly more solid ground we headed to a spot back on the road to Wanaka and stopped for a long breakfast of pancakes and bacon. We like to think that we had it tough camping out in the wilderness, but bringing along a chef definitely made it a bit nicer. A couple of cups of tea later the rain was still driving down and we decided to abandon our orignal plan of staying out another night and headed for home.
In the end it was a great experience, but given that the weather spoiled most of the views and we risked getting stuck in a field beside a rapidly rising river we might check the weather forecasts more carefully next time. Apparently it's going to be nice in four days time.
(photos to follow)