Day and night in a van [Woolleys Bay, 27.01.2020]

I am still awake. The sun has set for half an hour now and I can hear the waves just over the dunes while I am staring at the ceiling of the van. We are lying with our heads towards the back of the car like we did from day one. We discussed for a while in which direction we should lie. During our Californian road trip we lay with our heads to the back of the car as well so we could compensate the missing centimeters in length better – our compact vans for car camping seem always a little too short for me.

So it was head to the back in New Zealand as well for all except one night when we thought the view of the night sky through the small roof window would be worth breaking the comfortable routine. It wasn’t.

Once the bed is prepared there is no more space for anything else in Elton – our North Island camper, a Toyota Estima, which is the smallest available to rent. All the cars come with names on them to make it easier to find your car between all the many generic looking camper vans, especially on the South Island. Our cars have officially been ‘Pops’ and ‘Swan Dry’. But we renamed them in an instant to Major Tom and Elton. Bridget downloaded the theme songs for both – ‘Major Tom’ and ‘Rocketman’ – onto her phone and we listened to them more than once as you can guess.

I bend my head backwards to look outside the back window. Even through the tinted glasses of Elton I can see more stars than at home. The waves of the incoming tide and Bridget’s slow rythmic breathing create a perfect background soundtrack. 

I can’t believe including today we have lived for almost 4 weeks in such a small camper.

On the South Island we have stayed mostly on DOC – Department of Conservation – Camping grounds. Their prices ranging from 15 NZD to 8 NZD to absolutely free of charge. These come along with long drop toilets in better or not so good shape depending on how the people treated them. Rivers or lakes provided an ice cold but decent way to wash and shower. 

The North Island brought more chances to freedom camping on designated areas. Like at an official parking lot. Or a small patch of green near the ocean where we found our place tonight. In the end four cars including ours managed to arrange an overnight stay inside the official boundaries. 

I look at my watch. It is 10pm. Traveling with a camper van changed our rhythm of getting to bed and up again according to daylight available. Sometimes I managed to read a couple of pages in my digital book. Most of the time we were too tired from our days outside, so, after dinner, dishes and a shared beer we almost immediately fell asleep for – depending on the mosquito action – 8 hours straight. 

Tonight is different as I still lie awake and watch the stars, listen to the ocean and write these lines. It’s the last night with Elton. Tomorrow we will drive back to Auckland and stay the remaining two nights in a hostel. Slowly adapting back to city life and to sleep in a building. 

The refrigerator below my pillow starts to hum. I forgot to turn it off again.

I turn on my left side and look outside. All the other vans are dark as well. My left foot dangles over the edge of the mattress. To compensate the last missing centimeters.

Still better than a hotel I think before trying to sleep.

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