Kiwi calls and rushing water from the creek outside echo through the canvas walls. The embers in the log burner crackle.
Closing my eyes, I’m transported back to carefree summer nights in a pop-up tent, lying on a thin rubber mattress. Animal-shaped shadows cast onto the fabric roof, projected from small hands moving through a speckled torch glow.
Camping is a favourite pastime. But while the nostalgia of years gone by remains, I am willing to try a different angle on it. The hassle of juggling bedding, cooking equipment, warm layers, non-perishables and the worry of a misplaced tent peg or two is replaced with total ease on arrival of finding a spacious, wooden-frame marquee complete with a queen bed, dressing table and log burner fire. Add running hot water, solar electricity, an outdoor bath, shower, flushing loo and a fully functional kitchen for a stress-free getaway known as glamping, or glamorous camping.
Good friends Liz Henderson and Sonia Minnaar established Canopy Camping Escapes, wanting to help avid campers, like themselves, enjoy a stress-free alternative. They do all the work, providing the flash tent, hot water, warmth and comfy beds, plus finer details like board games and Egyptian cotton sheets.
They’ve picked several sites across the country to set up camp, including our weekend abode, Highfield River Retreat, 25 minutes from Northland’s Dargaville. It’s an easy commute from Auckland, nestled among 70 hectares of protected bush on a private dairy farm. The land owners have been trapping pests and have established a moderate population of kiwi, which they hope will grow.
Cell phone reception disappears as we approach the campsite; my mobile goes to the bottom of my bag, where it stays for the weekend. Several tabs shut down in my busy brain; it’s a refreshing feeling. I’m unplugged and ready to unwind.
I unpack fresh produce collected at the Matakana Farmer’s Market en route; placing perishables in a chilly bin in the kitchen. Later, we enjoy dinner from the barbecue outside.
The last slither of sunlight draws me to the deck like a moth to flame, cup of tea in hand. A chorus of birds is the soundtrack as dusk settles. Paired with the gushing stream threaded alongside our campsite, it’s a noisy night, but not in the slightest way a nuisance.
We wait for a curtain of darkness to draw across the amber sky before running the outdoor bath, where we stay for most of the evening, sharing stories under an umbrella of stars, and only pausing to let vocal kiwi join in our conversation.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Autumn 2020 issue