We could have left our rubbish lying around. We could have snapped branches off trees for the evening’s fire. We definitely could have made obnoxious, inebriated, wailing noises. Maybe even a few primal screams..
But we did none of these.
Yet despite this, we were still in breach of Queenstown’s freedom camping control bylaw. Which, back in 2013, warranted a hefty fine, shake of the head, and string of corporate tuts.
They didn’t catch us of course. Not that night. Or any of the others..
We had no criminal intent. No desire to upset anybody. Just a willingness to stay somewhere new.
Back then, our fix was to camp under the stars, by the lake, away from the masses. And $60 site fees.
Sure. In NZ we’ve all seen the news of high profile areas devastated by foreigners (it’s always foreigners, never Kiwis), a local couple in tears, complaining that they’re up to here with late night Ibiza style revelers…
We’ve watched as the camera slowly pans: a smashed Jack Daniels bottle, used condom and scrunched piece of sticky toffee toilet paper.. Hence fueling a national campaign to make Lord Kitchener proud: Your Country Needs You (to stop freedom camping).
But if freedom camping is so bad, so destructive… so… unnatural, then why is it openly accepted in Scotland?
I pondered this question as we parked up along the River Dee, in the Cairngorm National Park, slung a backpack on, and headed off to pitch our tent beside the river. A clear night was forecast. Perfect for stargazing and toasting marshmallows around a camp stove.
To toilet we moved away from the brook and used a trowel. The following morning we packed everything away and left no trace -The exception a flat piece of grass from our tent.
This time we’d broken no laws.
The Scottish Land Reform Act (2003), more commonly known as the Right to Ramble, offers a commonsense code that supports and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors and ‘make it their own’ – Wild camping included.
Makes a nice change from Lord Kitchener’s pointed finger.