We get to speak in English again rather than use hand signals!
23.01.2007 - 31.01.2007 17 °C
We arrived in Auckland very early in the morning after a very long flight...............well we came from a -12hrs time zone to a +12hrs so we lost a day somewhere during that flight. Gutted. The sun was shining and we were ready to pick up the campervan and experience life on the road.
We picked it up from Rental Car Village in Auckland, who I might add were the most unhelpful people we had ever met and if anyone was thinking of renting from them think again...you get what you pay for! But hey we were off, with our bed, kitchen and cupboards all neatly packed into a 1.5m by 2m box on wheels....we won't talk too much about the campervan as we will do a short summary at the end of the NZ section.
The first day we checked out some of Auckland and the amazing harbour and marina village - this place was well into its sailing! It was great to have a city so close to all the action on the sea, I (rob) would love to live here! We then checked into a campsite just north of Auckland called Takapuna Beach with a great views across the harbour. That night we cooked our first meal in the camper and went to bed on our lovely 1 inch thick foam bed!
Woke up to bright sunshine beaming through our curtains, but what a view!!! Went for a lovely stroll along the beach before a breakfast of cereal and 2 fried eggs! One of the first things we noticed about NZ was that everyone is seriously into there fitness and in particular speed walking! I laughed at the few people doing this in Clapham common but here it is the norm.. The second is how friendly people are here, the couple next to us on the campsite had commented on how cosy our van looked as they peered down from there mansion of a camper (this was something that happend quite frequently). We then got chatting and explained we had just started out and didnt really have a plan of where to go! The next morning they had prepared a list of where to go in the north island and places to stay, wicked!
After packing the camper we headed for the supermarket to stock up on supplies and then started the drive north along the coast towards the bay of islands. On the way we stopped at a couple of places for a swim and lunch, loving the freedom to go where ever we liked.
That night we planned to free camp, but after not finding a suitable spot (the campervan experience is sold on the idea that you can camp anywhere in NZ, in reality this is not true!) we parked up in a campsite next to Huka Falls near the town of Paihia. We also booked ourselves onto a coach tour for the following day of the 90mile beach.
Woke bright and early to be picked up by the specially adapted coaches that can drive on the 90mile beach, we now knew what it was like to be on a pensioners day out (average age 60) !!! The driver was hilarious, an all singing, driving, joke telling, and poem writer Maori dude who ended every sentence with heyyyy! In no time we were driving along the 90mile beach (actually not 90miles but 90km in length), we stopped a couple of times to take pics and for the driver to collect his dinner of shell fish..yummy.
Most Northern point of the north island
We then drove slightly in land and did some sandboarbing down the dunes. After a quick lunch at Houhora our next stop was the Puketi Kauri Forest, home of the largest Kauri tree in NZ. The trees are over 2000yrs old and were rather big.
That night we drove down to Paihia and caught the quick ferry over to Russel where we camped for the evening.
Woke early and caught the ferry back to Paihia (we did this part to quickly as we thought we would be short on time!). Then we headed back down to Auckland, on route we stopped to use the famous Kawakawa toilets designed by the architect Friedrich Hundertwasser.
Arriving in Auckland we swapped vans, as our one was drinking fuel at an alarming rate and over heating! However our new van needed its wheels aligned as it veered to the right so that meant we had to stay an extra night in Auckland.
That afternoon we were booked on the America's Cup experience aboard the NZL 40 sailing boat!!!
These sailing boats are the Ferrari's of the sea, they're fast! And the best bit is you get to take the helm! The conditions were nearly perfect (more wind needed) and even with not the strongest of winds the boat was flying. With a little of help from Em and I doing some heavy grinding!!
We even saw the Americans entry 'Oracle' training for this years race, they tried to catch us but with Rob at the helm they stood no chance!
We stayed at the Takapuna Beach campsite again and for the first time went out for dinner.
The morning was spent sorting the van, with it needing tracking and 2 new tyres. They had sent us out with 2 badly worn tyres at the front, which was not particularly reassuring!! With everything fixed we sped down and around to the Corromandel Peninsula, stopping for lunch at Tapu Bay.
The sun was shining and the Peninsula looked stunning, the drive was amazing with incredible views, Rob wished he had is Corrado here! That night we stayed at Cooks beach at another campsite.
Went for a lovely swim in the morning and took a walk along the coast to Cathedral Cove, it was beautiful around here and looking back we should have spent more time here!
But we were on a mission to do the North Island in a week as we had heard from many people that the South Island was better! So by lunch time we were back in the van and heading inland for Rotorua, a town surrounded by volcanic activity. We arrived at 2.00ish and we immediately hit by the eggy sulphur smell, which bought back memories of Bolivia and the salt flats. However in Bolivia the volcanic activity was miles away from civilization, but here the sulphur pools and steam vents were all surrounded by houses and people, it was bizarre!
We discovered a natural water spring!
That night we found a great little campsite next to Lake Rotorua on the northern side, with a stream next to it and the free use of kayaks and boats. As soon as we were there we jumped in a boat with some beers and snacks and headed down to the lake. The lake itself was well known as a great place to catch Trout with people catching huge fish easily.
In the morning we were feeling more adventurous and we took out the single kayaks for an early morning row over the lake. When we got back we got talking to a lovely couple who had just finished cooking there catch from the morning, they gave us one smoked and one normal trout to take with us for dinner...yum!
We stayed at the southern part of lake in a rather pikey little campsite, but the lovely trout we had for dinner more than made up for it! Thanks guys!
We now headed south to Wellington, we stopped on the way at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Taupo, mainly to see our first Geyser called Lady Knox. We had got there early to get a good seat on the front row. We had been told that this erupted at 10.15am daily, no nature is not that accurate, it is helped on by a man with a bar of soap! As the time drew closer the park ranger appeared, and after a brief explanantion he dropped the soap into the throat of the Geyser. It takes roughly between 5-10mins for the Geyser to get going, climaxing with a jet of water reaching heights of up to 20metres. It did not dissappoint as you can see, it was awsome!
After the Geyser we took a walk around the park, the thermal area has the largest concentration of surface thermal activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. It is literally covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. I was very similar to the landscapes we had seen in Bolivia on the Salt Flat tour.
Then back on the road for the long journey down to Wellington. That night we camped just outside the cityas we had an early start to catch the ferry over to Picton and the South Island!
The ferry left port at 8.00am, it was the perfect day for sailing with clear blue skies and calm waters! With the beast (campervan) securely parked below we headed up deck for some sun and amazing views! Bring on the South Island!
Quick washing of clothes before hitting the south island! The camper had many uses.