Published: December 14th 2007November 26th 2007
The View From Our Campervan
So in our van posing as Chinese plummers off we sped up state highway 1 to spend our first night at the beach. We found Bream Bay, bit of a locals haven at the time we were there but we got a prime front spot with an unobstructed view of the bay. The beach was a multitude of coloured sands and dunes harbouring an aray of flightless birds. Being on the windward side of the bay attracted a few kite surfers, we watched all afternoon whilst laying on the soft sand enjoying the first sunny day in New Zealand.
The first night getting the small campervan set up for bed was very strange something of an experiment that was going to need a lot of fine tuning. I was tucking in sheets along with banging my head on the low roof wondering how the hell we were going to be able to survive the next 25 days in such close confines. Anyway the bed was set up so we sat and read for bit, unaware that our curtains were sheer. I only figured out the curtains were see-through after we had changed for bed, obviously, hope all the others in
Home For 25 Days
the park enjoyed the free fan dance that night.
Day 2 saw us driving further up the north island to Bay Of Islands. We stopped at Paihia and treated ourselves to fish, chips and sausages for an unmissable deal of $8! We wondered around the town for a bit and weighed up whether to go on a cruise to see the dolphins. Having tried this on previous holidays we decided to keep our money for something else. We left the town and a little further up the Bay Of Islands turned up at Twin Pines managing to get another good spot over looking Haruru waterfalls.
The following day we continued on our planned loop of the north coast meandering towards Ahipara, the start of the Ninety Mile Beach. On arrival to the site No had an odd look on his face, for one moment we thought we had stumbled across a gypsy camp, loads of clapped out static vans and loose dogs rooming around. Unsure what to do but with no choice we pitched up, plugged in and went for our constitutional exploration of the area. To be honest for the whole time that look never left No's
face and to me it was plain to see that we had clearly left the tourist trail. There was nobody around except fighting dogs, dead possums and red necks driving around on the long beach. The situation did get better as the evening wore on more tourists in their campervan's started to turn up at our site making us feel a little more safer. That didn't stop us waking up at 6am the next day and getting the hell out of there.
Being keen to leave it was of no concern that our petrol tank was 1/2 full and unbeknown to us stations in the northern countryside are scarce so you wouldn't think half a tank of petrol would be an issue. Driving for an hour over hilly land soon pushed the gauge south helpfully landing us right in the heart of red neck country with virtually no petrol. We saw in the distance a small petrol pump sign directing us around the back of a mechanic's shop. We pulled up behind a 4x4 at the only petrol pump in the middle of nowhere. Instead of waiting No reversed in so we could access the other side of the
Giant Kauri Tree
The Largest Kauri Tree in New Zealand
pump, unwittingly pulling alongside the 4x4 to realise it was full of Hill Billy's. It wasn't long before they were asking No about the Chinese text, what a conversation starter that was. I was inside the van getting eye balled by the car load of laughing strange men. We couldn't get away fast enough, I'm sure they were nice people but there was something that put us on edge and my instinct is seldom wrong.
With haste we made our way to Rangiora car ferry, crossing to Ravene. Over the water the atmosphere was a lot better making for a relaxed drive along the ancient kauri coastline. We stopped for several hours to marvel at the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand whilst also taking in the sites of the four sisters, a strange quadruple Kauri tree. Having driven for hours we decided to spend the night at Dargaville, a town time forgot, full of 19th century architectural woes. After the events of the day I decided to get No down to Liquorland to buy some Baileys and Rum to settle him down. We spent the warm evening getting tipsy and hoping we were in for front row seats
Another Empty Beach
at a bowling match courtesy of our van pitch over looking a green.
On leaving Dargaville we wasted no time in cracking out some mileage heading south past Auckland to the pacific coast. For lunch we stopped at a lovely bay called Kawakawa, very big houses on the hill and hardly any tourism - would make a great place to live nearby Auckland. That night we stopped at Orere Point, our first taste of the infamous Top 10 Holiday Parks. It got off to a lovely start at reception then went a bit down hill when the miserable husband told us to move our van. On arrival we decided to do some much needed washing, we loaded our clothing into the lovely Maytag commercial washing machine and left it for 30 minutes. I went back to check all was ok and found the top loading machine was wereing away full to the brim with black water. In a bit of a panic I decided I would try to empty the heavy washing out and drain off the water with my bare hands into the nearby sink before running back to get No. Between us we off loaded the washing
Is It A Hill Or Mountain?
into two other machines, ran away and hid. I felt a bit guilty so I sent No back to reception to explain about the washing machine. No returned, the lady had given us our money back explaining the machine had been playing up for months, phew.
Next day it was onto Coromandel Peninsula. We stopped at Thames for coffee and cake and stumbled across an awesome fruit and veg shop. We came away armed with all sorts of fruits including a custard apple - a new one for us and very nice too having a texture similar to a mango but stuffed with massive pips. The beaches and bays along the peninsula were secluded and we even spotted a ganet colony. We eventually made it to Mercury Bay, parked up and had dinner out. Mercury Bay was a great town, bit of a yachty place with lots of expensive waterfront apartments.
Since being in the campervan we had spent every night somewhere different and were tiring of the long drives so the following day we visited Mount Manganui and planned on staying there for a few days. We pitched up at the foot of the mountain listening to
Devils Throat (Or Was It Dragon Breath?)
the bar's of the nearby sheep and the crashing waves on the beach. We managed to climb the mountain, it took about an hour being quite steep and slippery in places but had great views from the top.
After a pleasant few days we hopped into our van and began heading out of town, thinking we would stop at a gezza along the way. No more than 5 minutes into the journey No thought the van felt a little wobberly so we stopped and checked it out. The drivers rear tyre had ruptured and most of the copper wiring had cut out of the side wall. On closer inspection No found it to be like a hair brush on the inside. Being the hottest sunday one could have hoped for the timing was impeccable, we had checked out of our site and everything was shut. Quickly realising it was best not to go any further we limped to a nearby quiet road to change the tyre. The spare was as bald and obviously too small for the van but we popped it on anyway and drove gingerly to the next available holiday park 5 miles down the road. I
Boiling Mud But No Still Wanted To Touch It!
rang the rental people ready to have a row but was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the man at the other end of the phone was. We were simply instructed to take the van to Bridgestone Firestone first thing in the morning to replace the tyre. With that sorted out we headed for the beach to fry ourselves.
8am Monday morning and we set off with the directions to the mechanics. After about an hour trying to look for a road that doesn't exist No asked a taxi driver if he knew where the road was. It was about 4 miles away from our instructions. Having been to three Firestones in the area we were running out of options as nobody seemed to be expecting us. At the last chance we slammed the doors of the van marched straight into the mechanics and begged him to change the ruddy tyre. The nice man sat us down and sorted out our tyre issue in half an hour while we ransacked his sweet selection and hot chocolate machines. That was one mark against the car rental people again but a big thumbs up to the garage guy.
With two fresh rears we drove smoothly to Rotorua. I began to smell Rotorua about 25 miles before we got there. The smell is created from the area's thermal activity - not a patch on No's thermal activity! At Hell's Gate we walked around all the sulphur pools and holes of boiling hot mud. It was a hot day anyway but being so close to all the geothermal reserves was almost unbearable. After the mud we found ourselves in a lovely quiet holiday park, we made ourselves a tasty dinner and headed for bedfordshire. So ends another smelly day.