Caravan club - Episode 1.
Thanks for those who messaged last week, it was super to hear of all the goings on with you so a big thanks we love hearing from you all. We got our flight from Perth to Melbourne and spent 6 hours in Melbourne airport, met up with our good friend Ben and Cerri and boarded our final flight to the magical land of New Zealand.
We landed in Auckland on the North Island (the most populated city in New Zealand with a mere 1.4 million inhabitants) and our first stop was the Motor home rental company we had booked with for the next 6 weeks of our adventure. We jumped into a taxi and headed to Apollo rental greeted by a large German lady, we checked over the Van and headed to our prearranged camp site just outside the centre of Auckland. We were all very tired after the long fights so we all headed out to grab some food and then straight back to the van, of which we have christened “Big Fat Sue” as she is pretty darn big. We choose bunks and slept for a long 12 hours….zzzzzzzz!
Up bright and early the next morning we headed into the centre of Auckland. Banj and Cerri (B+C) needed to sort out bank accounts as they are here for 7 months, Kate and I were looking for a few bits to keep the frost bite away after having just enjoyed 8 months of summer! Off of the bus we jumped, B&C got their bank accounts sorted with 15 minutes (they even give you a card at the time of opening an account here) and then we all looked around for the sights together.
We went to an Ice bar called -5 (just like the one in London if anyone has been there), the New Zealand one was apparently the first to open 10 years ago. We paid $20 to get in and then got given our huge warm fur coats, gloves and furry boots for B&C who just had flip flops on. We were taken into the freezer/bar. It was really funky with lots of ice sculptures lit up with different colour lights. We all choose different vodka cocktails and the barman mixed them and poured them into our glass which was also 100% made of ice. I
ate part of the glass just to check, and Kate licked most of the sculptures to check they were ice as someone whispered they were plastic!! Wrong - Ice!! It was really fun, the bar man took photos of us, which we bought copies of as you cannot take your own camera in.
We followed this ice bar experience with a ferry boat trip across the Auckland water to a small town called Devonport. This was really quaint and pretty. It started to rain pretty heavily so we made a dash into a café and had a drink. We browsed the shops in Devonport and Banj bought a girls fleece which really suits him!! Ha Cerri and I made a good shout to buy big brollies which have already been used a lot! Everyone who has said to us New Zealand - 4 seasons in one day - we can already agree!!
We got the ferry and bus back to the campsite. It was classic, I was a little worried about feeling sick on the bus as it was a 1 hour ride so said “do you mind if we get a seat at the front of the
bus on the way back”, everyone was fine with this - just the usually Matt sicky jokes but then when we got on the bus it was packed as it was commuter time so the only seat for me was on the back row!! (and B&C just in front). We had company though a Maori man who was drunk, asleep, with a can of larger in his hand, his head constantly falling backwards and forwards and his shoes off. The smell was pretty bad, but gave us a few laughs to keep us entertained for the journey!! Public transport hey, not really us!!
The next morning we headed out of Auckland north and stopped at an information centre where we had a photo with a huge picture frame which would usually show a beautiful view behind it but it was rainy and foggy so we improvised with our lovely faces instead! The roads are quite narrow at times but Banjo and I battled on from the front cab. We then moved onto a NZ honey centre where we tasted an array of different honey ranging from strawberry to mocha. They had 4 big bee hives on an internal wall
with glass allowing us to see the bees producing the honey, we even got to see the queen bee, her crown stood out for us!!! After the honey centre we went to Matakana, where we came across a farmers market, so Banj eventually parked up Big Sue about 3 km away and we checked it out! Ben and Cerri both tried some local sausage, I opted for a cheese and ham toasted sandwich and Kate bought some local tomatoes and mustard. We also found some rather interesting toilets whilst there (see pic).
We drove a little further north and headed to a local town to spend the night. As it was a Saturday we thought we would treat ourselves to a night out and about. So we donned our finest outfits (lumberjack style) and hit Whangarie (we have found out anything spelt “Wh” is pronounced “F”) we found a bar (Killer Prawn) and tried some of the local wines and beers. They were going down well so we decided to get some food at the restaurant upstairs, (Killer Pizza), they had a stonking deal on, wood fired pizza’s all you can eat, starter of garlic bread and a desert
Ice Ice baby!!
pizza only £9 each - we were loving it!
The next day we decided to go to Abbey caves, they house lots of glow worms so we thought it could be worth a look. Whilst en route we came across an oldish lady in the middle of the road with blood all over here face and here collie dog running around. Banj, sorry Nurse Banj ran out with the girls fashioning his first aid kit, informed the lady not to panic as his mum is a nurse and proceeded to give her some medical attention. I watched on from the van as I was driving, but Kate was telling here it was not too bad, then Cerri was informing here she might need some stitches! We took her and the dog back to her house which was down a narrow drive and handed her over to her husband. We then spent the next 30 minutes trying to turn around at the top of the drive! We got to the caves and there was a big sign saying thieves operate in this area, so we decided not to leave Sue on her own and went in two at a time.
Ch Ch Ch Chilly in here
We let Banj and Cerri go first so they could see how good the caves were. We waited about 30 minutes, then a red faced B&C came back saying it’s not worth going down and they didn’t see any glow worms and they didn’t get far into a cave as it was “scary” in there. With that Kate and I didn’t bother to walk down, we just took their word for it.
Next up was a Gannet Colony, of which we heard there were hundreds and hundreds on the cliff top in Muriwai we drove there, parked up, wrapped up as it was fresh and headed to the area where all these gannets were. We got there and we saw 1 gannet, yes 1 gannet, oh and a dead gannet on the cliff edge with it’s feathers blowing in the wind. It must have been out of season ay!! Never mind, the views were really good.
After that we hit the road in search of the biggest tree in New Zealand. This tree is a real monster with a total circumference of 13metres and 51 metres high. We were all flabbergasted with the size of this 3000 year
old tree. Not much else to mention on that one, we took the obligatory picture and moved on.
Sand boarding was next on the agenda, Banj was particularly excited about this, so we all saddled up in Sue and hit the road. We got there and hired the “Sand boards” (basically body boards) and made our way to the closet car park to the dunes, which is actually a 45 minute walk away which we did not expect! The weather on this day was sunny however quite windy so we all donned our coats and hats and made our way along the beach, around rocks, over streams, through someone’s garden and to the point where we could see the dunes about 15 minutes ahead. At this point we were beginning to loose our nerve about pushing onto the dunes as the tide was beginning to come in and we needed to walk back around the rocks to get back to Sue. We worked out we had a hour or so until we would be stranded on the dunes without any way of getting back. For a minute a thought about 999 rescue the popular TV series about life saving
rescues came into all of our heads. I could just hear us all at home shouting at the TV not to be so stupid and turn back. It turned out we were all thinking the same and so we headed back to Sue with our tales between our legs (but at least we were all safe and well).
After this we continued North up to the tip of the North Island, Cape Regina. The view from this place was amazing and the scenery en route was some of the most spectacular we have ever seen. The mountains, the sand and the sea all greeted us at the end of the journey which made the 100km well worth it. We timed it perfected and got there just as the sun was setting, we walked down a long path to the cliff edge where a light house was and watched the sun set. See pics.
So, once we hit the very north of the north island we turned big Sue around and headed south. We stopped at hot water beach on the way down which was a great little find. Basically you can hire spades for $5, go down to
Ferry from Auckland to Devonport
the beach dig yourself a big bath, jump in a enjoy the heated water right there on the beach with the sea in front of you. The water underground is heated by a 5-9 million year old volcano under the surface. We choose a particularly hot spot where we all dug out a big bath for 4. The water was dam hot, I was digging a hole and it was ridiculously hot, I thought this was normal until I felt banj’s spot and it was a nice hot, unlike mine. We wanted to make a sofa out of the sand but it was to wet to sculpted so we just sufficed with a large hole, but we did put a moat around the edge to keep the sea water at bay and made a little cold pool which ran cold water into our hot pool, really just like a mixer tap, but with a spade instead of a chrome handle. We stayed there for a few hours and cooled off in the sea a few times. We headed back to Sue and had a shower outside on the beach. We were just about to drive off when we saw this
French guy showering naked in front of everyone and even in front of a coach that just pulled up. The whole car park was in hysterics and even after Banj beeping the horn a few times this guy carried on regardless of the commotion he was causing in the car park. Very French we all thought, care free!!!
We at this point were heading back to Auckland so we could sort a few things out, we stopped at Sheep World on the way and took a picture of a pink sheep and then pushed on. We decided to watch the new Robin Hood film at the Imax cinema whilst there. We got there, got a space in the centre of town amazingly and went to the cinema, the film in fact was pretty good, not in the Prince of Thieves league but good all the same.
Next stop was Rotorua we got up early to go to a “dumpy”, which is basically where we can fill up Sue with water and also deposit our grey water and toilet cassette (number 1’s only rule applies in Sue). We all showered, had brekkie and made our way to our first
activity for the day, the Down hill Luge run. We all jumped into a gondola (ski lift) up a large hill and jumped into the plastic toboggans/ luges with wheels on and started to make our way down the track. It was a real laugh for us all, the girls were weaving in and out Banj and I were racing each other down and we did have a good laugh over what we were coincidentally wearing, Mario and Luigi colours!! Not much more to explain but we had a ball there and have put some pics on here for you to see. After all the fun we headed back to “BFS” and Banj drove us to the local park which has loads of geysers just coming out of the ground. We had our 2 minute noodles & cookies and decided to have a quick stroll around the park to check out the geysers, which were pretty impressive. After the stroll we headed back to the van for a lie down to watch the TV before heading out for the evening activity which was the much anticipated Maori experience.
So, after much phaffing about what to wear, Banj finally decided
on his outfit so we could make our way to the Info centre to be picked up by our Maori experience tour bus! We did have the option to drive there but we opted to get the bus so we could all have a few beers. We arrived 15 minutes early for the bus (ever keen) and waited eagerly, the bus arrived and we all jumped on. After a brief 15 minutes we got off in the Maori village. We were welcomed by our host for the night “Larry” (a slight Al Murray looking character) he explained the evening to us and asked everyone to shout out what country they were from. In total there were 17 different nationalities there including Columbians, Brazilians and even the odd Irish chap in the crowd. The evening schedule basically involved us watching the food being cooked in a traditional Maori way (on hot stones underground heated by the geothermal activity), a stage performance which included the Haka and many songs and dances, a meal fit for a king and also a “glow worm” walk. The whole evening was great, the dancing and songs were moving and done in a passionate way by the
tribe, the food was first class and we all had a wonderful time…see pics!!!
With the Maori Experience ticket we all received a complementary ticket to Hells Gate, this is a geothermal attraction with hot water pools and geysers exploding all over the place! We had a wander around whilst holding our noses, as the stench was quite unbearable at times (like eggs!). Once we finished the walk we made our way to the carving area of Hells Gate and all carved a Maori symbol out of wood. Kate choose the traditional silver fern called a Pongu, Banj and I choose the Kiwi Bird and Cerri opted for the symbol meaning compassion. Kate’s attempt at the carving was the best out of the four of us but check out the pics and see what you think.
After the Hell’s gate experience we jumped into Sue and headed to a little spot that was recommended to us by a lady in Devonport, Kerosene Creek. This place is a natural thermal pool and waterfall. A cold river flows naturally and creates a water fall that cascades into the hot pool, we drove over and jumped out. Being ever security conscious,
Toilets at the farmers market
we grabbed all our valuables and made our way to the river through the forested area. When we got there we found 3 of the Maori’s that partook in the Marori experience evening, we jumped in, the water was really warm and started to chat to the Maori chaps. Kindly one of them told us there is a risk of catching meningitis if you put your head underwater. So after spending 20 minutes in we all hoped out without a wet hair on our heads and made our way further up the river to get into a “hotter” spot. We found someone to take the needed pickie and headed back to Sue.
We decided to push on that night to get to Waitimo Caves for the morning as we had booked a Black Water Tubing Experience for the next day. We stayed in a town just short of the caves the night before (Te Kaitai) and early in the morning we got to the Black Water Rafting Co head quarters. Now, for those who don’t know I’m quite a claustrophobic kinda guy, I don’t like lifts at the best of times so I don’t know how the hell I
signed up for this experience. I suppose I initially thought you would go into a big open cave and float around in your rubber ring looking up at all the glow worms and then come out. Well after walking into the office I read further and realised we would be underground for at least 1 hour. So we all signed our lives away filling out the disclaimer forms and put on our wet suits and helmets. The morning was fresh to put it mildly, so after putting on, wet from the previous day, wetsuits we were all certainly feeling the cold, especially the feet!! We all jumped into the minibus and got to the river, we choose our rubber rings carefully as the bigger your behind the bigger the ring you need, hasten to say mine was a biggie!!! The guides talked us through a few things and then asked us to jump into the freezing cold river, from a high platform, backwards, one by one!! Now luck have it Banj was at the front of the group so he had to jump into the freezing water first - backwards!! He walked out onto a pier and jumped about 5
foot down into the water to demonstrate that he could do it as in the caves we needed to jump down waterfalls. Well, he did it and it looked pretty cold, so next was Cerri and then Kate who could not speak as it was so cold the men said she had signs of “cold water shock” oh great start she thought! And then it was me.
After completing that we headed to the cave, which wasn’t a big cave opening like you would imagine and I hoped, it was a small crack in the side of a mountain that you had to squeeze into with you rubber ring. At this point I was feeling pretty “freaked” and I was talking to myself to try and pull it together, what’s the worst that could happen I was thinking, well the cave could collapse inside I thought but anyway I pushed on. I knew the other three were worrying about me as they were all there when I freaked out on the tube in London and couldn’t get on. So they were all glancing at me waiting to see if I ran out. We got into an opening in the
cave and the guides took a photo of the group. We were then asked to make our way further into the water and float under the this low ceiling of the cave. There was about 12 inches between the top of the water and the ceiling so your face was literally touching the top and you needed to push yourself along with your hands. To be honest I was beginning to get the feeling come over me but I continued on. We then all stopped again in an opening and the guides told us we were 50 metres deep under ground…I’m sorry I thought you said 50 meters underground!! Bloody hell I’m starting to panic inside now!! So we then jumped down a water fall in almost pitch black darkness, backwards, and sailed down the river. It was very cramped down there and dark, not much room at all. Kate didn’t want to ask how I was as she knew I found it tricky. We floated through a labyrinth of cannels and caves underground and at point all turned our torches off to see the glow worms on the roof. We jumped down some more waterfalls, did a rubber ring
conger called the “Eel” where the person behind you puts their legs on your rubber ring and under your arms. Banj led the way, then me, then Cerri, then Kate. We slowly moved along a passage way looking up at the brightly coloured worms, wow it was pretty cool, the only comparison I can give you is imagine lying down on a perfectly clear night looking at a sky full of stars! It really was quite special. We were under the ground over an hour and to be fair it was a relief to finish but I was also really pleased we all managed to complete the activity and we did all thoroughly enjoy it despite a few hairy moments!! Well done us!!!
After the Black Water Tubing we drove 2 hours over to Taupo, where there is a famous lake funny enough call Lake Taupo. We got there and went to the info centre, I was feeling mega sick from the journey across as Banj was driving and Kate and I had been in the back, but before I could say no we had all booked into a Skydive in 30 minutes!! Blimey I thought, 3 hours ago
I was 50 metres underground and now I’m about to jump out of a plane from 12,000 feet. So after a nervous drive over to Taupo airport we all jumped out of Sue and into the Skydive centre. Kate’s excitement was off the Richter scale again, Banj was calm and Cerri and I were a little nervous. We all decided to have a full DVD of the Skydive so we all choose our songs for the video and then we got suited up for the jump. We all got paired up with a professional skydiver as it was a tandem dive, so Banj had a sideshow Bob lookalike, Cerri had a Harry Dunn (Dumb and Dumber) look-alike, Kate’s chap looked like he was from the royal family and my chap was a Ross Keep looking character. We got in the plane 1 by 1, Cerri was in first, then Banj, then me and then Kate who was not left a seat so had to sit with the royal family guy on the floor facing me. This obviously meant Kate was the first to jump. Now the plane was pink (the girls loved it) and cramped inside with little room to
move. Before we knew it we were up to the 12,000 foot and it was time to go go go. We wished Kate luck and then she sat on the edge of the open door and off she went, which in fact was a strange sensation to see lovely Kate fly out the door of an aeroplane. Next was Banj who we were all happy to see leave the door and then it was my go. To be fair I was more scarred underground in the caves but the most scary point was the first few seconds after jumping. It was a total freefall of 45 seconds which flew by literally. The air was cold and by face was being inflated by the wind rushing past. After the freefall I began to get the Jones motion sickness as the parachute opened which can give up to 4 G’s and Ross Kemp would insist of spinning us round and round, so I informed him of the sick issue and he promptly stopped, I guess because it would only fly up on him if he carried on. The views of the Lake and the surrounding snow capped mountains was spectacular, the weather
was perfect, not a cloud in the sky and the sun was beginning to set. After floating down for 6 minutes I hit the ground smoothly to be greeted by Kate with a massive smile on the ground. We all had a terrific time and were all very pleased with ourselves after such an adrenaline filled day. We collected our DVD’s, of which mine is cringe worthy and headed to KFC for a post dive celebration! Well done Campervan gang!!
So that’s about it from this addition. We have done so much in the past week or so and we have so much more to do. I think today we are going Prawn Fishing with bamboo rods and maybe even some golfing,. So lots of love from us all in the Camper.
Matt & Kate xxx
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