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Published: February 27th 2017
IMG_1328" We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us" . Anonymous
With Graham and Beryl Fabian...lots of chewing the fat over dinner
Flight NZ 102 lifted lazily into the skies above Sydney and with, Auckland our destination, the prospect of visiting a new country took hold. We had done a lot of research on New Zealand in the week spent in Sydney but the wonder of travel is that it will be different to the picture framed in one's mind. As flights go this one on Air New Zealand was uneventful as we had a two row window/aisle seat so no one alongside to test us with quirky or strange mannerisms. A relatively short flight of about two and a half hours and the approach into Auckland confirmed that we were indeed arriving in the land of the long white cloud. Most days, according to locals, there is a long white cloud down the center of the country.
Auckland was to be a staging post. Collect the campervan, spend a night with good ex SA friends and then venture forth to Northland to explore the Bay of Islands. Collecting the campervan went relatively smoothly although the agent who handled our transfer told a rather harrowing
Our view from the campsite....does it get any better?
story that there had been no less than 13 crashes involving campervans in the prior few weeks. Apparently mostly involved European travellers who didn't quite get the left hand drive thing sorted. He looked relieved when we told him that being South African we wouldn't have the same problem. This little beast of ours is a Toyota something or other with auto transmission. It has the rather dubious name of " Happy Black Sheep" prominently displayed against a black background. So the message was clear ...welcome to the land of the All Blacks! For those interested in campervanning our HBS is equipped with linen, kitchenware, a gas cooker and small deep freeze. The bed folds out snugly in the back and is very comfortable. There is a very wide range of campervan options with large top of the range 5 star vehicles down to ours which is probably a 2-3 star. Hopefully the photos provide a reasonably good idea of what our HBS is all about. Ideal for our needs and at a cost of R800.00/day with unlimited kms and including insurance, a good economic option. It was obviously built for Japanese travellers as the manuals are all in their
The "Happy Black Sheep" parked in her paddock
language and on ignition a gentle female voice delivers a message in Japanese which could mean anything but I suspect translated it may simply be ..." don't drive like a prick". So, having signed numerous documents, checked for dents and scratches we set off with Google Maps programmed to deliver us to Mission Bay where we would spend the night with Graham and Beryl Fabian. Sue is the on board navigator and importantly our journey got off to a cracking start as she successfully steered the HBS to the Fabian home.
Our friendship and association with the Fabians goes all the way back to Natal University days and digs we shared once we had managed, somehow, to gain degrees. We had a delightful evening regaling and reminiscing about those long lost days. What was interesting was to be reminded by both Graham and Beryl just how tough it is from an emotional and financial aspect to leave the country of one's birth. We picked this up in just about every conversation we had with people who had left SA for Australia or NZ.
A few quick facts about NZ and Auckland. NZ had a population of of 4.5m
A view up towards the campsite from the beach shaded by the magnificent Pohutukawa tree (NZ Christmas tree which is covered in red blossoms at Christmas time)
people in 2013 of which about 1.4m live in Auckland. What is fascinating is that the entire population of South Island is 1.03m so North Island is where the population is concentrated. The GDP of NZ in 2016 was US$179 billion (SA US$280 billion) with a World ranking of #53 (SA #42). Just bear in mind our population is 12 times that of NZ so no prizes for guessing who is winning the productivity per capita contest. Auckland is affectionately called the "City of sails" and with good reason. Endless boat and yacht marinas confirm what we were told on numerous occasions....just about every New Zealander owns a watercraft of some sort. How best to describe Auckland in a few words? A modern, clean city with water dominating the scenery in all directions. The city skyline is impressive but is not dominant and there are a huge number of walkways and cycling paths linking the many bays and inlets. As with any modern city, traffic is congested and causes lengthy delays at times.
Early the next morning with Google Maps set and Sue in command, we set off on Highway 1 for Northland which is a long peninsula north
Sundowners at 7.30pm gazing onto a deep blue silky smooth sea
of Auckland. There is something really thrilling about venturing off into the unknown and we were soon out of the city precincts and into the countryside. Once again the pre framed pictures conjured up in the mind were confirmed to be wrong. Being essentially a volcanic island formed aeons ago, the countryside is a mosaic of green fields, steepish tree covered hills surrounded by deep valleys and gorges. The vegetation is lush and vibrant green with Fern trees in abundance. Agriculture dominates the landscape with sheep and cattle in abundance and a reminder that NZ is a major global producer of lamb and dairy products for export markets. Our destination was about 180kms to the North and we passed through many small, quaint towns with often unpronounceable Maori names. Campervanning is a huge tourist thing in NZ and the country is very well geared up for the likes of the itinerant Elliotts.The NZ Dept of Conservation(doc) has camping sites located all over the country and we had booked a night on line at Otamure Bay (Whananaki). And what a gem it turned out to be!
Having selected a prime site about 75m from a beautiful sandy beach we set
Just to prove that we did not resort to canned food!
about settling into the camping routine. Not much to it really. Set up camp chairs and table and then chill. Given our HBS 2 star rating we had a bout of campervan envy looking on at the 5 star brats around us. Soon got over it. What is remarkable is the manner in which fellow campers soon engage in conversation and by end day one we had a bunch of NBF's (new best friends). Mostly New Zealanders we found them to be incredibly friendly and helpful. In fact there is a deluge of information offered as to where to go and what to do and I soon realised I would remember very little as most of the places had unpronounceable Maori names. Needless to say to offset this slight problem we are armed with an impressive array of tourist brochures and the Lonely Planet guide which will ensure we miss very little as we move around NZ. Trevor and Mary Moss were an interesting couple hailing from the UK. They have a 5 star campervan bought in NZ which they use for touring from Oct-April each year and then place in storage during the NZ winter whilst they return to
Spectacular views repeated around each headland
the UK. Trevor provided some really good advice on how to catch fish in the surf which will hopefully produce some catches over the next five weeks. Another fellow camper bemoaned the fact that he had to return to Auckland for a week end family function and deal with the "JAFA's" again.."just another f.....g Aucklander" (with respect to anyone from Auckland who reads this blog). Otamure Bay was so good that we ended up staying there for 3 nights. The days were occupied with great walks offering panoramic views of the volcanic islands and spectacular small bays and secluded beaches. There are 144 islands off shore and we would have seen a fraction of that number. The sun sets about 8pm making for long days inevitably ending with sundowners on the beach right in front of our campsite. For those who perhaps think dinner is bully beef and baked beans...forget it! Seafood and fresh produce is superb in NZ and the first evening set the pace for the gourmet aspect of the trip as we settled into pan seared Salmon and a medley of fresh veggies...washed down of course with a fine NZ Sauvignon Blanc.
The weather was superb
A view across the campsite and some of those 5 star campervans in the background. Great facilities.
and trashed a myth I had that NZ was sort of cold and wet (I'm sure it is at times). Air temperature ranged between 20 deg C overnight to 26 deg C during the day. The real surprise and bonus was the sea temp which was a warm 23 deg C making the beach a great place to be. Plus it did not rain at all apart from a brief 2 minute shower on the morning we left.
The lights go out early across the campsite and one soon drifts off into dreamland. Otamure Bay was the best possible start to our NZ journey and certainly had us both salivating at the adventures lying ahead over the next 5 weeks. footnote....there is a "Comment " block on the blog page. Would love to get comments...don't mind good, bad or ugly!
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