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Published: December 22nd 2009
(Day 625 on the road)
"Increasing your carbon footprint." That's how my friend Steven had commented on the news that I purchased a van to drive around New Zealand with. And there is nothing really I can say to counter that argument. With the Copenhagen Climate Conference recently ending in a disaster (thank you China and USA), I had nothing better to do than to buy a car. In any case, I guess travelling the world for an extended period of time is not the most environmental-friendly way to live one's life. By the information given on my route-map
, I have so far travelled about 70.000 km in the last 21 months. And the real figure is much higher than that, as the 70.000km only takes into account the most direct connection between any two points on the map and not the actual path I took.
Anyway, after a couple more days in Auckland, cleaning my van and getting organised, I was off. The first region I was keen to explore was the Coromandel Peninsular, a two drive south-east of Auckland. The first stop I made was in a little town called Thames. Though I didn't go there for the town
itself but rather for hiking the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail in the nearby mountains, I did spend a few days in Thames waiting for a sore throat to disappear.
In Thames I soon realised that the issues I was facing now with sleeping in my van were very different from what I had to consider before: Where to park for the night? How to recharge the batteries for my laptop, camera and phone? Where to shower? Where to go for Internet? All these things were normally available in the hostels I used to stay in, and suddenly what I had taken fro granted was all gone.
On top of that, overnighting (read: Freedom Camping) in your car is a very tricky issue in New Zealand. Allowed in some areas but not in others, the situation is somewhat confusing, making the choice where to park for the night not always an easy one. Unless of course you want to make use of caravan parks. But as many of them were often considerably more expensive than staying in a hostel, that wasn't an option for me either. After all, one reason for buying the van was so that I could save
on accommodation, not pay more (for less facilities actually as compared to a hostel). And really, why does it cost 25 NZ$ (12 Euros) just to park your car somewhere for a single night?
After adjusting to my new situation my for a few days my sore throat had disappeared, and I felt strong enough to finally tackle the mountains. Reunited with all my camping gear which Miranda had looked after for me for the past few months in Sydney, I thoroughly enjoyed my first camping under the New Zealand stars. The last time I was out and about had been too long entirely - Japan last autumn! The hike up to a place called The Pinnacles was pleasant and not too demanding, just what I needed to get back into shape a bit. The view from up there was commanding to say the least - lush green mountains and valleys on three sides, deep blue ocean on the other. I felt I had finally arrived in New Zealand proper, after spending too much time in cities up to now.
Over the next few days I completed my loop around the Coromandel Peninsular. After a night in picturesque
Coromandel town, famous volcanic Hot Water Beach near Whitianga on the east coast beckoned. During low tide, you can apparently simply dig into the sand anywhere along the beach and create your own private hot pool. Well, in theory at least. When I arrived, there were close to two hundred people shuffling about on the same 10 metres of beach, trying (mostly unsuccessful) to locate the hot water underneath. Apart from a few lucky ones who seemed to thoroughly enjoy their hot baths, the majority of tourists stood around looking rather confused or annoyed. In short, it was pretty disappointing, considering that this is hyped as THE tourist attraction in the whole peninsular. I felt Hot Water Beach is a rather grand name for a mere ten metre stretch. Then again, somewhat impressive nevertheless when you think about what that actually means.
Cathedral Cove however, just down the road, was very pretty indeed. A natural cove right by the beach and accessible only after a 25 minute walk from the car park, the crowds were thinner and the whole experience much more enjoyable. Though, on the danger of sounding negative here, the beach, as with all beaches in Australia
and New Zealand I have seen so far, did not impress me too much. I think having spent some time in South East Asia with all its simply gorgeous beaches has spoiled me somewhat, and I keep comparing the beaches here to what I have seen in the past. But to be fair, the beach at Cathedral Cove was beautiful in its own special way.
But more spectacular than all the actual sights here was the actual peninsular itself. I don't think I have ever seen so many shades of green anywhere, not even in some of the rice terrace areas in Asia. The views were simply stunning, especially whenever the winding road left the coast and took me high up into the mountains. I think the panorama picture at the top of this pages gives a good account of the sheer beauty of this part of New Zealand. Now that's what I call impressing!
Next stop: Rotorua (North Island, New Zealand).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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