Increasing my carbon footprint (Coromandel Peninsular, North Island, New Zealand)

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December 20th 2009
Published: December 22nd 2009
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(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 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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23rd December 2009

So jealous!
Hey Ben... ... and there you go cruising the country of my dreams! Good luck on the road, avoid the crazy bus drivers and timber trucks if you want your Ben-Van to survive (we had our first crash two days after we started with a Nelson Coachlines Driver taking our bumper with him ;). Philipp PS. To reduce your carbon footprint consider buying some "native trees" on the south island... they have some social projects with teens running there to reforest the area and you can adopt a tree or two (and will even be updated about the locations and status once planted ;-)
23rd December 2009

Great blog
Thanks for the update Ben. Enjoy your travels and keep up the good work blogging. Alan
23rd December 2009

We had three attemps finding a spot with the perfect temperature. After digging we're one of the few enjoying our pool. All the best and enjoy! PS: the south island is even more beautiful. Also easier to find a save and free camping spot. Camping in the national parks is cheap and sometimes free. Get the brochures (for free) at the DoC offices.
23rd December 2009

always enjoy the pictures and story, keep em comming!
24th December 2009

Merry Chrismas
Dear Ben Merry Chrismas and a Happy New Year, I wish you both - you and Ben-van - many happy hours together ! Unfortunatly there is really nothing to deny about the carbon footprint. It is only justified if you let us share your travel experience and write often to your travelblog and keep it uptodate but that what you are doing. Best regards Walter
24th December 2009

Try the DOC for cheap campsites. All of them are in very picturesque places. Love reading your blog and reliving the memories of New Zealand.
25th December 2009

Dig it!
In our opinion, the Coromandel is one of the most beautiful areas in all of NZ. When we visited the Hot Water Beach there were maybe 10 people! Glad we missed the crowds though. Love your panorama and also the way you write. Makes for a great read! Enjoy increasing your carbon footprint!
26th December 2009

Hello Ben :) Congratulations on your high number of blog viewings. If you have time, come and tell us your secret on Mel
27th December 2009

New Zealand
Your blogs and photos of NZ's North Island brought back fond memories of my travels there. Hope you had a nice Christmas and have a great 2010 travelling! Best wishes, Dawn.

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