Big Fat Sue enjoying the View!
Well we finally started our trip, although the volcanic ash cloud did try and stop us. The drive up to the airport was nail biting at times as we were unaware if our flight was on until we arrived at Heathrow! But we were on our way!
After leaving the UK on Monday 17th May, 24 hours in the air, a quick stop at Singapore airport and then Melbourne, where we were greeted by Fellow Caravan Club Members Matthew Jones & Katherine Wheeler, we finally arrived in Auckland, New Zealand.
After touching down safely on Kiwi soil, we got a ridiculously over priced taxi to go and pick up our 6 Berth Bus of a Campervan, which for any Gavin & Stacey fans we’ve aptly named BIG FAT SUE! Once we were all clued up on how to handle and drive BIG FAT SUE we ventured off to Manakua to a campsite, where we would spend our first 2 nights around Auckland.
The Following day we decided to sample the public transport system and get a bus into the city centre and have a stroll round, as this is sometimes the best way to see a new place.
Couples combo at Cape Reinga
We quickly set up a new NZ bank account, which took all of 10 minutes. We didn’t even need an address or phone number! We then walked down to the water front, where Cerri purchased a pair of UGG boots for some $320, after the shock of the price I needed a strong drink so we found a bar called Minus 5. Now this bar is called Minus 5 for a reason, reason being that everything from the seats to the glasses are carved out of ice and it’s a bloody cold minus 5 degrees inside! From here we caught a ferry over to the other side of Auckland to a suburb called Devonport where I purchased a fleece for the coming cold months, slightly embarrassing when it came up as a women’s fleece on the shop till tho!
Next day we headed back to Apollo Campervans headquarters, as there were a few things wrong with BIG FAT SUE. After a new DVD player for the Campervan (Its a luxury camper!) and some electrical tape (bodge job) to stop a window from rattling, we then hit the road north of Auckland and took the scenic drive road to Arataki
Visitor Centre. Here we sheltered from the rain and took some pictures of the great views. As the weather brightened up we got back on the road and got to our first beach on our Grand Tour, Muriuai Beach which was made up from black volcanic sand. It also had a trek up to a Gannet Colony, sadly we should have read the lonely planet guide more thoroughly as they had all migrated to Australia bar one bird during the month of April!!! Back in the van and headed to Orewa where we parked up for our first free camping night on the tour, right next to a beach cove and a lovely dumpstation.
We awoke the next morning to a knock on the campervan door from a couple of Police men, luckily we hadn’t done anything wrong, but a campervan nearby had been broken into. After a quick Campervan meeting we decided to end up in Whangarei that night. So we set off and stopped off at the New Zealand Honey Centre en route, where a slightly over enthusiastic employee talked at us for 20 minutes about the importance of the honey bee in the world and the
Belly Flop at Ninety Mile Beach!
healing powers of New Zealands Manuka Honey. Obviously we ended up buying some!!! Making good time we moved onto to a village further north called Matakana, where the Saturday farmers market was in full swing. We slowly worked our way round the stalls sampling all the freebies on offer, we love a free lunch!!! After stuffing ourselves full of freebies our next stop was a little town called Waipu. This small place was where the Scottish first set foot on New Zealand soil, so the was a lot of tartan influence on the buildings from shops to the public toilets! A little fact about Waipu (pronounced Way- pooh) is that the town is also the name of New Zealands answer to Imodium!!! A little bit further round the corner was Waipu Cove, a great surfing beach. We then decided to end up in Whangarei for the night, for another free nights camping. Once in Whangarei I missed the turning to the Abbey Caves and ended driving up a ridiculously narrow, steep road, with huge drops off either side, we did start panicking as the 7 metre beast known as BIG FAT SUE was not the easiest vehicle to do a
Leap for Ninety Mile Beach!
U-Turn in. Luckily at the top of the hill was Parihaka Memorial site, so after a few photo’s I very slowly took us back down the hill. As it was a Saturday night, we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out, we came across a Bar / Restaurant called Killer Prawn. This particular place caught our eye due to it being an all you can eat pizza night and the comedy slogan outside saying ‘’Feeling Prawny?’’
After awaking from our food comas from the previous nights all-you-can-eat pizza at Killer Prawn, thought we’d try and get to the Abbey Caves which I missed turning for the day before. En route we noticed a dog and a lady lying in the road, with blood all down her face; being the good Samaritans we are, we stopped to make sure she was alright. I quickly ran back to the van to get my First Aid Kit (thanks Mum!), donned the surgical gloves and set to work taping some tissues to her face to stop the bleeding. Whilst Doctor Field was working his magic on the patient, Matt decided to play the part of the paparazzi by taking snaps of the
action outside! BIG FAT SUE then transformed into an ambulance, as we drove the lady back to her house up the road, which once we’d arrived at her house wished we hadn’t as it took a 12 point turn to get the ambulance back down her driveway. We then tried to go the Abbey Caves, to see the glow worms. It’s an unmanned cave system, so once we trekked down to them, we realised we would needed helmets and torches so without any gear we headed straight back in the opposite direction! Next for today was a quick stop in Kawakawa to see the Hundertwasser’s toliet, might sound like a random stop but me & Cerri had been to the village he designed in the middle of Vienna so thought it was worth a stop. During our lunch break in Kawakawa, not in the toilets! Cerri badly sliced her finger open whilst trying to use the dodgy tin opener provided by Apollo, so Doctor Field was called back into action again! From here we stopped off at the Handru Waterfalls before making our way further north to a town Called Kerikeri for the overnight stop.
Next morning didn’t start
Show me the way to go home!
well as I took BIG FAT SUE down a one way street and yes I was going the wrong way! Next Cerri had to have a photo next to a Kerikeri sign, the town named after her. Sadly she didn’t realise that Kerikeri in Maori means “Dig Dig” which implies the town is a bit of a hole; this was not the case, as we visited a recreation of a Maori Rewa Village and an old Stone House (soon to be a world heritage site) before moving on to Coopers Beach for Lunch. With time and good weather on our side, we decided to crack on and try and get to Cape Reinga. On the way we stopped off for photo’s at ninety mile beach, as BIG FAT SUE’s insurance wouldn’t cover us to drive on it. Then was Cape Reinga, which is furthest point north you can get to by car in New Zealand, a short walk from the car park and you can stroll down to the light house. This particular spot is where the Tasman sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. With luck on our side we arrived just before sunset, and as the sun was setting,
we all turned into Japanese tourists taking stupid amounts of photo’s of the same thing!
The Following day Sand boarding was on the agenda, we first tried the Te Paki sand dunes but couldn’t find anywhere to hire a board from. So we then headed south to Ahipara stopping off at the medical centre in Kaitaia to get Cerri’s finger checked out. As luck would have it the nurse was from Plymouth, in Costa Del Devon and worked at Derriford Hospital back in the day! No stitches needed thankfully, just taped and wrapped up nicely. Once at Ahipara, we hired some sand boards and started our trek round the beach cove and over the rocks to try and get to the giant sand dunes. The Guy where we hired the boards from clearly lied, as he said it would be a 30 minute walk to get there and an hour into the walk they were still nowhere in sight. We also noticed the tide was starting to come in pretty quickly. Visualising ourselves on an episode on ‘999’ being stranded on the rocks, we disappointingly decided to put our sensible hats on and turn back. We then headed to
Caravan Club at Cape Reinga
Rawene for the night, en route we had to catch a ferry. On the Ferry we met Phil Abbot (no relation to Russ!) the ticket collector, who was from Tredegar in Wales. He was a lovely chap and gave us loads on hints and tips on where else to visit whilst we are in NZ. He is known officially as our ‘’Ferry Friend.’’
Our Final day in our First week in New Zealand involved visiting Tane Mahuta, the oldest tree in NZ. It’s 2500 years old, standing at an impressive 51 metres tall with a 14 metre girth. A few photo’s later we started back on the road down to Auckland. Taking rest stops in a hill billy town called Dargaville (not worth stopping at besides the coffee and cake!) and the famous Sheepworld, where they take part in animal cruelty by spray painting the sheep bright pink! We decided to celebrate the end of our first week by treating ourselves to a cinema night, Robin Hood was the film of choice. Although it was a good film, we all decided it wasn’t up there with the classic ‘Prince of Thieves’ verison; it also lacked a Bryan Adams belter
Cerri and her favourite food - NZ lamb!
in the soundtrack! That night we drove up to Mount Eden to get a view of Auckland by Night before free camping outside the Apollo Campervan Headquarters, thinking the police wouldn’t ask us to move on as our Campervan would blend in with the rest of the Apollo fleet - it worked a treat!
Ben & Cerri’s tip of the week - A word of warning to all future visitors to New Zealand; a main road over here resembles a country lane back in the UK, except its more windy and has more ups and downs than Tiger Woods’ sex life!
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