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Published: November 26th 2016
Back on the North Island, we spent a few days ambling our way up the west coast from Wellington until we began to see the impressive form of Mount Taranaki dominating the skyline. We drove up to the mountain visitor centre, but as a huge amount of rain had fallen here we could only do a couple of short walks nearby. So we had to be content with seeing the mountain from afar as we made our way around the rugged coast, following the Surf Highway through the most bizarre looking, bumpy grazing fields we had ever seen apparently formed this way by lava flows from Mount Taranaki.
Deciding to take a break from the road for a few days in the pleasant town of New Plymouth, we rented a small house as we had a bit of work to do planning our onward journey from New Zealand and booking our flights back home. It was not all work, work, work though as the owners of the house we rented lived next door and were extremely hospitable, inviting us over for drinks and dinner and even taking us out to see the farm they owned nearby and to collect chestnuts
So we had a good time in New Plymouth before heading off along the Forgotten World Highway where we stayed at the quirky village of Whangamomona. Here in 1989 the village declared itself an independent republic after a disagreement with the local authority. The village, although no longer independent, still celebrates Republic Day in January every odd numbered year. It was indeed an odd place with some very interesting characters such as the owner of the small campground we stayed at who told us he once went to the UK for a wedding and ended up staying for seven years.
We slowly made our way northwest to the famous town of Rotorua, with its bubbling thermal pools and the ever present whiff of sulphur, eventually ending up once more at the Bay of Plenty, this time to take a walk around Mount Manganui.
Although it would mean retracing our steps a little we decided to revisit the Coromandel Peninsula as we had only spent a couple of days here previously. This time we explored the eastern coast of the peninsula, visiting Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and the well-hidden and beautiful New Chums Beach. We
zigzagged our way right up to Stony Bay at the north of the peninsula, where we could camp (alongside many ducks) in a field above the beach looking out over the bay, which was magical until the wind and rain hit with a vengeance.
With rain pouring into Trev and onto Ross and with towels all over the dashboard we drove through the torrential downpour to Coromandel Town. Here we parked pointing uphill and sat out the day with a newspaper or two and pie and chips. As it was still hammering down we conceded defeat and checked in to a caravan park in the town that had a slither of space available on a concrete apron in front of a shed as all the grass areas were flooded.
By the next morning the rain had passed and the sun was out again. We drove along the coast a little way to have a relaxing breakfast in the sun and dry out some of our rather wet belongings. Unfortunately the rain had washed out a number of the gravel roads heading north on the peninsula, so we were advised not to go in that direction as there was
no telling when they would be fixed, so we decided it was perhaps time to head back past Auckland and on up to the Northland.
We travelled north following the east coast of the Northland, taking time to visit many of the pretty beaches and bays along the way. We called in at the town of Russell, situated in the Bay of Islands and known during the eighteen hundreds as the "hell hole of the pacific," with Charles Darwin describing it in 1835 as being "full of the refuse of society.” Needless to say it is a much more inviting and pleasant place to visit these days.
Eventually we reached our goal, Cape Reinga, the northern most tip of the North Island, a beautiful spot where there was some great walking to be done and also some terrific fishing from the shore, so many a fishy feast was had before we turned southward to track the west coast back down towards Auckland.
On this stretch we found vast open beaches that stretched for miles, one even being named Ninety Mile Beach. At the isolated little hamlet of Puto Point we found a friendly bunch of Chinese Christians
on their annual fishing holiday out of Auckland. They were all very excited as they had been hauling in the snapper and king fish. By this time we had had rather enough fish, so we didn't join them but enjoyed watching the action. From here we could also walk for miles along the beach to visit the old wooden Kaipara Lighthouse, set atop the huge rolling dunes.
Nearing the end of our NZ adventure we just had time for one last port of call at the stunning beachside location of Whatipu, only an hour or so west of Auckland, but as it was located at the end of a difficult, winding gravel road it was not at all busy. There were some good cliff top walks to do here and a friendly ranger, who had bought himself a car just like Trev after seeing so many travellers like us having so much fun in them. Shame, he could have bought ours.
Leaving our last camping spot in New Zealand, we now made our way back to Auckland where once again we had rented a little apartment and set about mucking out Trev, gifting much of our collected bits
and bobs to a local charity shop and advertising Trev for sale. We only had one serious enquiry, as it was now nearly the middle of winter, which was from a nice Dutch lady who to our relief was very happy with the look of Trev and fully understood that a car of this age was going to have a few annoying habits. So to our amazement Trev, a car that didn’t look like it would make it through the first month but had lasted for five months and over nine thousand miles, was off to do it all again with his new owner. We were sad to say goodbye, but quite pleased to be selling him for almost as much as we had paid for him. That would help with the next leg of our travels in Australia. What a great way to end the very special time we had exploring this magnificent country.
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