Category Archives: Camping

New Zealand North Island Road Trip- Tongariro National Park and Taihape

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“The journey is the destination”

So after stocking up on supplies from the local ‘Countdown’ (our equivalent of Asda), we hit the road towards Whakapapa Village. The drive took us along Lake Taupo which was very pretty and then heads on into the Tongariro National Park itself- North Islands showpiece National Park and World Heritage Site. It really is beautiful with lots of Alpine forests and snow capped peaks. On our way to Whakapapa Village we stopped off at Lake Rotopounamu to do a 1 1/2 hour loop trail around he lake. However we couldn’t complete it as the beach sections were flooded due to the heavy rain. We set off anyway through the forest, the trail lined with giant Rimm and Beech trees, and got level with the lake. But as we couldn’t get onto the beaches to actually see the lake, the walk got boring fast so we headed back, had our sandwiches, then finished our journey to Whakapapa. We arrived late afternoon and really felt we were in a NZ that we hadn’t seen yet- 1100 meter up and definitely in alpine ski region. We re-taped our tent poles an erected the damn thing, glad that it would be the last time we had to do it!  Neither of us slept well that night as this place is FREEZING! When our alarm went off at 6am the next morning we were awake anyway!

So January 18th and the day of the world famous 1 day ‘ Tongariro Alpine Crossing’ (“an extending trek over steep and exceptional volcanic territory”). We got picked up at 7am and taken to the start point 20 mins away at Mangatepop car park. Our driver gave us a safety and logistics briefing and sent us on our way saying that the weather was meant to stay dry with cloud clearing in the afternoon. However Tongariro weather is fickle- cloud can burn off in minutes but return just as quick- as we were to experience first hand in this 19.4km 1 day trek!

So the ‘Crossing’ – we started off from Managatepop car park (1150 meters) at 7.40am and followed the river up the Mangatepopo valley to Soda Springs (1400 m). The weather was overcast but with spots of bright, hot sunshine. At Soda Springs was the last loo stop until Ketetahi hut 4 hours away so we definitely took the opportunity to use the facilities! Our trek then took a sudden incline to the South Crater between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe, up steep steps which they call the devils staircase and it definitely felt devilish come the end!

South Crater is at 1550 m and as we got higher it got windier and freezing so all the layers got put back on as we walked across the South Crater which a long flat barren land in the shadow of Mt Ngaunhoe. Or for those Lord of Ring fans- Mt Doom from the films. Not that we could see Mt Doom (or Gollum, Frodo or Sam!) as it was foggy as hell…really felt like we were walking into an abyss!

Next was the scrabble up to the tracks highest point- Red Crater- at 1886m- a still active and steaming vent. You could definitely see the red rock of the crater and when the cloud cleared you saw a great view of the valley. We almost saw the peak of Mt Doom from up there but not quite!

We then the scrabble and slide down from the top of Red Crater. I pretended that I was skiing at this point and hoped for the best as I slid down the loose scree! We stopped half way down to have our sandwiches overlooking the Emerald Lakes. These lakes were very beautiful and we had a fantastic view of them as the cloud cleared (and yes you guess it, came back again!) But in the sunshine the emerald lakes glistened a beautiful light jade colour. After lunch we slid down the remaining hill and walk around the 3 Emerald lakes and then skirted past Te Wai-Whakaota-o-te Rangihiroa (or Blue lake in English!). We were at 1650 m now and there were ice pockets which hung to the hills behind the lake.

There was one last uphill stepped section and then we were on the descent to Ketetahi Hut. We were back in the cloud again and the route wrapped and weaved itself down the mountain so you never really knew if you were making progress! But we finally made it to the hut at 1400m and chilled out on the wooden veranda to wait for the cloud to clear to get a glimpse of Lake Taupo. Oh and use the loo of course- phew! The cloud cleared after a while and we got a goof view of Lake Rotoaira, Lake Otamangakau and massive Lake Taupo beyond them.

We then made the final descent down to Ketetaki car park back at 700 meters. The final section is through native forest and feels like it goes on forever! But the river sections of that bit are cool and you have to go up and over tree roots which breaks up the monotony of just forest. Eventually we made it to the end point at 2.15pm and sat in the sun to wait for our pick up back to camp at 3pm. So it took us just over 6 1/2 hours which isn’t a bad pace so we were quite pleased with ourselves. Although our legs and feet were aching terribly. But nothing the hot shower back at camp didn’t fix. We drove to the nearest shop, 20 mins away, at National Park Village and picked up some burgers for a mini BBQ. That with a couple of ciders marked the end of a great day. Although it was super cloudy on the crossing, we were still really pleased we did it.

So the next day we put down the tent for the last time- yey! We had heard back from Jackie from Adventure Capital and she was going to charge us anything saying it was something wrong with the poles and not us- phew! And we headed off on Route 1 south towards Taihape. It was a bit of a long detour from where we needed to get to that night (Whangamomona) but eventually we got to Gravity Canyon, 20 mins south of Taihape, around noon. We paid up to do the ‘Flying Fox’ and walked the 15 mins up to the launch pad 175 meters above the river. So the ‘Flying Fox’- it is a 1 km zip-line where you fly at 160 kph down and along the canyon. You look more like a flying squirrel than a fox with a blue bib which they hoist you up into lying position. The lady counted down 3, 2, 1 and then we were off for maybe 10 seconds really fast down the canyon. I screamed all the way…naturally! The then pull you back up to the launch pad quite slowly so you can get a good look at what you’ve just zoomed past. It was really good fun and Hedd’s back was fine. It is quite addictive though and you wanted to go again. But alas our budget doesn’t allow for such whims, so we grabbed some lunch and then headed back on the road heading North West towards the Forgotten World Highway and our stop for that night- Whangamomona.

Tongariro National Park and Taihape in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Cold and crisp as every alpine area should be, but shame about the cloud.
  • Trek snacks of choice= Fruit chews for Hedd; Yoghurt covered raisins for me
  • Drink= Water
  • Invention of the year= ‘The Front Cape’- your rain coat put on front ways (cos you can’t be bothered to take your day bag off when walking!)
  • Outfit that I will be sporting next RCRC ball= ‘The Flying Squirrel’ (see pick above)- that’s right, goggles and all!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

Well that was a fun day trek, plenty of mist and freezing wind, steep slopes and thankfully very little rain. On the one had it was a shame we couldn’t see much at the top and we couldn’t climb Mt. Doom due to the low visibility but it was still cool climbing up and disappearing into the mist!! All in all a great day of hiking, followed by a BBQ and some cider, what more could I have wanted!!

They wouldn’t let me do a cliffhanger swing in Taupo because of my back, which was disappointing and the reason we drove a 200k round trip out of our way to do the flying fox!! It might be the most extreme thing I get to do on this trip because of the bloody back and it was certainly fun. No matter how securely they strap you in, its still quite nerve-wracking standing 175m above the ground about to be released, but apart from the first drop it was more like an intense roller-coster than anything and well worth the money.

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New Zealand North Island Road Trip- Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua

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“The journey is the destination”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we were now getting used to the morning routine- up around 8am, shower in the communal block, breakie of wheetabix and a cuppa, pack up the tent and out of the campsite by 10am. We made our way south on route 1 back to Auckland, taking in the last stretch of the Twin Discovery Coast Road. All the roads in NZ are like our A roads at home- 1 lane each way- so getting on a multi-lane motorway around Auckland was a bit of a shock. But we made it through okay and then headed East towards the Coromandel Peninsula. Our aim was to get to Hot Water Beach on the East coast on the peninsula, but had some back up options just in case because of our experience with the super slow roads in the upper Northland region. But we got there in no time at all (2 1/2 hr from Auckland). The Coromandel Peninsula is gorgeous. Green forests and scenic coastline everywhere. There are a lot of advertisements along the side of the road trying to tempt the cosmopolitan business people of Auckland to buy a “Boat, Bach and Beach house” to “live the dream”. And you can see why. Its my favourite part of the North Island so far. There was only 1 campsite at Hot Water Beach (HWB) which was the ‘HWB Top 10 Holiday Park’. Not our favourite has to be said (absolutely packed with young families) but great location and we were pleased to be out of the car enjoying the sunny weather.  So  HWB…scalding water pulses out of the sand at low tide. I’m still not 100% how/why (hot spring underneath the beach?). But you can access the hot spring area to dig your very own hot water pool 2 hours before and after low tide. We had just missed low tide for that afternoon and as we had to make tracks south the next morning, we realised that to how our HWB experience we would have to get up for the 3.45am low tide the next morning! So we hired our spade from reception, set our alarm for 4.30am and got an early night.

We got down to the beach just after 5am, guided by our head torch through the wooded footpath. We followed our directions (turn left from footpath and find a hot bit in front of the rocks), and soon found a bit where steam was rising from the sand and we could feel the warmth even through our sandals. Needless to say we were the only crazy ones there at that time, so we had the beach all to ourselves which is rare by all accounts. By the time we had dug a pit the tide was pretty much on us. But we managed to dip our toes in the pool…it was boiling!…before the tide came and washed our efforts away. We were only there 15 mins really, and then made our way back to camp and back to bed for 2 hours. Not the greatest HWB experience but an experience all the same and we were pleased we had made the effort to do it!

After shower, breakie, pack the tent away (you know the score!) we made our way a little more north to Hahei to visit Cathedral Cove. From the carpark it is a 20 minute walk down to the beach. We got there by 10am which was great as it was still really quiet (it gets rammed by lunch time). The beach is a “wow” one- white sands, white rocks, sea caves, archways and waterfalls. We spent some time on the beach through the archway, but realised the tide was still coming in and we didn’t want to get stranded so we had to lift all our stuff over our heads and leg it back through the arch to the main beach…quite a funny sight! However in the frenzy, Hedd lost his second pair of sunglasses on the trip being hit sideways by a wave! I wonder how many pairs he’ll get through come the end of the 5 1/2 months! We braved the waterfall, which was freezing, and then headed into the sea to play amongst the waves. Before we knew it, these waves got enormous and we were being bashed about by them. In the end a huge one took Hedd and I under and spit us out at the shore with me frankly trying to put my bikini back on and Hedd nursing a nasty sand burn on his hip! We called it a day then, rinsing off under the waterfall and enjoying the sun on the beach. As the crowds began to come at mid day we headed back up the hill to the car, had lunch overlooking the stunning coast, and then headed back on the road south towards Rotorua.

So Rotorua as a city is a bit of a dump. The locals call it RotoVegas as its gambling its natural charms for a quick tourist buck. But Rotorua is the most geothermal area in NZ and the world (after Yellowstone, Iceland and Kamchatka), and smells like one too! The first thing we noticed when driving in Rotorua was the smell of eggs from the sulphur in the hot springs! We camped up at Kiwipackers near the centre of town but in the less smelly end, had tea and went to bed- we were exhausted after our 4.30am start!

So our full day in Rotorua (13th Jan) began with a visit to the Mud Pool just outside Rotorua in Waiotapu. Mudpools I discovered occur when steam condenses into water near the soil surface resulting in a acidic soup turning the surrounding rock into a soft mud that bubbles and burps as more steam and gas escapes. Geology lesson aside, the mud pools were really fun to watch as the belching holes flung mud burps at each other, hissing and spluttering and plopping as they went. We then continued on the Waiotapu loop road to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. The pools are fed by the Te Manaroa spring which had the largest discharge of boiling water in NZ. From the boiling spring there is a network of terraces set up to cool the water so by the time they get in the pools the water is a cosy 34-39 degrees.  Plus its mineral water so no rotten egg sulphur smell here! The local community funded the thermal pools development too so it was a quite reasonable $18 entry.

After the pools we felt pretty wiped out, so headed back to camp to chill before our evening activities began- jam packed day! We got picked up at 6pm for our Mitai Maori Village experience which included a Hangi Dinner, and our night time Rainbow Springs tour. First thing we noticed when we got dropped off at the ‘village’ was the amount of people- loads of us! We had to cue to get into the holding pen, oh sorry the marque, and shown to our table for the evening. Our MC for the evening was funny, if a little odd, and asked everyone where they were from greeting each nation in their own language each time. Even Welsh! It was quite impressive. Worked out that we were a ‘tribe’ of 25 nations that evening. The massive ‘tribe’ got split up into 2  and got taken to see the Hangi meal. Traditionally the Maori food gets cooked underground in mud on hot stones. However health and safety means the ‘village’ can’t do this for mass catering so the food in just put in the hangi arrangement to keep it warm. A bit disappointing. We then got taken down to the small river to see the Maori warriors come in on a ancient war canoe. That was quite cool to see and they all made funny faces, wide eyed and tongues sticking out. Although some of the guys didn’t look too warrior to me…a bit too many take aways from down the road the ‘village chief’ later told us! We were then taken to an open air auditorium with a raised stage with a set up village on top of it to see the Maori concert. All the guys and girls were in traditional dress with painted faces, arms, legs and even bums! They performed lots of songs and dances for us and performed the Hacker at the end. It was fun to watch but completely contrived and I even caught some of the ‘Maori’s’ yawning during the show which was a bit sad to see. We all then headed back to the holding pen, ooh sorry marque, for the ‘Hangi’ meal. Far play to Mitai, the food was delicious- lamb, chicken, stuffing, roast sweet and normal potatoes, veg, salad, 4 choices of dessert….yum! After dinner the MC “to fill time”, told us some Maori stories which were actually really interesting and we both felt that there should have been more of that in the evening and not less. But alas no!

We were quite ready when the staff from the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park came to pick us up for the next part of the night. We went and saw the glow worms at the spring, twinkling in the dark. Then the guide took us around the park, showing us trout up close and lots of birds. The guide was super knowledgeable and passionate about animals and told us all about the plants we were passing and the animal sounds we were hearing in the night. But the highlight absolutely was the kiwi enclosure. They are nocturnal creatures so you have to come at night to see them. So at 9.30pm we were perfectly times and after around 10 mins of silently waiting, a kiwi came out to forage for bugs. Oh my goodness, these animals are cute! Hedd and I were right at the front and the kiwi kept on going around and around in circles foraging right in front of us so we got to see them up close. They are fluffy balls of features with beady eyes and a long cream beak and they are so cool! Seeing one so close made my night. So verdict on the evening- overpriced and contrived but perhaps the only way to experience Maori culture up close in Rotorua? I hope I’m wrong. But the kiwi encounter topped it all by far!

Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Hot and sunny on Coromandel Peninsula. Showery and a bit cold in Rotorua.
  • Food= Wheetabix breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and anything on toast for tea!
  • Drink= Cider and Kiwi ‘L&P lemon and lime drink’
  • Car snack of choice= Mint Imperials
  • Coolest animal encountered so far on this trip= THE KIWI!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

The drive to the Coromandel was fun, we twisted and turned through a forest for what seemed like forever before emerging on the east coast. The coastline looked lovely and I wish we had spend more time there. We only had 1 night and half a day but we crammed a lot into that time. Getting up at 4am to go to hot water beach was a bit farcical and set the tone for the rest of the day, where I ended up getting robbed and beaten up by the sea at Cathedral Cove. Yes, you heard me, the SEA! Bloody waves first they knocked my sunglasses off my head, then they knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been dragged under by the current before, quite scary and painful as I slammed against the sand and suffered quite a bad “sand burn”. But despite this, I loved the Coromandel area and would go back there again for round 2 with the sea!!

I was planning to rant and rave about our time in Rotorua next, but as this is supposed to be a short section I’ll just say this: If you want to learn about the Mauri people, don’t go visit any Mauri villages in Rotorua, go to a museum or talk to the locals, save your money. The show we went on was tourism at its worse, fake, crammed with “typical tourists” and far too expensive! It made me very grateful for our authentic village visits Fiji. That being said, the lamb they served was very good!

New Zealand North Island Road Trip- Auckland and the Northland

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So we made it to Auckland! After touching down at midnight and jumping on a super shuttle, we finally crawled into bed at 2.30am- phew long day! We stayed at Ponsonby Backpackers, unsurprising in Ponsonby in Auckland. Really lovely hostel, 20 mins walk from the Sky Tower. After a long lie in the next morning we walked into town to the Viaduct district which has the marina and loads of bars and restaurants. And at last Hedd has his first cider since starting traveling in October. The bar also had a Welsh flag outside it which made his day. The next day after a refreshing nights sleep it was time to pick up the car- a little silver Mazda Demio. (We hired it from Apex Rentals). There were no stalling on the first drive for both of us and NZ drive on the left like us, but all the controls were in different places which caused some “arghh” moments! But we managed to navigate ourselves through the city and back to our hostel without any crashes- phew. We then headed out on foot into the city once more to check out the Sky Tower. We opted for the ‘sun and stars’ ticket ($30) which allowed you multiple entry up the tower in 1 day. The life had a glass floor so it was cool to look down and watch as you ascended the 220 meters shaft. First stop was the observatory level but the best level to walk around in is the Sky Deck. You could see for miles and there were info boards explaining what you were seeing. After having a hot chocolate at the Sky Lounge cafe admiring the view of the marina and Auckland Harbour Bridge, we headed back down to ground level and went off in search for the ‘Adventure Capital’ office who we were to hire camping kit from for our North Island road trip. It was quite expensive to hire but it would have been equally expensive to buy and we get to just drop this off with our car in Wellington at the end which is easier than trying to sell/give it away. But if your wanting to buy your kit, head to a store called ‘The Warehouse’, which is a mix between Trago Mills, Wilkinsons and TK Max in the UK. That evening we had a treat and headed to the cinema in Sky City to see the new Sherlock Holmes film and we got sweets and popcorn and everything! It was good fun and felt like home, going to Cheshire Oaks on an Orange Wednesday. One thing I noticed though is that Kiwi’s laugh out loud, really heartily, much more than British do during films, not even at that funny a scene…we must be getting too cynical! The film finished at 10.30pm and we leg it to the sky town so we could use our ticket again before the last ascend at 10.45pm. We made it and I was so pleased we did as to see the city at night with all the twinkling lights was really wonderful.

“The journey is the destination”

So the 7th January marked the start of our road trip and camp around NZ north island. And true to British camping form, as soon as we started our drive out of Auckland it started to bucket down! Undeterred (much) we powered on North up Route 1, following the Twin Coast Discovery Road. We headed north to Warkworth, Brynderwyn (which must have been named by a Welsh person!) and stopped for lunch at Ruawai at 2pm. It was still raining hard and looking at the map, it was at this point when we realised reaching Cape Reinga was unrealistic. The roads are our equivalent of an A road and were windy. That teamed with the weather made the going very slow. So we continued north for a couple of more hours but called it a day at Opononi Motor Camp, just across the road from the Hokianga Harbour Estuary. We battled with the severe wind and rain and erected our tent for the first time, tying it by its guide ropes to a tree so it would blow away in the night! After a dinner of beans of toast we retreated from the rain into our cosy tent and played cards with some ciders in our sleeping bags.

The next morning it was still raining! We got up, practically threw our tent in the boot and headed north in a hope for better weather. We popped into the local ‘i-site’ to check all the roads were still open, luckily they were plus a sneaky car ferry (crossing from C to D on the map without the need to drive all the way around the estuary) which would save some time. We made the 20 minute drive to Rawene, narrowly missing the ferry, so had to wait for the next one 1 hour later. As I drove onto the ferry platform it was just like taking the Torpoint Ferry, but this one wasn’t attached to chains. After 20 minutes we arrived on the other side at Kohukohu and drove on north on route 1 towards the Northern Peninsula. After stopping off for lunch at Kaitaia we then on the road running parallel to the Ninety Mile Beach heading towards NZ northenly point. Our little car wasn’t up to such things as driving on the Ninety Mile Beach. But if you have a 4×4 you could do. Instead we headed down to the beach at Hukatere so we could look up the beach towards Cape Reinga. We couldn’t see much to be honest through all the rain! So we kept heading north stopping at Waitiki Landing Holiday Park to set up camp. The weather had calmed down and was only lightly spitting. So we took the chance to explore Cape Reinga. After parking up, it was just a 10 minute walk down to the lighthouse. It was still blowing a hoolie but we got to see ‘the meeting point’ where the Tasmin Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. It causes waves to explode into each other and creates angled lines of white spray which looks cool out at sea. To the right of the lighthouse we also got to see on a rocky cape the famous Pokutukawa tree, reputed to be 600-800 years old, which represents the legendary departure point for the Maori spirits on their way to the afterlife in Hawaiiki. The tree looks like its clinging to the rock and growing perpendicular to it, but it still grows…amazing!  On the way back to camp we stopped off at Te Paki sand dunes. The dunes are massive and we managed to climb a little one before the weather turned bad again and we retreated once more to our tent.

Next morning (9th) and still tipping it down! We said good bye to the Ninety Mile Beach and the Northland Peninsula and headed on Route 10 towards Paiha- the gateway town to the Bay of Islands. On the way we turned off the road and headed up the Karikari peninsula. We stopped at Maitai Bay to see the twin bays called Maitai Bay and Merita Beach. Maitai Bay is so curved that the waves break on it in smiles. We walked up a bank in the rain to get a better view and I preceded in slipping down it on the way back, covering my entire behind with mud. The kid at the bottom found the whole episode hilarious, giggling and telling her mum over and over that I had fallen over. Needless to say we left pretty sharpish, nursing my pride! After a stretch on route 10 again, we turned off towards Tauranga Bay to drive, what the locals call, the Million Dollar View Road. 16.5 km of scenic driving and sweeping vistas. We stopped off at Tauranga Bay, our car bonnet almost touching the coastline, and had our sandwiches. Back on the road again and getting closer to Paiha, we made one last stop just before Kerikei at Rainbow Falls- a 27 meter waterfall. We walked to the top platform and watched the water thunder over the edge and then headed down the track to the pool and sat admiring the beautiful waterfall. You could feel the spray on your face and dipping our toes into the pool, it was no 30 degrees Fijian water I can tell you…freezing! We arrived in Paiha late afternoon and set up camp at Waitangi Holiday Park 15 minute walk from Paiha, right by the estuary. Our neighbours were 4 kiwi guys from Christchurch who were traveling the north island with a boat and a 4×4 full of booze for their Christmas vacation. They were a good laugh and we drank into the night with the guys…Lewis drinking a whole bottle of Jim Bean within 2 1/1 hours for $100 was particularly impressive!

The next day was our first proper excursion in NZ and it wasn’t raining- yey! We went on a boat trip around the Bay of Islands on a 50 ft catamaran called Carino.  They are the only yacht licensed by DOC to encounter and swim with wild dolphins so we had our swimmers on in anticipation. There was about 25 of us on board and we set sail at around 9.30am from Paiha. After picking up a few more passengers at Russell, we headed north following the coast up from Paiha. We saw a big pod of 15 bottlenose dolphins just by Moturoa island. They jumped up out of the water and swam along the boat really close up. They had babies with them so we couldn’t swim with them which was a bit disappointing but It was super cool seeing them so close up in the wild. We also saw Gannet birds which the locals nickname ‘Jesus birds’ as they skip (walk) on water. We then sailed across the bay to Roberton Island, whose Moari name is Motuarohia Island (‘the island of desire’) and one of the most visited Bays in the Island group.  We anchored up and got a little power boat to the shore. We hung out on the beach and walked up to the viewpoint there where you got a 360 degree view around the Bay of Islands- beautiful. After a haphazard walk/skid down the hill again (I’d learnt my lesson from yesterdays slip!), it was time to get back onto Carino for a BBQ lunch before heading back towards Paiha. We picked up another pod of dolphins and they were diving for food so would disappear for ages and then pop up again right under the boat. Very fun. We decided to get off at Russell to have a look around. Whereas Paiha is modern and overtly touristic, Russell has an old worldly charm. We walked along the beach and then up Flagstaff hill which has a great view over Russell town and the bay. The Flagstaff commemorates the truce between the Moari’s and Europeans back in the day. But it wasn’t plain sailing. The flagstaff was put up by the Europeans and cut down by the Moari’s many times until the Moari by choice erected the flagstaff that now stands. It was fantastic weather and we sat a watched the boats for quite some time before headed back down the hill into town. We enjoyed an ice cold cider at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel which is the oldest licensed pub in NZ. A live band were playing on the veranda and the sun was out and life was good! We caught the aptly named “Happy Ferry” back across to Paiha early evening…it reminded me of the Cremyl ferry across to Mt Edgecombe back home…and walked back to our campsite via ‘Shippies’ Fish n’ Chip shop for some tea. The chippy is an old tall ship which is now permanently docked on the river just by our campsite which is pretty cool. There was no cod or haddock on the menu so we went by recommendation and tried battered Dorry and Blue Nose. We ate from the paper with a glass of wine on our picnic table and watched the sun go down. A perfect end to a great day in the Bay of Islands.

Auckland and the Northlands in a snapshot:

  • Weather= A mix of torrential rain/wind and bright sunny spells!
  • Car snack of choice= Pineapple Lumps (pineapple chews covered in chocolate…its a NZ thing!)
  • Drink= Cider- Monteaths
  • Best achievement= Getting the tent up and keeping it up on day 1
  • Radio station for driving tunes= ‘Rock FM’!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

So much to cover!! So let’s start with Auckland, just another city, a bit drab, says it all when the highlight was a cinema trip!! What happened to the New Zeland summer? Those first few days of camping were a nightmare, although I’m glad we got 30 minutes without rain so we could enjoy Cape Regina. Things took a much more positive turn at the Bay of Island as we enjoyed a day on a boat and saw the sun again. Its amazing the impact that weather can have on your perception of a place. We also had our first proper encounter with native kiwi’s here (people not the bird – that comes later)!! We met 4 guys from Christchurch on a fishing / drinking holiday. It was an interesting night as we watched one of them drink a litre of Jim Beam in 2.5 hours to win 100 dollars, he won the money, but was definatley worse off for it!! We also found out he wanted to become a driver for the Kiwi Experience buses or as he called them  “The Vagina Liner” as they are full of young european girls who get drunk and fall prey to their sleazy bus drivers!!! We have seen a few of these buses since and their drivers certainly look the type. Thankfully we chose another company for our adventure in the South Island!!