We arrive in Christchurch at 1.10 am have a good laugh coming off the plane, there are posters of sheep and pastures all the way inside and instead of annoying piped music we are greeted with lots of coming from the speakers – naturally I think of all the Kiwi and sheep jokes, we were told in OZ (similar to the Welshman/sheep jokes) Customs are nowhere near as bad as we thought they would be and I think they are just as tired as we are. I have filled in the arrival cards cautiously and ticked the boxes for: yes we have camping equipment and yes we have foods (some wine gums and TimTams that Karin gave us as a farewell present) and we don’t have to open anything as they believe us – even that we have a new tent and cleaned everything else properly…. (had I only known that …)
Rebecca and her eldest son greet us in Arrivals and then it’s a 2 hour drive through the night to Timaru where we all disappear in our beds very quickly – it’s 4 in the morning now and even though we sleep very soundly we get up after only a few hours – we are just not used to going to bed late anymore and consequently we are quite drowsy all day. Mark and the boys are full of cold and it is freezing too –we have not experienced temperatures like this in over two years now and just can’t get warm at all. We spend the day trying to cope with the lack of sleep and catching up with Mark who has a lot to tell about the last 3 years of living here and what it was like to emigrate with the family… well and we have a few stories from the road.
Even the next day we are still a bit confused and drowsy. Mark takes us into town, which is one of the major cities on the south island really – but it is still nicely relaxed with a population of about 25000 and not very busy at all. We experience what we have noticed all over Australia too, only even more so: the British have pressed their stamp firmly on this country. Who knows, maybe it was the sole reason for the Empire to cross the seven seas from one corner of the earth to another until finally a land was found which resembled Britain so much that it made you forget how far from home you were.
Anthony Trollope put it very nicely when he arrived here in 1873: “ The great drawback to New Zealand comes from the feeling that after crossing the world and journeying over so many thousand miles, you have not at all succeeded in getting away from England.”
Here the colonial power which had to battle with the dreadful heat, savage customs and unacceptably spicy food everywhere else and a population that outnumbered their new lords and therefore could not be easily converted to proper ways found an island with so much room that they could spread out and live more British ever after than was possible on the overcrowded homeland. The Maori were a bit of a nuisance – not easily overpowered but one could find ways of keeping them at bay and out of the way….a bit like the Gaels really. It even rains as much so one could keep to the favorite daily topics but include the wind into the conversation, which really has its own ways here….
Anyway, back to today, we wander around the town center, find a bank to exchange our Aussie money for NZ dollars and then have a look at shops and prices – this place is mostly more expensive than OZ it seems and the price for tobacco really shocks us – we did not think there would be a place worse than Australia for that. We really have to find a way to get a grip on our bad habit (ok- addiction) so I research online and order a vaporizer to try and tackle the problem. The following days we spend trying to get acclimatized and acquire a feel for the place. We take the car for a ride and explore a bit of the surroundings – what a laugh – Kev is almost as useless with an automatic car as I am and when we stop for a wander along the beach it takes us at least 15 minutes until we figure out how to get it in gear again and more than just once we come to a rather abrupt stop, almost injuring ourselves in the process because Kev puts his foot on the brake as if it was a clutch.
With the help of Mark we find the address of Sybille’s (the lady who used to own the Ulaan Bataar traveller’s place) sister who lives here in Timaru and finally deliver the postcard we have been taking with us all the way from Mongolia.
I send an email to Ivan from bikes abroad as we still have no bill yet. Thank god for that – he apparently had sent it to us …must be lost somewhere in cyberspace… We can’t pay today but we get some shopping done – ready for the off towards the North island.
It takes almost all day and visiting at least 3 post offices to finally find a western union which is able and confident to transfer the money for the shipment of our motorbike to Australia, then we can finally set off to hopefully a bit warmer weather in more northerly climes. We get to about 100 kms above Christchurch and find a nice little campsite with train carriages which one can rent for the night – we put our tent up for the first time, it’s cold at night but still comfy enough.
Now we figure what DOC campsites are (department of conservation), so we head for those campsites and already the next night we find a lovely one on a beach at the Marlboro sounds. From here small gravel roads along out of the way places lead to Picton. For the first time we figure why the wind is top of the conversation topics list. We have not fixed the outer to inner tent and not used enough guy ropes – the tent gets rattled with the sudden gusts and ends up pulling all the pegs out and collapsing on top of me as I am just inside pumping our sleeping mat up. Gladly no damage is done and after the failures are rectified we’re all safe, sound and dry
As we have to wind up and down the fjords and Hills of the Marlboro sounds which are absolutely stunning and well worth missing the first two ferries of the day we take the 2.15 ferry to Wellington and then try to find the post office to collect our parcel from Kiwi-vaporizers
but we are too late for today so we head to the next doc camp on my GPS. It turns out that we are too late for that as well – they have gates at the national park here and close them at night – so we decide to sleep in the car in front of the shut gate rather than to keep searching around in the dark.
After some searching (we were at the wrong post office last night) we find the courier shop but also we find out that it is Saturday today (we thought it was Friday!) and the place will be closed over the weekend. We decide to hang around the area until Monday rather than have the parcel sent after us – too much of a hassle. First we head for the coast to an indicated doc site but the weather has closed down, wind and rain howling in at sea level – not inviting at all. Heading back towards Wellington, it is snowing in the mountains. We find a national park on the other side with a claim to fame – it has been the site for Rivendell, home of the elves in the lord of the rings saga – we check in for two nights and stay at the quite nice campsite. It is raining most of the time and freezing on top of it. We spend most of the time shivering but the place really is tops and we manage to have a few walks in between showers and also I can make use of the time during showers to work on the OZ blog which is slowly shaping up a bit.
Picking up the parcel is quickly done on Monday morning and now we decide to try to get away from the real bad weather (it is snowing, raining and howling a gale over the east and central part) by driving up the west coast. The landscape is very beautiful and that around every corner. We find a lovely campsite run by a Maori lady who is just absolutely nice. We get free showers, laundry and even wifi here as well as a cozy kitchen lounge room and a very friendly cat which very quickly takes over both of our lap-spaces so we stay two nights and Kev goes fishing at the shore while I sit in the dry, work on the computer and do our washing.
Back on the road we meander all day, stopping for photos or just to stare at the scenery open mouthed. Kev’s complaining that no one seems to care to make lay-bys at lookout points – the thing is, every corner is a special scenic view point – the place is riddled with them – so to the Kiwis it will be: ”another breathtaking view – so what?! If we had to stop gawking at ‘em all we’d never get anything done!”
So anyway – in the evening we stop at a seaside camping place and go for a nice long walk along the black sandy beach, collecting shells – we just can’t stop marveling at the beauty of this place.
Since yesterday we are driving around mount Taranaki, a snow capped volcano that really sticks out from every angle.
We watch the hobby fishermen taking in a line with at least 25 baited hooks and they have a few nice fish on some of them. They send a little torpedo thingy out which takes the line into the sea for up to two ks – in an hour they will wind it in again and that is what they will be doing most of the day.
We keep finding small gravel tracks up and along the coast and stop in Kahwa, another small rural community. Kev tries to fish off the peer but no luck.
He insists on trying for fish again before we set off, but he just gets a wet bum, a few tucks on the line and one small stripy fish that would not even fill the hole in my tooth but thanks to his tenacity we set off fairly late – at 1.30 and find another lot of twisty gravel roads….. it’s perfect and even if this is supposedly the less spectacular part of NZ – we are pretty impressed. Everywhere people give you a wave and they go out of their way to be nice and friendly. This is the first place since leaving home that we both could actually live– even though we find it more expensive than Australia and the weather is a lot worse at this time of year. We make very slow progress and our vocabulary seems to deteriorate to “wow….oh wow, look at that”
It rains quite profoundly some nights but the tent is still dry and since we made two small sleeping bags out of the king size one, even I actually manage to get warm at some point in the night.
We navigate around Auckland and I trick the GPS into finding small roads on which we try to drive up the coast. It is raining on and off most of the day and we drive through fords and up single track lanes until the road is blocked off so we have to drive all the way back, almost into Auckland again until we find a road up country. On one campsite we meet a nice young lad from Belgium, who is a bit lost because he is new in the business of backpacking and trying to find his feet here. I invite him for some veggie broth and together we bore the poor lad to death with the wisdom of seasoned travelers…
I am not sure whether or not it was a good thing to arrive here in the middle of winter. Most days it’s quite windy and sometimes we have proper storms, the weather changes within minutes from lovely sunshine to raining cats and dogs but that also can change just as fast again.
On the beautiful bendy roads we miss our bike painfully but when it’s bucketing down we are glad to sit in the car and stay dry. One of the biggest drawbacks is the fact that it is much harder to take pictures, in the sidecar I just point and shoot, with the car we have to stop every five minutes and then get out to be able to take a nice clear picture and sometimes that cheeses me off.
As we get further north it starts warming up a bit – the nights in the tent are still not comfortable but at least not frosty anymore. The GPS shows for the Northland (the name of the province where we are at the moment) quite a few campsites run by the DOC which are a lot cheaper even if there is rarely more comfort than a drop toilet and water. Sometimes they have showers too but those are in 90 % of the cases cold. If we are really lucky which is rare enough they also have electric or gas BBQs and on those occasions we make good use of them and have fry up breakfasts and then fry enough bacon to have it on sandwiches for lunch… anyway, I’ve marked some of them that are right at the coast as waypoints.
We reach the Bay of Islands and try to find one of my waypoint campsites but it seems as if it has been closed (sometimes that happens – the program is a free one and not kept right up to date) instead the area is full of exclusive properties and the few campsites we find are of the expensive sort too – so no good for us. Mind you we do feel much more at home on those basic campsites, they are usually in national parks and the lack of luxury means mostly we are surrounded by beautiful nature rather than hundreds of motor homes squeezed side by side – in fact it is not rare that we are the only ones who turn up there.
On our way to the next one up the coast we pass the Waitangi Reserve. Here is the Maori meeting house where the treaty with the British was signed but we boycott the place and don’t go in because as foreigners we are supposed to pay 10 $ per person more than Kiwis – well sod that! We had to cross half the world to get here and the place is not cheap! We stopped on a farm along the coast for example where they were advertising guided tours around the place and thanks to the fact that a few scenes of the hobbit film were shot there they asked 50 Dollars to show you around – now there was no film set left just the farm and its animals and while they showed you that they would probably point out that behind this rock what’s his name tripped over or what do I know – anyway, we thought that was not only a bit over the top…
Well we have not complained in Asia where western tourists have to pay more than locals – but there the locals were really poor so it made sense to us…
Anyway – we head off without having seen the sacred treaty grounds or the film set and the road goes right through a golf course and past huge villas with the most stunning views, but anybody in NZ has them. We have not yet been to a place with such an abundance of natural beauty – it’s even better than Tassie in that respect and that was already quite stunning….
We have come to travel at a snail’s pace here, there is just so much to see, turn back for and take photos of.
We stop at an old mission and have a look at the church and graveyard – this one is rather special as apart from the family history you can actually even read peoples nicknames on the headstones – one of them makes me really laugh cause I could not imagine any European who would proudly state that here lies Tom (Jughead) Smith – well apart from the jughead it was a different name – in fact it was a Maori name.
Quite late we arrive at Maitai Bay where we are asked to pay at the rangers office – but that is closed and no ranger to be seen anywhere which suits us just fine. We find ourselves a nice spot with a view onto the bay and no sooner is the tent up grabs Kev his fishing tackle and disappears to the beach. He even catches a small fish in a very short period of time and now he is hooked and immediately decides that we are going to spend another day at this place. Well that is fine by me, for the last two weeks we have not stopped longer than one night anywhere – maybe I can even do a bit of work on the computer and get the Australia blog done which is difficult when you are constantly on the move….
There are supposed to be Kiwis here as well (I mean the birds) – we think we might even have heard them in the night.
As soon as my hubby has gulped his first coffee he grabs his fishing rod again and with a happy: “You can come down with another coffee and breakfast when you are ready” he disappears down the steep dunes to the beach….
I fry the last bits of bacon in the little frying pan on our camping cooker which is not an easy feat and then some eggs and another coffee. I am a bit stressed by the fact that we have so much room in this car and constantly things disappear and I am forever searching – on our bike things have their place and that makes it all a lot easier. At the moment I can’t find the knife… and the cutting board… and the car keys…
Knife and cutting board I find hiding behind the passenger seat on the floor under the tent bag (which normally should live in the boot) but the keys just don’t turn up even though I have rearranged the whole car searching for them, ah well they will probably be in one of Kev’s pockets then…
So I get the breakfast ready while the gulls are having a close eye on me and then take the spare keys from the glove compartment (which have not yet disappeared) and drive down to the beach where we have a nice brunch.
Kev has not caught another fish and decides he must have the wrong bait, he’ll keep trying until low tide sets in and then we’ll have to go to the tackle shop to get something better.
I return to the tent as I want to make use of the nice day and boil some water for washing my hair and have a quick rub down – not had a dry, warm day for a while and this one is perfect, I might even manage to wash a few clothes. When I arrive at the tent and get out of the car I find the missing keys – they are (luckily still) on the roof of the car!
During the course of the day Kev tries different beaches and positions but even with the new bait and rod rest which we have bought in a nearby village he doesn’t have any success while I sit on the beach and work on my translation. At some point it gets dark and also very cold and damp – Kev seems obsessed with catching a fish and just won’t give up, so I decide to wait for him in the car. The computer needs charging by now so I pug it in and write merrily away. For this I have also switched to lamp on as I can’t see the keyboard anymore and for some entertainment I switch the radio on. When Kev finally decides to call it a day and arrives to go back to the tent the car won’t start. There is just a very weak click and that’s it. How wonderful – we are at the end of the world with a car that you can’t push start because it is an automatic, there is no one else and we are both absolutely starving….
So now we just take some bread, cheese, ham, margarine, a knife and the cutting board and wander all the way to our home … the car problem will have to wait until tomorrow.
As could be expected we are awake with the first sunlight and walk back to the car but the hope that it will start now is soon squashed and we walk to some nearby farm buildings. A lady on her way to work stops, she does have jump leads in the car and is even willing to help us… everything else is just a matter of minutes and we can return to our tent with a running car which we now don’t dare to switch off again. While we pack everything up we leave the engine running and then we’re off to Cape Reinga, the most northerly accessible point of NZ. It’s once again pouring down by the bucket load so much so that the wipers can’t keep up and there is not much to see so we get to the place before lunch time .
There are huge sand dunes and just in time for our arrival it clears enough so that we can walk to the lighthouse and back on dry ground and we even have views which are again super. To our amazement you can actually see that at this point two oceans - the Tasman sea and the Pacific - meet.
For the Maori people this Cape is of important cultural significance: it is the point where they once arrived at, when they colonized the island and they believe that the souls of their dead leave from here back to their home country which is called Hawaiiki.
Nearby there is also a National Park in the Bay of Spirits - there we want to spend the night. Although this is a pretty well visited corner which most tourists visit there are apart from us only 2 more tents and a mobile home on the site. Between several rain showers and rainbows we build our tent and then we make a walk to the beach. It is wild a wild place, with high waves and jagged rock formations that bear witness to its volcanic origin. At times you sink ankle-deep in shell splinters and I end up with pockets full of shells and sponges that have been washed to the shore
Although we like it here we set off on the road back to the south again the next morning because there are quite a lot of places on this part of the country we want to look at before taking the ferry in the direction of the South Island which is supposed to be the climax of New Zealand (it must be quite something special to beat what we have seen so far).
However, since we now can see what we missed yesterday in the rain and then also have stop to go shopping because our supplies have melted away, we don’t really get that far. Well at last we make it to Maitai Bay and as we quite liked it here the first time round we don’t mind stopping here again. As soon as we have put up the tent Kevin has the fishing rod out and disappears to the beach - let's hope that he has more luck with it today - I however hide myself in the tent because it is extremely cold and uncomfortably wet out there.
We are driven out of the sleeping bag before 7 in the morning, it has poured all night and there has even been a ground frost so we have had a very cold night - the promised fish for breakfast has never realized that it had to take the hook in order to provide us with some food so it’s a cheese and jam sandwich instead. On our arrival last night we met a nice couple from Eisenach. The two are at the end of 2 months NZ trip and give us some good advice on where we can camp and what we should not miss – we in turn give them some tipps for Sydney, where they make a stopover on their flight home.
We decide to pay the Kauri forest a visit and then to meet up with Micha and Anja on the Uretiti camp again in the evening.
However, I must first find an internet spot, because I have to send off a day and besides, we also want to send some birthday greetings. When we finally find a public library the network is so slow, it could be steampowered. We need more than an hour, until the mail with many pictures is uploaded and sent, only to then find that it has landed back in our inbox, because it was too big for the recipient server. It is hard to describe the level of frustration you feel when that happens after you've been staring at the screen for ages while each photo is being uploaded at a snail's pace pixel by pixel and in some cases even 2 to 3 times, as the mail gets lost on the way because of timeout ... and then, we can not send the birthday mail to Linda, because we realize that we have no email address for her ....
It is already quite late when we arrive at the kauri forest and on the way it is pouring down violently again and then I realize that we have driven about one hundred kilometers too far…
Kauri trees are among the tallest and oldest trees in the world. They grow very slowly and get thousands of years old, and once they have covered the whole country – now there are about 500 ha of Kauri forest left and it reminds us strongly of the fairytale rainforests in Tasmania with its high tree ferns. We rush around the half kilometer trail, briefly consider to stay on the doc camp here, but when we look at the place which is located at the side of the forest we find it lies completely in the shade of the looming trees and is full of thick puddles the memory of the last wet cold night comes to mind and there is no discussion - we rather put our tent up in the dark on the east coast....
It is then already pitch black dark when we arrive at Uretiti campsite, the place is located in the dunes and apart from that we see virtually nothing, we can’t find a reasonably level surface for our tent and drive around in circles until we eventually end up building it next to a toilet, which seems to be the only place, where they have taken the trouble to level the ground somewhat (I think I've never mentioned yet how annoying it is when you wake up several times in the night because you are continually sliding down hill) - we do not see our nice friends from the morning of course, who knows in which of the many bays with their windbreak hedges they have hidden themselves.
As good and fast as possible, we stick our tent up and make the bed, have some sandwiches and then we disappear quickly in the sleeping bag.
Crazy how different everything looks in daylight – on a last lap around the camp in the dunes we can now see places that would have been good for our tent and we also meet Anja and Micha who give us some more advice on what we should not miss on the Coramandel Peninsula and also recommend a campsite they have been to very fond of, which lies at the northern tip – if we get there we should send greetings to the Ranger and tell him that this place is the best… well let's see. Since the ride takes around 5 to 6 hours and our new friends have to hurry to return their rental car on time we say goodbye soon and get going.
The Coromandel is a small paradise at the gates of Auckland, it's Saturday and the place is full of weekend traffic from the big city – most people are along the coast, where every car park is full with vehicles and boat trailers. On the beaches you can see lots of anglers - well that looks promising, maybe well will have our first fish dinner here ...
Kev stops at the first opportunity and collects mussels from the rocks - he needs bait!
But it's still a long drive because most of the DOC sites are on the north coast and all the roads up here are one-lane gravel tracks that wind up and down between the cliffs and the seaside. They are lined with old grotesquely twisted trees about which we later learn that they are the New Zealand Christmas trees because at that time they are in bloom and full of red flowers.
It is already dark when we arrive at the first campground and next to us stops a gang of weekend fishermen who obviously had more beer than fish in their ice boxes. They are all pretty sloshed and one of them comes to us right away, hugging me, as if we've known each other forever and he has missed me dearly for a long time. ” You must excuse us, we had quite some beers and smokes all day”: he mumble-babbles “feel free to come and join us by the fire later”
Since we are no longer traveling by motorcycle we rarely meet people these days, apart from the many international backpackers who are travelling around in rented camper vans and also the guys are playing some really nice music and they have a warm fire (ignoring the sign that says: No fires), so after dinner we join them for a natter. The 5 non-feathered Kiwis receive us most cordially and after it is clarified where we come from, of course, they want to know what we think of their home country which we then praise extensively. Isn’t it funny, whenever you tell someone that he lives in a beautiful country they fell the necessity to give you the big: “yes, but.”… in this case it is: "Yes but we have to work hard for it, there are not enough jobs, too many Asians are allowed into the country and the whole government nannying…. (such as that with the fire)" They have to agree with me, however, that life has to be worked for anywhere, unemployment is not a problem unique to this country and the same goes for the state nannying (which in my opinion is caused by too many lawyers in the world, but this only on the side). But to life in a country with a good social net, opportunities for those who want them and on top of that so much natural beauty and also plenty of space - this comes pretty close to paradise in our books – grudgingly they have to agree to that.
The desolate condition of the gang explains itself as one of them takes his battered bong out which he has made from a can and clumsily stuffs his makeshift smoking device with a lot of the happy making grass that he pulls out of a plastic bag and in the process he scatters more of it around him, than one person would need to be as high as a kite.
Kevin enquires about the fishing possibilities and receives the reassuring information that nobody has a lot of luck at the moment, because the fish just don’t bite well in winter (now Kevin feels a lot better, because his permanent bad luck has already started to gnaw at his pride)
Shortly afterwards, the cozy get-together however comes to a rather abrupt end, the skies open their gates again and in next to no time everyone has disappeared.
The next morning the weekend fishermen are up and gone early – probably they didn’t sleep too well with so many of them in a car ....
We drive to the place, which has been so highly recommended to us from the German couple. Today we have the best sunny weather, the place as nice as advertised and located directly on a bay with a long sandy beach.
Frederik the Ranger greets us merrily and there is even some real comfort like electric grills, a covered dining area, even fireplaces, and the express request of Frederik to use them and burn as much driftwood as possible. Now who would want to disappoint such a nice man?
After finding a quiet spot at the other end of the bay, close to the sea and with as much morning sun as possible but still sheltered from the wind behind a hedge, a fire place next door and not too far from the toilets …. Perfect! As soon as the tent is standing Kevin and his fishing gear are on the beach.
I decide to first grab the chance and boil water for doing some laundry one does not often get an entire afternoon for it to dry, then I take my computer and folding chair and join Kevin to work on the Australia blog in the outdoor office.
Towards the evening we both collect driftwood and sit by a cozy fire admiring the night skies.
The temptation is great to stay a little longer in this paradise and we must often remind ourselves that our time here is limited. So we pack our home after just the one night with a heavy heart again and meander down the west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. We stop a lot because the bright blue sky and the views downright demand that we take pictures on every corner ...
It's half past four when we arrive at the starting point of the walking trail to Cathedral Cove. The hike will take 80 minutes, and sunset is just after 6 – which is tight. Nevertheless, we decide to go because storm and heavy rain has been forecasted for tomorrow and in the end it is well worth it even if it really takes us as long as predicted. When we arrive back at the car, it is almost dark. At a nearby Holiday Park they are asking $ 40 a night - that's just toooo much so we head to the next DOC place instead which is about 30 km away, in the woods. When we arrive there it has started to rain, so we decide spontaneously to sleep in the car after a sandwich picnic – no good for the backs but saves time and nerves and at least we don’t have pack a soaking-wet tent in the morning and can leave quicker.
It's gray and raining all day and not much to see, which has one good thing to it: I'm not distracted so I can finish the Australia blog. At the next library we find internet and manage to post everything and then we even find a state campground on the coast, with a hot shower - we both make use of this opportunity and it feels like Christmas afterwards.
The continuous rain has now improved towards the odd shower, but it's still very windy.
The next day the wind is still there but at least we have a blue sky again We intend to leave but first have a quick look at the beach which is right behind the dunes and then Kev decides to yet try his fishing luck again (well - he probably won’t get another chance for a while because we want to slowly work our way down the interior) I use the time to go on a treasure hunt I have collected quite a few bags full of shells already. Kev catches one crab in almost 5 hours (which he throws back into the sea) - Well, the main thing is that it was fun.
When we get to our campsite in Rotorua, it's pitch dark and you can’t see the hand in front of your eyes, let alone a lawn for a tent - so in the end we have to sleep in the car again - probably better that way, because it is a damn cold night, and we are awake early to visit a Maori village, that has made itself a tourist attraction and thus take part in the first guided tour. The village is surrounded by steaming pools and we learn how the residents take advantage of the existing geothermal outlets to their benefit. Everywhere it bubbles and hisses, there are several holes in the ground that are covered with lids, we are told they are used as steamers - vitamin preserving gentle steam cooking with mineral supplements - I'd definitely like one in my garden. I could place dinner in it before going to work, leave it there to stew and get home to a ready delicious cooked meal that practically melts in your mouth ... hmm – have to get the thinking cap one when we get back home…..
Next to the steamer is a pool of boiling water, the vegetables are just hung in there in a bag for 10 to 15 minutes super convenient, I must say.
Then there is a demonstration of Maori dances and traditions - presented with humor and even if it is performed just for the tourists, it doesn’t feel out of place. The first settlers of this country differ greatly from the Aborigines in Australia I have the impression that they have been more successful in finding their place in the modern Western society and make the best of it.
At lunchtime we treat ourselves to a traditional steam cooked meal (hangi) in the village cafe - as I want to dig deep into our wallet the nice woman at the checkout enlightens me that they really are huge portions and you have to be really hungry to eat a full meal - I don’t need telling twice that I can save so we share one meal between us. That's a good thing, because we really get so much that we are both stuffed and the money saved, I can now invest in a nice carved pendant made of bone (for the jade the saving wasn’t big enough).
Kevin would like a traditional tattoo, but unfortunately we have bad luck, the store is closed due to holidays.
Before we leave we get another treat we can experience the geysers in action.
We have read about the so called Rainforest Highway which leads from here towards the east coast and sounds rather intriguing and we even have chosen a campsite at a lakeside in the rainforest. The guidebook recommends that you schedule 2 hours for the drive as the road is narrow, winding and with many gravel sections. Well this may be true for Kiwis, because they are cowboys on the road but not for two dawdlers like us that have to stop at every corner to snap pictures with a lot of Oh, Aah and WOW.
At one of our toilet stops I have to laugh out loud, there is a water tank here where obviously by the competent authority, a proper sign was attached stating: “if you find this clean and dry you 're a bloody legend” - once again an example of the wonderful sense of Kiwi humor.
As it gets dark we still have 30 km on the narrow dirt road with loads of hairpin bends in front of us ...as a small rest area on with a loo emerges and we decide to rather stay here and sleep in the car than miss just one of those magical views.
We wake up before daybreak - no wonder really, if you go to bed as soon as it gets dark, you’ve rested enough by 6 am. We wait impatiently in our sleeping bags that it finally becomes light enough and then we are shocked to see that everywhere is white over and it is bloody freezing….! It does look nice though, the giant ferns and other trees with their long moss beards are dusted with icing. We make coffee and defrost our numbed fingers on the mugs and wait until it is light enough to continue.
Around every corner is a photo opportunity (not to be missed) so we need another 2 hours until we finally actually arrive at our planned destination from the night before.
It would indeed have been the perfect place to stay, but here - right on the lake, it has been even colder, as we can see on the tent of a young German who has spent the night here it is in fact still thickly covered in frost.
In the early afternoon we find another nice campsite in the dunes, because now we've actually made it up to the east coast, but it's much too early to stop. We follow the coast to Napier here we are in one of the main wine and fruit growing areas of the country. At the moment the cherry trees are in full blossom next to them oranges are ripe, while the pastures are just about greening - what a strange mixture and that at the end of August ...
We spend the night on a river which makes Kevin all teary-eyed because his fly rod is traveling with our bike heading to Chile.
As so often happens when we sleep in the car we wake up before sunrise and wait for it to finally get light. Before we can leave, however, Kevin has to have a few casts with the spinner. Of course, in vain - but he is not short of excuses – this time we are simply on the wrong bank.
From here we drive to Taupo, according to Kevin to the holy grail of anglers .... There are lots of hotels, even a Hilton and a lot of bars and restaurants and what not. But as it is so often the case, if you have excessive expectations .... my husband is quite disillusioned - well, the place has gone very commercialized, you can only afford the fishing license if you can also afford staying at the Hilton - a day ticket costs $ 350 (and poaching is out of the question here).
So we continue to the Tongarino National Park, but here the weather throws a spanner in the works, it is very cold and you can not see the snow covered volcanoes, because they are hiding behind a veil of cloud.
So we see that we lose altitude, because after 2 nights sleeping in the car with night frost, we need a) a bit warmer climate and b) the luxury to sleep in our tent.
We find a Freedom Camping with the GPS and where we arrive just before nightfall. Our tent is up before it starts to rain and our vegetable soup is almost done ....with cunning and inventiveness we even manage to find a station in our small wind-up radio and with a warming soup in the belly, the world is terrific ....
Our camp is located on a bend in the river in a deep gorge, we slept like babies, and after the morning mists comes a blue sky. Now it is warm and after a few casts with the spinner (one never knows) I navigate us on a journey of discovery in 100 km radius around our camp. It goes up and down along deep ravines, on small roads, where we rarely encounter someone. Now and then we stop at viewing points and whenever we think it can not get any better this country proves us wrong again ... ..
I have found a little Dirt Road that will bring us to a ravine with the so-called Whitecliff Boulders. It goes steeply uphill on a one-lane dirt road riddled with hairpin bends. When we finally stand before the gate of the entrance to the car park and as I get out to undo it, I see a lot of steam coming from the car bonnet and under the car a puddle coolant is spreading out.
Further analysis of the situation shows that the container for the antifreeze has a hole. We leave everything to cool while I walk to the nearest farm to have our water bottle filled. The helpful Farmer then advises us not to drive down to the car park because he thinks we will get bogged down (which might not be a good idea with a hole in the cooling system).
So we fill the radiator up and park on the roadside and then walk towards the place - we do not want to have come here for nothing. While walking downhill Kev complains constantly, that you could drive this easily - but when we arrive at the bottom we both sink ankle-deep in mud and are now happy that it is only our shoes, that get stuck here. We are on a sheep pasture where lambs right and left of us are being born. The road into the canyon is not only steep and slippery, but also long so we leave it with a few pictures of the views below us and otherwise watch the sheep for a while, then make our way back to the car and finally to civilization.
For the rest of the day we always have one eye on the road and one on the temperature gauge, which behaves now and is always where it should be - just like us: on the way towards Wellington and since we have already spent so much time dawdling, we take the most direct route and keep going until it gets dark. Of course, we have to sleep in a lay-by and in the car again.
On our way towards Wellington is the Waohine Gorge, which I wanted to see last time when we were in the area, but unfortunately the weather forecast has not been wrong, and the further we go into the mountains, the more the rain closes in. When we arrive at the end of the gravel road there is a carpark of which various hiking trails lead to all directions, it is windy and drizzling.
Nevertheless, we decide, to walk a little way. We have to cross a long suspension bridge which spans the deep gorge but as I have, however, made about 10 steps on it, and with each foot forward it swings more and more the project has died for me ... .. Kevin accepts the hero part, takes the camera and makes at least a few photos from the middle of the bridge.
We then drive back to the State Highway through the mountains directly to our campsite where we want to spend the next 2 nights to explore the capital Wellington, before we take the ferry back to the South Island.
As with our first visit to this area it's raining, so it is a good thing that we intend to do the cultural program in the capital. Wellington is quite compact and not too difficult to navigate and so we go first to the Old St. Pauls Cathredral, a very pretty old church, which is built entirely from local wood. It is just as well that the admission is free everywhere, because the parking meters swallow $ 2 for15 minutes and I get soaked while I am doing my parking meters degree trying to buy a ticket ... .. for that I reward myself with a souvenir here - a straw-kiwi with red cap for the Christmas tree, we don’t often have a treat.
Then a visit to the government building is on the program. The guided tour is very interesting, with the most impressive part for me at least, being the information, that the team formation of the All Blacks for the upcoming Rugby World Cup was announced to the public from the press room of the beehive (the nickname of the parliament building). Now for the ignorant amongst you, the All Blacks are the national rugby team of New Zealand and obviously of the utmost political importance (a tip on the side, if one wants to make friends in NZ one should assert at every opportunity that the All Blacks are the best). We Germans are accustomed to seeing our Chancellor sitting in the VIP box at games of our national football team and her rather stiff expressions of enthusiasm after each goal are broadcasted on TV, but for announcing the team's formation from the Reichstag we probably would have to wait until we’ve won the world championship at least 3 times in a row….
Another impressive detail can be found in the basement of the center of power - the historic building has been made earthquake-proof in the nineties with modern means and great effort. Two of the three buildings have been mounted on special coils, which can override a quake of at least 7.4 on the Richter scale without damage - which is necessary because along the capital runs a pretty active tectonic fold that will definitely at some point in the future provide for a large quake.
The rest of the rainy day we spend in Te Papa, the National Museum (the designers of the museum in Canberra should have come here for some bright ideas) We spend several hours learning about indigenous fauna and flora and how it has been changed by the settlers of different eras, what it means to be a Kiwi, what an earthquake feels like, Maori history before, during and after the colonization and much more .... at the end we have to hurry to get back to the tent, because at 6 clock in the evening the gate to the National Park closes.
The stormy day has left its mark on our home, a few pegs are loose and some of the guy lines need to be tensioned, but it still stands.
Although we don’t waste any time in the morning really, we miss the first ferry and have to wait in the harbour for hours until at 13.45 the loading begins. I’m already panicking in anticipation of a rough crossing due to the gale force winds... and I can not find my seasickness pills. What an exciting end after 4 weeks and 5079 km on the North Island.