By the time we figured out where we were and where we were going, it was late and the sun had fallen. We found a park that our app described as, a free campsite, so we parked our girl up for the night and laid out our cushions for our first sleep in our new home. I will admit it was difficult getting used to a new van that was so different than JP and we had our reservations on that first night.
I was already fast asleep when I heard a sound come from outside of our van. OH NO, had Charlie found us in New Zealand? Mike was still awake and quickly turned on a light to let the intruder know that someone was inside. The mystery man had driven up behind our van and turned his car off, Mike could hear him get out and walk over to us, then he tried to open up the sliding door where I slept peacefully. After our light turned on, we could hear him speaking in a foreign language and we could see him with a beer in his hand passing behind our van. This was not a park official! As soon as he had moved out of the way, Mike jumped in the front seat and we skidded out of there. Phew, we managed to escape another scary man, again on the first night of having our van. History was literally repeating itself. We found a caravan park up the road and soon realized that we had parked in one of the worst areas of Auckland. Luckily the nice lady Cindy working the reception desk welcomed us with a kind heart and showed us where we could park safely for the night.
Day 187- Our van needed some adjustments before she would be able to perform for us so we went to The Warehouse (New Zealands version of Walmart) to outfit and better organize our home. Then we found a park and emptied the van of all of its contents. After lots of brainstorming and careful consideration we found the perfect spot for our clothes, food and other miscellaneous items.
We had no time to waste so we hit the road and began to make our way up north. The scenery was already captivating and although my excitment in a new place can cause me to fall in love earlier then advisable, I knew that New Zealand was different and was in fact, true love. From our second day here I said that I would move to New Zealand in an instant. Not even a week in and I can't wait to come back.
We drove through a small town called Puhoi that was charming and full of history. We found a cool pub in town that had its memories plastered on the walls and a great selection of local draft beer. They were also playing American college football so we settled in for a drink.
We drove along the narrow winding roads, hugging the mountains edge for some time, all the while going up up up. Before we knew it we were lost in the clouds.
We continued the journey north and found a free spot to rest for the night in Waipo. Without even realizing it we found ourselves parked outside of some incredible caves. After we set up our bed, we put on the head lamps and went exploring. We were instantly surrounded by bright, gleaming glow worms. They lit up the cave and all of its many creatures. Scary, but not scared...
After we were deep in the cave, we turned out our lights and let the glow worms impress us.
It was a much better start to our New Zealand adventure than our first night. We slept peacefully with no intruders to bother us.
Day 188- We drove a bunch more, only stopping briefly in a town to buy groceries and a few more supplies for our van.
We found a great little campsite right off the highway, surrounded by forest and a river stream cutting through the hillside. Picture our forest in Kananaskis country and add the odd palm tree. That's what it looked like.
We made one of our favorites dishes from our campervaning experience in Australia and joined two fellow Canadians by their tent to drink wine and share our adventures. Dan and Mira lived in New Zealand a year ago and like many people who visit New Zealand, they returned to explore more of its hidden gems. They were a wealth of information and sent us a perfect, geographically organized, list of places we to see while in NZ.
Day 189- We had a destination and we knew this would be the day we'd get to it. We wanted to make it to the most northern point in New Zealand. Apparently this destination gets a lot of attention and Dan warned us that there would be a lot of tourists. To avoid the hustle and bustle of the area, he suggested a campsite further south, where we could leave our van and hike in. It was just our style, so off we went.
New Zealand is known for its wool and now I understand why. Healthy, happy sheep cover the land in every direction. We made friends with the three in the front.
As we drove we noticed something different on the horizon. It looked like the grass was changing colour. Although it didn't make sense...the beautiful green mountainous terrain was suddenly beige. Upon further inspection we saw beautiful sand dunes in the distance.
We ended our day at the Tapotupotu Campground where we paid for two nights at $25 dollars total. There were cold showers, semi clean bathrooms and a gorgeous view. It was quite funny because when we signed up for our campervan in Australia, I pictured us driving up to the beach every night to park our van. Although, doing so in Australia would result in expensive fines or pricey camp fees. Now here we were in New Zealand on our fourth night and we were already parked at the beach. Yay!
We were warned that the mosquitoes at this place were off the charts and it didn't take long for our night to become a bloody nightmare. I must have killed 50 mosquitoes in our van before we even went to sleep. Mike slept through this epidemic...
Day 190- We started the day early, knowing we had a big hike in front of us but Mike never misses a chance to make like a hobbit and chill out in a tree for a bit.
Our hike would take us up and over the mountainside, along the beach cliffs and down into the sand before we would get to Cape Rienga, which is the most northern point in New Zealand. The return trip would be 10kms and an estimated 6 hours. Mike and I knew that when we came to New Zealand we would be hiking our way around the country. We hadn't been very active in the past couple months, so we needed to channel our inner Ed Keith to keep us motivated on our jouney. If Mike's grandfather in his 90's could hike some of the worlds more strenuous trails, we needed to step it up! Minutes into the journey we were blessed with the most spectacular views.
That is me perched on the edge of that mountain, overlooking the ocean below.
The heat was blaring down on us and there were no spots to get some shade. So by the time we made it to Cape Rienga, I was starting to loose energy fast... Neeeeeeed waaaaaaaater!! Not sure if you can see how red my face is in the photo below but I'm pretty sure I was near fainting. The little girl behind me happily skipped past us and up the hill with way too much energy. That is so not fair!
What you see below is the meeting of two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. You can actually see the two different currents creating a line across the waters surface.
Everybody loves a lighthouse.
Nice, Vancouver made the sign.
The most northern point of New Zealand.
Behind us are the sand dunes that we saw from the day prior. At this point I really wasn't looking forward to the 5km walk home.
We finished the hike in 4 hours, 2 hours faster than the estimated time. Yay! I am positive Mike would have done it way quicker without me huffing and puffing behind him but I am his WIFE...so there's that.
We cooled off in the ocean after the hike and went out on the rocks at low tide to find some sun heated tide pools. We found some hot ones but they were only deep enough to sink our feet and bums into. Tiny shrimp swam quickly onto our skin and bit at what I am guessing was our dead skin. Trust me... anyone who knows my feet, knows that those shrimp were having a field day. I once had a vietnamese lady on a beach insist that I get my feet scrubbed because she couldn't believe a lady would let her feet get so worn. What can I say?
Anyhow, we finished off the night by killing many more mozzies, while watching Jessica Jones do some damage of her own.
Day 191- Our friends Dan and Mira gave us some direction to a secret local spot where we could camp for the night. To keep this place a secret, I won't give the exact details oh how we got there. In order to get inside, we needed to pick up a key from a small town nearby, with the key in hand, we drove to a side road that was blocked by a gate. Our key opened the secret gate and we drove into our exclusive camp site for the night. Yes, the sign below me is blurred out, my commitment to keep this place secret is matter of national security!
Right across the water from us is the finest white sand deposit in the world! Yup that's right, in the world and we had a front seat view all to ourselves.
We were also surrouded by these puffy flowers that I enjoyed watching sway in the wind.
We had the whole day to ourselves and nothing in the way to distract us or steal our attention. No wifi, no people, no coffee shops and no media of any sort. We bought some hand fishing lines and attempted to catch dinner from the ocean. We learnt that fishing from salt water requires no license, which meant we were free to catch as many as we wanted. I say that as if we would need to monitor our catches and potentially even release some back into the ocean had we caught too many...
Turns out that wasn't a problem at all... because we didn't catch anything. Well that is not entirely true, we caught a ton of seaweed. After two hours of solid effort we gave up. Once the tide went out... far far out, we took the advice of Dan and Mira and went foraging for clams. There were too many to choose from and it was way too easy, so we limited oursleves to 50.
After letting them soak in salt water for 2 hours, to allow them to spit out any excess sand and mud, we boiled some water and stood by to watch them 'pop' open one by one. That's how you know they're cooked.
I had never actually eaten a clam before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We mixed them in with our pasta and ate them all up. I wouldn't say that clams are something I'll ever crave in the future but the experience of catching our own food was awesome and something I would definitely do again. About a week after this night, we met a local at a coffee shop and told him of our experience foraging for clams. We showed him a photo of our clams and he said with an exotic reggae-esk Mauri accent, "those aren't clams, those are cockles!", I immediately looked at Mike with fear burning in my eyes at the thought of eating something we weren't supposed to. Although it hadn't made us sick so I really had nothing to worry about. Turns out cockles are a smaller version of clams...which means in a sense we still went foraging for clams. Phew.
The rest of our night followed much like our day, wasting time willingly.
Day 192- We set out early for a big day of driving to make our way down to Auckland. We stopped for a visit at 90 mile beach. Crazy to imagine a beach that is 90 miles long, with beautiful fine sand, surrounded by a dense forest.
Many cars can be seen driving along the beach from town to town but we didn't want to risk getting our gal stuck in the sand.
Just a little something that caught my attention. Mike says gross but I find it kind of cool.
The ocean was angry and the waves were curling on top of eachother.
It was a long day of driving before we finally made it to Auckland and once we arrived we were struggling to find cheap/free accomodation. We ended up paying $40 bucks to park our girl at a caravan park near the outskirts of the city and slept the night away.
Only one week in New Zealand and I am already deeply in love with this country. In the end we came up with a name for our girl. Jasmine but we call her Jazz for short. Mike explained it as such; she was once beautiful just like Princess Jasmine but is now older and wiser..... did I think that made any sense at all? No but I liked the name Jazz so I went along with it. What I'm guessing is pre pubescent Mike had a thing for Jasmine. It was the only way I could make sense of it all.