What happened on the North Island...

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Kenya 2006


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We landed in Auckland from the very long flight across from Santiago.  We got off the plane and started greeting people in Spanish!  At last time to speak English in a nation that doesn’t pronounce its vowels.


We have both been to both islands before so had planned to tour around both islands this time by campervan and car, seeing the sights and doing a few trips here and there as well as dodging the Japanese taking photos that seemed to be all over the country on huge coach tours.


So after getting somewhere to stay in Auckland we had a number one priority to get some laundry done after the mad two weeks in Chile.  While that was doing in stages we looked around the city and started roughly planning our time here.  We had also spoken about going to Fiji or the Cook Islands from here.  We looked into it but because it was NZ school holiday time the prices were sky high plus it would have made our planned driving time around even more rushed…


Would you believe after about an hour in the city we bumped into a bloke I used to sort of work with in the Server team at Microsoft.  He was also on his travels after taking a redundancy package and glad not to working there any more and wished he had gone travelling years before!


Auckland didn’t seem that busy with people so after a couple of nights here we picked up our campervan which was a transit diesel that sounded like a tractor which had a toilet and shower on board.  From Auckland we headed north out of the city to northland, the bay of islands, Paihia.  It was a lovely spot.  We got there early evening, grabbed some info, found a place to park up the night and cooked our first campervan meal.  It was dark when we parked up so little did we know we had parked up over the road from the police station.  They had left us alone all night which was good so we stayed parked there while we took the ferry over to Russell Island for a walk about.  Russell is famous for being the spot where the English first landed and so being the birth place of New Zealand way back in the 1800’s.  It was a sleepy little town with a very laid-back feel to it, and as we were the first ones over on the ferry we had the whole place to ourselves for a while.


That afternoon before reaching 90 mile beach we called into a famous fush’n’chup shop at Manganui.  You could see why it had won a competition or two over the years as they tasted great and why NZ is known for great fush’n’chups!


As you can imagine 90 mile beach is very long and there wasn’t a soul on it.  Not surprised though being New Zealand’s wintertime.  Later that afternoon we took the campervan on an open deck ferry crossing a small section of lake before doing some more driving before calling it a day.


All through the night it had rained heavy and looked set for a wet next day.  We didn’t have to drive that far from our night stop to get to the Big Kauri Trees.  We ventured into the woods to see the trees but thought they where a bit of a let down as we had seen bigger trees in California and Australia.  What was mad was the road went in between a couple of big trees they didn’t cut down when building the road.


We carried on driving to see the sun come out again onto a place known for its mountain biking with lots of marked out trails.  Typical as it wasn’t the weekend they did open the office at the forest during the week so we hit the road again.  We had planned to spend the night back in Auckland again just so we could go up the Sky Tower for a meal with the entire city lit up.  Before going for the meal we had a swim at the local pool for a bit of exercise and a much needed shower.  The meal up the tower was great with amazing views.


After spending a night at the swanky docks parked up we headed off early before we got moved on and after a quick shop and a late breaky we headed to the Coromandel Peninsula.  These probably were the best driving views of all the driving we did in NZ.  We managed to get as far as Cathedral Cove bay that night and parked up in a remote car park on top of the cliffs.  It was a great spot for the sunset that evening.  Before the tide came in the next morning we managed to get down to the bay so we could walk under the arch.  The sun was shining which added to it being a very beautiful spot.  After a few walks to the other bays and beaches we had some food and headed off for Rotorua.











Auckland sky tower at night

Rachel and the Tana Mahuta tree

Coromandel Peninsula





























































Rachel next to smelly mud hole!

Our campervan taking in the Te Mata views

Us at Mt Victoria, Wellington



Just a small selection of North Island



We got to Rotorua early afternoon.  This place is known for its natural thermal activity going on.  So in many places you see steam just gushing out filling the air with a hhmm nice sulphur smell!  There are always new thermal findings happening.  We stopped at a park that had quite a few blow holes in it.  These were only ‘discovered’ in 2001, blowing without warning and sending mud and all a good 200m in the sky.  So there are plenty of fenced off strange bubbling mud holes.


A good thing to do here though is to go to a thermal spa.  We went to the famous Polynesian Spa in the town and apart from just going into the various hot pools we had a wet massage.  A strange experience as while being massaged you are being sprayed with very strong water jets.  Very nice feeling.  Poor woman though getting soaked every time she has to do that!


After what was a very cold night in the campervan we headed into Lake Taupo.  This is the North Island’s main activity centre.  Their info centre is huge with a million and one things you can do in and around the area.  We had seen the town were having their Half Marathon on the Sunday when in Rotorua so we asked if we could pay on the day.  The answer was ‘yes’ which meant we had just (willingly) signed up to 13.1 miles of agony…  We decided we would head off to Napier to spend the night and come back.


Napier is known for its wine region and the town being designed throughout in an Art Deco style.  We were tempted to taste some wine, but with the race only a few days away we thought we’d better not.  The town gets its Art Deco touch from being nearly flattened in the 1920’s from an earthquake so they rebuilt the city to the latest modern theme.  All you need is Bugsy Malone and a few gangsters to finish it off!  We did the short drive to Hastings where you can drive up this very steep, narrow road to a point where you can see so much around.  Very high.  We got there just in time to see the area lighting up for the night.  We headed back to Napier for the night for some pre-race pasta!


Next day being a Saturday we came back to Lake Taupo in time to pre-register for the race on Sunday.  One of us also had in our goody bags a lucky draw leaflet!  There was a huge array of prizes up for grabs in the draw so we were very excited for five mins and expected to get a garden chair set or something of no use and something we certainly couldn’t put in our bag.  Our excitement soon disappeared as our prize wasn’t a nice bit of Orca kit but a glossy brochure on something or other that we could have probably got next door in the info centre!  Hey ho after that we just vegged out watching the serious queuing of people collecting their race entry packs.


That night we parked up in the race car park ready for the race and ate some more pasta…  We woke up to a cold over cast day with threatening rain.  Well after a bit of a breakfast and a warm up we gave our legs a good talking to.  “You may not have run since Brazil and certainly not that sort of distance, but mentally you should get us around!”


It was a big race field for NZ standards with lots of locals turning out.  We both set off on our own just plodding along hoping that would be enough to get us home ok.  By about 15km the legs sure knew something was happening and by the last few km’s the brain knew what needed to be done but the legs weren’t having any of it!  Ouch!  We crossed the line still in respectable times and luckily in time before the heavens opened.


So after much needed hot soup and bread we stayed for what was a great race prize giving.  Not just the medals for the winners but another huge prize giving.  The field was full of people waiting for their race number to be called out.  Anything from overseas holidays, white goods, tv’s etc…


No more prizes for us so we headed like many others to the local Taupo spa for a good hot tub soak and a shower.  After doing some laundry while eating some more fush’n’chups we headed south and pulled up for the night after a couple of hours driving.


Next day we got to Martinborough which is an area known for some great wines.  This was a very quiet small little village/town.  We parked up the camper and got the walking wine tour guide and walked around the various wineries of different sizes for an afternoon of wine tasting.  We finished up in the wine centre tasting some more and being educated by a lady who left England many years ago.  There was only us around being a Monday but it was good though!  So NO driving that night…


The following day we headed for Wellington.  After getting our ferry ticket all sorted out for the early evening crossing we headed for the national museum called Te Papa.  Great museum very well done!  With the sun shining we wondered around the town, got some lunch and ate it up the top of Mt Victoria.  Some great views across the city.  Later on we made our way to the ferry port for our crossing over to the South Island to Picton…




Another small selection of North Island


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