01.07.2008 - 01.08.2008
We picked up our van in Auckland. Well, that isn’t exactly right, the Van Company “Kea” came and picked us up at our hotel and moved us and our substantial belongings to the Van pick up – kind of like enterprise rent a car. We repacked all of our stuff and skinnied it down to the extreme to make room in the Van. We shipped everything else to Christchurch, where we’ll finally end up. We were surprisingly able to get all of our clothes, gear and food into the cupboards with the exception of our wetsuits and boards. There are three beds, a table for four, a couch, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, a microwave, a 4 burner cook top, a kitchen sink, a toilet, a shower, and a bathroom sink. Now, it doesn’t have all of those things at once mind you, else the Camper would be huge, but with pretty minimal effort, you can convert toilet to shower, dining table to bed, and couch to bed. You know the drill. In any event, the whole setup fits into a 27 foot camper van.
We had made reservations at “holiday parks”, their phrase for camp site, all over new Zealand, having been warned that this was summer vacation for Australia and New Zealand, and many of their families would be caravanning and tramping (their word for hiking) all over the islands. New Zealand is consists of two major islands, one to the north and another to the south. There are hundreds if not thousands of tiny islands that surround both, but for the purpose of our trip, we conceptualize only two major land masses.
From Auckland, our route will take us to the north end of the of the north island, then back down through Auckland again, hitting both the east and west coast beaches, then traveling to the highly geothermal central area, and ending in Wellington, New Zealand’s, capital city on the southern tip of the north island. We then take a car ferry to the south island and navigate from top to bottom on the west coast first, cross the bottom of the island, and then travel up the east coast, ending in Christ Church, all the while avoiding the mountain ridge in the center. I’ll try to highlight most of the places we stay, so you can get a feel for each.
Pakiri Beach - Barely on the map
We made reservations in a camp site that was only about 100km north of Auckland. I thought a short day of driving on major roads near Auckland would be the easiest way to acclimate to driving and setting up for camp. Driving the Camper out of Auckland was a quick education. We started on a 6 lane highway, which quickly became four land highway and even more quickly became an undivided two lane highway that started snaking their way around hillsides like some of the windiest roads you’ll drive in CA. The thought that was going through my mind as this transition occurred was “if this is THE major highway, what do the small roads look like?” Asked and answered. We followed the ever-so-intermittent signs to Pakiri Beach until we were on a one lane gravel road. This gravel road went on for about 15 km, went up and down some hairy hills, and we had to move over for folks coming the other way. One way bridges are the norm in New Zealand as well, and we had to pass over a couple of these, yielding to oncoming traffic just a couple of times. The surroundings on this short driv were pretty fantastic. The landscape looked like Hawaii. It was deliciously green, and huge fern trees that were easily mistaken for palm trees, co-mingled with pines. Grassy hillsides thick with sheep or cows were bordered by jungles of lush trees that would require a machete to navigate. Little towns with unpronounceable names popped up from time to time, while our “highway”, unapologetically split them down the middle. And there are beautiful flowers everywhere.
After negotiating all of that, we arrived at the holiday park. Generally holiday parks in New Zealand are extremely nice when compared to the states. They have many amenities, great locations, and they are clean. This holiday park had a few of those qualities, cleanliness wasn’t one of them. It was the kind of holiday park that gives you pause before you commit, because it appeared to have permanent residents, right next to our spot. The location however, as remote as it was, was super nice. It was right on the beach which had a pretty nice little beach break, and the beach seemed to roll on forever in both directions. Kids were playing in the little river that emptied onto the beach, playing with sand toys and riding boogie boarding as the tide pushed its way up the river mouth. After we all walked along the river and the beach for a bit, Griffin went skim boarding, Carol hunted for shells, and Parker and I opted to walk back to the van to ready ourselves for dinner. We all cooked our first meal in the van that night, which was quite fun, and we all bedded down for the night. I must say that it was the best night’s sleep we had all had in quite some time. The camper trip had started, and Auckland felt like it was years, not just miles away.