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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Driving at last, it's like riding a bike! The Northlands

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 6 May 2008 | Views [1921] | Comments [3]

Home sweet home, lol!

Home sweet home, lol!

Today I collected my transport and home for the next two months. After a leisurely start at the hotel and another mahuusive breakfast we were collected by taxi and taken to the depot. The company I hired with are called 'Jucy' which I still find amusing. If you call them, their automated voice system says 'we'll put you right through to one of our jucy representatives', lol! (Simple things...) 'Jucy' and I didn't get off to the best start as the girl in the shop tried telling me that they were not picking up the tab for the taxi! Obviously they weren't pulling that one on me and duly paid the chap (he wasn't getting a penny from me!). She then informed me of the wonderful government invention of diesel tax! Diesel is cheaper than petrol of course, as you'd expect, so to get over this, they tax you $3.70 for every 100km's you drive using it!! This caught me by surprise as no one had mentioned this as yet. After trying to get her to tell me how many miles their vans do per 10 litres (which she couldn't do even though I later found that exact piece of information on the paperwork she gave to me after signing!), I tried to work out the costings to a rough figure after making up the mileage. I knew the cost difference between petrol and diesel and also this system was simply a fact and every company does exactly the same thing, I obviously had to just go with it... After getting the paperwork sorted and turning down their extortionate 'full monty' insurance offerings (I just took the basic cover) I could see that there still was a saving with the diesel vehicle, albeit not as great as I anticipated originally. We got shown around the van, which comes fully fitted with everything you need apart from a toilet and shower. We got an extra duvet for Ringo, which meant I would have two double duvets and pillows once on my own, a mini result for comfort and warmth. After finalising everything we moved off about an hour later and went straight into the super market next door to stock up on food, drink and some dvd's to watch on the portable dvd player included with the van. I bought the three lord of the rings films as I don't own them at home and they were nice and cheap (not the extended versions unfortunately), and an all black rugby dvd that was going cheap. Ringo brought some questionable films, including The Right Stuff which we watched later that night and wasn't entirely what Ringo had thought it was about, and it went on for fooking ages! Still, it was a good watch. We were driving north into the imaginatively named Northlands, as I wanted to see Cape Reign, the most northerly point of New Zealand, whilst passing the Bay of Islands and various sites on route. We stopped off at one point to have a butchers at a game of rugby we spotted being played near the main road. It turned out to be a colts game at a local club and there were loads of people watching and cheering support! We got there with only 10 mins to play though, but did see some good runs and glimpses of some quality, fearless young players enjoying their game. We drove on through several showers and some very very green landscapes until reaching our first stop for the night, one of the 'Top 10 camp sites' which are dotted all over the country and carry a certain minimum standard and provide a membership scheme which brings some discounts at major attractions nearby. We had a few beers and some more good waffle and crashed out on the benches either side of the van, without putting the middle boards in place.

We woke the next morning both feeling a little stiff from being crammed into the skinny beds, although sleep was had (even through Ringo's excellent snoring session! ;-)). After some breakfast and getting cleaned up, we drove on up to Cape Reigna through some lovely twisty roads through the countryside. I was enjoying driving again after many months without one of my favourite past times! The trouble is that these roads just make me remember my brilliant past cars... the Focus and the Elise would be a whole lot of fun on these great roads... :-( We got to the last garage for fuel before the Cape, about 30km short of our target and with only about 60km worth of fuel in the tank... I was feeling quite chuffed with my guesstimates on fuel requirements, which was short lived as the 'last fuel' on this long long road were out of diesel AND unleaded! What sort of garage is this?! The girl behind the desk was sat with her ipod on and doing puzzles, there was actually no point her being there... lol! We had to turn around and drive the 54km back to the last garage as we simply couldn't make the Cape and then the garage in one... bollocks! We went back, got fuel and decided to make a run for the Cape again where we hoped we could find a camp site for the night. Along the gravel road before the Cape there was a turning off for the sand dune beach, so we drove along that for a look. This is the place where they do the sand boarding, which is basically body boarding down the huge dunes. The place that supplied the gear looked closed and the rain and wind didn't encourage us anyway. The beach itself is pretty cool and there are a few walks to various points along the coast (including the Cape) which we agreed to take should the weather permit tomorrow. Driving through the field to this spot was quite cool as the field was home to lots of huge bulls, some of whom were more than happy to stand in the road and close to the van for a browse! We made it back to the Cape, just as the sun had set! The rain was falling and the cold was closing in... we took the 5 minute walk out of the car park to go down to the lighthouse and cape point, which was still quite spectacular even at this time of day and in the rain. Once we got back to the van we decided to just stop here, even though it said no camping on the sign before the car park. Who would come and check, we though, only to see a warden come up the road and turn into the car park... fucks sake, lol! On the way up to the cape, about 2km back along the gravel road we'd spotted a turning that didn't appear to be signed to anywhere, so we gave that a go and found a camp site (with no facilities) down on a beach just around from the Cape. Perfect! We parked on the grass near the sea and took our goon and glasses down to the beach where we stayed for ages talking about all sorts of stuff and sinking the lovely red stuff. Back in the van we had some soups to warm us up and chatted for a while longer before crashing out for the night.

After waking up and sorting breakfast out we drove back up to the Cape for another look in daylight. It was still raining and generally not very nice, but it was a good way to wake up! On the walk back from the lighthouse to the van we were accosted by two hitch hikers looking for a lift south to the Bay of Islands. They were soaked through after camping the night on the cliffs near the Cape because they'd hitched there and then were stuck! I couldn't say no really, as there was only one more car in the car park and that would be filled by the people we'd left down at the lighthouse, these guys could be here a while. Technically I don't think you're supposed to take people in the back of the camper van when driving, because there are no seat belts, and typically we drove past lots of police today! The American bloke and his German girlfriend were nice enough, although conversation was difficult what with them being sat behind me! I made it my mission to get to the major city of Whangarei by midafternoon, due to the rain and also to get back down past Auckland while Ringo still had some time so we could see a few more things. We got there and dropped the two guys off at the supermarket with all their gear, and restocked our cupboards for the next few days. We ate lunch right there in the carpark and then got back on the road to head further south to get to our next camp site for the night. We stopped at Marakohe and pulled in to a very nice camp site. The microwave was employed in the van tonight to heat the pies we'd picked up at the supermarket and we whiled the night away with a few beers and some more conversation!

The 5th of May was mine and Ringo's 6th day together (time flies when you're waffling! Lol). This morning we drove south for an hour and a half to a place called Wenderholme Regional Park which is said to have some good walks. Because we were too busy waffling (or rather, 'I' was too busy waffling) we completely missed the turn off for the park AND the turn off after it for the camp site we planned to stay at tonight! We ended up in Orewa just south of where we were trying to go, and it looked like a nice place to pop back to later anyway. Once at the empty Wenderholme Park we set off on the couple of hour round trip walk which took in Couldrey House, the original homestead of this area, lots of forest and hills and a major detour onto a beach area which overlooked the north bay onto Orewa. Because of the rain it was slippery under foot on the uphill sections to the main lookout on the hill, but it was a fun walk/climb. The beach detour was good fun and we tramped all around the beach area and probably could have gone all the way round the bay with hindsite (from the lofty viewpoint on top of the hill). Ringo was in danger of collecting yet more heavy things from the beach to carry around with him for the rest of his trip at this point... heheh ;-) We got lucky with the weather for the walk with only a few spots of rain in places. We had lunch back at the van and then drove back down to Orewa for a wander along the several mile long beach there. On route we spotted a guy in full wetsuit and crash helmet, setting up a power kite on the beach. Problem was there was not a lot of wind happening, perhaps he knew something we did not. We patiently waited for him to go through his seemingly over the top safety checks, especially in light of the fact that there was NO WIND. Ringo found a ball whilst foraging for rocks to send home (personal joke) and we stood throwing the ball on the beach waiting for the lycra suited maniac to fly... he did not fly, much to my disappointment, but he did get the kite in the air, a remarkable achievement considering there was still barely a breeze! We were bored now, and so made off to find our campsite... The park for the night was pretty cool and we got a pitch right next to the sea wall. I mean *right next to* the sea wall... as the tide came in it was smashing onto the wall and splashing over the van! I don't recall ever sleeping that close to the sea before, the ocean lapping onto the rocks and wall was quite a nice soundtrack to sleep to later that night. We went to a natural hot water spring next door to the camp site as we had a discount there from camping and found it to be a really good laugh. They had some huge water slides there which had naturally warmed water flowing down them, and they were bloody mental! As it is out of season the place was really quiet... there was only one young woman running up to plunge down the slides again and again, who we had a quick chat with about them (it was hard to look her in the eye admitidly, as she stood there in her bikini, snot dribbling from her nose after piling down the fast slide, lol). She recommended one to try first and so I threw myself down the thing only to get battered on the first corner and thrown into the air inside the pitch black tube and land on my side, all at break neck speed, then get unceremoniously dumped into the pool at the bottom and receive the biggest wedgey ever! Brilliant! I love these sort of things (not the wedgey!), and so had many many goes... there were loads of slides, although the craziest looking ones, which twisted around each other after starting side by side at the top, were unfotunately closed today. After beating ourselves up on those for a while we tried out the hot pools, which were... well, hot! The 40 degree C one was quite nice, and they had a 48 degree plunge pool, which was ridiculous! I put my hand in it and couldn't even hold that in there for a second... fook dipping the plums in there! WE had another go ba ck on the slides before a couple of lengths racing in the main pool and taking our pruned bodies off to shower and change. All in all it was a bloody good day, and we were both knackered! On the way back to camp we stopped in a bottle shop and picked up some cider to drink, which tasted like a mix between Addlestons and Natch, weird. It also failed to hit the target, which was highly disappointing especially being such easy 'targets' after the day full of excercise! I won't be bothering with that again... cider in Oz and NZ sucks! We made some food using the onsite kitchen and took the chance to do some laundry and drying before crashing out for the night.

After much thinking about it over the last few days, I went and bought a laptop today. I contemplated bringing one with me for the whole trip from home, but was put off by the fact that in Asia I would be constantly worrying about the safety of it. In hindsite it was a good plan to leave without one, as all the countries I visited in Asia were not as well organised as Oz and NZ (and no doubt South Africa will be the same too) and none of the back packers places had lockers available. Part of the justification is that I will spend a large amount of time at a PC to type these blogs up and upload pictures, all of which costs much more in these countries I am now in. I estimate spending somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds on internet usage for the rest of the year based on an hour a day average, which is a lot of money! (Internet is bloody expensive out here in Australasia!) I found a deal for a Toshiba Satellite A200 with 2.1Ghz AMD Processor, 1Gb DDR2, 200Gb HD, DVD writer, graphics card, etc etc for $1349NZ and got an optical mouse and protective sleeve thrown in too. All in all it isn't a bad deal and if it doesn't get too battered I might even be able to sell it when I get home. I couldn't go much longer without having something like this, I was starting to get twitchy not having something to type on whenever I wanted! Lol. So now I can write up blogs daily (admittedly I failed to do this whilst traveling with Ringo) and then just upload the text when I get online, thus saving plenty of cash (not paying for typing). Anyhoo, PC bought... this means I now need to buy another rucksack in which I can carry it on planes and take it with me when I leave the van for many hours in the middle of nowhere. It'll make some of the walks I plan to do a bit more interesting, lugging the extra weight of that around on my back as well as the usual stuff! Selecting and then buying this from the huge retail park we found driving into the northern side of Auckland ate quite a lot of time from the day, so we moved on to the MOTAT just west of Auckland, which is the Museum of Transport and Technology. It has two sights, linked with a tram ride on an old restored tram. The place was quite amusing, as it was obviously a private collection with very limited funding for developement, which was reflected in its layout and models. Some of the old planes were cool to see though, and the old services vehicles were cool. We also met a very enthusiast engineer who was in charge of the worlds only single flywheel, double chambered, beam driven, steam engine! (What a mouthful) The machine was used to pump sewage back in the day, and it was pretty impressive, although not impressive enough to take any photos of it it would seem, as I can't find any on my camera. Ringo loves to chat to randoms, and once he mentioned Fred Dibnah, the engineers eyes glazed over like the most beautiful women in the world had just smiled at him and we were looking for a way outta there sharpish! Lol. We also tried the flight simulator, which started out so cheesey with flashing lights and whooshing sounds, like it was the tardis, but the video of the helicopter flight over Milford Sound (an iconic spot on the south island) was pretty cool. Our visit didn't last much longer and we carried on into Auckland where we were going to stay at the YHA central for the night (the only hostel in the city with parking) so that Ringo could get the bus early in the morning to the airport where he was flying to Brisbane. Their parking wasn't available, so we had to hang around and feed coins into the meter outside until we reached the free period. Meanwhile I started setting up my laptop. We went out on a mission for a steak house, which failed miserably as the steak houses seem to all be way across town, until we found the oddest little cafe place that serves 'yummy chicken' and 'steak egg and chips', all served up by Chinese owners! It turned out to be a good feed though and wasn't terribly expensive. After that we played pool for a while in a local pool hall which was full of Koreans and Chinese people and then picked up some beers from the bottle shop and sat in the lounge at the hostel and chilled. This was Ringo's first stay in a shared hostel and he was pleasantly surprised by the vibe I think. Before bed (late) we bid each other a fond farewell before he disappears early in the morning and went to sleep (or snore in Ringo's case... lol ;-)).

Photo's from Auckland and the Northlands are here on Facebook

Tags: driving, history, hitchhikers, shopping, swimming, the great outdoors, walking




>We woke the next morning both feeling a little stiff from being crammed into the skinny beds

I know the two of you have probably? been starved of the good life for a while but you gotta control yourself m8. Although I guess if he hasn't had his barnet chopped since he left HP, Ringo could pass for a Sheila ;)

Got yourself FM08 yet? Any time you are feeling lonely feel free to prey with me that the sh*theads don't win the playoffs :(

  Steve Davis May 15, 2008 3:52 AM


Tells me to add an email addy and posts anyway!!! May as well make it a hat-trick...

  Steve Davis May 15, 2008 3:54 AM


Very amusing water slide story, brightened up my dull day!!
x x
Harvey is quite impressed with your van!!!

  Jo May 17, 2008 9:37 PM

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Me with the kids at Cawaro Village School during the Vitika Trek

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