Rotorua

Day 7 mid afternoon – for the first time we would be pitched up for two nights – music to my tired ears! Here at the top 10 holiday club we were spoilt for tip top washing facilities, spotlessly clean. As a bonus a launderette was on site – my first task before we made the most of two mineral pools a few short steps away.

Day 8 – Rotorua is mainly on the flat, cycling would be our mode of transport…..Well it would if we could unlock the bikes from the rack attached to Aromoana! After half hour of trying, the combination lock was not budging and steam was rising from the long-sufferings ears. Luckily a helpful site man with bolt cutters came to our rescue.

Disaster averted, we set off to buy a new lock. After days of hardly seeing another car, Rotorua was a sharp shock back to reality, all hustle bustle and cars coming from all directions as we toured the long straight streets that criss crossed grid like typically American filled with wall to wall shops.

Lock purchased, we could finally head for our destination Te Puia to marvel at the geothermal pools and geysers – we had a free taste of what was to come yesterday evening at the local park a three minute walk from our pitch. With all the geothermal activity going on in Rotorua there is no getting away from the rotten egg smell of the sulphur pervading the senses!

Mud pools – gloop gloop like a saucepan of boiling water within the cracked earth, or gloop gloop gloop the sound of a motorboat chugging through the sea. Fascinating to watch trying to predict where the gloop will surface next.

Pohutu Geyser – bubbling beneath the surface, steam rising, thicker and thicker, building, building, suddenly, boiling water spurting, slow at first then, pulsing higher, higher to its climax – up to 30 metres – and then slowly slowly it becomes just a gentle bubbling beneath the surface once more.

Early evening bike ride to Government House Gardens

And Gardeners cottage nearby

And so to bed … long drive tomorrow….

Lows & Highs

Day 7 – After two days of freedom camping we had to empty our toilet Cassette for only the second time – the first was a joint effort which resulted in the long-suffering being subjected to splash-back by my not so gentle efforts to turn on the hose to rinse said cassette out! This time he was taking no chances and took the necessary precautions!

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Cathedral Cove, East coast Coromandel. We were hoping to get here earlier to beat the crowds, the slow winding roads are putting a spanner in the long-sufferings calculation times, thankfully the full beard he now sports does much to bring out the laid back traveller in him!

The morning was thick cloud and unbeknown to us we had parked in the car park furthest away – the beach is only accessible on foot or boat/kayak – thinking we would not be long and in our haste to get going we forgot: hats, sun cream and changing the fridge over to gas.

The climb up to various lookouts along this beautiful coastline was steep in places and long – just over an hour. The beach when we arrived – half ten – was already very busy, walking out onto the sand and looking to our left we were at once reminded of Durdle Dor on the Dorset coast back in Britain as we looked through a huge stone arch, the only difference the imposing white rock on the other side.

The return back was uphill nearly all the way and sunny. Wearing a cardigan over my head and shoulders to protect them from burning sent the long suffering rushing on in embarrassment, that and the thought of his mini magnums defrosting inside the fridge.  Luckily for me on our return the fridge and contents were fine averting a full-scale fall out from L.S.

We continue on Rotorua next……..

 

 

 

‘The Beach’

Day 6 Coramandel – we left our first freedom camp stop ‘Rays Rest’ in thick fog we thought was left behind in Dorset! Heading for Whangapoua and our next freedom camp on the beach we drove through Thames – so well kept as to eerily remind us of the stepford wives. Each house with neat manicured front lawns and freshly painted picket fences.

We drove on hugging the coast road, often narrow, mainly winding and as we have come to expect up and down hill. Our destination reached we were lucky to park in one of only two bays set aside for self-contained motorhomes.

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We were yards from spectacular Whangapoura beach where we chilled for a short while before a chat with a ‘local’ revealed ‘the best beach in the world is just around the corner’ he then pointed to a v-shaped gap up through the rocky headland at the far end of our beach as the route to take but only at low tide. With waves crashing against a mass of black rocks for now it looked nothing short of treacherous madness!

However, early evening was a different story, with the tide low and calm we set out to re-enact what we hoped would be a Leonardo di Caprio moment from 2000 film ‘The Beach’!

Viewed from our starting point it was obvious this would be tough, the low tide revealed massive rock piles even from this distance they were big, imposing and no doubt slippery. I could feel my hip groan with the anticipation!

Treking to the end of the beach now revealed a raging river to cross. Walking shoes and socks around our necks we took the plunge and waded through successfully negotiating our first test.

The rocks our second and by far the worst test loomed ahead! We scrabbled and scrambled – the long-suffering leading the way and ever attentive – over rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes made even more difficult by their slipperiness from the tidal wash of the sea. The going was slow with our foot placement constantly adjusting to the undulating terrain. Eventually half an hour later we came to the end – of the rocks at least!

Looking up, in front of us through the v of the land was test three JUNGLE!  Undeterred, with our goal ‘the best beach in the world’ hopefully to come soon we entered the forest.

We followed the feint track up and down to the sound of crashing waves on distant shores, using the exposed tree roots to stop our feet sliding away from us. After ten minutes little flashes of azure blue could be seen through the thick canopy and foliage on our right. The tension was now building, we pressed on, the end, nearer now, intense excitement, and then…….

Suddenly, we were out of the forest, into brilliant sunlight and spread out before us a wonderous sight. A perfect arc of soft white sand curving off into the distance. Waves crashing in from beautiful turquoise sea.

We stood our mouths gaping in unison at the scene before us, how long I do not know transfixed as we were, ten, fifteen, probably only minutes, time seemed to stand still with the unspoilt beauty before us……

It really was ‘The best beach in the world!’

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Photos by Richard Mower

Northland part 3

Day 4 continued – KariKari D.O.C. Camp, leisurely afternoon lazing on yet another beautiful sparsely populated beach. The sea beckoned me in even though it was freezing. Swimming the bay, it took awhile for the long-suffering to join me with much cajoling on my part. He did his usual routine two tentative steps forward followed by body contortions as he sideways ran away from the breaking waves to avoid getting wet, not really the point!

Day 5 – This was to be a long driving day to beat the bank holiday Monday traffic around Auckland. I was first designated driver to start us off – my driving all day yesterday getting the thumbs up – I had driven on the flat, up and down tight winding roads with sheer drops into forests below and long gravel roads creating a dust storm behind as Aramoana bumped along to the sound of jangling cutlery, pans and bottles.

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Heading south, back out on the gravel road, we were joined by a pack of dogs surrounding Aramoana, ferociously barking and snapping at her wheels. Worried I slowed even more – we were now crawling at snails pace! Long suffering was no help just laughing and shouting ‘drive on, drive on’! I did, and thankfully there were no fatalities as we left them and the gravel road behind for more open roads and photo opportunities.

View from another viewing platform looking down on a mountainous sand dune in Opononi, we just had to take another memorable photo!

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Waipoura Forest – Visit to the largest, oldest known Kauri Tree, Tane Mahuta, meaning ‘lord of the forest’ age not known but estimated to be 1250-2500 years old.

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A thirty minute drive on took us to Trounson Kauri Park and a walk through native bush filled with these huge imposing trees young and old – the oldest being 1200 years old.

Our time in the Northland was coming to an end, in only one day we have driven through spectacular pasture lands, rolling hills, huge forests and amazing seascapes. It was now only left for the long-suffering to take the helm and drive us safely through Auckland and on to the next stage of this amazing road trip……

The Coromandel Peninsular

Northland part 2

Day 3 continued…..Refreshed from our showers we set off for Russell in the bay of Islands far north. At Opua we took the ten minute vehicle ferry over to Russell. Our time was limited here, nevertheless, we strolled through the Main Street – busy with tourists like us – a blackboard ‘Best Steak Sandwich & Chips was enough to tempt the long-suffering especially after the mornings step workout! It really was the ‘best’ melt in the mouth steak and plenty of it.

We visited the oldest standing church circa 1836 in New Zealand looking remarkably pristine thanks to extensive restoration in 2000. The immaculately kept graveyard with inscriptions on headstones telling a story of many lives taken too soon. Even on the oldest stones words were still clearly legible a testament to the caretakers over the years family or otherwise.

Next up our stop for the night, Matauri Bay. A long gradual climb up allowed stunning views out across hills shrouded in thick sea mist, before the road dropped down steep and tight winding bends into the bay.

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The campsite was busy on account of the bank holiday weekend and we were lucky to get only one of a few pitches left. We did though have a partial view of the sea through the neighbours washing line!

A short walk of the site took us over to the north where the beach was rugged and rocky. An information board told the story of the Greenpeace ‘Rainbow Warrier’ scuttled out at sea in its final resting place at the Cavalli islands after years protecting the marine environment. I could not think of a more beautiful and fitting place.

 

Day 4. The roads out to our next destination – once out of the bay – were to start long, straight and quiet hence the long-sufferings decision to trust me behind the wheel, pulling over I’m sure I felt Aromoana shudder as we swapped places.

Mahinepua Bay – Although our up and downhill – more steps for long-suffering alias ‘sweating man’ – Peninsula walk was one way – there was a small loop at the end. Every time we walk a trail/track I think it can’t possibly get better, but oh my goodness it does! The 360° views were awe-inspiring and all the better for clear blue skies and quiet – we had the walk to ourselves.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to last. We were sat at a strategically placed seat silenced by the quiet beauty around us when gradually getting louder and louder ‘Eminem’ appeared in the form of a middle-aged lady with a ghetto blaster strapped to her back rendering us speechless!! We sat letting the racket drift off into the distance although it could still be heard two hills away……

 

Northland part 1

Day 2. Up early for the sunset, long-suffering still tired after 3am wake up call from yours truly for toilet run to the hole in the ground – It was pitch black. Two well-timed shooting stars did much to soothe and I was eventually partly forgiven!

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Whangarei falls Photo: Richard Mower

Whangarei Falls – short 30 minute drive from Uretiti beach, 26m high waterfalls. Walkways took us in a loop up, over and down these spectacular falls. Sunlight streamed through the thick lush New Zealand bush onto the cascading water. Crocosmia glowed orange on the river banks, exposed roots created living sculpture on bare earth and a friendly duck came to check us out!

Next stop Matapouri Bay for a two hour loop walk up and over headland down to Whale Bay where we relaxed on the beach and soaked up the suns rays before the steep climb back up to our motor home now going by the name of …….          ‘Aramoana’ a Maori name meaning ‘Pathway to the Sea’.

Driving the coast road, our next overnight stop was Puriri Bay D.O.C site in Whangaruru. After a glorious day of clear blue skies and 28° temperatures our late afternoon laze on the beautiful beach was cut short by strong gusts of wind rendering the erecting of their tent by our neighbours nigh on impossible. It became all hands on deck from us and the couple on the other side to eventually get the job done.

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Aramoana overlooking the bay

Day 3. Cloudy skies threatened rain although it wasn’t forecast, glad it’s not just England weather techs who get it wrong! After our bracing cold showers the long-suffering suggested a short walk up a hill overlooking our beach. Once at the start a longer 1.5 hour route presented itself ‘The North Head Trail’.

Five minutes of discussion later under my excited instigation and long-sufferings slumped shoulders we started our climb at first through open pastureland, this quickly changed to narrow paths surrounded on both sides and above our heads of dense lush native Forest. The rain arrived on cue light, gentle adding to the feeling of being in a tropical rain forest.

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Steps, steep, multiple flights, 447 in total along the route gave long-suffering much to mumble about as he sweated, red-faced, eventually stripping of his now soaked shirt. He continued to moan about how he would need another shower! And then we were out onto ridges that provided us with jaw dropping panoramic views of the harbour and coastline. The long-sufferings shoulders now visibly perked up with the diversity of the many photo opportunities my idea had afforded him.

On our return to base, it was cold showers all round before packing up and heading off……

The open road

Day 1.  The long-suffering and I could hardly contain our excitement as the taxi dropped us off at the headquarters of Wilderness motor homes. We were greeted by Morgan and Max our very friendly and thorough service team, who aside from running through all the information and user instructions we would need, made us feel totally at ease and confident we had made the right choice in choosing ‘Wilderness’.

First sight of our chosen home on wheels did not disappoint, as she gleamed shiny white in the sun the open side door beckoned us in. Well equipped our cosy space was perfect. A few laughs were had as long-suffering got to grips with the important task of ‘how to loo empty’ – his designated job for the next four weeks!

Finally we were off, by the time our tutorial team waved us goodbye, with added bikes fixed on the back and complimentary goodie box, it was 1.30pm before we were able to leave Auckland behind. The long sufferings plan – I can take no credit for any aspect of this trip except for the packing – was to head north….

A wrong turn getting out of busy Auckland – even with the portable sat nav – sent me scrambling for the trusty road atlas, chief navigator was now added to my role as holiday companion. My head swelled with the importance but quickly deflated with the next of two more wrong turns on the open road, one sending us back in a loop the way we came. I blamed the breathtaking head-swivelling views coming at us with every turn on the long winding steep roads and my panic that we were going over the edge to the sheer drop below, for missing the signs.

Photo opportunities were in abundance but neither of us took them up so intent we were on arriving before dark at our first stop. Eventually tension abated as we reached our destination, intact as long-suffering knew we would despite his nervous and neurotic companion!

Uretiti beach D.O.C.- Department of conservation site. First stop – beautiful beach, sand dunes, quiet, few other campers, no T.V., rabbit activity to remind me of home and eaten veggies and long-suffering by my side, what more could a girl want?