After another long journey I arrived in Auckland and found the locals to be very friendly. I was first met by a lovely dog while waiting to collect my luggage. He was very excited and sniffing around. His owner quickly came over too. I think he was more interested in the spices in my bag than me. Then as I passed through customs a lady insisted on cleaning my walking boots. Very hospitable. Actually New Zealand are very protective and rightly so about preventing unwanted bugs coming into the country, which may harm the flora and fauna.
The next day I arranged to hire a campervan and while waiting to pick it up had a mooch about Auckland and a trip up the sky tower, the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere, to see the sights of Auckland. I collected "Gollum", so called as he is painted on oneside and Gandalf on the other and set off on my LOTR adventure. I drove north through Northland to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. You can see where the two currents meet. It is not in biblical proportions but still very impressive. Northland is very beautiful and I had to keep stopping to take in the views. I've seen lots of birds of prey, mainly kites, who fly very low and near to the road. I've also seen lots of sheep! Although I understand many farmers have switched to dairy farming, though I've seen more beef cattle. And lots of deer farms. On the way up to Cape Reinga, I was stopped by a herd of cattle trotting up the road. The farmer was in his pick-up truck and had a couple of dogs running behind him. He then ushered the traffic to pass as the herd, about twenty of them who had now speeded up into a gallop. So with running cattle on my left and dogs on my right I squeezed passed, thankfully with no injuries in the process.
It was the Queen's birthday the first weekend I was here and there is a public holiday in New Zealand to celebrate. Fancy that.
On the way back down from Cape Reinga I went to have a look at Ninety Mile beach. And that is what it is, ninety miles of beach. No buildings at all. You can drive on to the beach, so I did. I have also learnt an interesting formula. Campervan + beach = stuck. Fortunately, after eight or so very obliging beachcombers gave me a push, I was back on the road. From there I headed to the Coromandel Penninsula and spent a couple of days driving along the beautiful coastal roads and mountain passes.
I'm enjoying travelling in the campervan. It is pretty easy to drive and the roads are quiet. There are loads of campsites about and it's not a problem finding somewhere to site up for the night. And I love the freedom to have a look at the map and head off at the beginning of the day in that general direction. Gollum is rented from Escape rentals and I've seen quite a few other vans and we wave as we pass, like being part of a club.
After the Coromandel Penninsula, I continued east to the Bay of Plenty to stay with Paula, who I'd met in Sri Lanka, and her mum for a couple of nights. I was thoroughly spoilt and after nourishing food, a complimentary facial and the laundry done, I headed southeast towards Napier, stopping off to look at the bubbling mud pools. It was raining quite hard and as I drove through the windy mountains roads covered in low cloud I did think it would be a fine place to breakdown. When the radio lost signal I tried to rid myself of such thoughts. Phew, Napier only 7km to go. Then crack! A stone hit the windscreen and cracked it from top to bottom. Now I thought getting a windscreen fixed was a pretty straightforward thing to do, but apparently not. Three days later and a lot of hanging about it was finally sorted. It also put paid to my arrangements to do some wwoofing with Matt and Marina on their homestead near Masterton.
Feeling a bit fed up, I booked the next days ferry to Picton to explore South Island. It had been very wet and windy during the night and when I arrived at the terminal I was told the ferry would be delayed a couple of hours due to rough seas. So I went to find my sea legs, then we boarded and headed across the Cook Strait. Initially it was pretty choppy but as we entered Malborough Sounds, the sun came out and the sea calmed and I had arrived in God's country...
Next blog from South Island and will hopefully upload photos