We got to the Jucy office about 9.30, so we were there before the queues and so we could get all the paperwork done and out the way (you're supposed to collect the vans at 10). We had left our bags at the hostel, and returning back there once we had got the van was a bit of trouble with all the one-way systems. It was a bit annoying as the Jucy office was right next to the junction you got onto the motorway we needed, so if we had just brought our bags with us we would have cut out a significant chunk of time wasted on navigating the roads back.
We didn't really have a definitive idea of where we were going (just up to the north part of the island), but once we were on the road, I read my travel guide on Bay of Islands, which is where we were originally headed. Lonely Planet made it out to be a bit overhyped, and said there was no point in going unless you went on some sort of boat trip, but me and Alice didn't really want to spend money on that sort of thing, so we decided our first stop should be Cape Rienga instead.
Overall impressions of New Zealand so far is that it has much better radio than Australia (although we did have to resort to listening to the CD 'Blackstreet Level 2' I had picked up when we lost signal, and that it's extremely beautiful scenery.
We were chuffed to find a driver reviver stop that promised free coffee that was actually open- we had seen so many in Australia but when we pulled in we never were able to claim one. What's more they were giving away free food, and leaflets, pens, key rings, etc about driver safety. It was because of it being a long weekend apparently (as there would have been a lot of drivers on the roads). I had a cappuccino with cinnamon and chocolate sprinkled on the top, along with some pizza, a sausage roll and watermelon. Later on we passed another one, and we felt like we should stop at this one too. This time I had an iced coffee and a muffin and apple, along with some more pizza. Each stop had volunteers with contrasting opinions of how long we had ahead of us- the first lot thought we would be there within 3 hours, and then the next lot thought it would be more like 5, so we didn't do the twin coast drive route, to cut out a bit of the extra driving involved. We did however take the road which meant we drove down 'million dollar view road' which turned out to be aptly named. One of the places we stopped to take photos was one of the nicest beaches I think I've ever come across- beautiful blue sea, with picturesque islands in the background. We both agreed we hadn't expected much of New Zealand but from what we've seen so far, it's absolutely beautiful, and we've only been in the North Island which is supposed to be inferior to the South!
Eventually we got to Cape Rienga, well in time for sunset like we had planned, but it was a bit of an anti-climax. We had been told that it's where two different seas meet up and collide, and so they form a line vertical to the coast. As Alice put it, she was expecting 'Jesus to be stood there, causing the sea to be raised up in a line with the sun at the end' (she was exaggerating with the Jesus part, but I knew what she meant as I had expected it to be in a perfect line too), but it was more random than that. Now I think of it, it's quite obvious it doesn't do that, but that had just been the way it had been made out to us. It did have quite nice landscapes, and it was quite cool finding out about the Maori spiritual connection to it- it's where they believe the spirits walk to, to jump off into the world of the dead- but it probably wasn't worth spending all day driving to get to.
The next task was finding a place to stay for the night- we had adequate facilities at the car park, but you couldn't eat or drink there out of respect for the Maori traditions. The notice board said you could camp at Te Paki reserve, and that there was toilets there, but when we drove down the road to get to it, we came across a sign that said driving any further was at our own risk, as plenty of cars had been swept away by the tide. We ended up staying in a shop car park that we had stopped at before as it had toilets.
It took some time to set ourselves up for the night as we couldn't work out how to do the central locking system (it doesn't work if you just lock the front door- you have to press a button in the door) and we thought the back door didn't have a curtain, so we kept grumbling about the layout of the new campervan compared to the old one, but maybe we just need to get used to this one.