Hello All. Before I start I would like to put some minds to rest. Some of you have expressed concern over Nick's haircut comments in the last blog. I would like to assure you that there is no need to worry. Nick's hair is still a long, flowing mane, it was me who had the haircut not Nick.
So, to continue the story…
As Nick said last time, we planned to go Mountain Biking the day after he wrote the blog. We woke to beautiful sunshine and set of to the woods where we had planned to hire the bikes for a day and fully explore the area. Luckily the bikes were much better than anything we had hired in S America because these were proper mountain bike tracks ranging from Grade 2 (easy) to impossibly difficult. After doing all of the easy tracks together I realised just how out of practice I was at biking and decided against trying the intermediate tracks. So we split up for a couple of hours. I did the forest tracks and easy routes while Nick did some more challenging bits. However, our plan of spending the day there was cut short as we were both completely knackered after 4 hours!
That afternoon was spent visiting the AgroDome where you can Zorb, Schweeb, Bungy and Jet Boat. We went with the intention of Zorbing (rolling down a hill in a big ball) as we thought it sounded fun, but when we saw it it was nowhere near as good as we'd imagined so we decided not to bother. The schweeb (a reclined bicycle on an over head mono rail) looked great fun but our legs were too tired from Mountain biking to even consider it! So, after watching others partake we headed back to the campsite. That evening, as it was a Friday, we decided to do something that we haven't done since we were in England….. We went to a pub for dinner, had some beer and watched the rugby on TV. It was great to be out of the van and doing something "normal."
The next day we headed out of town to a place called Te Wairoa Buried Village. I had read a lot about this place, a settlement which was buried under volcanic ash in the 1830's when a nearby volcano erupted. Having always wanted to go to Pompeii I had very romantic views of what this would be like. Nick however wasn't particularly bothered so while I looked around he went to watch a triathalon at a nearby lake. Unfortunately, although the museum was very interesting, the village was nothing like Pompeii and there wasn't really much to see. Nick on the other hand had a great time watching the triathalon where he met and shook hands with Reuben Wiki (the NZ RFL World Cup winning Captain).
Our next stop was up in the Coromandel region at hot water beach. This is mentioned in all the guidebooks as an amazing place where you can pick a spot on the beach and dig a hole which will fill with hot water, creating your own personal bath. This sounds great but unfortunately we arrived at high tide (it only works at low tide) and the weather was pretty cold so the idea of stripping off to my bikini really wasn't very appealing! So after a stroll around we drove on to Hahei from where you can walk to Cathedral Cove. This really was impressive, beautiful beaches, and amazing rock arches. We had a great time wandering around and climbing on the rocks in the various coves until we realised it was getting dark and we had nowhere to stay!
And so to another night, free camping at the side of a gravel track in the middle of nowhere!
The next day we saw our first Kauri Grove and the Siamese Kauri (two trees that have grown so close together that they start off as one big trunk. These trees at around 2-3m diameter seemed huge to us, and they were only babies! That afternoon we got our first taste of the weather that we were to have for the rest of our time in NZ. It chucked it down! We had left Coromandel and Northland until last as we had been told it was always sunny there!! We were just lucky enough to arrive in the first heavy downpours after 3 months without rain! So we jumped in the trusty Pimple and drove to see Nick's friends from Triumph, Bridget and Dobsy and their two daughters Eadie and Hillberry (named after Hillberry in IOM!)We had a lovely evening with them with stew and drinks before retiring to bed.
And so the rain continued all night and all through the next day! After a late breakfast and time playing with the kids we set off again. However, the rubbish weather meant that apart from calling in to see the Triumph dealer in Auckland and an Information office we just stayed in the van and drove. When we did arrive at a campsite it was getting dark and we were very tired, resulting in Nick driving straight into a sandpit and getting us stuck!! Luckily there was a gentleman in a nearby caravan who had a 4WD and was happy to tow us out in the morning.
The morning bought some much needed dry weather so after being rescued from the sand we continued our journey North. The day started with a visit to an oil refinery (surprisingly interesting!) then on to Whangarei where we had a wander round the town basin (quay) and a lovely lunch. Unfortunately, shortly after lunch it started raining again but, determined not to return to the van, we went to the local swimming pool instead where we did 80 lengths each!!!! I hope you're all impressed by that - I certainly am!
One problem we we're having was that after the clocks changed it's been getting dark really early, not good when you live in a campervan. After leaving the pool at about 5pm we made a twilight visit to Whangarei Falls and found a cosy layby by the side of the road in which to sleep!
We awoke to blue skies (woo hoo!!!)and continued to drive North towards Pahia. On the way we stopped at the artist designed public toilets in Kawakawa which were pretty impressive believe it or not. When in Pahia we booked onto a sail and Dolphin swimming trip for the next day then set of for a walk to Haruru Falls in beautiful sunshine! Obviously that didn't last and by the time we got back to the van it had started raining again. After reading the list of "things to do in the rain" we decided to visit a cheese factory where we didn't see any cheese being made but did buy some lovely cheese to have with cheap red wine that evening!
And so to the day of sailing and dolphin swimming. Again, we were out of luck! No dolphins had been spotted so the tour was cancelled. (I guess the dolphins are off frolicking with the whales somewhere!) Luckily we could get onto a different tour where we could help sail the boat. We had a really nice group of people and the day was good fun but yet again the weather was against us and rather than lying on deck in swimwear we were huddled up in waterproofs! Nick and a couple of other guys did brave the sea and go snorkelling but I'm far too much of a wimp for that kind of thing and stayed on the nice dry boat! At the end of the trip we were dropped in Russell, the first capital of NZ but it was closed!! So we got the ferry back to Pahia, bought fish and chips for dinner then drove up towards Cape Reigna where we had booked onto a trip up 90mile beach for the next day. Cape Reigna is the most northerly point of NZ which can be accessed by road and an area where the Tasman Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet.
Again the weather conspired against us (why did we come here again!?) and we decided to cancel the bus trip (where the main appeal was sand boarding on the dunes) and drive up ourselves. The weather was awful!!! Really windy and torrential rain most of the way then ridiculously windy at Cape Reigna itself. I could hardly stand up straight!
After a quick walk we headed back South and into Kauri territory. Our first stop was at Gum Diggers Park where people used to work in the fields digging up Kauri gum which had been buried for thousands of years. Then we stopped at Ancient Kauri Kingdom where the internal spiral staircase had been carved out of a single ancient Kauri tree. There was so much lovely stuff in that shop - if I had money I would have spent a fortune!!
Surprise surprise it was still raining the next day but we just decided to carry on regardless and did several walks to see some huge Kauri trees. The biggest one (Tane Mahuta) is 51.5m tall with a 13.8m circumference trunk, the second biggest is shorter but wider at 16.4m circumference. Amazing!! Typically when we'd finished our walks the rain stopped so Nick went to watch some rugby in a local town before we checked into a campsite for the night.
We'd decided to spend the next day at the Kauri Museum so obviously we woke to blue skies and sunshine!! The museum was really interesting though so I'm glad we went. We just wish we'd gone the day before when it was raining!
And so to our last full day in NZ. Luckily it was still sunny the next morning and so we went for another walk to see more Kauri but having already seen the biggest, second biggest and 7th biggest these ones were nothing special. We did manage to finish the walk before the rain started though which was very impressive!
By now we were both fed up with the weather and life in the Pimple and so drove straight to Auckland for civilisation, a lovely meal at Leah's and a bed in a house!!!
The next day we returned the Pimple only for the hire company to use it to drive us the airport! A fitting ending to our time in NZ!
So, now we're in Oz. But don't worry I'll leave the next part of the story to Nick. I'm bored of typing now and I'm sure you're bored of reading too!!