On the 10. of December we finally got our camper van. This will be our home for the next seven weeks. It’s quite spacious and has some nifty features. The van is self contained, so we can camp on freedom camping grounds. Freedom camping grounds are designated areas for camping which lack sanitary facilities, so you need to take your waste water (and rubbish) with you back again.
For both of us it is the first time to drive on the left lane, and old reflexes sometimes still kick in (choosing the right lane when changing lane for example) but after some hours of driving it’s almost like normal.
Also challenging is driving with such a big vehicle in such a hilly terrain. We are always joking when driving up a hill: “Nope, he doesn’t like the third gear either” then change to the second gear. We crawl the hills up with barely 30-40 kmh and gather a lot of Kiwis behind us.
The first nights
Our first trip went up north of Auckland. We drove to a region called Red Beach. We stayed there for two days in a camp ground with sanitary facilities to get used to the feeling of the camper life (without giving up too much of comfort). Additionally we wanted to be able to stay near Long Bay Beach where our wedding was planned. The place (Pinewoods Motor Park) was a good start for our tour. We realized on this park that almost two thirds of the people were Germans. The park had access to a cliff called Jacobs Ladder, which had an impressive view. Besides that the park is average.
After the wedding we slept the first night in a freedom camping ground. Although we had got a good spot with easy beach access, we had a group of teenagers next to us which were noisy. On that site we realized that the gas bottle of our camper wasn’t connected properly and leaked gas (fortunately outside of the camper). Unfortunately this meant: No coffee for Torben. Bad way to start a day.
After our first freedom camp experiences we drove of to the north. We found a nice camping ground next to Paihia called Beachside. On our way we saw our first waterfalls, the mighty Haruru Falls. Friends were telling us, that we will see many waterfalls but this one will probably be special for us, as it was our first.
After wandering through Paihia we found a restaurant a friend of us had recommended to us: Jimmy Jack’s Rip Shack. As the name suggests, they serve rips. After having a “1/2 Rack” with fries I was really stuffed.
For the next day we booked a dolphin experience tour (four hours searching for dolphins, making images and if possible swim with them), which I actually can’t recommend (for the price). Although we found a pod of dolphins and had plenty of time for photos, we weren’t allowed to swim with them (they had juveniles with them). Because this was our only pod we found, we basically sat four hours on a boat and only had around 20 minutes of dolphins.
90 Mile Beach
Our next stop was the 90 Mile Beach. With the app “campermate” we found a cheap camping ground directly at the beach. The camping ground is really remote, without energy besides solar cells and only a small toilet. But we saved some dollars. We met some nice other campers there and had the darkest night ever encountered. You couldn’t see your own feet. But this way we could make some progress in learning night photography.
The 90 Mile Beach itself is stunning. Beach as far as the eye could reach. And really violent waves. We saw them and decided not trying to go to swimming. Which was a good decision, as on of the other campers told us that a surfer (who tend to be good swimmers) died only two days ago at the beach because of the waves.