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Camper Van Life In NZ – Snowball In The Sahara

We wake to the familiar surroundings of the I Site in Wangarei, now planning to aim past Aukland and onto the East coast. Not before we take advantage of some Wi-Fi and the play park for our very eager little girl.

Everything finally caught up with from the Philippines blog,
Prevelly has had her morning swing and we’re on route. We knew it would be a long day of driving so we broke the day up with a few stops. The first one was into Waiwera, a beautifully quite beach where we played games in the sand and fed the seagulls. Subsequently, after feeding them, Prevelly had gained there trust and now had them close enough to chase. None caught and feeling hungry after the afternoons exercise we headed down to Orewa, to the spot we knew. Picnic table up, chairs out and Daniella prepared her campervan special of the day, carbonara. With a gorgeous meal consumed the evening drive begun. We all had a spot of car dancing and Prevelly led the way with her arms in the air and kicking her legs along to our single CD that played on repeat. With the stars out in force and the milky way painting a line across the centre of the nights sky we stopped by the side of the road for our sixth night in the van.

Waking to the entrance of a farm we decided to head off to the next town to set up for some breakfast. A giant play park and plenty of seagulls to hand kept myself and Prevelly occupied as Daniella continued on as the mobile chef and made a lovely morning feast. The next stop was Hot Beach. A place where you can walk onto the beach, dig a hole and let the natural, geothermal activity do the rest and warm you a scorching bath. What is worth noting is that this is best attempted at low tide.

Not quite deep enough yet

Not ones to turn down a challenge, we joined the ambitious, fellow beach dwellers and started to claw away at the sand. With any progress made the sea quickly put us back to the start as it washed the sand back in to our slightly pathetic hole. A few, smarter groups had built a wall to block there soon to be bath. Whilst it looked like a good idea at first we were informed that at this tide you would need to dig, not quite as far as the uk, but very deep to get the desired affect. We settled for a luke warm toe dip and a morning of playing on the beach. Topped off with an ice cream and cappuccino as we departed.

The rough plan of where we were going was in place and on route Daniella was searching for things to do and see. I had requested a bee farm as Manuka honey derives from here and I wanted to see this in action. Daniella guided us through the countryside and we wound up at BeeNZ. Just in time before it closed and we were met by the owner Julie Hayes. She was such a lovely women who gave us a tour of the production side of honey making. Unfortunately the bee hives were kept elsewhere and were off limits to the public for obvious reasons. She then laid out a tasting table so we could sample the array of honeys available from NZ. Like wines and coffees, each one had it’s own unique flavour and origin. Luckily we both favoured the locals favourite and took a pot to last us for the duration of our trip. The warehouse in which we toured had drums stacked to the rafters and held, at that time, approximately 4 million dollars worth of honey. With a few labs and a labelling production line it felt as though we were filming a show for how it’s made. An incredible, unexpected experience had and we were ready to continue South.
We had been told by Julie that we needed to see Mount Manganui.

Surrounded by $4,000,000 of Manuka honey

A single mountain on the peninsula of Tauranga. A short drive and we had arrived. Parked up on the sea front with the mountain to our right we set up once again for a campers dinner. This time we had splashed out, after one of our many stops at our new favourite shop – Pac n Save – and had steak fillet with garlic potatoes. The single stove way of cooking has become Daniellas forte. After finishing, we then proceeded to feed to seagulls, who I believe, are now following Prevelly around the country, waiting to be fed. A dip in the ocean, some bird chasing and then the heavens opened. Not even with enough time to pack up the van. We waited it out and when the opportunity arose, we chucked everything in and decided to move on. We topped up the tank and made our way to Okere Falls.

Like with many of our nights sleep we arrived in the dark and had to hope that we wake in a desirable location. There were two car parks in the area and we opted for the empty one. With the sound of gushing water near by we drifted to sleep and then woke in a near perfect spot. A few cars and rafting companies turned up as we were having breakfast and we were informed of what was around us. We had arrived at the largest commercial rafting experience in the world and were at the foot of an hours Bush walk that would take us up to the trout pools. With an energetic family at the ready we set off on our first official Bush walk. With some of the most lush and varied plant life creating a tunnel, we walked through to a look out point. This lead us to the fall where the rafters came over the edge. Prevelly sat on the ledge and waited with her hands ready to clap as the canoes and rafts came in to site. As they toppled over the white waters she cheered as though it was Sweden winning an Olympic medal.

Eagerly awaiting the canoes

She built the atmosphere within the small group of onlookers and made sure everyone was clapping along. We then had a sneak and peak into a very dark cave at the base of the fall and continued onwards. Twisting and turning along the Bush path for twenty minutes or so and we were near the waters edge. Shoes off and a little paddle through the ice cold water. A beautiful spot towards the end for a sit down and admiration of the water opening up into a more calmer setting. In the car park at the top of the walk we met a group of rafters who took a shine to our beaming daughter. Taking advantage of the situation, we hoped on the bus for a ride back down the hill to our little house on wheels.

The day had started amazingly and the next point of interest was Rotura. A city renowned for its geothermal activity, with steam pouring up throughout the area. Along with this comes the smell which you can sense as soon as you near the outskirts. With myself in need of a new phone we headed to a mall and carried out a spot of shopping. With a sushi restaurant at hand, Prevelly tucked in to her beloved meal. Rice everywhere, a full daughter and we headed into the town to experience the public hot foot baths. We joined a few others and sat happily as our feet were reborn. With no stones available, our slightly impatient daughter decided to through her shoes into the pool and had found a new game to play. After several paddles to retrieve her foot wear we carried on with a little look around.
We had a rendezvous with some friends from Sweden creeping up on us so we decided to make an evening drive to the next town and bring us closer to New Plymouth, where we were meeting up. This was a town called Tapou. As we arrived at the lake that the town is situated at we were met with the most incredible Sun set.

Seeing the day finish in a picturesque fashion

Absolutely breathtaking and one that a picture can’t do justice. We marvelled at the skyline and when the Sun had disappeared we headed towards a freedom campers site. Now this was a far cry from what we had been used to as the large plot of land was filled with cars, tents, campers and mobile homes of all sizes. With some portaloos scattered around the site and some challenging hills we managed to find a spot at the entrance. Parked up and with Prevelly down for the count we unpacked the chairs and had a productive evening. The interislander ferry that takes you from the North to South Island was booked and the forgotten visa into Australia was also completed. With a quick response with regards to the E Visa we breathed a sigh of relief as we were permitted to see out our tour in the land down under. With a coffee in hand and a glass of wine for Daniella, we toasted our success and went in for the night.

We woke to a wide variety of sounds as people started to leave the sight, make breakfast and leave their dogs barking outside in the rain. We had a quick snack as the rain came down and headed down the road to our first tourist attraction of the day. The craters of the moon was the site and it was a small reserve that highlighted the extreme power that lays just beneath the earths surface. As one would expect from the name, there were walkways and viewing platforms taking you on a journey around craters that were letting out steam. This wasn’t the kind of steam that you get from a kettle boiling, an extreme amount leaving cracks from the rocks and ground itself. With the wind changing direction we were in and out of hoodies as we navigated through the steam filled air. We were all in oar of this natural phenomena and it was another great example of the abundance of different scenery within New Zealand.

A different World

With the rain picking up we decided to take the opportunity to fill up on water, take a warm shower in the public facility centre and play a quick game of giant chess when we got the chance. Feeling clean and with the weather still giving us the feel of being at home we decided to get our laundry done. Whilst waiting, Daniella managed to find a gorgeous pair of shoes for herself and Prevelly as we had a quick shop. With everyone and everything clean we set off towards New Plymouth. With another long stint completed and the stars shinning in abundance once again, we pulled up to a small village and parked up for the night.
Saturday was upon us and we woke in front of an abandoned library, in a village with a slight bogan feel to it. I drove down the road as the girls slept and pulled up along the beach front next to a field of cows.

As I heard Prevelly’s voice I opened the side door and we were greeted with a wow and a moo as she smiled away at her perfect awakening. I took her for a closer look as Daniella made a lovely breakfast. With a happy start to the day we then made a short drive to Thomas’s family home. A quick stop off at a tourist spot – The Three Sisters – a small collection of Limestone towers that had, over time, separated away from the cliffs edge. A lovely walk along the beach, some playing among the rocks and we drove down the road to the house.

A very different wake up call

We were welcomed in like family, shown to our room and offered a shower, no offense was taken. We freshened up, caught up with a mix of Swedish and kiwi accents and then went for a trip to the beach. The two girls played in the black sand and we all relaxed on a gorgeous stretch of beach front. With the rain still looming in the air we headed back and settled in to an actual house for the night. Thomas’s mother and partner had returned and planned a meal, for the now extended family. With fish tacos as the main and marshmallows covered in chocolate and a biscuit base, we ate away until we could barely move. A wonderful start to our 2 day stop over and a much appreciated home stay by some incredibly gracious hosts.
We have loved the start of this incredible tour of New Zealand and can’t wait to share the rest of the journey.


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