Camping days are over

Posted on Apr 2, 2015

Camping days are over

We are back in Auckland but this time without our camper van. A few days ago we returned our camper van and picked-up a rental car. We all felt a little sad, as we had been travelling in our van for five weeks and it had become a little bit our home. You get used to living in a van and it is surely a great way to discover New Zealand. But it is now time to move on and we have different plans for the last three weeks of our stay in New Zealand, so no more camping.

So what did we do in the last week with the camper?

We wanted to visit a new part of New Zealand and we were searching for nice weather and sunny days. We doubted between the Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty or Northland. In the end we decided to drive up north, first via the east coast to the Bay of Islands for sun and beach and then back via the west coast to visit the magnificent Kauri trees.

After a long day drive from Auckland we found a great camp site in Paihia. The camp site was a little bit out of town, quiet and overlooking the Hurara falls. There was only one other van at the site, so we had the place almost to ourself. We liked it there so much, we decided to stay for three nights. We took one day rest in Paihia and had a relaxing day at the site. The next day we booked a boat trip. The Bay of Islands consist of 144 islands and his a nice tropical climate. Obviously the best way to explore this is by boat. On top of this, the Bay of Islands is also one of the prime locations to spot dolphins. We had not seen dolphins yet in New Zealand and we did not want to leave without seeing them. So we booked a combo dolphin/bay discovery trip. And we were lucky. Within half an hour the captain spotted a large pod of dolphins, a group of about 30, with several babies and youngsters in the group. The dolphins enjoyed our company and kept swimming, jumping and circling around our boat. This was the first time for us to see dolphins so close-up and we were amazed how playful, social and interactive the dolphins were. The kids were mesmerised. A truly remarkable experience.

From Paihia we drove towards the west coast to visit the Kauri forest. Before the European settlers arrived in New Zealand, a major part of the island was covered with Kauri trees. These trees can grow very old and are very important for the eco system, but they also make very good poles, fences, boats, furnitures and buildings. So unfortunately most of the Kauri trees have been cut in the last 150 years and much of the land is now used for farming and the large forests of the past have gone. In Northland they kept several tracts of Kauri forest and we visited two of the oldest & largest Kauri trees that still remain today. The largest one has a height of over 50 meters and the oldest one is estimated to be about 3000 years old. It is difficult to describe the feeling you get when you first encounter such trees and to realise that they have bee there for several millennia already. It is also nearly impossible to capture their size and presence in a picture. We also visited the Kauri museum close to Dargaville to learn more about the Kauri trees and the history of the wood industry in New Zealand. Very impressive and especially the pieces of very old and very large Kauri wood they have on display.

From Dargaville we drove back to Auckland where we stayed a few nights at Orewa beach, one of the beaches just north of the city. The first night we stayed there in our van, but we liked it so much that we booked also two more nights in a cabin on the same camp site, so we could return there after dropping off our camper. We stay a couple of days in Auckland to meet with some former colleagues and friends that live here and then we travel back to Turangi near lake Taupo where we will spending our last two weeks doing a housesit for a Dutch lady we met online. We really look forward to that, to stay for a few weeks in a house in one place and start to have a normal daily routine and to look after a couple of cats, dogs and chickens.