The Far-North New Zealand Road trip
After spending a few days in Auckland with Couch Surfers, I was planning on finding a nice Hostel and bunkering down to explore the city for a few days before my flight took me to Honolulu. Plans changed, however, when my CS host offered to lend her van to myself and two other Couch Surfers. We had debated renting a car and exploring the far-Northern peninsula, but I wasn’t planning on spending the money to rent a car for that long… but when Anais offered to give us her van for free, my decision was made up in an instant – the chance to drive and explore for only the cost of diesel fuel? Yes please! The following is a quick account of our journeys:
The main actors –
Anais – (Pronounced “Ahh-nye-ees”) The woman who lent us her van. A professional photographer from France, who moved to New Zealand, met a guy, and has been living here ever since. Retained a very strong French Accent.
Heloise – (Pronounced “Ell-oh-ees”) The only other driver aside from myself, she’s a girl my age from France exploring the world with her Brother.
Adrien – (Pronounced “Add-Dree-on”) Heloise’s brother, he’s been exploring the world alongside his sister. A really cool guy, though he’s a bit understated and often gets overshadowed by Heloise.
Alissa – (Pronounced exactly as you would expect) A Couchsurfer from Germany; you’re stereotypical German going on her “Gap year” between secondary school an University. The youngest of the group, but possibly the most laid back.
Myself – (I’m not giving you a pronunciation) Me. The oldest of the group, and the primary driver of the Van.
The first day of our “Great Northern Roadtrip” started out later in the afternoon and without much fuss. Most of the day had been spent with Anais, going over plans and roads and such, and so it wasn’t until nearly sundown that we started out. Started out may actually be a bit too strong of a term, looking back on it, since we didn’t actually plan on leaving the city completely – instead, we were camping out a bit outside of the city and then driving back in the next morning to pick up a fourth member of our road trip crew; a girl named Alissa from Germany that Heloise had met Couchsurfing.
So, our first day just involved a quick stop for some fast food for dinner, a bit of random driving around Auckland, and then finding a small secluded beach to park by, as we rolled out the sleeping bags in the van and went to sleep.
This was the first real day of the adventure, and as such it started off correctly – nice and early, with amazing sky and sun. I’d been able to wake up without too much difficulty recently, thanks to a rather “nice, yet annoying” problem with my sleeping pad – it had a very small, slow leak. This meant that if I inflated it all the way at night, almost exactly seven hours later it would be deflated enough that my shoulders and hips would be painfully digging into the ground. It hurt, but it did help with the whole “waking up in the morning”.
After Heloise and Adrien had woken up and mobilized we headed back into town so that I could do a bit of training with a Capoeira group (Ed Note: See post “Auckland Capoeira”), after which we picked up Alissa at her Couchsurfers house. And this place was cool – the guy was named Craig, and him and his flatmates had rented out the entire space above an autobody shop and turned it into this amazing loft style apartment. Thankfully he was as cool as his flat, and I was able to quickly sneak in and use his shower before we headed out; one of the dangers of Capoeira is that no matter where you go, you’re almost definitely going to be nice and sweaty by the end of it… not a good way to start out a road trip.
After I was nice and clean I thanked the host, and we all headed back downstairs to load up the van with Alissa’s stuff. We made a quick run to a grocery as well, picking up lots of fruits and veggies and random ingredients for breakfast, and then finally jumped into the van and made for the open road.
Since we had gotten such a late start of it, our first day of driving wasn’t actually very long. Instead of pushing hard, we made for the scenic style of traveling, and stopped in at a few pretty amazing places. The first was a small beach called Sand Spit, a very aptly named fishing town that had this one spit of beach jutting out into the harbor that you could wander around on and explore. And explore we did – nearly an hour and a half of wandering, walking, photographing and wading into the ocean followed our arrival. We had the luck to have arrived at low tide, so much of the inner harbor was actually dry land, instead of underwater, and so we were able to walk a nice little loop from the van, out to the spit, and then back via a forest trail. It was amazing, and was the perfect appetizer to whet out appetite for the rest of the far-northern coast.
As we pushed further and further North we stopped in at a few more beaches, found ourselves a few more snacks, and finally arrived in our sleeping goal for the evening – a town called Paihia. It was small, and bore a strong resemblance to pretty much every small town on Cape Cod. It was full of touristy shops, lots of seafood, and had the smell of salt water and gutted fish in the air. Not altogether unpleasant, but I can’t imagine living there for very long before going insane.
Camp was quickly set up, and dinner cooked on the back of the van: We camped in a small packing lot out back – me in my tent outside and the other three in the van beside me. Dinner was amazing though, easily enough to offset my lonelyness at being the only one hanging out in the great wild – pasta with an amazing veggi sauce that Heloise made. We all ate, drank (I had bought a six pack of nice beer) and laughed until nearly 11:00, after which I headed back to the tent and read for an hour or so before falling asleep to the sounds of a small river rolling towards the ocean next to me.