Packing all of our worldly belongings into the caravan on Friday, the anticipation of the adventure to come started brewing. Up to this point, I think we both had been a wee apprehensive about the trip, the stress of trying to find work and staying within our budget (hostels and restaurants in NZ are extremely expensive) was taking its toll. We were definitely looking forward to the vacation portion of our journey. So Kevin hopped in the drivers seat and I took charge as the GPS navigator. Come to think of it, Kevin did not hesitate when he said "Only one." to the rental staff, who asked how many drivers there would be. He knows I'm barely comfortable driving on right-hand side of the road, let alone the left-hand side...
What a happy driver!
Home sweet home.
The Department of Conservation in NZ has an extensive list of free or cheap campsites throughout the country. Our plan was to drive two to four hours per day, set up shop for the night, and hit the road again the next day, in order to make it to Wellington by Sunday afternoon.
They say there are 40+ million sheep and almost 10 million cattle (and under 4.5 million humans) in New Zealand. On the first leg of our trip (Auckland to Rotorua), there were a heck of a lot more cows than sheep. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed. The legend did, however, redeem itself on the second day, where we probably saw about 39 million sheep, give or take.
Tunnel of trees.
Heeps of Sheeps!
On Saturday we drove from Rotorua to Napier, which is one of New Zealand's many wine valleys. We stopped in at the Esk Valley and Crab Farm wineries for some tastings and learned that NZ has a far more extensive and notorious white selection than red. This statistic is just a drop in the bucket once you find out that NZ produces on average more than 200 million litres of wine annually (compared to 13 million in BC, which is both larger in population and land).
More beautiful landscapes.
Esk Valley Vineyard.
Cloudy day in Napier.
Black sand beach in Napier.
We spent part of the afternoon in a cloudy downtown Napier, an art-deco town on the east coast that was rebuilt in the 1930s after an earthquake. Unfortunately, we were one weekend too early for Napier's infamous Art Deco Weekend, where everyone in town dresses up Great Gatsby-style for the entire weekend. Rats! I left my two-toned broque shoes at home.
We set up camp again for the night, but this time, it was pouring rain. I was silly enough not to bring one single pair of waterproof shoes on my journey (out of 50 pairs of shoes... not one!). I was able to get a few good pictures of our caravan, which we were both attaching ourselves to very quickly.
Who says gypsies don't travel with suits hung up in the back?
Welcome to our living room/bedroom/kitchen/foyer.
Good boy, making me dinner!
Sunday morning, the sun came out, and we packed up our home for another day on the road. We stopped at a rest stop north of Wellington, and went on a little tramp (Kiwi for hike) through this Jurassic Park-looking mountain to stretch our legs. The view was phenomenal!
The Napier coast, much prettier when it's sunny.
Okay, I said this is one of the few pictures together... It may be the only one!
Driving into Wellington.
From there, we drove into Wellington to try and find the campsite that we had previously saved into our GPS. We spent 45 minutes driving up and down this huge mountain in the middle of the Wellington CBD, trying to following the directions of the GPS, our tires skidding because the hills were so steep, only to discover that the place we were trying to get to did not exist! Our cell phone was dead, but we were lucky enough to have an inkling of power left in one of our laptops to connect it and try calling the campsite, which ended up being in TAUPO, which is 3 hours away! Damn Google Maps! This was, to say the least, a tad stressful for the both of us. But, on we went, found another campground in Porirua, 15 minutes north of Wellington that had much needed showers, running water, and a kitchen (all which were lacking in the other campsites). Kevin's interview was the following afternoon, so a shave may also have been warranted.
I'll leave you with a video we shot at our first campsite outside of Rotorua. We were playing some music in the van and the birdies started dancing outside! One of them (on the bottom left) seemed to have some rhythm in his step (or hop):