Back to Auckland after a five day adventure with two nice young Germans. I rented a camper van that would hold three, hoping that I could find some people within less than a day to fill the seats and share the cost of the expedition as well as keep me company. I was very fortunate to have the company of Clemens and Julia. They were very open minded about where we would go and what we would see. I thought because I am here for a year and starting near the top of the north island, I would go check out the north first so that I could go south after that and see the other 90% of the country.
The after noon I picked up the campervan, which just a 1989 Toyota mini van with a double bed a back, it was raining pretty hard. They drive on the wrong side of the road here and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car as well. It was a very scary process getting out of Auckland, its a lot like down town San Diego, which still messes me up driving down there. Once we on the motorway out of town headed north the rain and wind really started coming down hard. I thought this must be normal for NZ because it was my only time here. But we we all still amazed how beautiful it all was. Lush rolling green hills of fertile land full of friendly sheep and cattle. The plants seem to flourish in the wet climate. I thought in my next life I want to be a NZ sheep until I remembered the delicious lambbuger I had for lunch.
The first day we drove a hundred kilometers. The time we saw tropical beach I pulled over to take pics. It was raining but we joyishly ran out on the wet sand to celebrate our arrival to natural NZ that we had seen in the picture books that had attracted us here in the first place.
Germans get there drivers license when they turn 18,Clemens 21 and julias 19, so I had quite a bit more experience than either of them. So I was the only driver for the 6 day trip. We continued up the east coast til I found a small patch of grass over looking a bay with the oil refinery in the distance. Not what you would think of when you think of NZ landscape, but it had its own beauty from a distance.
Sleeping on a double bed with two others is a little tight but tolerable. When you split the cost three ways, It is actually cheaper than a hostel with 7 or ten other people in the room. With a beer of two, I went right to sleep. But I found that sleeping farthest from the door I had to pee out the window in the middle of the night. After the first night with my new friends, I felt good. Glad to be out of the hostel, out of the city, have a direction I lacked the first couple of days in my new counrty, and glad to have some company. In morning we saw sun, it looked so nice shining down on the water below and it felt even better.
On our way to the northern most point of the island, Cape Regina, We stopped at a hiking trail I saw on the map. We had to drive down a long dirt dirt road with 100 kph limit to get there. We crossed a 150 meter foot bridge over a small gulf, then walked into very healthy forest of pines and ferns. We walked through fields and jungles untill we fished the loop and arrived back at our car.
Then we drove up to the Bay of Islands, an upscale beach town with plenty of water sports and bars to spend your tourist dollars on. We went to a liquor store to get some beers, the took them across the street to drink them on the sunny beach. We sat there a couple of ours and cooked some spaghetti. It was very nice to not have an agenda. A very free feeling; we could go anywhere, do anything we wanted. We decided to cross the land over to the west coast, about an hours drive. We found 90 mile beach, it didn't say no driving, but the rental shop said we would get suck in the sand, so we just walked out there to take some pics. Its a long beach that stretches up north to disappear in the distance. It was longer than anyone could possibly see. It was getting cold and We couldn't camp there so we started back to the motorway. I noticed an empty field next to a lake so I pulled in. There were no "no camping" signs, so we figured it was fine to. We gathered some wood to start a fire right on the grass. Another hippie van from the same company drove by and we signaled them to come over. They were a sweetish couple looking for a place to sleep to. I invited them to have dinner and drinks with us around the fire. Can't remember their names but they were very nice. They were on a world airline pass that costs $5000 and last for 39 months. They had saved for three years and were now in their 4th month of a one year world tour. They had been to central and south America, and Australia. Next they are going to Figi then Asia. I was very interesting seeing people from all over the world here in NZ, they all speak English and one or two other languages. It really humbles me and highlights America's arrogance and egocentricity. We have a long way to go.
The next morning we started north again. We didn't get 3 miles before something caught my eye and I made an abrupt stop. There was a closed gate, but it went into a curious looking forest. There were pines and eucalyptus together, which I had never seen. I led my wary over the fence onto what was obviously private land. We walked deeper into the dark shaded forest passed very fresh cow patties scattered around. I was just waiting for a farmer with a shotgun to come riding up on a horse and tell us what we already new. We should leave, but I was just so cool in there. I led them up a hill and down into an opening that looked kind of like an animated golf coarse but in was trimmed by cows. When we got there I saw trees in the distance I had never seen before. It looked like A hidden level on Super Mario Brothers 2. I took a few pics then, satisfied that I had done what I came to do, we left with out incident.