August 31st 2016 – New Zealand Day 11

Today I woke up at 7:00am, and prepared an egg skillet for breakfast. I then went and explored Wellington.

First was the infamous Wellington sign, a quirky take on Hollywood.
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I then drove up Mount Victoria and had a beautiful view of the entire city, and watched planes take off from the airport for an hour or so. Wellington International Airport is pretty unique because it has over 5 million passengers a year, but is only services by a single short runway less than 7000 feet long. This combined with its very primitive terminal for its passenger volume limits its ability to really complete internationally. Overseas destinations are limited to the east coast of Australia and the South Pacific. Interestingly Singapore Airlines now flies to Wellington from Singapore with a Boeing 777-200 via Canberra because it can’t fly there directly due to the high takeoff weight associated with loading on that much fuel; therefore must load on a shorter amount of fuel to make the hop over to Canberra.
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After visiting Mount Victoria I walked around the central business district and visited the old government building, the second largest wooden structure in the world, behind Todai-ji in Japan. It was built to house New Zealand’s civil service, and now houses the law school of Victoria University of Wellington. The beautiful is bold and beautiful, as well as well-maintained. The building became the first building in the world to have a smoke-free policy over concerns about the threat of fire, due to the fact the building is entirely constructed of wood.
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Close-by the next stop was the beehive government building.
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After that I was walking towards the Wellington Cable Car when I smelled and saw delicious cookies being baked at Mrs Higgins Cookies, so I stopped and had a white macadamia nut cookie. I should have bought two!
The ride up on the Wellington Cable Car was great, and the price was right, only $7.50 return. I entered the free museum at the top and learned a lot about the cable cars history. The original cable car system opened in 1902 and ran until 1978 when it was replaced by the current system. The old system was built to imperial standards and had double track the entire way up. The new system was built to metric standards, was fully automated, and only has double track in the middle. There were and still are five stations equally space so that when the cable cars are stopped at one station, there will be a cable car at another station. It’s aim was to increase safety and passenger throughput. The original tram had over a million passengers per year in 1912, with its peak nearly two million passengers in one year, but I forget the year. The cable car averages about a million passengers per year now. I was actually lucky I was able to ride on the cable cars because the cable cars had been out of service for nearly three months until August 18th 2016 for upgrades.
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After taking the cable car back down to the central business district I decided to search out some food for lunch. I didn’t have anything in mind so I just walked along until a restaurant’s smell caught my attention; Fishermans Plate Seafood. It was an odd combination of meal choices, fish and chips, and Vietnamese. I had some sate beef soup, and it was the best I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a good thing because it was rated one of the best ten restaurants in Wellington this year.
After enjoying my delicious lunch I walked around for a few more hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, and making sure to visit the infamous Cuba street, before heading back to my camper.
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The next stop was Trucks and Trailers Ltd., located in Lower Hull, a subdivision of Wellington. I picked up two replacement parts for my camper for $26 to repair the damage from my accident a few days before. This way I don’t have to go through insurance.
I then browsed through my GPS for spots to visit around Waikanae, where I wanted to be for the night, because tomorrow I’m going to visit a car museum there I found a scenic outlook, up one of the most terrifying roads I’ve been on in my life. A sheer drop to your death on one side, and a steep vertical cliff on the other to scrap up the camper really good if you’re not careful. I annoyed a few people by driving slow and steady, but I made it. The scenic point was called Paekakariki Hill Lookout.
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After viewing at the lookout I input into the GPS Waikanae Beach to stay for the night. When I arrived I sat on the beach and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the sun set.
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When I went back to my camper a German couple with two children parked next to me. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. During the middle of us talking a young cat came up to my camper and jumped inside. It ended up hanging out with my for most of the evening and then left on its own terms towards midnight.
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August 26th 2016 – New Zealand Day 6

Today I woke up at 8:00am. I was very tired because of having to move my camper in the middle of the night, and the constant wind. I prepared a smoked salmon with egg sandwich for breakfast before getting on the road.

My journey today took me along a nice and slow route along the Coromandel coast. The views were spectacular! I stopped in the town of Thames at a McDonald’s to download some more podcasts and to catch up with a few people, before slowly meandering my way along the coastline.
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I arrived at the town of Hahei, where I parked my camper and went on an hour return trip to Cathedral Cove. I ran into my friend Anne, who I’ve been hanging out with for the past few days, who was on the Kiwi Adventures tour of New Zealand! The archway at Cathedral Cove was amazing!
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I spent quite some time at Cathedral Cove before heading my way back to my camper. I then headed to Hot Water Beach, which is a naturally occurring geothermal area on a beach. Hot steam rises up through the sand and brings the water to a temperature of 45-60 degrees Celsius! I met a randomly family there with a shovel and helped them out. Within a half hour we had a pretty decent sized pool where we could all sit in and relax in the hot water. It was pretty amazing!
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The man of the family, Richard, invited me for some beers at his house at 8:30pm, and gave me the address. I had a shower, and worked on my blog until around 8:00pm and then went looking for his house, but was unable to find it. I kind of felt bad, but it was time to find a place to sleep. I drove a half hour south to a small little sleepy town called  Tairua. There was three other campers where I was, and I found a good spot and parked for the night.
BAM!!! My camper was hit by another vehicle at around 10:30pm when I was trying to sleep. By the time I had come to my senses the vehicle had taken off. My left rear  reflector was broken and the bumper pushed in a bit. I pushed the bumper back out, but the reflector will need to be replaced. I’ll look into this tomorrow because I don’t want the rental company to know about this.
Tomorrow I’m off to Rotorua, which is what I’ve been looking forward to for the whole New Zealand portion of my trip.

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August 23rd 2016 – New Zealand Day 3

Today I woke up at about 7:00am. I had a pretty lazy day today but I had some house keeping stuff I had to do. I needed to dump my waste water, and pickup fresh water. I drove to Kaikohe and used a dump station there. It was fairly easy, considering I had never done this before.

I then started to drive towards Omapere where there was a beautiful lookout overlooking the sand dunes that I had read about. I got distracted along the way and saw a sign to Wairere Boulders, which I followed. I’m glad I did! It led me down a gravel road for about 12km until I reached a private property with signs on it. A Swiss gentleman named Felix drove down from his house on his quad and reached the visitor hut that I had parked at. He greeted me and asked me where I was from, and then he told me a bit about the property, the history around the property, and a bit about himself. There was a $15 entry fee, which I didn’t mind paying. This place was rated one of the best 50 locations in New Zealand to visit, and the photo’s he had on display made it seem worth it.

The boulders are reminiscent of volcanic activities from thousands of years ago, and they are very unique because they are very hard basalt rock, but they are eroded. The erosion is due to debris from Kauri leaves, cones and branches, which created a very acidic environment. Felix is a geologist and a civil engineer and he said this is extremely rare.

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The amount of effort he put into building bridges and steps on his property is incredible. He said that it took him nearly 5 years with the help of his wife. You can tell that he over engineered everything because there was absolutely no flex in anything, and the wood was fairly beefy. He even had some drawings left up to show the detail of his work. Very Swiss indeed!

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I then continued on my way to Omapere, where I was absolutely awe struck by the beautiful views that were to be had!

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After Omapere I continued on my way to the Waipoua Forest, where I stopped to see the worlds oldest and tallest Kauri tree, which stands nearly 60 metres tall, and is around 2000 years old!

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My friend Anne, who I met in Australia on my tour contacted me via Facebook and told me that she was in Auckland tomorrow and that we should meet up. I was headed back that way anyways so I said I would drive as close as I could and we could meet up tomorrow. It was time to find a camping spot as it was starting to get a bit dark. I headed to a beautiful campsite overlooking Port Albert around 70km away from Auckland. There was only one other camper in the parking lot besides me; another Britz rental.

I had a shower, made some dinner, and did some photo editing, and wrote my blog, before heading to bed.

Tomorrow I’ll be off to Auckland to meet up with Anne for breakfast!

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August 22nd 2016 – New Zealand Day 2

Today I woke up at 6:00am. I decided to set an alarm clock because today was a fair amount of driving. I made myself a skillet of vegetables and eggs, and then hit the road. The first stop, only a few kilometres away, was Whangarei Falls. The view was absolutely spectacular! There was a 1.5km circular loop to view the falls from beneath, which I took. I tried to get some good photo’s from below, but the sun wasn’t angled properly and it was fairly misty.

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The next stop roughly an hour away was Pahia, where I parked my campervan and walked around for about an hour. There was a really pretty church called St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

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The next stop, which I came across by accident, was Haruru Falls. These falls were fairly short, but quite wide.

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After visiting Haruru Falls i put Cape Reinga in my GPS, and started heading towards there. It was going to take roughly about 2.5 hours, but I knew I would come across other things along the way. The first place I stopped at was Coopers Beach, where I made myself some coffee and Thai curry soup, which was absolutely delicious. I have quite the love for Thai food, so this hit the spot!

The next unscheduled stop was 90 mile beach. My sister had told me about this, and lets just say words can’t even describe this beach. The beach is spectacular! Each entrance to the beach is very different. The south is miles and miles of beautiful white sandy beach, and the north is lots of massive sand dunes.

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After visiting 90 mile beach I visited Houhora, and Rarawa Beach. Houhora had a nice view, and Rarawa Beach had some of the most beautiful white sand I have ever seen.

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The next stop, which I came across was the sand dunes on Te Paki stream road. I’m exceptionally glad that I visited this because I saw a beautiful bee hive collection along the way, and the sand dunes were even bigger than the ones I have seen in Nevada. The views from the top were spectacular. I even rode a sand board down a steep one! Sand boarding is a lot of fun, but a bit scary, because you have no control over the speed!

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The last and final stop of today was Cape Reinga to watch the sunset. The sunset was quite beautiful, and the pictures don’t quite do it justice. It was raining out at sea, so it was blocking a fair amount of the sun, but some was still shining through.

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It was 6:30 now so I had to find somewhere to stay for the night. The GPS in my campervan has all the camp sites in New Zealand listed, so I looked on the GPS and found one close by that was actually right on the beach near Cape Reinga for only $6. Tapotupotu camp site is on the honour system, but I was honest and paid (well I was 10 cents short…). I made myself a salad for dinner, and had some leftover pasta.

I figured out a few things about my campervan that didn’t quite make sense earlier on. I was wondering why my waste water tank wasn’t registering anything so I went outside and looked, and it appears that Britz forgot to close the waste water valve. Don’t worry because it is only grey water; the toilet is separate! I closed the valve and now everything is functioning properly. I also figured out why my hot water heater wasn’t working, and fixed that. I had an air bubble in the system. I had a nice hot shower, and then settled into bed.

Tomorrow I’m going to head back towards Auckland, and I will need to find somewhere to fill up with water as I’m down to less than 25 percent. Britz recommends every 2-3 days that I visit an actual full service camp site. These camp sites typically cost $15-20 so I will try and stretch to 3 days whenever possible.

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