It is a feeling of great longing that stirs within me when I think back to New Zealand. I absolutely loved the place and miss it so much. Oh the land of the long white cloud – Aotearoa as the Māori call it, there literally is nowhere else like it in the world. We’d spent the last three months touring both islands in our own little van, man it was awesome! It had began to feel like home but as our time there was finally coming to an end, we still had to get back up to Auckland and sell the van before flying to Oahu, Hawai’i.
After saying our goodbyes to the south island, we caught the early 5am ferry back to Wellington on the north island and decided to drive up the west coast to take a look at Mt Taranaki, a big old volcano. It was huge! I knew it had to be big since we’d seen it all the way inland from the top of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing a month or so before and it featured on the front of our Lonely Planet guidebook. After passing the giant as close as we could, we camped for the night by our very own secluded beach. The campsite was empty, we even had our own shower/toilet block to ourselves and kitchen! It was Valentine’s day which also meant our 13 year anniversary and I couldn’t think of a better place to be. After a romantic stroll on the beach collecting what we thought was pounamu/greenstone and drinking a glass of Tuatara pilsner (our favourite brew from NZ), we ate dinner and spent the evening looking up at the night’s sky. The stars shone so brightly they sparkled like diamonds. We also heard noises coming from the other side of the park which we believed to be Kiwi birds, but by then I was so scared of the dark (it was pitch black and a head torch really wasn’t cutting the mustard) I made us hurry back to our van.
We’d heard of a cool surf spot situated on the west coast of the north island called Raglan, so we thought we would swing by to check it out before heading into Auckland. Well, after finding a BOGOF coupon in a magazine for the local campsite there, we ended up staying for two nights. We enjoyed mooching round the arty little town there and of course the surfing at Ngarunui beach, perfect for beginners. Luckily the board rental included a wetsuit or I would have frozen! My favourite part though was watching Māori kids surf at Manu Bay, just down the road to where we’d been surfing. The difference was this was over rock so the long left-handed wave was pretty impressive compared to the safe small waves we’d just been riding over on a sandy beach. The kids were absolute pros, some no older than 15, all supported by enthusiastic parents sat whooping in deck chairs on the grassy hill next to the sea. I wondered if they came down here every Saturday, like a family tradition or something. Absolutely awesome!
Our next stop was busy Auckland, it was hammer time! We’d allowed two weeks to get the van serviced and ready to sell, with an advert on hostel notice boards and online sites. We based ourselves in a campsite in a suburb just outside the city. It was full of people actually living there in tents and vans, working in Auckland and reminded me of being in Australia as everyone was so nice and we all got to know each other after a few hours. It had a real campsite community spirit. Just two days after the van’s advert hit notice boards around the city, we had two people interested, both from the same hostel and both bidding against each other in the street after test driving it on the same afternoon. What can I say, we were thrilled! It was a wicked van but we never thought it would go so easily since there were hundreds for sale now summer was coming to a close. It went to the highest bidder, nope not a German but an English guy from Yorkshire. Check out the van video below, I bet even you would want to buy it! 🙂
So now homeless, we had to find accommodation for the rest of our time in Auckland. However, since Linkin Park were playing in town that weekend, finding a room for the night, even a bed in a dorm was proving to be a task. Kiwi’s must really like this band! Although completely random, we nonetheless had fun doing this – we ended up staying in Manukau city (a Māori town just outside of Auckland) in a tiny cabin in a campsite with not enough space to swing a cat. Honestly the interior of our old van was bigger! The next night couldn’t be any more different as we moved into our own 2 bed chalet with bathroom, diner and kitchen ha ha! This was followed by a crazy night in the huge skyscraper-like hostel ‘XBase’ in downtown Auckland, where we spent the evening in Albert Park at the Chinese Lantern Festival (put on each year for the Chinese new year). It was so authentic it was like we were back in Chengdu, China. We sat listening to the beautiful live music whilst eating lamb skewers and drinking tapioca bubble tea as the sun went down over the Auckland Sky Tower. If I had seen an old man hacking up a grolly with his belly on display, a kid shitting by a bin or a baby with no nappy, with chaps and squeaky shoes on, I’d have really believed I was back in Asia! 🙂
The fun of moving around every day had really started to wear us out, so it was so nice to finally check back into the best hostel in the world, the one and only Bamber House in Mt Eden. We spent the next week here soaking up the late summer sun and doing touristy things. We visited the Auckland museum, sampled beers at the brewery pub Galbraith’s (awesome by the way), walking around the gorgeous parks and botanical gardens, getting a permanent souvenir (a tattoo) in the famous Tattooed Heart on the K Road (don’t worry Pauline Andy didn’t get anything done) and catching up with our blogs.
After all this time we now felt like locals and were honestly seriously depressed at the thought of leaving this amazing country. This is crazy when you think about our next destination, Hawai’i. HA-bloody-WAI’I!!!!! Lucky bastards.
I’ll let Andy pick it up from here. I love you Aotearoa and I will be seeing you again one day, I promise (written whilst tears fall down my cheeks).
Kia Ora, Emma xxx