New Zealand: 4/9 – 4/15

(New Zealand) Bethlehem >>> Thames >>> Whangerei >>> Matapouri >>> Wellsford >>> Titirangi [Housesit with Scooter and Gypsy]

4/9- Frisbee Golf with Sheep and Cathedral Cove!
4/10- Humongous Ice Cream Cones and Exploring the Northland
4/11- Kayaking the Bay of Islands and Mountain Biking in Waitangi!
4/12- Snorkeling the Poor Knights Islands and Exploring Abbey Caves!
4/13- Drive to Titirangi and Start Housesit
4/14- No More VanLife! 😦
4/15- Showcasing Bingo Bongo and Rugby Match in Auckland


4/9:
Frisbee Golf with Sheep and Cathedral Cove!
+ For breakfast, we got some pies from Gold Star Bakery. This place had some of the best in all of NZ and had won tons of awards! We got the creamy mushroom and bacon; Cajun chicken and spinach; and mince and cheese pies. Yummmm!
+ Drove back to McLaren Falls to play Frisbee golf. The course was like an intense hike and probably the toughest, most technical course we’d ever played! Many sheep still around and we even saw some Tui birds! Hooray! Happy to finally cross that bird off our NZ bird list.
+ Afterwards we took advantage of the free hot showers at the park and in doing so finally completed our transformation to complete hippie people living in a van!
+ After a very quick lunch we jumped in the car and started the drive to the Coromandel Peninsula.
+ Drove through the rain on the very windy twisty hairpin curves and finally made it to Cathedral Cove.
+ Hiked the 40 minutes down to the stunning beach and took about a thousand pictures. The white sand beach was set amongst a huge rock formation/sea cave that now formed a giant arch you could walk through. To the other side of the beach was a really pretty waterfall going almost directly into the ocean. The only other place we’d seen that in the world was in California!
+ Once we’d finished exploring and hiked back out, we drove a couple of more hours Southwest and slept at Danby field in Thames.

4/10:
Humongous Ice Cream Cones and Exploring the Northland
+ Had cereal for breakfast. Liz with her boring Muesli and Corey with his delicious and super grown up Coco Pops. If only Liz was this refined!
+ To break up our 4 hour drive north, we stopped in Pokeno for some of their famous ice cream! Corey got 4 scoops! In a double cone! (They offered all the way up to 13 scoops!) While eating our massive cones, they dripped all over us and made a huge mess!
+ Back on the road again, we eventually got off the highway and drove through small towns to Goat Island Marine Reserve.
+ Took advantage of the sunny weather and space as we did our photo shoot with the van. We had to take stuff out of the van to get photos of it all and all the different set ups of the van. At one point, when all our stuff was out in an empty parking space, a guy drove up and started complaining to us about the “wankers” that left all their crap there. We said it was ours and only there temporarily and we would be moving it shortly. He laughed and apologized then drove off but it was funny/awkward once he found out we were the wankers!
+ Finally we went to do what we’d come here to do: Go Snorkeling! Unfortunately the conditions were not good for snorkeling at all with the strong current and fast winds coming in from the East. So Corey just swam instead. Liz had read her book with a cup of coffee on the beach and admired the nesting cormorants (called shags here in NZ).
+ That night when we got wifi, we posted the van for sale online! We were sad to be selling it so soon!
+ Slept at Onerahi Park (right outside Whangarei)

4/11:
Kayaking the Bay of Islands and Mountain Biking in Waitangi!
+ We wanted to explore the Bay of Islands but didn’t like any of the cheesy and overpriced Boat options. So we found a kayaking freedom hire we liked instead. So in the morning we found the little roadside hut we’d booked with and got geared up for our self kayak adventure in the Bay of Islands. We were in a double Sea Kayak and set out to explore all we could in 3 hours.
+ We moved much much faster in this double kayak than we had in our overloaded canoe on the Whanganui journey. If we’d had this sucker, we would’ve been a lot more stable and finished in half the time!
+ First we headed out into the bay/harbor (with the very choppy water today) to explore as much as we could. There were some strong winds coming in which caused some pretty big waves. We were really hoping to see some dolphins or maybe even orcas though so we went a couple of kilometers down the shoreline before turning around and heading back. No luck this time.
+ Next we paddled inland for a while and through the harbor admiring all of the different yachts and houseboats.
+ Finally we went up river to Haruru Falls. It was a cool, horseshoe shaped falls that we were able to paddle up nice and close to and grab some sweet photos. Then we returned along the sandy banks admiring the shags and spoonbills before returning the kayak.
+ Next up Corey was going Mountain biking! He rented a nice new Hardtail bike and the worker drove him up to the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park and dropped him off at the base of the mountain. From there, Corey spent the next 2 hours riding around on all the tracks and covering as much ground as he could before dark.
+ This course was much cooler than the Rabbit Ridge one he’d done on the South Island. This scenery had much more forest surrounding it and a lot more jumps and varying trails. Just like before though, he was the only one out there! Only this time, no nasty falls!
+ Just as the sun was setting, he was riding the last trail out of the woods back to the mountain base. Along the way he encountered a few possums and gave each other mini heart attacks! Then he used his phone flashlight to ride the remaining 7 kilometers back to town and met up with Liz.
+ Having worked up quite an appetite, we cooked a big elaborate meal in a parking lot in Paihia under the light of the only lamppost around (and underneath our hatch for cover from the rain). Then we ate inside our van for one last time!
+ Once we’d packed up and prepared our bags for tomorrow’s snorkeling adventure, we drove 90 minutes South to Matapouri.
+ Slept at Wooley’s Bay car park right next to the ocean (just on the other side of the dune) with the windows open all night and it was sooooo nice! One of the nicest nights of sleeping we’d had in all of NZ!

4/12:
Snorkeling the Poor Knights Islands and Exploring Abbey Caves!
+ This would be our last full day adventuring around NZ! As such, we wanted to do a fun activity that would be memorable.
+ We chose to go snorkeling at the Poor Knights Islands! After we’d met at the marina and gotten all of our gear, we loaded onto the boat with 6 other people and the 2 crew and all began our harrowing journey out to the islands. We say harrowing because there was yet another Cyclone headed towards NZ and although it wasn’t officially supposed to make landfall until tomorrow, we were definitely experiencing the windy and rainy side effects!
+ During the boat ride we repeatedly crashed over huge waves and everyone on board did their best to fight seasickness and not get thrown too far from their seats. We were surprised the trip was even still a go at this point but could do nothing but hope for better weather at the islands. It was the craziest boat ride either one of us had ever experienced!
+ We survived the ride out but unfortunately once we were at the islands it was still too choppy to park anywhere except for one particular spot. So we anchored up and everyone got suited up in their wetsuits to get in the water.
+ Although we’re both certified divers, we chose to just snorkel because it was less than half the price. The area we were snorkeling at was called Middle Arch (due to a big Arch in the middle of the islands you could swim through) and was really pretty, even from above the water.
+ We spent about an hour in the freezing cold water hugging the side of the cliff as we snorkeled around so as to get better views of all the sponges and fish and also so we didn’t get swept away in the current.
+ The captain was supposed to move to a different site for the 2nd dive but due to the weather, said he had to stay there. So the divers got back in the water to dive the same spot while we chose to just sit this one out. No way we were going back into that icy water to see the same exact stuff!
+ Overall we were kinda disappointed with our experience. Although with better weather we’re sure we would’ve appreciated it a whole lot more. Oh well.
+ Liz had a very interesting chat with the skipper, Glen Edney. He used to be very involved in whale watching programs in Tonga! He has even published a few books on humpback whales! Glen gave us a bunch of tips for responsible tour groups in Tonga. I hope we get to use them sometime!
+ Corey slept most of the boat ride back and then when we got into the harbor we drove back towards Whangerei. Then we made a quick stop at Whangerei Falls to admire the powerful spectacle from a few different angles.
+ Before we called it a day, Corey wanted one last adventure. So we parked at the entrance to Abbey Caves and Corey set off with his rain jacket and headlamp to go explore the 3 different caves while Liz hung back in the van to stay warm and dry and get back to her book!
+ After an initial hike down into the valley, Corey started exploring the first cave by getting into more icy water. This time it was only waist deep! The cave was pretty neat and fun to explore all by himself.
+ Then he hiked another 20 minutes along the path to the 2nd cave where he scrambled up and over, around, underneath, and through tiny muddy passages until he found the end of the cave.
+ When he emerged from that cave the incessant rain had increased to a downpour and even the ground he was hiking resembled more of just one giant mud puddle! He got to the entrance of the 3rd cave and was scrambling down the (what was now, but not normally) waterfall when the sun completely set and he realized it was probably foolish to continue in the pitch black, rainy conditions. With this amount of water, who knew what the inside of the cave would even look like! So instead he finished the rest of the hike in the rain and went back to the van. Still a really fun experience and 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!
+ Reunited with Liz, we went into town to use our GrabOne coupon and get some Indian food for dinner. We hadn’t had this type of cuisine in a long time and both really enjoyed our meals.
+ Gassed up Bingo Bongo for the last time and started driving south towards Auckland. After about an hour the increasingly worse weather forced us to pull over for the night.
+ Slept at Wellsford Centennial Park to ride out the cyclone with our last night in the van!

4/13:
Drive to Titirangi and Start Housesit
+ Woke up for our last day living in the camper!
+ Luckily the weather wasn’t that bad. Only a light rain. For now.
+ After breakfast we took a video tour of the van like we have done with all of our rentals in the past.
+ We then loaded back up and started the drive to our house sit in Titirangi! (just Southwest of Auckland)
+ Arrived at the housesit and were greeted by the dog Scooter and Abysinnian cat Gypsy. Scooter was barking like a good guard dog but eventually warmed right up to us. Gypsy just wanted his food and and a quick pet and then was off to explore the great outdoors once again.
+ We spent the afternoon cleaning out the van and organizing all of our stuff. We had gotten everything in the perfect spot and it had actually been nice to always know exactly where everything was and have it within reach when needed!
+ That evening we did some quick grocery shopping and then bought our flights to New Zealand! Then we snuggled on the couch with both Gypsy and Scooter!

4/14:
No More VanLife! 😦
+ We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and the fact we were able to wake up and walk about the house or use the restroom whenever needed. Even in the middle of the night! Oh, the luxuries of not living in a van!
+ Threw the ball around with Scooter and took her on a walk.
+ Did some necessary things like laundry and organizing the backpacks. They didn’t have a dryer so we had to hang the clothes up on racks outside to dry which was almost impossible since it would rain briefly about every 15 minutes!
+ We had gotten some interest from potential buyers from all the Facebook groups and websites we’d been posting to. So we headed into town and showed a French couple our van. We had never been on the other side of the buying/selling process! Now we had to try and decipher all their cryptic questions/inquiries and figure out if they were actually interested!
+ Back at the house we made some delicious Fajitas and enjoyed some play time and then some snuggle time with the pets!
+ Watched the movie “Why Him?” at night while enjoying 2 of the bottles of wine we’d purchased in the Marlborough wine region. We had saved our Marlborough souvenirs to be able to enjoy them here at the housesit where we could chill them properly and relax as our NZ trip was winding down!
4/15:
Showcasing Bingo Bongo and Rugby Match in Auckland
+ Liz surprised Corey in the morning by making him some hashbrowns for breakfast!
+ More play time with Scooter! We really liked how she actually returned the ball to us when we played fetch! She was such a sweet dog and would follow us all around the house wherever we walked. Just like our cat Tumbles! We also liked Gypsy but he was very cat-like and would go from not wanting any attention to demanding that he be pet right now! He enjoyed more vigorous head rubs than any other cat we’d ever met!
+ After some lunch we headed into town for some more showings! We showed the van to 3 different couples today! They all were interested enough to take the van for a test drive and said they liked it but that it was a little out of their price range and that they would get back to us.
+ The last couple were extremely thorough with their checks and the guy was even crawling up underneath the car and checking things! Even though he said he didn’t know a lot about cars, they had bought a bad van in Australia that ended up costing them a lot of money so they were being extremely thorough and careful now.
+ They took so long though that we ended up missing our dinner time at the restaurant we were supposed to go to nearby. We’d already bought a GrabOne coupon that had to be used that day and now we’d wasted $20! That sucked.
+ Now we had a frantic rush through the city over to the Eden Park stadium to watch a Rugby game! Corey had entered a contest through KFC and won tickets and a prize package to tonight’s game! We were going to see the Auckland Blues clash against the Wellington Hurricanes!
+ The game was rather underwhelming and by the time we’d managed to find parking, collect the tickets, and get into the stadium we missed the first 5 minutes of the game which had 3 scores! The entire rest of the game (75 minutes) only had 4 scores combined so we definitely missed the most exciting part. We’d wondered if we’d made the right choice coming to the game instead of the dinner we’d already paid for, but oh well. Too late now!
+ After the game we were both starving so on the way home we used our free KFC vouchers we’d won to get some free dinner.
+ Back at the house, we packed up all of our stuff and prepared for our departure the next day. Somehow, no matter how big the house is, we always manage to completely spread out around the house with stuff in seemingly every room! Maybe it was just that it was the opposite of having everything stuffed inside of the van!
+ After some snuggles with the pets on the couch watching YouTube videos, we went to bed tired from our very full day.

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