The last few days have been quite eventful as we had some trouble with our campervan that we had to deal with. As we departed Cape Reinga, our water pump started to act out on us. We stopped in KeriKeri to go to the mechanic and had to spend an entire morning at the auto shop. The problem seemed to have been fixed…We spent the night in a beautiful town called Russell, located by the Bay of Islands. Historic houses overlooking the bay, charming restaurants and a view that was out of a postcard. It helped that we had blue skies and the rain had finally stopped.
From Russell we took off to overnight at a lavender farm called the Bees Nees that we found through Okay2Stay. Our hostess Roby was a charming British lawyer who gave us several tips on where to go. We stopped at the Honey Centre, which is an amazing place with tons of different honey products, including tasting of dozens of different honeys. I could have dropped a small fortune at the gift shop with all the different lotions, natural products, candles, etc. Thought of my friend Jeanette and my mom, they would have loved the honey store too.
Our next stop was Auckland to fix the water issue at the campervan. Dealing with the rental company was not fun to say the least and after much back and forth, the van was fixed. For good, I hope. We take for granted how the US is so customer service oriented and how different it can be in other parts of the world…
We arrived in Rotorua later in the day. As our guidebook says, “this is nothing less than jaw-dropping WOW”. It is an active geothermal area where you can be in the middle of the city park with steam and bubbling mud right by you. It’s bizarre yet fascinating to watch. See Louisa’s picture below, she is in the middle of a path with steam surrounding her! Even the campground has a thermal pool where we soaked ourselves after dinner. So relaxing! Tomorrow is our break from driving as we stay another night in Rotorua. YAY!
At the Russell Top 10 Holiday Park, where we camped.
Smooth arrival in Auckland, except for trying to figure out the SIM card situation on my AT&T phone (will leave it for another post…). We went straight to the hotel as it was close to 10pm local time. Thanks to our friend Courtney for the jet lag pills she gave us, we had a great night of sleep and no issues adapting to the local time. It does feel strange to know that everyone is a day behind from us…Went to get our campervan at Wenderkreisen. It’s very comfortable for 4 people but…you need to know how to drive on the left side of the road AND drive a manual transmission, meaning you change gears with your left hand!! Well, I still need a few days to absorb this and gain confidence to drive. For now, Chris is doing all the driving.
We stocked up the van at the local grocery store and off we went to our first destination – Piha Beach, a quiet beach town. Reminded of Stinson Beach, near San Francisco, including the winding road to get there. Beautiful shore, the Lion Rock that the kids and I climbed to the top. The campground was closed for renovations so we just parked by the beach and spent the night there. Made a yummy spaghetti with pesto dinner.
From Piha we drove to the Northwestern side of the North Island, about 3hrs from Piha. Stopped at Dargaville to use the public library and get a couple of hours of free internet. Our next destination was Trounson Kiwi & Kauri Reserve. We camped at the Kauri Coast Top 10 park, probably the best campground I have been to. Bonus: trampoline and ping pong table for the kids. So nice that we decided to stay a 2nd night to just relax, explore the hiking trails and catch up on kids studies and next destinations. Extra bonus: there is internet throughout the entire park!
View from Piha Beach
KiteKite Waterfall, in Piha Beach
Piha Beach with Lion Rock on background
Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park
Lion Rock, at Piha Beach