I sadly said goodbye to our trusty camper on the South Island consoling myself that we would be met by an equally trusty relative on the North Island. After a welcome night in a normal bed and a spa bath we went to meet our new Ezy camper in Auckland. This camper turned out to be an older relative, one who'd obviously been around the block a few times. I was dismayed when I saw that it didn't have tinted windows and got more dismayed as I realised it lacked other little helpful things such as extra storage space we had been used to. Driving along I convinced myself it didn't drive as well. I felt like it was going all over the place, but then Tim pointed out that I had it in over drive when it didn't need to be. I reluctantly let it off the hook with that, but later found new fault against the “new” van when we realised the inverter didn't work which meant the DVD player and the heated towel rail didn't work. Now I can live with out the DVD player, but my God, the heated towel rail?
Slowly I have come round to the new van and have felt quite guilty for my resentments. I mean it's not his fault that he's not an upgraded model like his trendier counterparts. He is still getting us round and we have a bed to sleep in at night.
Since being on the North Island we have camped at some really lovely spots. Matai Bay was a lovely secluded sweep of sand with clear turquoise waters. Previous nights we were at two other lovely beaches and a waterfall. (Haruru Falls) My initial impression of North island was of how much more populated it is compared to the South. I knew this to be the case, but it was still a shock to drive with lots of people. We had to drive on Motorway through Auckland initially and it was like driving through London. I just wanted get out. Outside of Auckland was busy too (relative to the South).
Leaving Haruru we picked up our first hitch-hiker who when he got out told us not to give lifts to everybody, especially blacks. I've noticed there is a tinge of racism towards the Maori people, (you know the kind, “I'm not racist but...)” in the people we have spoken to in NZ. After we dropped him off we went to the site where the treaty between Maoris and British was signed in 1840. In the grounds was a beautiful Maori war canoe carved out of Kauri tree and next to it was the stump of the tree they used. It was very big and I was to see how big they are alive the next day. (More about that later).
We carried on in to KeriKeri down the road for our daily “out of the van coffee” after which I spotted a boutique chocolate shop where you can watch them make and have tasters. I screeched the van into the drive, tasted their very generous (not) two, very delicious chocolates. Then somehow we ended up in another winery with me driving again. We had a very lovely lunch and Tim didn't even taste the wines, other than a glass with lunch (of which he bought a bottle). After lunch we had a satisfying shop for veggies at an organic farm before going to another winery where Tim did try this time and bought a lovely chardonnay which tastes like butterscotch. I wouldn't mind spending most of my days doing the above. It was a lovely end to the day when we found our spot for the night at a lovely secluded beach. (Well it was secluded except for a few cows which meandered past and until three other vans came and parked, strangely next to us, even though there was loads of space.) It was pitch black finding our way to the toilets until we looked up and the sky was illuminated with millions of stars. The night sky is one of my favourite parts about camping in the middle of nowhere.
Earlier I mentioned about Kauri trees. I had been impressed with the skill which the Maori canoe had been carved, but was equally impressed when we stopped for our daily coffee at “Ancient Kauri Kingdom,” a workshop, cafe and gallery. Here 45,000 year old perfectly preserved Kauri trees which have been dug up from swamps are made into furniture and wood craft products. The furniture was absolutely beautiful and I found it even more so knowing how old the wood they are made from is. The most impressive part though was a staircase made out of a giant upright Kauri log (the biggest found so far) with a spiral staircase carved into it which takes you up to the mezzanine level. It was beautiful and probably the closest I'll ever get to going up “The Faraway tree” (My favourite Enid Blyton story as a child).
After seeing Kauri craft we wanted to see live Kauris so headed to Waipoua Forest which was were prevented from being chopped down by the logging industry in the 1950's. There are no longer giant Kauri forests like there used to be because we came and chopped them all down to make way for farm land and to make furniture etc out of them. However, thankfully there are still some left and we saw the two largest still living Kauri trees. It was another “wow” moment when we were confronted with the first one which made the trees around it look like matchsticks. These trees are about 2000 years old and it is awe inspiring to gaze up at them and think what they have lived through.
The next day we went to the Kauri museum (can't get enough of these Kauris). The Lonely Planet said that it would “leave you amazed at how impressive wood can be.” It was a lovely museum (I was grateful there weren't too many information boards as I always feel I have to read every single bit and then later find that I can't remember anything anyway, so photographic memory Tim has to tell me about it all again) but I had been prepared the day before at “Ancient Kauri Kingdom” at how impressive wood can be. However, again I felt awe struck when I saw a comparison of the girth of trees shown by rings painted on the walls. The largest tree we had seen the day before was not the largest tree ever recorded and in fact was about 4 or 5 rings in, so considerably smaller. It was amazing to consider how big that tree must have been. There were lots of displays showing the lives of Kauri bushmen, tradesmen and their families. Because we are cultural we liked it when we pressed a button and a model cow got milked!
We left the Kauri coast suitably impressed and amazed at wood and headed back through Auckland stopping at Ezy rentals where they had said they would replace our DVD player with a portable one which we were glad of only because it gives us more storage space. The girl told us that the heated towel rail wouldn't work though. We nodded and she laughed and said, “the DVD players more important though ay?” I forced a nod and smiled through gritted teeth. Clearly the girl has her priorities wrong.