There’s something to be said about life on the open road. It’s freeing. It’s thrilling. It’s full of surprises. It’s all of the above and then some when you’re cruising along the cozy roads of New Zealand.
We did just that for three weeks, racking up 3,508.6 kilometers. For a country that’s made up of two islands that together total the size of Colorado there sure is a lot to see. That makes it hard to tell you about our trip. There is so much to write and so much to show. I could go on and on…and, yes, still on. But I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum. I’ll try to limit the number of jaw-dropping photos I post.* Otherwise, you may be too tempted to hop on Kayak and book a flight in the next few minutes.
Like a lot of tourists, we piloted our way up, down, and around New Zealand’s “highways” in a campervan. But we like to stand out and opted for the brightest, boldest breed on the road.
Actually, the Jucy Condo was one of the more affordable options, which also perfectly suited our needs. We could sleep comfortably in it, stand upright in it, and, if we wanted (I didn’t), cook in it. We didn’t have a bathroom or shower, but that’s okay because — let me tell you — the public toilets in New Zealand are always clean and there’s always one to be found. Plus, the campground facilities are generally decent.
Our days went something like this: wake up, reconfigure the back of the van from a bedroom to a seating area, brew some coffee in the kitchen (the extent of our cooking), and hit the road. We had a loose agenda: a list of places to go and an idea of how long it would take to get there. We had the freedom to stop and gander when and wherever we wanted. That’s pretty often in a country where rainbows stretch out over kelly green pastures dotted with lazy cows standing around chewing cud.
You’re never 128 kilometers from a beach in New Zealand or so Lonely Planet states. I say a beach rather than the beach because they’re all different. We did our best to see as many as we could, starting with the inky, blank sand of Piha and Muriwai Beaches on the North Island’s west coast before working our way up and over to Paihia Beach, a tourist hot spot, on the east coast.
We continued farther north, making a pit stop at a vast, sandy stretch of 90 Mile Beach. Then a little more north to Spirits Bay where the setting rays of the sun highlight the yellow, pink, and peach hues of the smoothed-over, broken seashells that carpet the shore. We watched the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea crash into each other from the windswept perch of Cape Reinga. The South Island has its fair share of beaches, too, and we spent some time at its northern tip in the Golden Bay area where the temperate climate and soft sands serve as a welcoming oasis for New Zealanders and foreigners alike.
In between the beaches we took in the inland sights. I laughed — literally! — in the presence of Tane Mahuta, the largest of impossibly large kauri trees in Waipoua Forest.
We soaked in the natural hot springs at the base of Te Aroha and watched the underwhelming fizzle of the Mokena soda geyser, accompanied by two chatty Boomer couples from Australia. It was a precursor to the steamy, bubbly liquid wonders of Rotorua where, for us, the belching mud pools stole the show from the star attractions, Pohutu and Lady Knox geysers.
On the South Island, we stopped in the tiny town of Waikari where we traipsed across the steep hills of private farmland to check out ancient Maori rock art. The original artwork was crude and barely visible on the limestone rock it had been painted on. Some of it was “enhanced” decades ago by a misguided museum director, who painted over the original drawings with house paint. Hence, the modern, ugly chain link fence that now prevents onlookers like us from getting too close.
After a few days on the road, it became hard to keep track of the time, the day and date, and, admittedly, our last shower. There was no reason to know such things. We had no one to impress and nowhere to be, other than safely at a campsite by dusk.
*As always, thanks to Iggy for the gorgeous photos!