Having spent four days in New Zealand so far, I am beginning to get into a comfortable routine. The last couple of days have been action packed,with Wednesday being my busiest day so far. I spent the morning on a cruise around the Bay of Islands, and visited the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi, where the in 1840 Moari cheifs singed a treaty that brought New Zealand under British rule.
Yesterday, I left the caravan park in Paihia and headed north towards Cape Reinga. Stopping for fuel at Awenui, I was able to gauge for the first time Hogan's thirst for unleaded, which came in at just over 12.7L/100km. This was not too bad given that ExploreMore's website quotes 12.5L/100km, however with petrol priced at more than NZ$2 per litre, filling up was not going to ever be a highlight of the trip.
North of Awenui lies the Aupouri Peninsula. Here the roads wind over hills covered with vegetation stumped by the harsh winds that pass through, and offer glimpses of the sand dunes that lie along the west coast. It was along these roads that I began to experiment with the Toyota's transmission which is very much of its era, with its gear selector offering and overdrive switch as well as Low and 2nd gear selections. Additionally, it has an ECT(Electronically Controlled Transmission) switch which allows the driver to select 'Power' mode, sharpening throttle inputs and holding a gear for longer before upshifts. For most of the curvy roads in the Aupouri Peninsula, I found the combination of disengaging overdrive and selecting 'Power' on the ECT switch added both additional control and enjoyment to the driving experience.
Cape Reinga itself has a small lighthouse, although it lacks the historical interest of some lighthouses as it is only about seventy years old. The foot of the lighouse offers a spectacular ocean view, where the meeting of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean can be witnessed. From here you can walk along the coast in either direction limited only by your fitness and carrying sufficient supplies.
|Cape Reinga Lighthouse|
Having taken in the stunning views, and walked for as far as my body was willing to on a warm and humid afternoon (which was not far at all) I went in search of my campsite for the night. Tapotupotu lies just around the coast to the east of Cape Reinga and is set by a small surf beach and the end of a river flowing from the hills. Access to the campsite is by a short but steep gravel road, and was best handled with Hogan's gear selector in Low. I set up camp by the river, which has its own, generous beach pictured here about halfway between tides. At this point in the day some swimming was in order, as well as a good dose of rest from the day's activities.
|Campsite at Tapotupotu|
Tapotupotu would have been a perfect spot to camp but for one thing: the mosquitoes. Initially I thought only a couple had made their way into the van, but after killing a few I soon realised that eradicating them from the van was an impossible task. Thankfully I seem to be immune from itchy mosquito bites, but unfortunately I am not immune from being disturbed by their endless buzzing. Needless to say I didn't sleep well after that. After airing the van of as many mosquitoes as I could, I left Tapotupotu early this morning and headed south again, stopping for breakfast at Kaitaia then heading via the western highway and then backroads towards Matakohe, stopping in Dargaville for lunch along the way. As I left the campsite this morning a few drops of drizzle began to appear. Over the course of the morning these turned into heavier rain which has not stopped since. Leaving breakfast, I bravely use Google Maps on my phone to direct me to Matakohe. Some of the roads it directed me towards were marked as unsealed on my two-year-old road atlas, but I bravely persisted, and found that these roads were mostly surfaced, and offered breathtaking of forest-covered hills and raging streams. The only exception was the road that Google Maps directed me to take to divert around Ruawai, and on reaching the unsealed section, I decided to turn back and take the main highway through Ruawai instead.
I began to really get comfortable with the campervan's handling today. Although it is no better than it was, I seem to be more in tune with it's limitations and found it easier to enjoy throwing it through the corners without half expecting it to understeer off the road at any moment. Admittedly 'throwing' might not be quite the right description, but I was feeling more comfortable and the corners were much more enjoyable than they had been a couple of days earlier.