Northward Bound – New Zealand Day 8
With the race over it was now time to relax and enjoy myself and of course bask in the glory of competing in a World Championship Triathlon. Facebook was filling up with messages of congratulations and Anna, Morgan and myself were all now looking forward to two weeks touring around New Zealand in a camper van.
It had been quite a journey getting here, both physically and mentally and we were all in need of a rest. We’d all enjoyed the lead up to the race and the race itself, but it had been hard work and we all needed a holiday. We had a camper van booked and were planning to tour around North Island. We had a basic itinerary but it was flexible and we were planning on stopping off wherever took our fancy along the way.
Final Hours in Auckland
I wasn’t quite over the Jetlag though so woke up at 3am – at least that was a little later than I had been waking up so my body must be readjusting. I used the time to write my race report blog post, publish it to the world and have a last email check before switching off the Internet for a couple of weeks – that in itself is quite a liberating experience, or at least it would be if I didn’t know that there would be thousands of emails waiting for me at the end of the holiday.
Once Anna and Morgan were awake, we packed and had a final breakfast at the Rydges. I was feeling fine today and wanted to finally make the most of the amazing breakfast buffet so ate and ate and ate. One of everything please and then up for seconds, and maybe a few little bits of thirds! At last, I’d done the breakfast buffet proud and made the most of our last day at the hotel.
We had managed to arrange bike box storage at the hotel my parents were supposed to have been in. They were also touring around New Zealand but were staying in hotels and were coming back to the hotel in Auckland twice during their trip, once before a coach trip and cruise around the Bay of Islands and once on the last night before a transfer to the airport. We couldn’t fit both the bike and the bike box into the camper without packing the bike in the box so decided it best to leave it out of the box and store the box in Auckland. Thankfully the Chifley Suites had room to store it and the fact that my parents were returning there meant it was free.
After dropping the bike box off we got a taxi to the Jucy Campervan depot. We would have walked but it was pouring with rain. Once there we were greeted with a huge queue, many of them triathletes who were obviously doing the same as us now that the race was over. We had already pre-booked and pre-registered all of our details but obviously the other people in the queue hadn’t and it was taking ages to process each one. When we eventually got to the front of the queue after ages waiting we went straight out and were shown the ins and outs of the camper.
The Camper was a Toyota Hi-Ace with a rasied roof decked out in the bright green and purple Jucy colours. There’s a double bed up the top and a foldaway double bed down the bottom. It had a dining table during the day and seats for five around it, a sink, a stove and a fridge. There was also a DVD player that we never used and a portopotti toilet that we didn’t use either. It was fully self-contained so we could use it in all campsites and even freedom camp in it if we wanted. It was just what we needed and looked as though it would suit us down to the ground. It was also an automatic, something I’d never driven before but once I’d been shown the ropes it was very easy to drive and actually very comfortable too. So much so that I might think about getting an automatic next time I buy a car, mainly because my ankle didn’t hurt once during the trip but as soon as I got back in a manual car it was hurting within 30 minutes of driving.
The Road North
Once we had the camper we drove back through Auckland to the Rydges Hotel where we collected our bags, put the bike right at the front of the top double bed and then remembered that we should hjave had picnic chairs from Jucy. We returned to the depot to collect them and finally started our journey northwards. We didn’t really know where we were going and didn’t hire a Sat Nav but somehow we just followed the right sounding signs and found ourselves on the correct road within no time. We were soon on State Highway 1 and heading North. Part of this road is a toll road so we soon had to stop at a service station and pay the toll, this also gave us chance to have a final sort out of the camper now that were were properly on the road and buy a coffee and a cake and some travelling sweets. Coffee and Cake stops were to become an integral part of each day on the road and the cakes in New Zealand are ‘lush’. Not only are they delicious but portion sizes are generous even by my standards. I was going to enjoy this holiday.
With to toll paid and stomachs full we headed off out of the city and into the countryside. This was our first real view of New Zealand and we were immediately struck by the very different vegetation to the UK. Palm trees everywhere and exotic looking, almost tropical plants. The landscape itself also seemed slightly more rugged, the hills were steeper and there seemed to be more of them. The UK, especially Wales where we live is pretty green and hilly, but this seemed more so. It wasn’t necessarily any more spectacular scenery than that we get at home but it was different and that made it interesting.
We followed State Highway 1 through Wellsford and further north until we turned left towards Dargaville on State Highway 12. The scenery flashing past us kept us entertained all the way and there were plenty of things we would have liked to have stopped and seen, but with only 2 weeks we couldn’t stop at every interesting layby or walking trail. Driving along the long straight road into Dargaville with the river to our left was nice and although we had enjoyed Auckland it was good to be out of the hustle and bustle of the city and onto quiet roads and a more relaxed pace of life.
Trounson Forest Park Campsite
We stopped at a village just north of Dargaville for some supplies. Once again, the new and interesting products on sale had me salivating and we had to try some of them. We eventually arrived at a Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite that we had been heading for within the Trounson Park Forest. It was a very basic campsite by New Zealand standards but that is what we had been after. We were self contained, had everything we needed and didn’t need to spend extra money on plush, fully featured campsites all the time. This one had parking spots for a few campers and a grassy area for tents. It also had a toilet block with hot showers and a communal kitchen with sinks, a fridge, and a kettle. Certainly not basic by UK standards but in comparison to other campsites we stayed at throughout the trip this was the most basic and Morgan ended up referring to it as a ‘car park’.
The campsite cost $10 per adult and $5 for a child. We rocked up just before dusk, plugged ourselves into the electric hook up and had a quick explore of the facilities. Someone else then turned up which meant we had to swap the electric hookup over. However, later in the evening when we went to use the electrics they wouldn’t work. We then tried the gas and couldn’t get that working either. This wasn’t looking good, we had a lovely looking camper in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand but couldn’t get the gas or electricity working. We did manage to cook in the communal kitchen of course but we now had to sort this out which wasn’t what we had planned.
We couldn’t worry about that though, we were in the Trounson Forest Park and had exploring to do. The draw of this area is its forests, fauna and wildlife. The reviews of this campsite were full of people having seen wild Kiwi in the campsite itself, and there was a walk through the Kauri forests. Kauri (Agathis australis) are coniferous trees found north of 38°S in the northern districts of New Zealand’s North Island. It is the largest (by volume) but not tallest species of tree in New Zealand, standing up to 50m tall with an immense girth. They also have very cylindrical trunks making them conspicuous in the forest.
We’d never seen one and didn’t really know what to look for so as we followed the trail into the darkening forest we kept saying “I wonder if that’s a Kauri”, “Maybe this is one”, then we rounded a bend in the path and saw one – “Aha” we all said in unison, “now that’s a Kauri!”
In comparison to the other trees it was huge. It isn’t necessarily the height or the width of the tree that makes it stand out it’s just the fact that it starts off wide at the base of the trunk and stays that way, proudly extending up towards the canopy as a perfectly straight cyclindrical tube giving it a mighty appearance compared to the other trees around it. Higher up the branches were covered in epiphytes growing on the tree turning it into an ecosystem of its own. You could almost imagine people living up in the treetops within these giants, it looked like a little city in the sky.
We wandered through the forst, stopping in awe at the Kauri trees and listening to the birdsong as dusk fell. We came out the other side at a large car park which was the visitor centre for the Trounson Forest Park so stopped to read some of the displays before continuing on a circular route back to the campsite. We arrived as darkness fell and started to settle down for our first night in the camper.
It was pretty cold outside overnight. I got up at one point to go to the toilet and it was freezing, but the skies were crystal clear and with a lack of light pollution the stars were amazing. The were unfamiliar to me but nevertheless I stood there transfixed in the cold looking at them. The Milky Way was shining brightly in a band across the sky and the Large and Small Megallanic clouds were clearly visible. I did manage to pick out one familiar constellation though, that of Orion, although it was upside down!