Thursday, March 12, 2009

Now the FUN begins!

God of the Sea, Tangaroa

My silly camper van, parked under a giant marlin.

After I finished my internship, I treated myself to a 10-day road trip in New Zealand. I rented a funky camper van, a 1991 Toyota Hiace with 174,000 kilometers on it and a SWEET custom paint job, and hit the road. I initially stopped in Auckland to visit with some friends who live there, then set out on a counter-clockwise drive around the northern tip of the North Island.

The weather did not always cooperate, and my first day out of Auckland was tricky, getting used to the van and dealing with a windy rainstorm. But I got the hang of it, just kept the speed down and the music turned up high. Found an excellent country station for part of the ride! Then the weather cleared up, at least for a couple of days.

Most of my stops were coastal, and some campgrounds were right on the water. This was a treat, and due to the fact that summer was coming to a close and the kids were back in school, I was always able to score an excellent campsite. Matauri Bay was one of those spots and I camped right next to the sand. Up on a hill overlooking the bay was a memorial site to the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace ship that was bombed in Auckland Harbor. There were beautiful views of the islands beyond. That day was gorgeous, but the next morning the rain started again. I decided I could either hang out in the van in the campground all day, or go for a drive. I chose the latter, and made my longest trek of the journey, all the way to the northernmost tip of the island, Cape Reinga. There was an amazing confluence of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean there, and you could see the crosshatching of the waves coming from two different directions.

From there I headed back down the west coast, made a few stops, but found the best looking waves and perfect conditions at Baylys Beach, where there was not a surfboard to be found! Drat! The next morning it was stormy again so I continued down the coast, making tracks towards Auckland again. Piha Beach was also stormy conditions and I heeded the signage about the undertow and large surf and enjoyed the ocean from the safety of the beach.

Hard to believe this trip is coming to a close and I enjoyed every minute of it. Except, perhaps, the mosquitoes! They really enjoyed having me around, but the feeling was NOT mutual! I was able to rig some screens in my van windows so I could have fresh air in the evenings. I’m ready to be done living out of a Freightliner and look forward to getting reacquainted with my life in Ventura.