Departure from Wellington and the way to Castlepoint
After we checked the weather forecast, it doesn't look so rosy for the next days, because it is supposed to be rainy. But since the destination for tonight is actually Castlepoint on the east coast, we change our plans. After a short stay at the library in Wellington we leave Wellington already at noon. Before that I paid my drone permits for the North Island at the DOC Visitor Centre in Wellington, a funny story, because even the DOC staff is only minimally informed about the permits to be paid and the procedure behind them.
With the onset of rain, we leave Wellington and drive the highway towards Castlepoint. On the way we stock up our supplies again, because depending on the weather it is possible that we will stay at Castlepoint for several days. I have a very specific photo in my mind and would like to realize it.
The Castlepoint and my photo in mind
Kathi and I have already visited Castlepoint once during our working holiday and found it beautiful. But due to the lack of a self-contained vehicle we did not stay there overnight. With another photographer I saw beautiful pictures of Castlepoint and the starry sky there. I would like to take such a photo myself. Or even better take a time-lapse picture. At least because of the technology it should not fail now, it looks different with the weather. Because rain clouds would cover the starry sky completely and make my photo impossible.
When we arrive at Castlepoint in the evening, only two other vans are already there. Directly at Castlepoint there is a small parking lot and as a self-contained vehicle you can stay there overnight. A possibility we want to use for the photo and as the sun goes down, we explore the surroundings. I already know the striking lighthouse and make a small time lapse with the Gopro. While the sun slowly goes down, we look at different points from which the lighthouse can be seen well.
Only a small detail escapes us that will have a big influence later on…
We return to the van and take care of dinner, because there is a little time between sunset and star rise. Worriedly I look up to the sky, but until now there are no significant signs of rain clouds.
My photo at Castlepoint
After it is about 10 p.m., Philipp and I go again, armed with cameras, to the lighthouse which is only a few hundred meters away. The starry sky is impressive and I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly before. For star fans New Zealand is simply a paradise.
Since we had already chosen the spots in the evening, we purposefully go to the first spot. The small detail we didn't know, the lighthouse is illuminated by lights from sunset to night, a pretty stupid idea for good photos. So, I curse already before I took the first photo. On the photos it shows up quickly, either the sky is too dark or the lighthouse is too bright. A problem that makes at least a time lapse almost impossible.
Cursing I try a few settings and finally capitulate, because even at 12 o'clock at night, when the lights should actually switch off, nothing happens and the lighthouse is still extremely illuminated.
On the way back to the van and visibly dissatisfied, I try a few more angles and at the end I discover an angle from which at least a funny time lapse is created.
Starry sky and the van
Since at least the photo I had in mind did not work out, I am still a bit grumpy and try one last photo on the van. And lo and behold, at the van the whole thing works out without any problems, I decide for another time lapse with starry sky. I show you a cut together of it here.
This photo here is definitely my favourite one from Castlepoint. And I will come back, because I still have this one photo in my head… perfectionism and its effect.
Rain, rain and more rain
When we wake up in the morning, surprisingly it is not raining yet. But the clouds are hanging low and so we decide to go up Castle Rock before it starts to rain.
Already on the way up it becomes clear that it can only be a few minutes until the rain will come. When we are at the top, we enjoy the view and take some great pictures.
Then we hurry back to the parking lot, because when we are on the way back it already starts to rain.
We are happy that we had already checked the weather forecast yesterday, so we could at least take some great photos before the rain came.
In order to cheat the rain, we decide to drive to Palmerston North, hoping to find less rain on the other side of the island.
In the evening we meet Johannes in Palmerston North, who is doing a semester abroad in New Zealand. In a small pub called “The Office” we meet and chat a few hours about New Zealand and other topics. It is always very interesting to get so many different impressions. Much later than planned Philipp and I say goodbye to Johannes, because we want to drive a little bit further to Whanganui. There we meet Franzi and David on a Freedom camping site, because the next day we want to explore together the area around New Plymouth and Taranaki. In Whanganui there are some possibilities for Freedom Camping and the place Franzi and David have chosen is still very new and accordingly in extremely good condition.
Whanganui and a Freecamp at the lake in New Plymouth
Since the weather is also very rainy today, Philipp and I decide to go to the library. Meanwhile David and Franzi already drive towards New Plymouth. In the evening we meet at the Free Camp at Lake Rotomanu and cook together while planning the next days. With David and Franzi we get along well, it is always entertaining and Philipp and David agree on the beer choice.
Late in the evening the All Blacks play again and we walk from the camp to the next pub, “The Fitz”. We are the only backpackers and share the bar with 6 locals and a deeply relaxed bartender who is only open so long because of the All Blacks game. Most bars in New Zealand close at 10 pm depending on the region.
Mount Taranaki (Mount Egmont) and a cold night
After a short night we drive from the campground to Mount Taranaki to the North Egmont Visitor Centre and look for a comfortable parking space on the upper part of the parking lot. The Visitor Centre closes quite early in winter, so we unfortunately only stand in front of closed doors. After all there are toilets here that are permanently accessible. Because it gets cold very fast in the evening, we sit down with our camping chairs in the anteroom of the Visitor Centre and play cards. Here it is windless and apart from the birds that fly in and out, nobody comes to us.
Since we want to get up early the next morning to go hiking spontaneously in good weather, we go to bed quite early.
Sunrise and cold at Mount Egmont
In the morning at 6 o'clock the alarm clock rings, visibly unmotivated I look out of the window and see a cloudless sky. Only a few seconds later Philipp screams and wakes up Franzi and David. The four of us marvel at the sight of the cloudless summit of Mount Taranaki, a sight that is not often seen.
Highly motivated Philipp decides that we don't have to have breakfast at all but should go hiking directly. Fortunately, we see this differently and thus there is still a quick breakfast before departure. The hike to Pouakai Hut and the famous Tarn behind it with the reflection of Mount Taranaki.
The ascent to the Tarn is strenuous but well feasible. Since Philipp and I want to take pictures, we hurry and leave David and Franzi behind us, because we will meet again at the Tarn anyway. At the Tarn itself there are about 10 people, some of them already met us again and were on the way much earlier than us. Morning hour has gold in its mouth, or in our case rather cosiness.
The hike from the parking lot in the valley to the Tarn takes Philipp and me about 2.5 hours without a big break. At the Tarn itself we spend about 2 hours to do several time laps. Unfortunately, we have no luck with the clouds, so Mount Egmont is never completely free and we don't get a photo of the cloudless summit reflected in the lake.
The descent is unspectacular and we make a small break at the Pouakai Hut before we walk back to the parking lot. Altogether the whole hike can be done in about 4,5 hours and only gets longer if you take a longer break.
Relax in the swimming pool and another night at the lake
Since we are quite sweaty after the hike, we drive to New Plymouth to the swimming pool, enjoy an hour of relaxation in the whirlpool and a shower for the good feeling. Afterwards we drive back to the lake where we already stood before. Arrived at the lake it is still quite early, so we cook and then play cards again. Unfortunately, it starts to rain in the evening so I take a nap and Philipp, David and Franzi retire to their van. Hiking can be quite exhausting.
Half a day in the library and the Forgotten World Highway
After a quiet night at the lake we drive to the library. Philipp and me to work and sort the photos from the day before, David and Franzi to work out their travel plans for the future and look for accommodation and flights.
Around noon we drive from the library to Stratford and listen to the unique chimes. The carillon plays a scene from Romeo & Juliet at several times of the day, accompanied by a carillon.
From here we turn onto the Forgotten World Highway (SH43) and drive to the independent Republic of Whangamomona. Here we enjoy a delicious coffee and Philipp is naturalized to Whangamomona and gets his new passport. The highway is one of the few New Zealand state highways that is still partly without asphalt surface. So many rental cars are not allowed to drive long here because of the road conditions. The nature along the route is impressive and the road is so good to drive on that we have no problems.
We stop at the Ohinepane Camp Site of the DOC and look for a nice place with a view of the adjacent Whanganui River. Thanks to the rain of the last days this river is well filled and flows much faster than usual.
Next to us there are only 2 bigger motorhomes there and we enjoy a quiet evening without mobile phone reception and with many more rounds of card playing.
Ohinepane to Taupo and Reid’s Farm (now Hipapatua)
From the Forgotten World Highway, we drive leisurely towards Taupo. At a lookout we enjoy the view of the mountains of the Tongariro National Park and then drive on to Taupo. Here we want to spend a night on Reid’s Farm and are amazed how much everything has changed since 2016. The area down by the river is closed off and camping is only allowed in the upper part. What a pity, Reid’s Farm was always a guarantee for many nice people and sometimes good parties in the past.
As it is still quite early, we decide to make a short detour to the Spa Park in Taupo. Here there is a hot spring and a quite nice creek that meanders into the valley. At pleasant temperatures we sit here in the water and enjoy the day.
From here you can also just let yourself drift down the river and can already see Reid's farm with the naked eye. But with the van the drive takes 20 minutes, as one has to pass through Taupo and has to take a big detour to reach the bridge.
If you are in Taupo you should definitely visit the Spa Park if you want to get into the warm water. As it is public it is free of charge and only the car parks close at certain times.
As usual, we spend the evening together, cooking, playing cards and relaxing.
Travel period and interesting facts
Our fourth New Zealand trip took place from 15.08.2019 – 13.11.2019. Without much planning but with a lot of knowledge we explored New Zealand in our own van and got many updates to already existing knowledge. So, we can continue to be a relevant and important source of knowledge for you as a New Zealand interested person. If you want to get information about New Zealand, this blog is available for free.
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