The fourth trip to New Zealand #10 – Travel Stories

Explore Coromandel Road 309 and the Coromandel Peninsula

After a comfortable night in Coromandel Town, we set off for the legendary Road 309. Road 309 is a gravel road and connects the west and east coast of Coromandel together with a large number of more unusual tourist attractions.

But this time we only looked at two things, because Kathi and I have already been to Coromandel in 2016.

This time we looked at the Kauri trees (Waiau Kauri Grove) at road 309. This is also the only legal possibility in New Zealand to hug a Kauri tree. Yes exactly, to hug a tree. Sounds a bit crazy at first, but it does you good if you take your time and just close your eyes and listen inside yourself.


Selfie in front of the Waiau falls

Selfie in front of the Waiau falls


The little walk to the kauri trees takes about 20 minutes and is a nice way to see kauri trees if you don't want to drive north above Auckland’s.


From the kauri trees we drive a few meters further, because there is a small waterfall (Waiau Falls), where you can take a cool down in summer.


Waiau Falls

Waiau Falls


After visiting these two spots we get back into the van because it starts to rain. Fortunately, we have another appointment in Colville and it takes place inside.


Colville and the road to Port Jackson

In Colville at the small General Store, the last supermarket and the last gas station on the way to the top of Coromandel. There we meet Katharina and talk a little bit about New Zealand, current changes and possibilities for volunteers to help with conservation. On Coromandel there is a program against pests and they are always looking for volunteers who want to control with traps or get involved in other ways.


Recommended post:  Working in the Kiwi Reserve on Coromandel - Backpacking Tips


When we are finished it is still raining cats and dogs and despite the weather, we decide to continue exploring Coromandel along the west coast and drive with lots of wind and pouring rain to Port Jackson. There we have a look at the DOC camping site and then turn around, because in this weather a stay here makes no sense.


Small pitfalls with the van and many kilometres

From Coromandel we drive down again, do some shopping in Thames and then head for Auckland, where we want to meet Jacqueline & Jannis from the Vanvagabonds tomorrow. On the way to our sleeping place I already notice that there is something wrong with our car, because it jerks sometimes, as if it does not ignite correctly or something similar. But as it also rains super strong, I do not pursue this topic further.

For the overnight stay below Auckland we chose the Freedom Camping Site at the Onewhero Domain, which had the best ratings and toilets in our research. An advantage that we now appreciate very much with the good camping infrastructure in New Zealand.


An exciting day, a new car and the uncertainty

Early in the morning we set off, because we want to go to the next town, do some laundry, take a shower in the swimming pool and then to the library to do some work in the still rainy weather. Afterwards we want to go to Auckland and meet Jannis & Jacqueline, who are doing a housesitting in Auckland right now.

But everything turns out completely different than expected.


We just drive into the town with a swimming pool and library, there it makes a loud bang and we roll out beside the road on a parking lot. All of a sudden, the van sounds like a tractor, so I think maybe the exhaust is torn off, but when I look under the van, I can't see anything. Cursing I sit back in the car while Philipp carefully lifts the seats to have a look at the engine underneath. It smells a little bit like gasoline, but even he doesn't discover anything noticeable. So, I start mechanics to google Pukekohe and read their ratings on Google Maps. A sure criterion of rip-offs is that they usually have one or more negative ratings, I don't want to end up with someone like that. After a few minutes of googling and discussing how to proceed, I call a mechanic just outside Pukekohe, the reviews describe him as a smart and neatly working man.

After a few questions it's clear that our van shouldn't move on its own for the time being.

A shock for me, because the van was not quite cheap and my heart is still attached to my home.


Our van needs to get a tow

Our van needs to get a tow


Luckily, together with the car insurance I also took out the AA Road Service. At that time, I was not sure if it was really worth it, but now the membership helps a lot. After a short phone call, we are promised a tow truck and already 15 minutes later our van is on the tow truck and on the way to the desired garage. A little dream, if you consider that my worries seemed much more dangerous in this respect.


Arriving at the workshop the owner with whom I had already talked on the phone welcomes us. He promises to have a look at the van, but lets us wait 2 hours before it is time.


After a short check he comes back laughing and explains to us what incredible things have happened. Because an absolutely great interaction of different parts made this forced stop happen.


What exactly happened

During the last mechanical check, the mechanic must not have secured a spark plug properly, or it must have come lose all by itself while driving. In any case, after 6000 driven kilometres, one of the four spark plugs wiggled loose so far that it did not have enough power with its force and momentum during the ignition and thus exploded out of the engine. A process that happens from time to time, but which is especially frightening and annoying. Because with this explosion not only the spark plug exploded out of the engine, it also has the thread in the engine where the spark plug is screwed in is damaged and made useless.

Perplexed we look at ourselves, not sure what to expect now. Fortunately, the owner helps us and gives us tips. He writes us an engineer's shop where we can cut a new thread in the engine and explains what we should ask for. He also flies our engine in such a way that we can drive at least the 6 kilometres to there ourselves.

Meanwhile the AA has contacted us again and offered us either a rental car or accommodation for the duration of the repair. A great help, but still we do not know how long the repair will take.


So, we drive back to Pukekohe and go to the engineering shop. On our description the local guys don't really know what to do either, so we call the previous workshop and let the experts talk among themselves. So, the engineers understand our problem and promise us a repair within 24 hours.

Gratefully we accept this offer and clarify with the AA that we will get a rental car in Pukekohe. So, despite all the chaos and confusion of emotions we can still drive to Auckland today. Spontaneously we get the couch in the housesitting house promised, because our driving bed just broke down.


Auckland and the meeting with the van vagabonds

With a small car and very little luggage we drive to Auckland and are there only a little later than originally planned. However, we have neither laundry nor work done. At least we get a shower on the spot and we can dry our wet clothes.


Meeting the Vanvagabonds

Meeting the Vanvagabonds


Over a delicious coffee we exchange many stories and experiences, talk about the problems of independence and possibilities for the journey through New Zealand. A great afternoon and evening where we cook together and spend a lot of time together.

The next morning the garage calls relatively early and tells us that the van is repaired and ready to drive again.


So, we leave Auckland around ten in the morning and drive back to Pukekohe. We pick up our van and are happy that the whole fun all together including both workshops only cost about 400 NZD. In my imagination something like this could have cost a lot more.


Back to Auckland and off to Northland

From the workshop we drive back to Auckland and through in one go, because of the small damage our schedule is a few hours behind.

In one of the suburbs of Auckland we stop and do our laundry. While we wait for the washing machine, I go shopping for a short time, because I need some USB sticks for videos that I have to send. At Noel Leeming I find what I need and buy the cheapest USB stick. So, I can finally send the finished video, funny enough my customers are not able to download the file online.


In Ruawei we decide that we have driven enough for today and so we end up there at the harbour and sleep in our self-contained vehicle. We are the only ones there and it becomes a quiet night.


The West Coast in the Northland

From Ruawei we drive along the west coast. We stop at the Kauri trees and once again I am deeply impressed by the sheer size and grace these trees exude.


Kauri tree above Auckland

Kauri tree above Auckland


Especially Tane Mahuta invites to just sit for 15 minutes, listen to the forest and absorb everything. But also, the Kauri Walk at Trounson Kauri Park is impressive. This Kauri Park was not on my radar before and so I am happy that Philipp is as adventurous and spontaneous as I am.


Creating a time lapse at the Kai Iwi Lakes

Creating a time lapse at the Kai Iwi Lakes


In the evening we arrive at the Traveller's Hut, the campground where I spent my first month working on a farm. When we arrive, I stop and go to the office to see if Neville or Christine are at home. Neville greets me and after a few seconds the penny drops for him too, it feels so good to see these nice hosts again after almost 3 years.

Together with Neville we make the plan that he will let me know when his wife comes home. So, she too can experience the full moment of surprise, because we had a great time in the Traveller's Hat and great very human hosts. Even for a beer in the pub they were with us on the weekend. So, to speak a small family of backpackers and the two of them at that time.


Kaitaia and Ahipara and the eternal rain

The next morning, I take some more photos with the drone, because I know from the two of them that they are always looking for new pictures and videos for their place. The place is cosy and offers a maximum of 4 pitches and a small hut which is also rented.

Because of the again bad weather, we decide to spend a day in the library. The library in Kaitaia has always been my place of work when I posted new content on the blog during my Working Holidays.


In the evening we drive to Ahipara, because there is also a campground where I have already lived for several months. Since it is the only campsite in Ahipara, it is usually quite busy. The owner Sandy has created a great place here with good infrastructure and great showers. Only the kitchen could contain sometimes a little bit more equipment, but this was stolen in the past, so there are no new items here at the moment.


The next day we spontaneously extend for another night, because we want to enjoy some peace and quiet and also the WLAN and the showers are great and do good.


From Ahipara towards Cape Reinga

After two days at one of the, in my opinion, best campsites in New Zealand we continue our journey and head for Cape Reinga. On the way we stop at every lake and lookout. The small winding road leads us north and to one of the most beautiful lighthouses in New Zealand.

On the way the rain finally stops and so getting out is more fun again.


Cape Reinga and the meeting of the two seas

Cape Reinga and the meeting of the two seas


At Cape Reinga we enjoy the atmosphere and decide that this place would be perfect for a time lapse at sunset. As we still have to bridge some time until then, we drive to the second parking lot and start cooking. While we are cooking and have just finished, a young traveller named Zoe approaches us. She is on vacation in New Zealand and is not sure if she will make it back to the next gas station with her remaining fuel.


Sundown at Cape Reinga

Sundown at Cape Reinga


Spontaneously we invite her to dinner with us, help among travellers is no problem and so we agree that we simply drive together to the next petrol station the next day. And if she runs out of gas, she can just honk the horn and we get a canister to fill up. A solution can look that easy.


Philipp films the sundown at Cape Reinga

Philipp films the sundown at Cape Reinga


We spend the evening at the DOC camping site near Cape Reinga, together with Zoe, Tina and her friend we play cards in our van. A funny evening, because the van is so spacious that even more people would fit in it to play cards. It gets late until we all go to bed. Not knowing that this meeting will be the beginning of a wonderful friendship. More about this in the next travel reports.



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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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