The fourth trip to New Zealand #13 – Travel stories

An exciting start to the week

After I arrived back in Auckland yesterday from Christchurch, I had to catch up on sleep. Because a wedding like this is very expensive.

Because the hostel I had chosen is very close to the airport, there was a strong fluctuation at night. Many traveller’s either drove in the middle of the night in direction to the airport or arrived at night.

What did I miss such a comfortable 6 bed dorm…


A new WOF for my van

Early in the morning I check out and drive with an Uber to the garage where I left my van before the wedding. Because my van needs a new WOF and with my old sweetheart it is not always that easy with nearly 30 years. When I arrive, my usual van is waiting for me, with a new WOF. Perfect, because it would be really annoying to do big repairs before I leave. In the past I have already invested a large amount of money to repair everything that is necessary. The only feedback to the current WOF, I should keep an eye on the rust under the car, because in the future this would also be necessary to be treated.

After I was allowed to take my van from the workshop in Auckland, I drive to Isabel, because there I can park my van at the road, before I start the last adventure of the New Zealand trip 2019.


Camper Van Test in New Zealand

Let's get to the exciting part of the start of the week. In the morning at 10am I meet Charlotte near the airport, because we get to test a camper van and drive it around New Zealand until shortly before departure.


Pickup of our campervan at Travellers Autobarn

Pickup of our campervan at Travellers Autobarn


The camper van we get (transparency: test in cooperation with Camper Oasis) comes from Traveller's highway and is quite similar to my Hiace. We get a nice newer Toyota Hiace with Camper Van extension. For us it means for the first time a fully equipped kitchen including refrigerator and a solar panel and therefore unlimited possibilities to charge our electronic devices. Already with the first entrance into the living area, I learn to appreciate the height of 2.7 meters. Because my Hiace has a high roof, but a smaller one with a height of 2.2 metres. That is enough to stand almost straight, but with 2.7 meters it is really a completely free and unrestricted standing in the van.


The first day in the Kuga of Traveller's Autobarn

Okay, let's get down to the facts of the Kuga.

The van is designed for 2-3 persons, but we would recommend it for a maximum of 2 adults with one child. For 3 adults the sleeping possibilities are indeed given, but still rather uncomfortable in our opinion.


The camper kitchen in the Kuga

The camper kitchen in the Kuga


Besides a kitchen with 2 gas flames, electric water pump and a great work surface, there is also a refrigerator. There is also a microwave oven, but this only works if the van is connected to the fixed electricity on the campsite. Thanks to the solar panel, the second battery can be charged while you are standing. We enjoyed this very much and spent all days standing alone without electricity. Freedom Camping in New Zealand thank you. The last gimmick is a double USB charger, this is conveniently located in the living area of the van, so we could always charge the mobile phone and tablet comfortably overnight.


All in all, the process of taking over the van was easy. Arrive, show booking confirmation, choose insurance (we took the fully comprehensive option), register the driver (show national & international driving licence), get a short introduction into the van. Now you are ready to go.


Get out of Auckland and head north

Since we are already familiar with the rough Camper Basics, everything happens quite fast. Thus, we are already shortly after 10 o'clock on the way north.

To pass Auckland as fast as possible we decide to start the first night just above Auckland. Off the beaten track, we drive along SH16 and spend the first night in the new van at a small harbour. The Freedom Camping site at Port Albert is picturesque and already in 2016, we stayed here once. The only thing that has changed, the site is now only for Self-Contained and back then it didn't matter.


Sundown at Port Albert Wharf

Sundown at Port Albert Wharf


The Port Albert Wharf Freedom Camping Site is picturesquely surrounded by mangroves and a small harbour. At low tide the water is far away and you can hear the mud making noises, at high tide the water comes very close to the grass.

And the most beautiful thing of all, the sunset here in Port Albert is dreamlike.


Tane Mahuta the god of the trees

Tane Mahuta the god of the trees


The first night in a rental van

After a relaxing night in Port Albert, we set off for the north after a delicious breakfast. Along the Kauri Coast we drive through a breath-taking pristine New Zealand forest. Here you will not only find the Kauri trees, but with luck at night also kiwis. Unfortunately, we cannot stay there at night. After a stop at Tane Mahuta, the god of the forest, we drive on relaxed towards Rawene. The weather is mixed and somehow the sun doesn't really want to come through the cloud cover.


View from the top of the mountain on our little home

View from the top of the mountain on our little home


If you like, you can take the ferry in Rawene, but we decide to take the highway. Because there we can make a short stop at the supermarket.

In Kaikohe we make a short stop at the supermarket because we still need some supplies for our dinner.

Around 6 pm we arrive in Herekino at the Traveller's Hut. The campground where everything started for me in New Zealand in 2016. Here I spent my first month in New Zealand and had a great time.

Neville and Christine welcome me surprised but delighted. Only very few former guests come back as regularly as I do, as this is now my fifth visit there.


View on the Travellers Hut from our drone

View on the Travellers Hut from our drone


Cape Reinga and the way to the east coast

After a relaxing night in the Traveller's Hut, we leave relatively early in the morning. Because we want to go to Cape Reinga, see the Te Paki sand dunes and stop wherever it looks nice.

From the campground we drive to Ahipara at Shipwreck Bay. There is a shipwreck rusting in the sand, only the chimney is still visible at low tide. We are lucky and are at the beach at exactly the right time to see the last remains of the boat.


In Kaitaia we refuel for the last time, because at Cape Reinga there is only halfway a last gas station with corresponding gas prices.

At Cape Reinga we are surprised by clouds, because apparently the weather is once again not so on our side.

As we walk down the path from the parking lot to the lighthouse the visibility is minimal, so we don't see the lighthouse until we are directly at the lighthouse.


Cape Reinga with clouds and fog

Cape Reinga with clouds and fog


We decide to start directly again the way to the south, because maybe we have more luck with the weather there.

On the way back we stop at the Te Paki sand dunes, because of the weather I experience for the first time that nobody is surfing on the sand. A fun that we were allowed to try out for ourselves only a few weeks ago.



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After a short walk, barefoot in the sand, we make our way down again. Shortly before Kaitaia we turn left onto the highway to the east coast. On the way we stop at some places, but the cloudy weather follows us, at least it is not raining.


The east coast is characterized by many small bays and great places for a sunny day. We stay overnight at one place and then drive to Taupo Bay in the morning to enjoy the sunrise.


The Bay of Islands and many small bays

From Taupo Bay we continue along the east coast after a delicious breakfast. We follow the so-called Tourist Highway and discover many small bays off the main roads. Common to all bays in the region is the number of small islands we can see from there on the beach. This is where the region gets its name, Bay of Islands. Now I understand for the first time how a classic tourist feels here, because I have never done so many days in a row so many kilometres.

If you can afford it, I recommend you take more than a week of time for it.


Sleeping in the van

Sleeping in the van


When we arrive in Paihia, we actually want to take the ferry to Russell. But unfortunately, on this day there is also a cruise ship on the spot, so all places are very crowded and much more tourists than normal on site. Therefore, we spontaneously change our plan and decide to drive to Whangarei on the same day.


View on the surrounding bays

View on the surrounding bays


In Whangarei we meet a friend who emigrated there some years ago. After a tasty coffee we drive to a small harbour to spend the night. The Freedom Camp at Parua Bay is perfectly located. Small boats in the water, enough space for some self-contained vehicles and the right direction for a great sunrise the next morning.


While we cook in the evening, we make friends with our camp neighbours. So, we eat comfortably outside together with the others and only go into the camper when it slowly starts to drizzle.


Fireflies and former Wwoofing places

Here in the Whangarei region there are many beautiful places to wwoof. So, it comes that we first go to a woofing family at noon. Charlotte woofed with this family a few weeks ago and had a great time. So, we drive to Charlotte's former woofing place to exchange experiences and enjoy a tea and a piece of cake. There I have the opportunity to stroke llamas for the first time, such fluffy fur. Very funny to be able to touch it in reality.


Now that it is already afternoon, we drive to the Abbey Caves, because I would like to take pictures of fireflies. After I already tried my luck in Waipu Cave a few weeks ago, it is now time to visit the Abbey Caves again.

The Abbey Caves consist of three different caves, all of them are open to the public and you need waterproof shoes, a lamp (ideally a headlamp) and some courage.



The entrance to the caves is well marked and a bit of climbing skills will help you get started. The caves carry more or less water depending on the weather. So, prepare yourself mentally for getting wet.

Personally, I liked the first and second caves best when you walk the track clockwise.


For the photos here is a small selection, have fun.

You also want to take pictures in the firefly cave?


Here are my camera settings, try it yourself:

ISO 5000 or higher, aperture smallest possible (ideally 2.8 or smaller), exposure time you have to try and should be between 5-20 seconds. The autofocus must be deactivated and the manual focus must be set to the distance of the fireflies.


We spend the evening again at Parua Bay, because this is one of the most beautiful places in the region. In 2016 we had already tried several other courses, but none was as beautiful as this one.


A good night's sleep, a shower, and a van that's almost empty

Overnight the weather has changed again, so this time we don't experience a beautiful sunrise over the bay. Therefore, we decide to sleep in peace and start the day relatively late.

In Whangarei we go shopping, empty the Greywater and refill our drinking water. Impressively long, we get there with one filling 3-5 days.

After these important things are done, we decide to take a shower in Whangarei. In the local swimming pool, you can have a shower for a small price, which we enjoy very much, because a shower can be perceived as a luxury very quickly. At the same time taking a shower is always an issue at Freedom Camping, many just go to the public cold showers, but that is not for us. Because a warm shower is a stronger pleasure and invites you to take more time.


Without much time pressure we slowly drive towards Auckland, because tomorrow our common road trip ends.

Charlotte has bought a car and will set off with her own 4 wheels. Philipp and Zoe are coming from Gisborne, additionally Thereza is flying in from Christchurch.

The four of us want to have a good time the last 3 days.


A Sunday at the Ellerslie Car Fair and a new travel group

Sunday morning Charlotte says goodbye to me as she drives her car to Taupo.

I, in turn, pick up my own van and fool it for a short time against the rental van. I want to use the start of the season to sell my van and get rid of unnecessary ballast for the future.

At the Ellerslie Car Fair, the usual suspects are hanging around in the form of dealers. Many of them have now realized that backpackers prefer to buy from backpackers, so the dealers hire backpackers to sell their cars.


Ellerslie Car Fair in Auckland

The choice of vans is huge, but unfortunately there are not as many interested people as I would have imagined. Therefore, I leave the city without having achieved anything around noon. Fake my own van against the rental van and pick up Thereza at the airport.

We want to spend a few more nice days before Philipp and I fly to Europe together on Tuesday evening.


Thereza and I take the van to a beach in Auckland and enjoy just relaxing in the van, sharing stories and watching the waves. Also, some kite surfers use the windy weather to fly their kites over the water, looks very impressive.


In the evening we pick up Zoe and Philipp at the bus station, drive to the van and are on the road for the next two days with four people and two vans. A completely new experience for two days. Couple time so to speak…


To celebrate the start of the race, we treat ourselves to a round of pizza for everyone and then drive to the Freedom Camp at the Onewhero Domain, just below Auckland.


Camping at the Onewhero Domain

Camping at the Onewhero Domain


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