I’m hauled up in a place called Stratford. Not the place I and most people I know are familiar with but one that’s 12,000 miles away on the other side of the planet. The weather’s pretty grim at the moment but I can hardly complain. I’ve had almost two full weeks of gloriously hot and sunny weather and the rain has seemed like a refreshing change more than anything else. It’s forecast to clear up again tomorrow so today is a day for getting all those little jobs done like getting a haircut, having a shave, do some shopping and catching up on blogs I promised to write.
Each to their own but I find there is something intensely therapeutic to the mind, body and soul about travelling. I am in my element here and have been since day 1. The place is so well geared up for the traveller and lover of the great outdoors. Campervaning is most definitely the way to go as the holiday parks/campsites are so well equipped you just don’t need anywhere else – they put UK campsites to utter shame. Lounges with wi-fi, fully fitted out kitchens, laundry rooms, large showers with infinite hot water, etc., etc.The added bonuses of course is that everyone speaks English and they drive on the correct side of the road too.
Four days in Auckland to begin with in a nice hotel, ideally situated with a stunning view of the city having a room on the top floor. The city had a great holiday atmosphere to it with a mix of locals and tourists soaking up the sunshine. I love just walking around places like this but I did book myself on a number of tours to make sure I saw as much as I could.
Picked “Jucy Lucy” (my Campervan) up on the the 4th day and headed to a place called “Hot Water Beach” at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula”. Overnight there then up to the northern most tip of the Coromandel to do a coastal walk called the Coromandel Walkway. The trip up to Stony Bay campsite was an adventure in itself with a one hour drive along a roller coaster gravel track that was definitely more suited to a Land Rover than a Toyota Campervan but the reward was a beautifully located campsite perched right next to a blue sea in a secluded bay. The few neighbours I did have were very friendly and invited me over for a chat and a glass or two of wine. The walk was a 14 mile stroll (there and back) along some of the most spectacular coastline I’ve seen. It was hot and sunny and I just felt very privileged to be able to enjoy nature at its most beautiful. However, I was informed by some Kiwis a little later on that it would not have been as enjoyable in bad weather.
From Stony Bay, a good half a day’s driving right down to Rotorua with a lunch stop at Tauranga. Rotorua was a nice place but one did get a sense that the main holiday season was over as it seemed like a ghost town in the evening with just a sprinkling of locals, tourists and backpackers gathering at a few choice bars/restaurants near the lakeside. Spent the next day visiting one of the most popular Thermal sites and took a look at the Green and Blue lakes. Had a very nice Balti at a multi-award winning Indian restaurant.
Onward the next day to another lakeside town called Taupo. Did a nice walk to some rapids called the Huka Falls and enjoyed a steak washed down with a couple of pints down by the lakeside. I planned to do my first multi-day hike at the next place which would be the Tongariro National Park. This was a 3/4 day hike up and over what is called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Landed at Whakapapa Village Holiday Park to spend the rest of the day preparing for my hike. It’s a totally different ball game when you have to be self-sufficient for a few days and carry everything you need on your back (except a tent and stove this time as I was staying in huts). There’s a very definite art in selecting what to take and what not to and keeping the rucksack to a reasonable weight, especially as the second day would be a fairly gruelling ascent. Weather forecast wasn’t looking too good either for the second day onwards. Anyway, set off reasonably early for the 3 hour, 10 km hike to the first hut the next day. It has been a long time since I’ve backpacked and carried a rucksack this heavy. Muscles you never knew you had begin to feel the strain. The second day’s ascent was not going to be easy, that was for sure. Landed at the hut at about 2 pm and soon after, my companions turned up who we’re to be a young German couple, a young Kiwi lady and three younger Kiwis who looked like they were a brother and two sisters fresh out of college and the warden. Everyone seemed friendly enough and we wiled away the evening hours chatting and playing cards.
An update on the forecast wasn’t good. Rain and, more serious, high winds. We would see what tomorrow morning brought. The forecast was accurate and a discussion with the warden took place. The Alpine Crossing over to the next hut was not advised. High winds can be positively dangerous on top. There didn’t seem much point in leaving the sack and doing a quick ascent either as it was all in cloud. Reluctantly, I made the decision to head back and get my refund on the other two huts. By the time I got back, the heavens started to open and it was pretty grim. I pitied the poor people I met on their way to the hut on my return. At least I’d had one decent day walking in.
I now just wanted to get to a place where I could rest up for the night and that ended up being a town called Taumarunui. The place was pretty dead but all I wanted was a decent meal and a good night’s sleep. Booked a cabin at the Holiday Park (run by a Yorkshireman) and went off in search of the only recommended restaurant in town. Spent ages looking for it and almost gave up. One last drive down the main drag and I finally spotted it – Jasmin’s Thai Restaurant, I must have been tired.
Felt more refreshed the next day for a drive down, what’s called, the “Forgotten World Highway”. A scenic route winding its way through the heart of rural New Zealand. Even though the weather wasn’t great, the scenery was awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. Ended up in Stratford about 3 pm-ish and booked myself into the Holiday Park, amusingly enough run by a Yorkshirewoman. Had a nice hot shower, did the laundry and decided to wait the bad weather out so I can grab some views and a couple of nice day walks around Mount Taranaki. That brings me to here and now writing this blog with a nice cup of tea by my side.