We were only in New Zealand for 11 days, and in that short time camped in North and South Island. I have written our posts similar to our Patagonia posts so you can follow our road trip by the day!
We arrived in Auckland International Airport at 6:00AM – tired. We had caught a 13.5-hour flight that left Buenos Aires late – around 12:30AM. We tried our best to sleep, and I think we managed to get about 4-5 hours. We took an Air New Zealand flight, which was actually really nice. They served us two meals – dinner and breakfast. Both meals were okay, but the service is what really wins them. At one point I saw a flight attendant walking up and down trying to calm an upset baby, while giving the mom a bit of a break. One thing we didn’t know was some of the seats were bench seats, which converts into a bed (“Sky Couch”). We did not purchase one of these seats, they cost more money, plus to guarantee you can lay in the bed you need to purchase the entire row. What the experienced New Zealand flyers know is, once that seatbelt sign is off, its game on – everyone runs to find an empty row (of which there were several) to claim for themselves. Not knowing this, Steve and I just stared as this game of musical chairs occurred all around us, leaving “winners” happy with a pillow, blanket and bed, and “losers” sulking back to their seats. We were just stoked we had no one sitting next to us, so we could spread out a bit more. Plus, the plane had movies, cocktails, snacks – it was all very nice. I watched Planet Earth II and was almost lulled to sleep until I saw the scene with the marine iguana being chased by hundreds of snakes – that left me with blood pumping and terrified of snakes.
Once we got to the airport we used the free wifi to talk to family via text and drank some coffee. Our camper van wouldn’t be ready for pickup till 9AM, so we had time to kill. At 8:45, we hopped in a taxi (which was very expensive, Uber is not allowed in the airport) and headed to Wicked Campers Auckland – about 20 minutes from the airport. We picked up our van, this time we upgraded to an unlimited Kilometers and incognito van – well worth not worrying about kilometers.
Our decision to choose Wicked Campers over several of its competitors, was once again motivated only by price. Our van is a 2005 Toyota Noah, manufactured in Japan. The van is outfitted with a table that converts to a bed, and small kitchen in the back – all similar to our South American model. We realized shortly after leaving Wicked, our van didn’t come with curtains. We went back to the Wicked office and was told that they did not supply curtains anymore to vans because people used to smoke in the vans. We found our experience at Wicked Auckland mildly frustrating. We had e-mailed the New Zealand office asking about Ferry tickets and was told via e-mail that they could not help us and we should look at the Ferry Website. When getting our van, the employee asked us if we used the Wicked discount when purchasing a Ferry ticket???? – What!?!? We told him what the lady had responded in our email and he just shrugged it off. We also bought two weeks of family camping passes at the Department of Conversation campsites through the Wicked website, and he told us we could’ve bought a couple’s pass instead – which wasn’t an option on the website. We had amazing customer service in Santiago, and was surprised at the New Zealand’s office for not being as helpful as we thought South America was.
Once on the road and on our own, we knew we needed to do some shopping. We found a nearby store called “The Warehouse” which is similar to our Target. We picked up a pot for cooking (since the one Wicked supplied was so tiny), a mobile phone chip and pillows. We were also able to get some dry groceries. Steve also wanted to pick up a Kindle while here. Since traveling in South America, Steve has picked up reading/audiobooks as a hobby, and wanted to download library books on a kindle of his own. We first went to an electronics store for this, but they would not take an American credit card, so we went to a different Warehouse store, and sure enough they sell them there! He is happy with his new kindle, downloads Menlo Park library books using Overdrive, and even joined Goodreads (at my request). If you have any book suggestions for him, shoot him an e-mail!
We hit the road North, and crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge. We headed North for a few hours before it was at the point we really needed to stop and rest. Steve was exhausted having gotten little sleep on the plane, and driving on the left was challenging enough that he really needed to stop and take a nap. We stopped at Uretiti Beach and set the bed up to nap for an hour. When we woke up from our power nap, we strolled on the beach and dipped our toes in the water.
We drove an additional 30 minutes to reach Whangarei. We found a store to do our grocery shopping and headed to see our friends, Eric and Vandy Shrader. Eric and Vandy are longtime family friends of the Jeucks, as Steve’s dad and Eric worked together for years. As a part of this friendship, the Shraders would buy 10-15 games worth of Shark’s tickets from the Jeucks every season. This tradition came to an end as they retired a few years ago, sold all of their belongings, bought a boat and are now sailing around the world. The Jeucks miss having their yearly meeting with the Shraders to discuss which games they would like to purchase (held at our favorite local joint, the Dutch Goose) but have really enjoyed reading about their travels. If you have a gypsy soul, and an adventurous spirit – that story might inspire you like it has us. They currently have their boat docked safely in the Whangarei harbor, until typhoon season is over. They welcomed us onto their boat for snacks, beers, and dinner. Their boat, “Scoots” is spectacular. I can’t express how much the conversation meant to me. To get to see someone we know is one thing, but to know they are experiencing similar trials and triumphs as us and to discuss it was priceless. We laughed hard when we found out they have parallel arguments and disagreements, and that communication isn’t always easy, even for a veteran married couple (who knew directions and docking a boat could be so similar to directions and parking a trailer!). This gave me huge relief. They had such exciting stories, it was easy to conspire for a minute on how we can get a boat of our own one day. We camped in the marina parking lot. Eric & Vandy were kind enough to give us the office key so we can use the bathroom and shower in the morning. The next morning, they fed us breakfast – turns out New Zealand has amazing honey and blueberries. When 10AM came, unfortunately it was time to get on the road. Seeing familiar faces gives us such a boost, that saying goodbye felt extra hard. Everyone should check out their blog – www.sailblogs.com/member/shraderscoots
Eric & Vandy – thank you so much for your hospitality! We smiled and laughed so much that night – it was just what we needed! Please keep inspiring us with your beautiful travel stories!
We hit the road shortly after 10AM – heading South towards Waitomo.