Happy Hallowe’en, everyone. This year, I’ve decided to go out as a shaggy-bearded tramp who roams through distant lands in his camper van.
Our second night in Auckland was our first night in the camper van and it was a huge step up from our hostel experience. We took the eastern coast north of Auckland to Whangaparaoa (the “wh” is pronounced as “f”). Whangaparaoa is an almost-so-picturesque-that-it’s-not-fair peninsula that juts out into a gulf harbour and is tipped at the end by a regional park known as Shakespear.
I don’t know if it’s named for the bard or not, but I was disappointed to discover that the signposts weren’t written in iambic pentameter. Alas, I guess it wasn’t meant to be / Though sheep and birds abound the place it seems.
(Edit: Bronwyn has since explained that it’s named for some “Mr. W H Shakespear”, a guy who purchased 800ha of land in 1883. His Family built a homestead/farmstead around the area where we parked our camper van.)
For some reason, it’s more expensive to sleep in a tent as a couple than to rock up in your self-contained camper van and camp at these regional parks. Fortunately, Bronwyn and I have recently joined the club of des autonomes through our camper van rental and we enjoyed an amazing sunset and sunrise from the comfort of our vehicle. And our bikes are still in their boxes.
Part of me is saddened by the thought of my bicycle sitting in its cardboard box, scared and disassembled, wondering when I’m going to put it back together so it can see all of the gorgeous scenery that New Zealand has to offer. Is it trembling and confused, like a man locked in the trunk of a car wondering if it will ever see the light of day again? Does it long to look out the window or feel the rush of air through its gears and pedals?
No, I don’t think so. My bike’s not a sentient being. But I certainly miss our bikes. They fit comfortably enough in their boxes in the back of the camper van while we’re driving around, but I do hope that we get back on the saddle soon. This is still a bike trip, after all. In any case, we’ve promised only amazing days: we’re hoping that we can get around to the areas north of Auckland with the camper van so that we can take our time through the amazingness of the lower regions and the gentle flatlands of eastern South Island on a pair of bicycles.
Shakespear Regional Park had peahens, New Zealand pigeons, and a whole flock of other birds that are making a comeback in the area now that it’s been designated as a wildlife sanctuary. And they’re not messing about, either: there are big gates along the path to get in that are meant to keep out rats and other pests so that the birds can live peacefully and frolic about. On the hills encompassing the area there are cattle and sheep and the beach we visited at Te Haruhi Bay was breathtaking. We took a walk to see a waterfall in Waterfall Gully and they had an anti-fungal spray to use on your shoes to protect the area.
The next night we drove north to Waipu, a little community you reach on the way north along State Highway 1 if you’re taking the Twin Coast Discovery Route north to Cape Reinga. Waipu has its own beer brand and a little bar in Waipu Hotel that serves it. That hotel also serves the needs of wandering travellers by letting you pull up out back and pay a small fee to pitch a tent or park a camper van. That fee gives you access to the washrooms and hot showers during your stay. The bicycles slept outside under their tarp, still in their coffin-like boxes.
Right now, we’re hoping to connect countries, farms and people with those bicycles by stopping in at a few more WWOOFing stops than we did in Japan. Our dear friends Al and Natalia live in Tauranga (about 12 hours by bicycle from Auckland) and we think that we’ll probably start the real pedal-powered leg of this journey after spending some quality time with them. I met Al in Cambodia before travelling through Vietnam and Thailand with him and eventually tricking him into jumping on my flight to Vancouver back in 2007 when by backpacking trip was coming to a close. After he lived there for a while, we were reunited in the UK (where he’s from and I was working at the time). When Al and I see each other again here in New Zealand, it will mean that our friendship has effectively spanned across four continents. Dude. Whoa.
In any case, as you’re putting on your costume tonight for some trick or treating, think of Bronwyn and I in the Northland of New Zealand, hanging out in a camper van and thinking of all of you at home. Comment below – we really do read everything that you write and send to us. Our Strava rides and routes won’t be updating until we get back on those loyal (if somewhat neglected) steel steeds, but trace your finger along your Google Maps and wait patiently until we update the Trips section of our website.
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com