OH BOY! I slept! Not only did I sleep, I slept comfortably and soundly. Becky did too! Not bad for our first night in our camper van. I awoke when the sun came up and journaled while Becky slept in for a bit. She still wasn’t 100% well, and I knew rest was still really important so I tried not to move too much so she could sleep. After she woke up, we took showers in the camp’s shower facility and began to pack up to leave. While Becky was taking her shower, I befriended our next door neighbor, who slept in a tent the night before. He was a very friendly fellow from the Coromandel Mountain region. His name was Krommers. He thought it was cool that we were from the USA! He and I chatted for a bit. Like us, he was also heading to Wellington that day. I asked if he knew the ferry schedule, which he did not, but he did have a book that had the phone number for the ferry, and even dialed it on his cell and handed it to me. Sweet! The schedule for that day said that the last ferry was going to leave at 2pm…and I knew there was no way in heck we were going to make that one. Shucks. Krommers finished packing his car, said goodbye and headed out. Not much later, we followed suit. We had a LOT of driving to do today! We travelled down Route 1 and soon found ourselves, believe it or not, in a desert! Rangipo Desert to be exact. Y’all… there is NOTHING out there, just vast open spaces of low-lying shrubs and some grasses. The picture above is of Mount Ngauruhoe (a volcano!), and was taken while there was still a bit of greenery on the flat land that stretched before us. Mount Ngauruhoe, was apparently “Mount Doom” in the Lord of the Rings movie. The volcano is currently inactive. The desert is largely uninhabited, with the exception of Waiouru Army Camp, which is used for training. The mountains that loomed in the distance were now getting big enough for snow-capped peaks, as you can see below:
Mind you, this is still summer time in New Zealand, so you KNOW it’s cold up in them thar mountains! After stopping for a few picture ops, we continued driving south, with me at the wheel. I was zipping along this flat stretch of road, when all of a sudden, a policeman coming from the other direction braked hard and turned around to follow us. I looked down and I was speeding and didn’t even realize it! UH OH. I pulled over immediately, and of course, he pulled up behind us with his gumball machine goin’. GHEEZ! I knew I was getting a ticket…but a million things were going through my head….was I going to have to go to court? Was I going to JAIL? What the heck is the speed limit here again? How fast was I going? Maybe he’ll give me a warning since I am a dingaling tourist? Nah, I ALWAYS get tickets when I get pulled over. Sure enough, I got a ticket for doing 120kmh in a 100kmh zone. Whilst he was writing the ticket, I saw our friend Krommers pass us. I watched him hit his brakes for a sec and look in the rearview mirror of his car, then continue on. I waved and chuckled,”Hi Krommers!!!” The policeman came back to the car. He pointed out the three convenient and easy ways to pay the fine. Yay. My fine was $120(NZ). Apparently, your speed that is clocked on radar (he actually got me on laser) is the amount of your fine. It bummed me out for a while, and poor Becky had to deal with me being quiet and bummy, but I recovered. At least I wasn’t going to jail our court! We pressed
on….at 100kmh, TOPS. 😉 We saw more pretty scenery on the way and stopped at one wool shop. It ended up being mostly (very nice, but very expensive) clothing with very little yarn. Shoot! We are not having any luck finding good wool yarn in New Zealand. You think with all the sheep around it would be a lot easier! When we were walking back to the car from the shop, a train went by! This is the Overlander and its route runs between Auckland and Wellington. You can see it’s being pulled by a diesel engine rather than a steam engine. It would have been cool to see the steam engine, but it was still neat to see nonetheless! More pretty-ness unfolded as we travelled on, as shown below.
We stopped for lunch in a town called Bulls and ate at a place called Mothered Goose. Becky picked it out, and I’m glad she did. Come to find out, this place used to be an old bank, and was actually the site of New Zealand’s first armed robbery! Crazy, huh? The place was BUSY, so we sat on comfy couches in the corner, chatted and people-watched as we waited for our food. I got pumpkin fritters with beet relish and feta, while Becky got a lamb dish. Both were super tasty! (I couldn’t help but to start eating mine before I remembered to take a picture – lol!)
After our yummy lunch, we continued to head south. We did stop, on a whim, at Peka Peka Beach. It was overcast and cold, but still very beautiful.
In the below shot, you can see Kapiti Island.
So, not only could you drive on Peka Peka Beach, I found out you can skinny dip there too! I did see two cars, but alas, no birthday suits on such a cold day. 🙂
We hopped back in the van, and headed to Wellington. We decided to stay in a Top 10 campground. It was fairly close to the ferry terminal and they had a lot of ammenities like internet, washing machines and dryers, hot showers, and a JUMPING PILLOW! Becky was so excited to jump on it. We arrived at the Top 10 campground, and went into the office to pay for and obtain our camping spot. There was a doggy in the office! He was sooo cute. He was a big ‘ol dog, but he was trying to sleep in this teeny, tiny cat bed! LOL LOL LOL! He cracked me up!
While the Wellington Top 10 wasn’t in the most beautiful part of town, it ended up being a good choice. I bought a membership card that would give us discounts on future stays on all Top 10s throughout New Zealand, but best of all, it gave us a nice discount on the ferry trips too (which were fairly expensive). Not only that, but they could make the ferry reservations for us too…which were rather involved. Last but not least, these Top 10s would give Becky a safe place to stay after I left the following week. Anyway, since we could, we went ahead and got a reservation for the ferry early the next morning. After that, we parked in the campground and Becky made a b-line for the jumping pillow. It was so good to see her feeling better and having fun!
Here’s both of us jumping away!
All that jumping makes for a tuckered out Becky!
We were spent after all that! Believe it or not, there were no kids around when we were playing. I think they were frightened of us – lol. They showed up after we left to go to dinner! Speaking of which, we walked a ways down to a take-away place and got some chinese food. Poor Becky lost her appetite though. We walked back and when we got back to the van, Becky had some snacks instead….healthy stuff like fruits and carrots. She’s so good! We got out our camping chairs out because it was still light out. Get this, it doesn’t get dark until after 9pm at night! That worked out very well for camping. So anyway, we sat in our chairs and Becky taught me how to knit!!!! Granted, I kinda suck at it, but I can knit now! I was so excited. I had brought my knitting needles and yarn with me from home, so I was so glad I could actually do somethin’ with ’em! Becky told me that knitting can be very therapeutic and calming. I ended up doing a lot of it when I was on my way back to the US, and I couldn’t agree with her more!