It has been a while since we last posted, and there haven't been any details of our time in NZ yet, so here goes:
Upon touchdown, we were picked up by Levi and Vicky, who let us use their shower, which was the best thing ever. We slept at a hostel in the city centre (slept was more or less all we did - 15 hours the first night and 11 the second). For the first few days we just lumbered around Auckland at 5am in a cloud of jetlag. Auckland is shiny and rainy.
We're not really in New Zealand for the urban experience though, and we needed a van, which is where Jason comes in. That man has a serious generosity problem - after flying in from Australia to help us look at vans, he drove us to Tauranga (exactly one hundred thousand miles) to look at the van we're now in.
The van is older than us, but in great condition, although we did lose a headlight and one of the clips for the pop-up roof on the drive back, my first experience of driving in new zealand, in my first car. We lived, which is the main thing.
Our first night camping happened to coincide with the onset of the worst spring weather in living memory, featuring a storm the size of Australia. It was a tad nippy. Many lambs were drowned.
So, after an ill-advised outing to Orere point and back, a miserable beach on a very miserable day, we headed north to milford, where we sneakily camped for free for a few nights on a really gorgeous beach, and started to properly enjoy the country.
We just barely made it round the cliffs from Waiwera hot springs to Orewa to get groceries, and dodged traffic all the way back. We got stuck in the mud in Tawharanui, a spectacular wildlife reserve situated on a little spit of beack and dunes, and got rescued by a friendly park ranger on a digger.
Yesterday, we woke up in Whangarei (fung-a-ray, crazy Maori pronunciation), and we saw our first kauris of the trip. Pictures really cannot prepare you for the sheer presence of a big kauri. They really loom at you through the forest, always standing up straight, imperiously. and up close... a living thing so indescribably huge and ancient and quiet...
I want to see more.
There are some great walks around here in whangarei, and I think we did them all yesterday. Whangarei falls, the A H Reed memorial Kauri park with canopy walkway (which did not harm a single tree in its construction. Despite being made of wood) and mount Parihaka, all in a few hours. My feet hurt. This is exactly what we came to New Zealand for.