Friday, December 31, 2010


Still catching up from the 6 hour time difference. Woke very early at the Ascot Parnell, a very comfortable B&B in Parnell, an old suburb of Auckland. Suburb seems to have a different meaning as its an easy walk down to the center of Auckland from Parnell. We were able to get an early breakfast and by 8:30 we were catching the bus to take us to where we pick up our Escape campervan in downtown Auckland. We had stopped by yesterday and the lady in charge suggested we get there early as it was going to be a busy day. It seems that most of New Zealand shuts down for the holidays. School is out until Feb 1 and many employees are off until Jan 15. We noticed a few restaurants were also closed and Auckland was distinctly less busy than I remembered from out 2008 trip.

We were the first to arrive and since we are repeat renters the check out went quickly. We were able to get back to the B&B, pick up our bags and hit the road south before 10am. Our destination today is Kawhia. I think its pronounced kaf-e-ah as thewh is an f sound. When putting together our itinerary I quickly learned that we didn't have much chance of getting a campsite at anywhere close in to Auckland. This ruled out the Northland with the miles of beaches and the Bay of Islands. The Cormandel peninsula also seemed to be booked up. I tried to get a site in Raglan, one of the stops the surfers made on their Endless Summer tour, but it also was booked up. Since I wanted to get to the beach on our first day I just followed the twisty line on the map south from Raglan and saw the little town of Kawhia located in a large harbor on the Tasman Sea. Looking at a few websites convinced me that this was a place we would like – small, off the beaten path with great views on the ocean. Best of all, the campground host, Ock, responded affirmatively to my email inquiry. Its been a while since I was just able to make a reservation and not pay in advance, another pleasant surprise.

Some of this first day is tied up getting provisions. We stopped at a supermarket in a small town outside of Hamilton to pick up basics – bread, crackers, cheese, pop, paper towels, … We plan on getting our meat from butcher shops and fruits and veggies from fruit stands. These stops are daily highlights. We had picked up 2 bottles of wine last nite, so today only required 3 stops to get enough to know we wouldn't starve.

I don't remember much from the Endless Summer movie, but I do remember that Raglan was one of their stops. Today its still a surfer's spot, but like any beach town it attracts a big crowd in season. We stopped by just to look around and have lunch. I had my first meal of green lipped mussels; steamed in cream with lots of chopped onions – delicious.

Kawhia is only about 60km south of Raglan, but it took us 2 ½ hours to negotiate the twisty turny road that turned to gravel for the last 36km. We also took a short side trip to see Bridal Veil Falls. I think this must be about the 25th falls we've seen named Bridal Veil. At least here they just refer to it on signs as BV Falls.

Kawhia is a sleepy beach town. Its full here; all New Zealanders. Ock had just marked USA on the site map to indicate our site. Almost all families here on holiday. Boating, fishing swimming and just taking it easy. It seems that Kawhia is just far enough off the main road to prevent it from being loved to death. It has the water access and scenery of Raglan, a hot water beach like Heihei but nowhere near the congestion.

We spent our evening here with wine and cheese hour, some time reading and watching the boats come in down at the shore, and cooking up the minced lamb we picked up in the Raglan butchery. A very good evening.

Tomorrow we're off to Tongariro National Park. Its NZ's first and was the 4th NP in the world. It seems the Mauri decided the only way to save the land that was sacred to them was to give it away as a park. For you Lord of the Rings fans, there are two sights here including Mordor. Oesa tells me this is important.

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