Tongariro National Park.
High Plain Drifters… up on the Plateau. Set off south around Lake Taupo, via Turangi stopping at the scenic lookout high up the steep climb to Tongariro National Park, overlooking Lake Taupo.
Second stop overlooking Lake Rotorua with the smoking vents of Mt Tongariro. Headed towards Whakappa Village and up to the base camp and summer chairlift for Mt Ruapehu. Drive up a volcano in a camper van ! no.273 on the bucket list, done. Tick. Two chair lifts up to the highest café in New Zealand (2.100m), an architectural award winner no less. A short scramble across the rocks to view the lave streams and gullies. Back to the café for coffee and muffins all round, seated with a stunning view to the surround mountainside. It started to rain, still people coming up on the lifts with shorts and sandals ? its snow-covered up here…check out the worrying information poster in the toilets.
Cold and low hanging clouds mean a short stay, only catch glimpses of the snow covered peak another 700m above us. Returned back down stopping for a much needed hot chocolate at the base camp, before returning down to the Village, with a photoshoot stop on the way.
Head off for the next stop over in Ohakune, our first Top 10 Holiday park, (37NZD)
The park is a short walk into Ohakune for fish and chips dinner with beer(me) and cider(her). Turns out it’s ‘bring your dad to work day’, lots of older staff, none of which knows what their doing. A small village, along one main road, almost like the American wild west, timber buildings with porches and street verandahs, wooden houses spread out across the low slung town. Open space bars with tv, grill, all a bit strange….an off licence with a walk-in beer cooler, must get one of these back home ! Camped on down by the stream, quiet although the place has a number of campers. Dreamt of the nearby volcano…..17.12.2013
Leave Okahane heading south in the direction of Wellington, first decending from the plateau of Tongeriro National Park. The drive takes us along the route of the river towards the river mouth in Whanganui on the coast, the decent is long and twisty state highway through Raetihi and following the river with tight bends, sometimes climbing up to the ridge line of the hills before descending again.
We have a pub lunch in Whanganui and wander the high street, a small-scale town, I have trouble parking due to the length of the van, finally trusting myself and finding a place behind the iSite. Buy some much needed new sandals to replace the holed versions. After lunch we head on south towards Bulls, along a straight and very windy through Foxton and Levin, stopping for a coffee and restock. With Tarabua Forest Park to our right, it starts getting hilly again after the flat area south of Whanganui.
Waikanae Beach, Kapiti Island
Travel onto Waikanae and turn of the highway towards the beach front. A beautiful area, we walk along the beach, a protected natural area between shoreline and the dark silhouette of Kapiti Island the natural bird sanitary. Move the camper further back from the main car park so we have a view of the estuary, the beach and the island. The hills above Wellington are behind us. Wander along the beach again at dusk and dream of living here. 18.12.2013
An early morning run along the beach, breakfast with black swans for company, drive down to Wellington and the ferry.Only a one hour journey.
Parked up at Bluebridge Ferry terminal before going for a stroll along the waterfront. Vibrant area with Cafes, shops, bars and fitness centers. We walk down the main street, the first high-rise buildings we have seen in NZ. Modern architecture mixed together closely with the older dockyard buildings. Visited an interesting Coffee making store in a warehouse. A long wait for loading of the ferry, the last camper van loaded. Up a narrow ramp in the ship itself, parked outside right at the back. Find a seat quick, almost the last on, the window seat already taken… an hour late setting off. Stand outside for a long time during the crossing, watching the southern island approach. Slow sail through the channel to Picton.
Arrive finally about 6.30pm, so we have to set off quick to reach Motueka, but we are last off the boat, down the lowered ramp, it was interesting watching the lorries driving off, very tight ! A long drive in the fading light, first towards Blenheim then straight across to the north highway to Nelson, some very bendy and mountainous driving down into Nelson, decide to head for Moutueka camp site arriving at 9.30 in the evening only just still open, have to make a decision to scrap the idea Kayaking along the coast in the morning as we arrived a bit too late to book. Sleep, tired….19.12.2013