Friday, February 27, 2015

New Zealand - North Island

The 'Lucky' Campervan
Cheese press - not the books
We flew QANTAS from Brisbane to Auckland.  The three hour flight and 3 time zones gave us an afternoon arrival for a hotel night.  
The next morning we picked up our camper from Lucky Campervans.  These are Previas like the one we had in Australia.  The price was good but it didn't have the outside sleeping concept nor an electric fridge.  We thought NZ was going to be colder than Oz so it wouldn't be too hot sleeping inside, wrong.
The fridge was no problem except we were always buying ice and dealing with melted ice water on everything.

We headed north up the west coast to the Kauri Forest.  The trees were spectacular but not much in the way of wildlife.

Russell car ferry
The next day was Paihia.  This is where the treaty between the settlers and Maori's was signed which essentially ended the wars between the settlers and indigenous people.

'Lucky' on The Paihia to Russell ferry
The Maori traveled thousands of miles from Polynesia to New Zealand thousands of years ago.  Their same ancestors also traveled a similar distance to Hawaii.  Their current language seems very similar to Polynesian and Hawaiian.  Just like Australia has kept the Aboriginal names for many places, New Zealand has done the same with the Maori.
Anglican Church in Russell

 The day after Paihia we took the car ferry to Russell.  This was the countries first capital.  It has a well protected anchorage and was the center of whaling for a while.  

We did some hiking, found some deserted beaches and think we saw a Kiwi bird.

Ended up at the oldest tavern and had a beer.

The town of Russell

Sundial on Flagstaff Hill

Russel and Bay of Islands

New Zealand Wildlife
 We enjoyed Happy Hour with our new friends.  We don't like to compare places too much but Australia has such cool wildlife.  Kangaroos bouncing around in every campsite.  NZ has ducks.

Cooking in the 'Lucky Van'

Booker at the Falls

Whangarei Falls
We took the winding beach road to Whangarei and poked around the wharf.  We met up with Per and Sabina from BREEZE.  They crossed the Pacific from Mexico when we did in 2013.  We have only met over the radio and never in person.  It is nice to talk with them and put faces with voices.

We went hiking to the Whangarei Falls.  Fortunately it was an easy hike since the Russell hiking had done a number on our bones and feet.
Whangarei Falls
The relocation Campervan

Hiking in the Taupo Thermal Valley

Thermal vents at Taupo

Dave at the heavy petting zoo

Grapes at the Elephant Winery

The Tui Brewery Bar

Men's Room at Tui - Great Urinals

Beer Keg Sink at Tui
Tui Beer Sampler


Our parking spot on the ferry to Picton

We turned in the 'Lucky' and had another hotel night prior to picking up our new van.  This van needs to be relocated from Auckland to Christchurch.  It's essentially free to us except we pay the ferry and fuel.  We felt like Rock Stars compared to being in the Lucky.

It turned out to be a long day so when we stumbled upon a campsite when checking out the Taupo thermal vents, we stopped early.  We hiked among steam vents on the hills and valleys.  The campsite had kind of a petting zoo with llamas, sheep, and rabbits.

Our original first day goal was Napier/Hastings in the Hawkes Bay wine region.  We ended up there the second day and somehow, right around happy hour we ended up tasting the local wines.

The next day we were heading to Wellington where we would take the ferry to the South Island.  Along the way we stopped at the Tui Brewery.  They had some nice beers that aren't available anywhere else except here at this brewery.

I have seen lots of great stainless fabrication in New Zealand but this has to be the best use of old beer kegs that I have ever seen.

We had an early ferry departure.  The weather was nice and ended up at the South Island at noon.

It was a 3 hour trip but it looked like we were in a different country.

That's it for this blog.  Will post the South Island when we get done.  Cheers mates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

28 days, 5820 kilometers, 500 liters of Petrol

Tent out the back.  Great design.
We spent the night at a hotel in Brisbane and got a lift to the Campervan rental company.  Spaceships.  All the vans have names.  Ours is called 'Ground Control'.  I guess it's calling Major Tom.

We went to the Gold Coast City Marina and found Tortuguita to be in pretty good condition.  Recent rains had washed the decks and no signs of leakage anywhere.  Good on the new windows.  We went driving about to get groceries and things for the trip.  We bought a 12 volt fan to keep us cool at night in the van.  Had jet lagged sleep that night on the boat and left the next day to start camping.

The ELFRUN's.....
Atmo and Petra's house
We met Atmo and Petra, from Privilege 39 catamaran ELFRUN, in Tahiti and were in the same weather window group until New Caledonia.  Atmo is also a pilot and they live on an airpark outside Byron Bay at Tyagarah.  The airport is very busy with parachute jumpers.  We went to a place we called 'Naked Hippie Lake' for an afternoon swim.  The lake is an old quarry and has Tea Tree tannins that make the water almost black.  Good thing for the naked hippies.

The Icarus
That evening we had an excellent dinner, drank too much wine, and slept in the camper in front of Hanger 5.  Half the hanger has a bee honey operation in it.  We bought a kilo for $7.

The next day, Dave went flying with the airport owner in an Icarus ultralight.  It was an interesting plane but the scenery was fantastic.

Byron Light House
From the air, the Byron Bay market was seen so we made that the next stop on our journey.

Actually the boat is VIRGOS CHILD.  We met Terry and Elaine on our trip up the coast last winter and had some wonderful times in the Whitsunday's.  They sailed around the world a few years ago and knew people that we know.  Small world.
Minion Falls from the plane
They live just south of Byron Bay so it was a short drive from the Sunday market.  We parked the 'campa' in their driveway and had a nice day catching up and walked to the beach for some body surfing.  Drank too much wine that evening and left the next day for the two hour drive back to the Gold Coast for dermatology appointments.   The goal was then to get as far south as possible.

Elaine, Cooper, and Terry
Woody Head......
Our first National Park campground.  Very full and heaps of families with kids.  Great location outside the town of Iluka.

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour

View of Crescent Head from Anne and Al's deck
The SAGITAIRE's.....
We stopped in to see Al and Ann from SAGITAIRE and ended up staying for 2 days.  Crescent Head is a cute surfing town half way between the Gold Coast and Sydney.  They live on the hillside overlooking one of the best surf spots on the coast.  What a view, and a great house.

Al and Anne's House

Sjani and Colin at Lemon Tree Passage

The SHIKAMA's.....
We stayed with Colin and Sjani from SHIKAMA for the night.  Had a good happy hour with some of Colin's homebrew Irish Whiskey and pizza night.  They live in Lemon Tree Passage fronting a waterfront park with their boat moored right out the front door.  We did some morning bushwalking on the park trails and took off for Sydney at noon.

The plan was to go to Sydney since it was the next place south but is was Australia Day weekend and crowds don't really thrill us so we figured Sydney would have to wait for the return leg.

We made it through Sydney and about 2 hours south found a great camping spot at the Morton National Park just outside the neat little town of Bundanoon.  Hot showers and kitchen facilities for $14/night can't be beat.  That night we did a mile hike down into a big hole to see some Glow Worms.  Initially sounded like a dumb thing but turned out to be quite neat.   They are not worms but actually larvae that put out strings of lighted eggs that attract insects that they then eat.     

We then made it down to the coast but the holiday festivities had packed everywhere.  We stayed in an RV park in Milton and were in search of warm clothes since it was getting chilly at night.

The WENDY ELLEN's.....
Dinner Party, (Zak on Right)
We stopped at a few little coastal fishing towns and ended up at Zack and Suzies just north of the town of Tathra.  The last time we saw Ronan was in Fiji when he was 2 years old.  They live on a lake surrounded by National Forest and were having an Australia Day Party on Monday.  Australia Day is like our Labor Day.  It's the end of the summer vacation and most kids go back to school the following week.  So it is a big celebration. 
Wishing they were at the party
There must have been 100 people at the party.  Easily 40 kids.  Zack has a wood fired pizza oven and almost 50 pounds of flour were used to make probably 100 pizzas.  It was getting even colder and we went to Target for some more warm bedding.  It was late and we ended up camping just south of Eden at Boydtown.

Australia Day Party
Drove through hours and hours of coastal forest along the Southern Ocean and the Bass Straits and ended up at a church camp in the town of Tyre just outside of Lakes Entrance.  Town was vacant since school was almost in full swing.

We made it to the outskirts of Melborne the next afternoon and camped at Balnarring Beach on the Mornington Peninsula in order to position us to take the ferry from Sorento to Queenscliff where we would start on the Great Ocean Road. 

Suzie and the Joey (Tai)

Ronan and the Giant Cone

Balnarring Beach Access

The Sorento to Queenscliff Ferry
We did some morning exploring and took the noon ferry from Sorento.  Our first stop was the famous surfing beach, Bell's Beach.  After that we were winding for hours along the Great Ocean Road passing spectacular beach after beach.  We got a campsite at the Wye River foreshore and then drove to Kennett Creek to see if we could find wild koalas.  Well, we found'em, and King Parrots and Lorakeets too.

On the Sorento Ferry

Bells Beach

Wild sleeping Koala
Our last destination on the coast before heading inland was The Twelve Apostles.  We have never seen such incredible rock structures.  A few of the Apostles have fallen over but they are spectacular anyway.  We then headed inland toward Simpson and went to Apostle Whey Cheese where we did some cheese tasting and bought a few blocks.'

They liked our food better than the other people's
We wanted to avoid Melbourne so we found, the Treetops Scout Camp, an off season boy scout camp that only had 2 other campers.  Not counting the 100 kangaroos bouncing around.  We went to the Sunday Market in Gisborn and left for our longest driving day so far.  700km and ended back at Morton Park with the Glow Worms in order to position us for a morning arrival in the Blue Mountains.

Parrots at Kennett Creek
Eating Gum
The Three Sisters is in Katoomba and required viewing when in the Blue Mountains.  At least it seemed that way by the herds of Chinese tourists.  We figured we would take a short hike and 3 hours later after hiking 8 miles down in a rainforest valley and climbing easily 1000 feet of hugely aerobic steep steps, we ended up back at the van for a well deserved night in a hotel.  It really wouldn't have been have been fun in the campervan with the temps going down to 5C (40F) at night with cold damp rain.

Visiting Parrot
We were now in position to do Sydney the next day.  We drove to the seaside village of Manly and took the ferry in to Sydney.  It was a perfect sunny day.  We had lunch in town and got back to Manly late afternoon and went up the coast to camp at a prime surfing spot by the town of Narabeen.  We watched the surfers for a while and even though we didn't feel like any more hiking, we went bushwalking the coast trail the next day.

Not another surfing campsite.....
We drove to the Booti Booti National Park.  The surf was big but sloppy since the tide was low and the winds strong.  We sat and watched the ocean for easily an hour and had a noisy night at the campsite.  The early morning parade of surfer vehicles put a damper on any intention of sleeping in.

The Twelve Apostles
We were going to go somewhere up in the mountains the next day but ended up being invited back to Ann and Al's at Crescent Head.  That was nice.  We stopped at Port Macquarie for lunch, cooked dinner on the barbie and the next day went to the Trial Bay Gaol.  That's how they spell Jail in Australian.  The day flew and so we returned to Woody Head, Iluka that night.  The place was empty compared to when we stayed there 3 weeks prior when school was out.
East of Apostles

The next night was spent camping in the Lamington National Park.  1 hour down a narrow winding road was the campsite near O'Reilleys Guesthouse.

Three Sisters, Katoomba
From there it was an easy drive back to Tortuguita for a very comfortable night's rest.  We did some small errands and left the next morning to bring the mainsail 2 hours north to the Doyle Queensland sail loft in Caloundra for some modifications.  There were a few possible campsites in that area to spend our last night at but they all turned out to be dumps.  We were used to pristine, quiet, back to nature, park reserves and to find one, we drove an hour west out to the Nerum Bush Retreat.  Well worth the drive.

We stopped in Brisbane and visited the Botanic Gardens and returned the van that afternoon. 

Sydney Harbour Bridge
28 days, 5820 kilometers, 500 liters of Petrol. 
Aussie Camping Trip Complete!!!!

Sydney Opera House from the Ferry

Opera House from the park

Surf 'Break'?

Booti Booti Beach

Cookin' in the Campa'

Trial Bay Gaol

The Giant Prawn in Ballina

Lamington National Park

Stinson Trimotor that crashed near Oreilleys