We arrived at the Bluebridge Ferry terminal well before the 7am check-in time; I'm not sure why we're always ahead of schedule, because we always get our very own personal lane.
But this time we weren't first on as is usually the case (which means first off), we were last on which means...
An hour or so later we leave Tory Channel and the South Island behind us, and I breath a sigh of relief that it's relatively calm out in the Strait...
...so I can't blame the swell on my slip down the stairs! It's very cold and very slippery and thankfully I didn't drop my phone, but it helpfully took a photo for me.
It was a culture shock to see so many tall buildings in such a small space again, as we pulled into Wellington.
You do get used to the wide, open spaces down south even if some of the more popular spots are taken up with too many people.
We pull alongside the Wellington Harbour tugs, and because we'll be last out of the hold, we take our time getting down to the bottom deck. Timing it just right, we're opening the ute doors as the cars in front are pulling out. Hmm...we cut that a little too fine.
We hit the road and have a clear run out of Wellington, onto the motorway and north along SH1, stopping for a quick lunch at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki. Before continuing on to our regular stopover when we're on a mission heading north, the NZMCA Park in Marton. The rain arrived about the same time as we did.
Here's us (and quite a few others) at Marton on a previous visit. Generators are banned at Marton, due to the close neighbours, this could be a problem in winter if you haven't enough battery power and are staying for a few days.
The next morning we're off again, the weather cleared a little and then closed back in as we crossed the Desert Road. There are three beautiful mountains under that cloud cover, where it looks like it could be snowing just in time for the school holidays.
Our next 'go-to' park on our journey north is the NZMCA Park beside the Taupo Airport. This one holds fond memories; it was our very first stop on our maiden voyage over 3 and a half years ago. We were such greenhorns then, and so wondrous of this life on the road. Many miles, photos and written words have passed under the bridge since then.
We arrived mid afternoon and at first parked on the concrete 'drive' strips where these two motorhomes are parked. The strips lead to a concrete pad which was the foundation for a small building at some stage. It's a popular spot to park when it's wet or you want a nice level site.
We were fine there for a couple of hours and then the forecast wind got up...and up...and up. Hitting us square on to our side and rocking us about something shocking. We debated back and forth for about 30 minutes trying to decide if we should shift before darkness fell, we had stayed hitched so it was going to be relatively easy to move. In the end we moved behind some bushes and put our nose into the wind. A couple of hours later the wind dropped but we stayed put. The two motorhomes above, came in later and took the strips, they must have wondered why they were still free.
We weren't the only ones to shift, the guy in the front here did the same, sticking his nose into the wind as well. The back van arrived later, and the people in another van near us, who didn't shift, were worried that the pine tree beside them was about to come crashing down. As it was a large branch broke off and dozens of pine cones were bouncing off their roof for a few hours. In the morning, the road out of the airport was smothered in cones, needles and small branches. It sure was a good blow.
Most NZMCA Parks have a small garden of some sort; many with just a few herbs, the odd clump of silverbeet, perhaps a lemon tree or two, but Taupo must have one of the best I've seen.
Lots of young seedlings that are going to provide members with some lovely greens in the spring. A big thankyou to the wonderful people who look after the Taupo park.
Back on the road again, and we're heading to another NZMCA Park and one we haven't stayed at before. We usually leave Taupo and head straight through to Tauranga, keen to see the family. But this time the family have deserted us and gone to Taupo with friends for the first week of the school holidays. Which is fine by us as we have a number of appointments and things to do while we're back in our old home town. We'll catch up with them next week.
So we decided we'd not rush through to Tauranga, we'd stop at the Rotorua NZMCA Park in Ngongotaha. And what a lovely park it is, once old stock yards, the site has been cleared and landscaped and is surrounded by wide open grass reserve, trees and shrubs. It sits up above the alternate route through to Tauranga via Pyes Pa and has views of Lake Rotorua in the distance.
It's obviously a very popular park even in the winter, there were 15-20 vans in both nights we stayed.
We were going to stay just the one night but enjoyed the setting and the company so much we stayed an extra night. It was wonderful to see two lots of friends we've met on the road down south, pull into the site after we'd set up. Tracy & Mike had come to check out the Ultima at Momorangi when they were deciding what they were going to purchase for their life on the road. And we'd met Pat & Jim at Warbirds Over Wanaka two years ago. It was great to catch up with everyone again and have a few laughs.
We also met Warwick and Gaynor (and their grandson Logan) who we pulled in beside. They had a battery charger failure and were just about to head back to Auckland and home. David helped out finding where the fault was and then plugged them into our generator for the next couple of days. They were then able to stay and make good all the promises they'd made to Logan about their visit to Rotovegas.
It was also a big surprise to see another Ultima arrive, not only the same colour Ultima, but the same colour ute! Same, same but different; the ute is a double-cab (ours is a super-cab) and Grant & Helens' Ultima has a different lay-out inside with their outside door towards the rear. We had a good chat with them comparing notes and exchanging ideas.
We left Rotorua yesterday afternoon and at first thought about staying at a Rona's CAP (costs apply parking) at Pyes Pa. We pulled into check it out but it was rather full and although we could have squeezed ourselves in, we decided to carry on. We also checked out the NZMCA Park at Tauriko where there was only one van but decided that, like Pyes Pa, it was still a way out of town and we'd have to travel back and forward a few times over the next few days. We do usually stay at the Mount campground but have decided since the family aren't around, we'd wing it until the weekend when we'll shift to the Mount.
And that is how we found ourselves parked up in our old front yard!
We're in a freedom camping area at Sulphur Point, it's a large grass reserve by the boat ramps and just across the carpark from where we spent many years working our butts off. Our office (for our boat building business) was once in the building with the scaffolding; the large window on the bottom at the far end. We also spent a few hours drinking coffee and having business lunches in the cafe that used to be on the ground floor under that scaffolding.
And this was the view we had every week day of every month for quite a number of years...so many memories....hmmm......I'm not so sure we shouldn't have gone straight to the Mount.
And no, I'm not getting melancholy, but I think it's safe to say we won't be checking out the freedom camping area at Kulim Park, or for that matter Ferguson Park either, both parks we've lived beside for many years. It's just feels weird camping on your old front door step.