Sunday, 16 September 2018

Back 'Out There' & Heading North


Finally we are back on the road; we left Napier feeling a little sad having to say goodbye to Mum & Dad after spending two months on their backdoor step. We'll miss Mum's lovely home cooked meals and our happy hours with them both, along with long hot showers and the washing machine! But it was time to move on, and I'm sure I heard Dad say "Thank God they've gone" as we pulled out (getting his own back with a family saying that's said as we wave visitors off from camp).

After four days of heavy rain, the weather had cleared and the sun shone; real Hawkes Bay sunshine although there was a nip in the air. And once we were on the Napier-Taupo Road we could see why, the Kaweka Range had a lovely coating of spring snow on it.

The road had been closed several times during the rain storm but other than a little bit of flooding here and there and the odd bare cliff face where a slip had come down this was the only Stop/Go  section on the road.

We'd decided to do short trips each day as we eased our way back into travelling (actually we had an appointment in Tauranga two days later so there was no hurry). The Central Plateau mountains looked spectacular at the bottom of the lake... we headed to the NZMCA Taupo Park near the airport for the night. We parked in the exact same spot as we'd parked just two months prior when we had smoked trout for lunch with friends Amanda & Paul who happen to be touring the States in their motorhome at the moment. I messaged her that we had the billy boiled and where the heck were they.

Next morning it was onto the Ngongotaha NZMCA Park in Rotorua for the night. We like to stay hitched when we're stopping overnight so it's quick and easy to pull out the next morning. But it does depend on how level the sites are, it's no good if the nose has to be lowered because it can't go any lower than the fifth-wheel hitch in the back of the ute.

Tauranga was out next port of call, we had an appointment in the city but, hmm....where to leave 'Out There' for a couple of hours in a busy city. We had a quick look along the side streets near where our appointment was but we should have known better, they were all full (and the roads very narrow). So it was off to a very familiar carpark at the Bridge Marina and not too far from our old boat berth which set me off reminiscing.  

On the way over we also checked out the carpark in front of our old office building at Sulphur Poinr but with such a perfect day the carparks there were full of boaties' cars and trailers and the six or so free camping spaces there were all taken (not that we were intending to stay overnight, just for a few hours). 

We had lunch overlooking the marina and I also managed to take a few photos of the calm waters; by the time we arrived back to collect the van, the afternoon breeze had kicked in and the beautiful reflections were gone.

We made it out of the city before the afternoon traffic peaked although that Tauranga-Katikati road is never not busy. It was a relief when we pulled out of the traffic and headed down a quite country lane to our next overnight stop at Tuapiro Reserve just north of Katikati.

This is one of the many freedom camping sites located throughout the city and around the district that the Western Bay of Plenty & Tauranga City Councils oversee. This is a win/win situation for all concerned (and one many other councils should take note of); we get to camp in places that overlook some spectacular scenery...

Overlooking Bowentown, Matakana Island and straight out the the entrance from the inner harbour.
...and the councils get to have honorary security guards over-nighting in quiet, end of the road reserves. I'm sure this arrangement has curtailed much of the unsavory activities that sometimes happen in these out of the way places. Tuapiro Reserve is one of the larger areas and camping is allowed in three areas of the carpark, there is also a maximum 3 night stay here. Our neighbours for the night were a convoy of three small car and caravan units and three campervans who arrived later on in the evening.

The Tauranga Inner Harbour has extensive tidal mudflats at low ride and at this end you can hardly see the channel from the reserve. And in fact up near Omokoroa it's possible to walk (and sometimes drive) across to Matakana Island. In our early days of sailing the harbour we were once caught out by the quickly departing tide and had to sit it out for quite a few hours until the tide turned and we were released from the seabed's muddy grip. 

The mudflats are a great place for a variety of shore and sea birds to fish for their dinner, here a wary Kingfisher/Kotare keeps an eye on me as he waits for a crab or small fish to poke it's head out from it's mud home.

I'm pleased to report that sunrises are still on the menu! The new blinds, while darker than their predecessors, didn't filter out all the early morning glow which was a surprise given that this sunrise had an eerie haze over it.

From Katikati we continued north, our next stop was another familiar site although it's been a few years since our last visit to Rays Rest on the Seabird Coast near Miranda. Miranda is on the lower western side of the Firth of Thames, it's a very important place for migratory wading birds and in particular the Bar Tailed Godwit & Red Knot. They are attracted to the food found on the 8500 hectares of tidal mudflats. 

Being not too far from Auckland, Rays Rest is a very popular site with many people using it as a stop-over on their way out of or into Auckland. Others also come here for a short break away (2 night maximum stay), fishing and bird watching are popular pastimes.

I recall our first visit to Rays Rest was not long after we purchased the rig (nearly 6 years ago) and had made the decision to hit the road full-time. I remember thinking how surreal it was to be sitting watching TV right next door to this view out the door. It doesn't quite feel so surreal now, more the norm but no less amazing to think we have a different view out our front door every week and often every night.

And it's not only the different views that we get to enjoy; it's also the varied sights and slices of New Zealand life you come across too. It's not often that a herd of cattle munch their way past your kitchen window as you're preparing lunch.

The next day dawned cold and overcast and I couldn't blame the sunrise glow for waking me this morning. The sun rose on the other side of the Coromandel and didn't look like it was going to make its way over to us at all so once we were up and about we made the decision to continue onwards and upwards... the NZMCA Park at Ardmore Airport which is on the outskirts of the big smoke, Auckland City. The sun was shining and the park was busier than we thought it would be, given that there has been a recent ban on dogs being allowed here which has stopped many from visiting. 

The last time we stayed here was again, way back at the beginning of our journey and in fact if I recall rightly the Park had only just opened. We were the only ones in for a couple of nights and we parked horizontal along the front fenceline overlooking the runway, now a big no-no because the Parks are so busy! We had a little smile to ourselves as we recalled our newbie exuberance.

And here's a sunset to finish the blog; taken from Ardmore on Friday night. The sun still has that weird haze cover two days later, although I suspect it might be a bit of big city smog.


  1. Great to see you on the road again. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos, confirming NZ scenery is so stunning and unique.

    1. Thanks Carron, much appreciated, It's great to be back in the saddle! :)


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