21.03.2013 23 °C
Well, it was the big day! Let me start by saying I have only ever camped once in my life, in the Lake District for one night with Andrew and his friends when I was about 17. But today I was going to spend the first of 24 nights in the New Zealand countryside in this:
Meet Vela. Yes, she has a name. The company, Spaceships, gave it to her not us, but we made her a she. Andrew tells me it could have been named after Carlos Vela, but it doesn't feel like a he. It's a compact little van, the back has seats, a fridge, storage space for cutlery, utensils and food and in the boot there is a large storage area for your belongings. To sleep, you either fold your bed out inside the van, which takes up all the space behind the drivers seat, or you can open the boot and add a tent to the back, giving you the seating area still. The woman at Spaceships showed us where everything was, how the bed worked and gave us a description of how the tent went on the back and the awning on the side, then she was ours!
A couple were returning their van while we were picking ours up and they kindly gave us a second duvet they'd bought so keep us warm. The Spaceships office also had a corner where other returning people leave things for new travellers, so we picked up an extra frying pan, another knife, a bucket (just in case the toilets in the camp sites are so bad I can't go!!), some unopened mineral water which will be handy if the site doesn't have drinking water and few other bits.
We set off to Sylvia Retail Park to pick up a sat nav, as we'd seen a cheap one advertised at a shop called Dick Smiths (there seems to be loads of shops with the name Dick here?), a USB charger that fits in the lighter slot as there is no power to van and some extra cooking equipment because Andrew is a diva in the kitchen and can't cook without a decent knife! And also do a 'big shop' to start us off for the next 3 and a bit weeks. Dick Smith didn't have the cheap GPS in two if its stores, and the other two outlets we tried were no cheaper, so we ended up spending £75 on another model. Luckily it has Australia maps too, and assuming we don't hate camping, were planning to hire a camper in Oz too, so we can use it then. Plus it's only £5 more than hiring one for 24 days here in NZ. We spent a tenner on a usb lighter charger and bought two camping chairs (Spaceships were charging £20 to hire, and we got them for £10) and Andrew's kitchen equipment (new knife, utensil set, scissors and pan in the end!!) for £20. We tried to find a cheap camp table too, but they were about £35 so we're on the look out still. Then another £95 on food from a Pak N Save (like a massive Aldi or Lidl) and £70 petrol to fill her up, meant it wasn't a cheap day! We were also starving, so we made our first lunch in the campervan in the Pak N Save car park, and an crazy old lady said we were mad! Takes one to know one I guess...
We then had to double back to Spaceships office to get some Department of Conservation (DOC) camp passes that we forgot to pick up. This was about £70 for three weeks worth of camping in DOC camp sites, which are pretty well spread across the country. They're pretty basic sites, having a hot shower at best, only stream water at worst, but with holiday park camp sites looking like they charge around £18 a night per couple, they're a cheap way to camp. So this will hopefully save us some money as the sites are on average £7 a night for two people (some basic sites are free and other better sites charge around £12), so it would save us money in the long run. Apologies if this part is really boring, the price of things like this is just something I would have found useful when we were planning the trip!
Finally, around 3pm we were ready to set off to Coromandel! We realised we wouldn't get very far before dark today, so we headed to a camp site at Kauaeranga Valley in Coromandel Forest Park, which only had another three campers on there the whole time. We filled our water up from the drinking water tap, found a spot and then tried to put the awning up. Not as simple as it sounds! It has three poles, two elastic ropes to pin to the van and then Velcros on to the roof. Whoever decided to use Velcro to stick a heavy piece of tent like material to a car should come and try and make it stay after its been used for a while! Anyway, we eventually got it up, got the back tent on the van and then started cooking on our first night out in the wild!