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Dunedin to Milford Sound - Day 78

18 °C

I couldn't have my shower too hot this morning because the warmth burnt my ice cold hands and feet. It's safe to say it was pretty cold last night.

Baldwin Street is the steepest residential street in the world and it was mine, Andrew's and Mary's first stop for the morning. It was really busy, which I'm sure the residents love - maybe they get a discount on their council tax or something? - and some of the ladies and gents on Mary's tour were there walking up the street. It was really very steep, although the pictures don't do it justice. We decided to drive up as we saw a couple of people do it and it looked fun coming down!
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We then headed to Larnach Castle, billed as New Zealand's only castle. This is a little bit of false advertising if you ask me, because it would barely warrant manor house status in the UK. We should have known from the ticket booth that it wasn't going to be an imposing building when the seller said "Oh you're from England, where they have real castles".
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The building was very pretty though, with a cafe in a barn that had log burning fires, and the views were beautiful.
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And the gardens had an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was very cute.
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Mary had to rejoin her tour for the afternoon, so we dropped her off at the coach stop and set off for our own long drive to Milford Sound. We stopped in a small town for lunch and got an ice cream too. At the beginning of our trip we tried a Meltdown ice cream - pretty much like a magnum, but this first one had two layers of chocolate covering it and caramel in the middle, delicious! - and since then we've been trying all in the range. Hokey Pokey (honeycomb) and Brownie were the last varieties and today we tried Raspberry and Bikkie (Oreo style). They were delicious but none have yet beat the simplicity of the caramel. We'll update you if we have a breakthrough.
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Once we got to Milford Sound Road the scenery became fantastic, but with the sun low in the sky, pictures were difficult to take. We're driving back this way tomorrow, so I hope to get some better shots then. We stopped off at Mirror Lakes, to get some pictures of the mountains reflected in the water but its not much of a mirror when ducks are swimming through it!
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Arriving at Lake Gunn campsite we realised we were back to basics again! There was a lake to one side and a forest to the other with a long drop toilet somewhere inside (see the picture of me in the woods - I'm on the right in blue and the green hut on the left is the toilet!). A guy was trying to make a fire in one of the brick BBQs, like Andrew had on the North Island, but the rain had made all the wood wet so it was proving difficult. Andrew joined in, which led to almost 4 hours of trying to make the fire light properly!
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The guy and his wife were from New Orleans and were on a 9 month trip. Apart from their trip length, they were very similar to us - they'd sold their house, left their jobs and came away, to then go back to a new area in America and settle down. It's always reassuring to hear were not the the only ones who left everything!

Oh, and the fire did get going, sort of, eventually...I think it was the talk of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:37 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains lakes castles roads campsite Comments (0)

Uretiti Beach Camp to Cape Reinga - Day 65

Beautiful beach...until the nudists came out!

24 °C

We woke up after a good sleep - the caving and driving must have tired us out - and headed for the beach. And what a beautiful beach it was! White sand, mountains and islands out to sea. Hardly anyone was in the beach, a few walkers and a lady sunbathing and reading her book.
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The sand was covered in pretty shells, some of them perfect and enormous - I wish I could have brought some back. And the birds were really cute too!
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I felt like I could have stayed here for a long time, it was so peaceful and beautiful. But then in the distance, walking towards us were two people, who must have been wearing speedos or a tiny bikini. Wait, they don't look like they have any clothes on...can't be, they've got hats on. Oh no, it can be. A man and woman were walking towards, completely naked except for sun hats?! We turned around and walked the other way, but I still can't get my head around wearing a hat when you're completely naked?? Anyway, when we turned around a bit later, they'd grabbed their body boards and were surfing the waves of this beautiful beach completely starkers.

Time to go and we had another long drive ahead of us to get to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. We stopped in a town called Whangerai for shopping and to book our dolphin trip. The tour we chose includes a swim with the dolphins if the conditions are right, so fingers crossed we'll be lucky enough to be able to get in with them.

Along the way we saw some more beautiful scenery...
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We got to our camp at Cape Reinga at a good time, which was in a really pretty bay. We've been able to camp in some really amazing places here so far - in terms of scenery, not facilities! - for very little money.
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Not everything was perfect though. As we started to make dinner the camp stove wouldn't work properly, which meant we had to cook a two pan meal on one hob. It took forever and we ended up making and eating dinner in the dark.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches birds views campsite Comments (0)

Coromandel - Day 59

24 °C

The first night in the van was a success! With team work, we managed to cook, wash up, put away everything we'd used, turn the back into a bed, brush our teeth and wash our faces - in cold water! You have to work together to do everything as the space is so small. Andrew being tall is handy to put the tent on the back and sort the awning velcro out and me being small means I can make the bed even with little space and move things around inside the van without injuring myself! Perfect! And we slept well too. We were warm, especially with the extra quilt, and the bed was comfy enough too.

We drove up to Coromandel Town, on the western side of the peninsula, via a little town called Thames. The roads were so windy and relatively narrow in places too, we had to concentrate on every turn to make sure we didn't drive off into the sea! It was a very pretty drive though, with sea, beach and hill views along the way.
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Both Thames and Coromandel Town are small with, to me, a 'small town' America feel to the towns and houses, which are made out of wood. We kept a look out for camp tables in the charity and camping shops, but there was either none to be seen or they were very expensive.

Andrew wanted to travel down the 309 road, as apparently it was a scenic drive, but there wasn't much there! There was a waterfall we could have walked to see, but Iguassu Falls has spoilt us for waterfalls and everything seems tiny now, and there was a walk to see their native kauri tree but we weren't sure we'd know what one looked like if we saw it, so we decided to research that and try and see one later! What is interesting down here is the vegetation, that we also saw a bit of yesterday and this morning too, which is much more tropical than I had expected. It reminds me a little of Brazil.
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Once we got the end of that road we headed north to somewhere I wanted to see - Cathedral Cove. After parking the spaceship, around about 20 other campers and caravans, we walked the 45 minute track to get to the cove. The day had turned out lovely and warm, so lots of people were on the beach enjoying the weather. We had to run through the cove to get to the beach on the other side, trying to time it right so we didn't get soaked by the waves. I still got wet! The beach, cove and rocks were really beautiful and I could have stayed their all day.
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But we had to carry on! It gets dark about 8pm here so we need to be at our campsite before then to cook in the light. We drove down the eastern coast, stopping at a few beaches along the way, including hot water beach, where you can make your own hot spring pool in the sand, but it wasn't the right time of day that.
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We arrived at Wentworth River campsite in Whangamata, which is a big place with good facilities and even hot (outdoor!) showers that you put a two dollar coin in for 4 minutes of water. The woman at reception asked us whether we'd booked as their little town of 4,000 people was being taken over this weekend by another 80,000 people attending the Beach Hop - a 50s/60s festival with music, stalls and classic cars. luckily they still had space for us, but I did wonder where this town had put 80,000 people up?!

Everything was a bit easier tonight as we're starting to learn where we can put things! To think I thought we lived in a small place in London?! Here is our home and bed!
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We're already jealous of the some of the other campers here though, they seem to have every luxury...separate tents for cooking and sleeping, a gazebo for relaxing under, full size caravans with head height and a real bed. A middle aged couple next to us popped open a bottle of champagne under their canopy! What's worse, everyone has a table to eat from but us!!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trees views seaside campsite campervans Comments (0)

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