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  • Writer's pictureClaire

14/03/24 Auckland to New Plymouth

It’s pick up day today and we start the next road trip. We’ve booked with Spaceships campers which Morg and I used when we came for the lions tour. They were very good then, and I had emailed explaining the issues we’d had with the Travellers Autobarn and requested something that was tidy. They responded saying all their vehicles were extremely well maintained and to the highest standards. When we used them before they were comfortable and practical so I was a little more confident in booking them. 

As we’d booked it for a month, they offer a pick up service from the hotel or airport which you have to ring for the morning of your pick up. We checked out of the hotel, made the call and within 5 minutes were on our way to pick up point. The depot was full of cars, all in better condition than anything the Travellers Autobarn had on offer which was a promising sign! We piled up our gear and went into the office to wait for someone to give us the keys. Inside there were a couple of boxes full of food items that had been left inside the vehicles. Essentials like coffee tea salt pepper bog roll hand wash  shampoo and an umbrella ! I stocked us up with all we could use, while Si went to find a person.  Turns out the pickups are contactless. They send you a lock box is code, the car details and you help yourself. I just hadn’t read that particular email! We picked our the car, a Toyota dream sleeper mini and loaded it up. On our booking form it said its name was phoenix, but I think she’s having an identity crisis because the name on her is actually Ismene.  She’ll do. 

You might be wondering why I keep calling her a car. Well that’s because she is. The ferry to South Island and back is quite pricey and as such the car sleepers is much cheaper and by far the cheapest option. The back boot area is kitted out with a kitchen area, well designed and easily accessible. The bed is a solid metal that extends forward, so no awful slats to collapse underneath us as we sleep! The best and most exciting bit are the fact that the front seats both turn around to face the back giving more seating room. Pretty cool huh! The mattress is thick and they supplied full bedding set sheets duvet pillows and towels all smelling lovely and clean, again, unlike the last pile of crap we had. Obviously there isn’t the space to stand up in it, but we are hoping we will only be sleeping in it, it came with outside table and chairs so that will make eating a bit easier. 

Both the back doors slide back so it’s easy to get in and out during the night if we need to and curtains close all the way around it.  Space wise there isn’t quite as much because the chars spin around, last time we were able to put Mildred in the front seat over night but she’ll have to live outside for a while! She’ll get used to it. 

Once we’d familiarised ourselves with Ismene we pulled out of the pick up place, turned on the maps and road trip number 3 officially began. We left Auckland and headed South, a few Kms before Hamilton we turned of at Huntley and continued our journey through Ngaruawahia, Glen Massey before arriving at our destination, Raglan. Yup, Raglan. There was no way we weren’t going to visit, and it didn’t disappoint at all. Whilst the weather was pretty shite, and it was persisting down, it was still a really funky little place. Full of cafes coffee shops, boho clothing stores, surf equipment shops all brightly coloured.  We loved it. The beach is made up of black volcanic sand which is the opposite to what we’ve been experiencing the last month or so! Still pretty though.  Our coffee shop of choice was the stoned cow, purely because the name amused me. It’s an arty cafe with some fabulous colourful works of art displayed on the walls and shelves and even in the bathroom. Its colour theme was pink and black paint work and all colours of chairs sofas and tables. Who doesn’t love a bit of colour, especially when it’s raining and grey outside. The tea and coffee were good but the cheese, spinach, ham and onion scones were a whole other level. Warm, with a big knob of butter in the middle. It was full, offering free wifi it was popular with the backpackers, they were all on their MacBooks and charging their mobiles while sipping glasses of tap water. 

Despite the weather it was a bustling little place, and a big draw for all ages if the wall to wall coffee shops were anything to go by.  After taking numerous photos, of the pharmacy, bakery, butcher and the Main Street we located Ismene and continued south towards New Plymouth.  

The roads were not unlike the ones we travelled on the alpine pass in Melbourne. The bends left me panicked and there were were a lot of sharp intakes of breath alongside some quite savage braking by my good self. Useless as there are no brakes in the passenger footwell. I feel that is something that could be addressed by the hire companies sooner rather than later.  

We drove through green hills, that looked like tellytubby land and passed the famous Waitomo caves. There are 3 caves two are dry that you can walk to, and the one can only be reached by water. There are lots of other places to see the glow worms so we will see them down in the South Island and save ourselves a shed load of money.  For all the tourist things to do that cost money, you can always find the exact same thing for free usually a bit further down the road or in another area.  

Another point of interest was Te Kuiti which hold the title of the shearing capitol of New Zealand. In itself it wouldn’t be what you’d expect for such a prestigious title. It’s a tiny little place with a population of about 4500, but every year 200 plus shearers and rollers rock up to the town for the main event. Not only is it a shearing competition but it’s also a big sheep show, with over 2000 sheep arriving to be shown off. There is a great description her 

We followed the 3 highway until we came to Awakino a little town with just 3 streets, right on the coast with a bit of a reputation for whitebait. The road from there then followed the coast, to Waitara where we stopped for the night. It’s a free camping site, with 2 flushing toilets and sinks. It even has toilet paper and paper hand towels which is pretty good.  There are 4 spaces for non contained vehicles and if you get there and they’re taken you can’t stay, even if there are other spaces available. Luckily for us, we pulled in and the last NCV space was on the end so in we went. It was a really pretty place, overlooking the Lake. We were in hard standing, and there on a grassy area the self contained campers were parked up. We had the best view by far, totally unobstructed, we did however have a bit of a walk for the facilities. 

As we wanted to get there before dark so we could set the bed up in daylight and see what we were doing, there was plenty of daylight left when we parked up. Unloading the bags of chairs and tables we set them up next to the camper. Mildred had to come out and ended up being parked in front of the car so she wouldn’t be easily stolen!  Not that she’s much good to anyone, as she’s about wrecked, but it would be a royal pain in the ass if I didn’t have her.  Whilst we were in Raglan we had a substantial snack so we just finished up the water and crisps and started to set the bed up. It went really well and was actually quick and easy, so by the time it was dark, the bed was made, teeth were brushed and we were snuggled up in our little cocoon. Perfection.  

Much love

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