Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Zealand Day 7: Farewell to Northland

We ended up about a day behind my original itinerary because of the dolphin trip (totally worth it!) so skipped the night we were going to spend at a beach west of Auckland. That meant that we rounded out our first week with a pretty big travel day, heading on down to the rest of the north island.

The Top 10 Holiday Park where we were staying had laundry facilities, and I was keen to wash the things that aren’t so easy to do by hand, like sheets and towels. I woke up in time to do a couple of loads, only to run into another traveler in the laundry room who said both of the coin-op machines were broken. The third machine was token-operated, and the office was closed until 9 AM…so much for our early start. So we had another mellow morning.

Here's the site photo:

Planning our later travels:

Pineapple for breakfast!

Brynna played on the playground where her spoil-sport doctor mother would only let her on the trampolines that had nets around them:

And she discovered the zipline!

(Yes, Alex rigged up the GoPro on the zipline...you can see it in the photo above. Video forthcoming, it's hilarious!)

Eventually I was able to get a token and put our laundry in. It actually continued to be quite a saga. The wash cycle (3 NZ dollars) took almost an hour. The first dry (another 3 NZD) was underwhelming, requiring another go-round, totaling about another hour. I didn’t bother putting the second load of wash, containing less bulky items, in the dryer—it wasn’t worth the money, was mostly quick-dry stuff, and we wanted to get out of there! It hung in shifts on the clothesline we’ve rigged around the inside of the camper and has dried nicely through the day.

All in all, though we enjoyed the power and the wifi, we were underwhelmed by the Holiday Park. Alex and I would be happier to stay at a DoC site. B, however, got a lot of mileage out of the playground and zipline, so we’ll just say this one was for her!

While waiting for the laundry to do its thing, I eyed the map and perused my Rough Guide for an appropriate place to stop for lunch. I thought if we were lucky we could make it just north of Auckland before needing to stop for lunch.

B was very eager to show off all of the math that she did en route:

The Rough Guide recommended a café in Warkworth called Ginger as having great bread and veggie options, and we are happy to report that it was terrific! I had a veggie Panini and a tasty salad, Alex had a salad and some of the nice bread, and B had poached eggs with the toast cut into a shooting star.

Mmmm. Much nicer than our first attempt at eating out in NZ!

Then we headed about fifteen minutes south and stopped at another Rough Guide recommended place called the Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory. As advertised, the gelato was awesome! I tried some forest berry sorbet, Alex got vanilla latte ice cream, and B got hokey (which is a NZ flavor, traditionally vanilla with honeycomb but in this case was almost more like snickerdoodle and tasted a lot like vanilla cake batter). I also got to taste some cheese—they had three bries, including a triple cream that I ended up buying a small wedge of, a lovely gentle creamy Havarti (which I would’ve bought if we didn’t already have two other cheeses already in the fridge), a sharp cheddar, a Gruyere (not my fave), and an award winning soft goat cheese that I bought on spec. B and I will be busy nibbling them over the next few days! This place also had a playground, so B could get the last of her wiggles out in anticipation of napping through much of our afternoon drive. Highly recommended!

Alex then took over the driving as we headed south through Auckland. 

My job was to see if I could help B ease into a nap to help the afternoon of driving pass more easily. She was not down with this agenda, however, and we sniped at each other through Auckland until I told her that if she’d put her sleep mask on and stay still and quiet for 10 minutes, I would stop nagging her to nap. Of course, she fell asleep five minutes in, and didn’t wake until we were driving through Hamilton.

In Hamilton we gassed up (67 litres of diesel!) and got groceries, then drove the last 45 winding minutes to Raglan, the surfing capital of New Zealand. We got a glimpse of a huge row of windmills on the way:

The kiwis sure do seem to love their one lane bridges, and there was a nice long one between the center (or shall we say centre) of town to the beaches. I managed to drive across it without incident and we went a few minutes up into the hills to our campsite at Solscape, with stunning views over the waves breaking on the beaches. It’s an eco hostel with a little café and a variety of accommodations, including a few powered campervan sites.

We grazed for dinner, finishing up leftovers from the few nights previous, as well as downing a batch of guacamole that Alex made for us.
As has become the custom, B was up until almost 10 PM. We just don’t seem capable of getting settled in before that!

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