Hello there. We learned an important lesson yesterday (Friday): Check to see if your cell phone has service before checking into a campground. Otherwise, you might find yourself with no mobile broadband on a Friday night.
Other than that minor irritant, we’re having a great time here on the North Island of New Zealand.
On Friday morning, we woke up at 8:30, which was late for us, but we were exhausted from our travels the day before. We then realized that we needed to check out at 10, which didn’t give us much time to eat breakfast and do some daily chores with the camper, including dealing with emptying the toilet and refilling various water containers. I’ll do a separate post later on about the camper and camping, but I will just say now that it’s going well so far.
One thing that is different about the New Zealand part of our trip from the Australian portions is that we came in with no set itinerary. We literally woke up on Friday with no idea what we were going to do that day. In fact, we started driving before we even made any decisions. A great many of our plans have been made on the fly. We have some general ideas of where we want to go, but that’s been about it.
So once we got going on Friday, we consulted a map, called a friend to see what her plans were for the day, and then went from there. We started off with a lovely drive that eventually led us to the Karangahake Gorge, where we went on a nice walk.
After our hike, we got back in Jenwheeled and drove to Tauranga, where we met up with my friend Amy and her little guy Stan. Amy and I both have the same maiden name — McDonald — and we decided a long time ago that since all McDonalds in the world are related in some way, we’re probably 9th cousins or something like that.
Anyway, after hanging out at Chez Kiwi Cousin for a bit, we all got into our respective vehicles and went over to Mount Maunganui for a brisk hike by the sea.
[And it just occurred to me that it's the frequent hiking, including two yesterday alone, that might account for why my newly sized-down trousers are hanging a bit loose on me.]
We drove to Rotorua and camped there for the night.
We slept in again this morning (Saturday) before doing our chores and checking out, then driving Jenwheeled to a nearby lake for brunch.
As my friend Alison would say, “Beauty, eh?”
After breakfast, we once again started off with no particular plan, but quickly came up with one when we found out what was nearby: a redwood forest.
After our walk in the woods, we popped into the gift shop and noticed a rack of brochures of local sights, which led to the serendipitous discovery of what would turn out to be our next adventure of the day:
Yes, my girls are petting a lion cub. She and her twin sister are currently six months old. There’s a small animal park just outside of Rotorua that specializes in lions. And you can stand in line and briefly interact with a cub that is less than a year old. I still find that to be amazing.
So that makes koalas, kangaroos, and lions on this trip so far. I swear, it now would not surprise me if we ended up riding a unicorn at some point.
After the lion babies, we went to see the rest of the pride:
All that was between us and the lions was a very tall chain-link fence (15′ or thereabouts) with razor wire on top and then an electric fence just inside. It was a little unnerving to be so close, but also rather exciting.
After our lion meet-up, it was getting late in the afternoon and we had to do some traveling. On Thursday and Friday nights, we ended up driving to the campgrounds in the dark, but tonight we wanted to arrive before the sun set (around 6:00). Pete will tell you that piloting a 24′ camper on twisty-turny mountain roads can be challenging at times.
We pointed Jenwheeled toward Lake Taupo and got there with the sun still above the horizon. I made dinner (spaghetti with a meaty red sauce), the girls took showers (more on that in my post on camping), and then we settled in to watch the Olympics in our cozy little camper. (Yes, we have a TV!)
By the way, the weather here is wonderful, at least, by my standards. We’ve had highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s. We expected a lot of rain, but so far haven’t gotten much (that will likely change tomorrow). In fact, today, it was sunny one minute, then would cloud over and spit rain the next minute, then go back to sunny a minute later.
Tomorrow, I’m hoping to get up and go for a run, although it will be determined by what time I wake up and get myself together. After that, we have various plans in mind and we’ll decide after breakfast what we’re doing.