We are officially beach bums!!!

Wednesday
So last night we stayed at a proper campsite in Russell, and was without a doubt the nicest and cleanest official campsite I’ve ever seen, at £9 per person! And because we’re out of season, there were only 4 vehicles in the camper van area, which had space for over 100 vehicles! Very nice! Speaking of being out of season, it’s still a very pleasant 22 degrees and sunny everyday, so all is well!
We started today with a 10 minute ferry crossing across the bay, cutting out about 30 miles of driving, and then drove just a few short miles to Paihia. Our guidebook had nothing good to say about Piahia, saying it was a horrible tourist town. Yes, touristy it was, but a lovely little place! We loved it, and stopped for a coffee on the beach (so that we could get free wifi really) and then just out of town we stopped again, fired up the barbie on the beach, and had bacon and mushroom sandwiches! Our weight loss programme is definitely taking a backwards step!

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What, barbie here????….

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……oh go on then!

We’re getting very used to this life, and neither of us have any idea how we’ll integrate into reality ever again!
The next couple of hours were spent travelling from one beautiful bay to the next. I am completely blown away by the far north of NZ, and people tell me it’s just going to get better as we go south! Bloody hell! My sensory-meter will explode!
We got to our destination at about half one. It’s Puheke beach at the top of Karikari Peninsula. The final part of the road was a 3 mile dirt track. I love dirt tracks, as they usually lead somewhere interesting and quiet! Cliffy, I don’t know if you’re reading this, but it’s the sort of place that 15 years ago would have had us beaming with delight!
Eventually we reached the end of the road (literally) to find ourselves in the sand dunes, with the two mile long beach just 10 seconds walk away! Yet again we have found heaven!!! And not a single other person around! It is staggeringly beautiful. I’ve never seen a place like it before.

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First off, I went for a run along the beach. 4 miles of sheer pleasure. Laughing to myself as I ran. And afterwards I ran straight into the sea to cool down. I don’t think I’ll be able to run again without the sea being there! I can’t remember ever having been so relaxed and happy! Surely this is what life is supposed to be about? (Fast forward to this time next year, foot beat in Bradford on nights……)
One other person did come onto the beach. I had a short chat with him. He was maybe about 35 yrs old, lived 20 minutes away, and had just popped down for a swim and a read of his book. He was a very happy person! Obviously this may have been helped by the homegrown “tobacco” he was smoking! What a life!

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Steinlager!
So now, I’m writing this while chilling with a few Steinlagers, Pink Floyd on the stereo, waiting for the sunset, at which time I’ll barbie the enormous steaks we bought earlier. Charlotte’s having a little rest in bed, reading, and keeping half an eye on the beach outside. To sum up, we have nothing we need to do, and all day to do it in!!!

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Some random musings while I relax here and the Steinlagers kick in –
Steve, why on earth did you move from here to England??? Are you mad???
Will I ever be able to chill out Charlotte enough to stop her fretting from camping in spots that say “No overnight camping”?
Why is NZ diesel so cheap?? (50p a litre!!)
Why are NZ cigarettes so expensive?? To offset the cheap fuel????
Will I ever stop eating 25kg of peanuts everyday????
How? Just how? How on earth will I ever work again?????
Will our overnight allowances ever get paid???

Thursday
What a life! Waking up to the beach view! A spot of breakfast and then tootling on to our next location! We only made it a few miles before we reached 90 Mile Beach (actually 60 miles long, but who’s counting??!) where as usual we had the entire beach to ourselves! So, in line with our new routine, this seemed as good a spot as any to cook up bacon and eggs! Food with a view!
Shortly after that I had experience of emptying the camper van toilet, appropriately enough at a “dumping station”! Well, that was certainly something different! My god! Not for the feint hearted! No wonder this task has been allocated to me! And almost immediately afterwards Charlotte did her best to fill it again!!
Another experience was going to the supermarket in Kaitaia – lets just say that the impression we left with was best described as “inbred”…
Once again stocked up with beer and snacks we’ve retired to a campsite on the beach at Shipwreck Bay just outside of Ahipara. Again, no one around! And we are literally 3m from the sand! Another spot of barbieing, (sausages and corn on the cob. Not a common combination but delicious!) just having a small afternoon nap while watching the sea roll in before we go for a long walk along the beach.

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The view from the van bedroom window, augmented by my washing…..

I have no idea how I used to find time to work!
We love the way how New Zealanders are very direct. We refer to it as “say what you see”. My two favourite examples so far – a run-down house up for sale with the selling board describing it as a “doer upper”. And it’s not uncommon in the countryside in England to see manure for sale, whereas here it’s just advertised as Horse Poo! Succinct and to the point!
The third barbie of the day resulted in perfect chicken breasts in piripiri sauce. Pleasantly cooked under the moonlight while listening to Paul Middleton. Perfect.
Friday
What a sunrise! Incredible!

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Our plan today is to drive to Glinks Gully, near to Dargaville. However, to spice it up a bit, we’re driving the last 20km from Baylys Beach along the beach itself! The guidebook says “bring tide charts, shovels, and wooden planks”. Charlotte has just unhelpfully said “and which of those exactly do you have?”. No sense of adventure!! Even better is that hire vehicles are banned from driving along all beaches in NZ (due to the amount lost to the sea) so not only will we be ill prepared but we’ll also be illegal. Charlotte may just cry when she knows that.
Later on…… Yes, we went to the beach but even I chickened out of driving the 12 miles along it! The thought of losing the van in the the rising tide was too frightening!
Tonight we’re at Glinks Gully, another beautiful secluded camping spot. Once again an endless beach all to ourselves. Where is everybody???? I’ve done salmon fillets on the barbie, and all is well!
I know that this has now become a bit of a boring travelogue, but it’s now as much for my sake as anything else, as otherwise I won’t remember all the amazing beaches we’ve been to. What I really need is some wifi to upload it all!

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Glinks Gully. A little bit too crowded for me. That seagull is going to have to go!

What gets me is that everyone we meet tells us how much prettier the South Island is! How can that be??? I might explode!!!
Tomorrow we’ve a bit of a long drive back to Auckland to pick up our bikes, and then on to Coromandel. Steve, your route planning has been pretty good so far, so we’re sticking to it!!

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