Last night in the vanMay 19 in New Zealand
But not our last night in New Zealand.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and some accounting needed to be made of our return of the van. We had wrongly thought that you could return the van at any time, like any rental car. Turns out, you can only return during business hours; so we will need to be returning the van Sunday evening, rather than Monday morning.
We've located a potential congregation called Morningside, and are spending our last van night just south of Auckland, on the coast of the Firth of Thames. This is in the southern portion of the Hauraki Gulf. If you're like us, you're wondering what a firth is. I'll save you the google. It's a narrow ocean inlet, an estuary.
Leaving Raglan this morning, we stopped for breakfast back in the charming surf town. Our tiny fridge is running low on groceries. It's important to note, when traveling in a camper van, that you will need time for grocery shopping, and the fixing of food. I have refrained from detailing these delightful grocery runs. But we have really enjoyed them - so many different fruits, or varieties of fruits, un-homogenized dairy, unusual brands and ideas for food, salamis galore, and styles of bacon, and of course the honey. New Zealand is famous for it.
But as I say, we stopped for breakfast. Nate got avocado, and I got mushrooms. As it turns out, these are rather typical New Zealand breakfasts. I've started to see the avocado on toast pop up in the states. I won't hold my breath for the mushrooms though.
On the way out of town we stopped at Bridal Veil falls. A lava flow had stopped at one point in time, and a seemingly lazy river was careening out over mid air to drop 55 meters. It didn't come down along the rock face, or cascade over boulders, it dove down with nothing else. And the lava formation was quite gorgeous. You could see the columnar joints (similar to those in Iceland), but they curved around the cliff side, apparently a result of non-uniform cooling.
The falls had a variety of viewing platforms, from right on top of them nearly, to the bottom. It was good exercise to travel down those 261 steps and then back up again.
Every day we try to minimize drive time, and maximize sight seeing and relaxing. So we decided to stay slightly south of Auckland, such that we could wake up, and drive in to worship in reasonable time. So looking around on the map for an area that might be good, we landed on Miranda Hot Springs.
The town appears tiny, known only for the hot springs and migratory wading birds. And the nearest larger town, Thames, is also quite small, known for once being a gold town. The fall season is somewhat unpredictable. The nights are quite chilly, and there are frequent downpours. It's not a season good for every activity, but it is great for hot springs. So spending our last van night in an out of the way, little known hot spring sounded like a great way to unwind.
Imagine my surprise to find this the most crowded campground to date. They matter, the stories we write in our heads. The above was the story I framed for myself. The real story is that it's Saturday, and this is one of the closest hot springs to Auckland, and a pretty easy drive (why we picked it after all!). There appears to be at least one family reunion here, and some kind of Indian ladies' retreat. At one point, I counted at least 26 Indian ladies in the hot pool.
We drove over to Thames and had dinner in pub built in 1869. It was delicious. We both agree that the food here has been exceptionally good. It's not cheap, but given the quality, it's much less than Denver prices. And even the littlest most out of the way towns will have incredibly good food.
The hot pool was also large and the temperature perfect. Even with all the company, we had plenty of space to ourselves.
I made a few last videos of Nate transforming the van into a bed.Read more