27.11.2016 - 28.11.2016 26 °C
The good news - the peacocks did let me sleep; the first bad news - electric sockets not working, so unable to charge camera battery, or use non-essentials such as the toaster/kettle. That's okay - I have gas options, except that I hadn't turned on the gas supply = important detail, because I had to have on me the key-bunch for opening external lockers. Thought also good time to wander to the main building to pay for my late arrival. Exit motorhome to be met by a dozen hens and two peacocks converging on me, so closed the door just in case any chose to hop into the vehicle (might seem unlikely, but having once had neighbour's hens in our house, I'm slightly sensitive...!). More hens, chicks, ducks and the now-unpenned alpacas to accompany me, and then a young sheep running around inside the cafe, including the kitchen, being filmed by helplessly-giggling young Japanese visitors. Back through the chaos to the motorhome to find the second bad news...the door had locked when I shut it... No phone on me to contact rental-company and only the man in charge(?!) to ask for help. His inability in that regard was immediately evident, as he brandished a huge screwdriver and looked around for somewhere to force open! As my initial panic subsided, I remembered I had the locker-keys, one of which is for the relatively small door to the under-bed storage locker. Yes, I managed to crawl in and through the bed-supports, while pushing the base and mattress upwards. Hooray, back inside. Telephoned helpline to ask advice re sockets and mentioned the problem with the door self-locking. Cue one highly amused customer-service rep, who said he'd never heard of such an entrance to the vehicle, but would bear it in mind for any future problems! Also reassured me that they have agents in every town, so help would not have been far away, as I was very near Taupo. Then I was slightly embarrassed to realise the mains power-supply was the problem, sockets. Tom phoned as I was leaving, also highly amused and somewhat surprised at my "bogan" experience - I called it "Hicksville", an American term, and T said Kiwis use the Australian bogan - today's new word 😊
The biggest laugh came less than a mile along the highway, as I passed the large, modern campsite I realised Tom had expected me to find and use!
Just a few miles to Huka Falls, where NZ's longest river, the Waikato, is slammed into a narrow chasm and churned into a stunning icy-light-blue tumbling mass through the chasm to a 10m drop into a surging pool - no, Zack, absolutely no craft are able to navigate it safely, including enthusiastic kayakers! The water-flow would fill 5 Olympic-size (50m) swimming pools every minute.
A drizzly morning was becoming wetter and low cloud closed in completely as I reached the shore of Lake Taupo, NZ's largest lake and a major holiday-destination. All I could see was water resembling a choppy sea and it was evident the weather was not going to improve, so time to head east to meet up with Tom. Serious tip now: always ensure at least quarter of a tank of fuel, as there's every chance of long distances between towns and absolutely no services - lesson also learned in Scotland and NW Lake District! Yes, I did fill up before hitting the highway and 140km of nothing.
Wipers on maximum, crosswinds gusting and a dead-straight fairly featureless road. Having gambled putting on shorts in the morning, I watched the external temperature drop to 10° as the conditions continued to worsen. Then I hit the long mountainous stretch, twisting and turning through many valleys as the sky cleared. By the time I entered the Hawke's Bay wine area and started the long descent towards Napier, the temperature was 20° and climbing! Called Tom at the edge of the town and we arranged a seafront rendezvous to the south - he has a hire-car, having flown in from Auckland - which worked perfectly. He had already scouted a Freedom Campsite - permitted no-cost camping in self-contained units - right by the beach near Hastings, having dismissed the only nearby RV park he'd found, so we duly claimed a sheltered spot - sunny and 26° but windy - before returning to explore Napier. The first town I've seen to really make an impact - really attractive with its art-deco theme, even down to the relatively meagre Christmas-decorations in place, presumably of their time. Definitely worth visiting. Supermarket time, and Tom also realised he'd forgotten his travel-iron, so a cheap one + board purchased - he would normally be staying motels and needs smart shirt and trousers for work everyday. Minor glitch - freedom camping doesn't provide power... Luckily he had something neat enough in his bag to get away with today, and I am about to find us a powered site for tonight. Quite amusing to wave him off to work at 0830 from a motorhome by the beach!
Afternoon plan is to visit a winery or two, before heading south in convoy to Wellington tomorrow, Tom making visits along the way. Yes, his boss knows how he is working this week! It should actually save the company money on hotel-bills, even with him paying for sites and dinner - a win-win for all 😊
It still seems novel to have gone north for the sub-tropical climate, cooling off as I head south. Apparently Wellington, at the bottom of North Island, is very windy, so it can be 10° warmer at the northern end of South Island, but that doesn't last. In fact, Queenstown, where we finish up to hand in the motorhome on 11 December, currently has several inches of unseasonable snow...!! No, I didn't bring clothes for that - hopefully normal conditions will have been restored by the time we get there - today is officially the first day of summer... I recall learning long ago that NZ was like Britain, but nothing here other than sheep, so I didn't expect the generally much better climate, particularly in the north, but clearly just as unpredictable - with, of course, the extra dimension of the widespread ongoing earthquakes, towards which we are heading...
Random mention of news here: I'm enjoying listening to the radio, as most stations seem generally middle-of-the-road, one playing only hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s. News feels very local as I travel, particularly as there is a relatively small population. Only limited international headlines crop up, such as Jensen Button retiring from Formula 1 and Wayne Rooney breaking goal-scoring records... Biggest news story of all, mentioned on every radio-station many times every day since I've been in the road, is that a record 100,000+ tickets sold in less than an hour for three concerts by Adele in March. First date sold out within 15mins, so a second added with same result, so a third added and now a fourth is under consideration. Many competitions to win tickets are running and Air New Zealand have already announced extra flights purely for the concerts. Tom says hardly any big names come to NZ, as it is labour-and-cost-prohibitive logistically, so the norm is for Kiwis to fly to Australia to attend gigs, hence this really is a massive story - as I can tell every day!
Now time to hunt down a campsite where we can charge batteries and iron shirts.