My man Friday and I wake up in this morning colder than a tin toilet seat on the shady side of an iceberg. (Thanks for the euphemism @KermyKerm1s_2s). It’s winter here in the Southern Hemisphere and, after nearly four months in Asia, my body is in shock. The good thing about traveling in the winter is that it’s off-season so things are less expensive and reservations are generally not needed (unless you’re going skiing). I learned this when you dropped me in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada in February on the first Drop Me Anywhere trip. (Read about it in this link – Brrrrrrr!) The heater in the room appears to be on a timer and the longest you it can be set for is four hours. It’s too cold to get out of bed to reset it or make the long trek to the closet to snag the extra blanket so we hide under the blankets hoping the other will do something. I hold out slightly longer (see, stubbornness does pay) and, eventually, we’re both up and about.
After a quick breakfast in the hotel, we head out to collect our Maui camper van. For approximately NZ$500 each (US$342) we’ve got transportation and housing for the next week. We chose the Deluxe package and, while that doesn’t include food, it does cover extra insurance so our responsibility is zero, highway fees which are charged per one hundred-kilometers, camping chairs, propane, and more. And we can buy food and cook! A pretty darned good deal. We register, watch a short safety and informational video, and head outside to meet our camper van. Friday has named it Camper van Beethoven (it’s a boy!), but we call him Ludwig for short. Friday takes the first turn at driving and we head over to the grocery store to stock up on food, drink and other necessities. I also attempt to pick up a wireless modem at 2 Degrees Wireless with 4GB of data for NZ$100 (approximately US$68) which the campground has told me about in order for me to keep in touch with you. (See how much you mean to me!) Unfortunately, they’re out of these (something that should be easy and has now turned difficult and these things have been driving me a bit crazy lately). Friday is understanding and doesn’t object to heading over to a nearby mall with another O2 which has one in stock. So now, with Ludwig loaded up and my modem in hand, we head off on the open road.We’re headed north this week and, tonight, we drive for a couple of hours stopping along the coast, near the town of Leigh, to stay at the Whangateau Holiday Park. We’re happy arrive, and a bit excited to play house in our camper van. As Friday drove today, I’m cooking dinner. I take the easy camper route of Spaghetti Bolognese. Having forgotten to buy a baguette and, with only a stove top available, I make my best attempt at garlic bread by spreading fresh garlic and butter on slices of whole wheat bread and laying them in a frying pan. As the butter’s been in the fridge, it doesn’t actually spread so I dot it on the bread before laying it in the pan. Before long the bread is stuck to the frying pan and I’m using a spatula to scrape it off. It’s then that I realize that, instead of butter, I’ve used the cheese (no label familiarity for me here in foreign countries). In the end, we have spaghetti, wine and beer, so all is good.
Friday does the dishes and we settle in to watch a movie. Ludwig has a TV/DVD player and we’ve rented a Mark Wahlberg film from the camp store. Wahlberg is apparently a soldier/sniper on some foreign mission which makes it pretty much like any other Mark Wahlberg movie, We settle under the covers and, after ten-minutes, we mutually agree that the film is crap. Luckily, Friday has brought his collection of Alfred Hitchcock movies and, due to my cinematic near virginity, I’ve never seen Rear Window, so we settle in with Jimmy Stewart. We only make it through part of the movie before falling asleep.
We awake in the morning both having slept amazingly well as Peter the Heater (yes, we’re naming everything in the van) worked quite well. We make a nice little breakfast of jam on toast and some excellent French pressed coffee before heading to Goat Island, a beach area close by, where we climb on rocks and trees while looking at the beautiful view of the ocean. We make friends with ducks, as a well as a New Zealand family on vacation before the skies turn rainy and we climb into Ludwig to head north.
Friday drove yesterday, so today’s my day. I haven’t driven in over six-months and I’m anxious to get the pedal to the metal. Ludwig is larger than the Mazda 6 which I sold in order to do this project and, though he takes some getting used to, I’m fairly comfortable. That makes one of us. Friday is a very cautious driver and, well, I used to drive a maxi-van for a camping/adventure tour company and am fairly confident. Throughout the drive I notice Friday nervously holding his hands together and biting his tongue. (Sometimes he’s less than successful at the tongue biting thing and, as I don’t want him to be uncomfortable – or fear for his life – I agree to use two hands.)
After a few hours of driving we arrive in Paihia by about 4:00pm. As it’s winter, it gets dark early here and it’s nice to pull into a place while it’s still light. This place is right on the water and Friday decides to put Rod, his new fishing rod to use, hoping to catch dinner. Two hours-later, he’s cooking up a chicken curry (perhaps you could call it chicken of the sea, but a less-than-successful fishing expedition would be more accurate) and we settle in for a bit more Hitchcock.
Tomorrow – A ferry Russell Island and a journey further north.