Accommodation: $17 (for one night at a paid campground, the other six nights are free)
Food: $70 (this was all 'long term' purchases which will last us for weeks and was the biggest shop we have done in ages).
Petrol: $220 (this is twice as much as usual but have travelled 1000km this week!)
You get the idea. I would add more to it but it's been so long since I paid a bill I can't actually remember all the ones I used to have! Obviously our biggest cost is petrol and will stay that way until we cease travelling but if you think about it that $220 this week is not just paying for my car but also my home. It's the closest thing I have to a mortgage these days, except I don't owe anyone anything!
When you live on the road you become very savvy. You can spot a rip off a mile away and because you travel around so much you know exactly what is good value and what isn't - and if something isn't worth the price, you simply wait and go without or make do because you know you will find something better when you get to the next place. I'm not saying we have got it right all the time - the first few weeks we learned more about what NOT to do! We made some foolish and expensive decisions and let ourselves get ripped off far too often. By this I mean doing things like not being organised and stocking up at a town with a supermarket before going into the wild blue yonder and then being caught short and having no choice but to pay top dollar for even the most basic items at tiny dairies who can charge what they like, knowing that they are the only place for miles around. That and paying too much for campgrounds in the early days. But I think we have got things pretty sussed now. Simply put, we are a couple of stingy bastards! But that doesn't mean we miss out on anything.
Take the last couple of days for example. They have been unforgettable, yet barely cost us a cent. I don't need to tell you that the best things in life are free, but I think living this way we definitely get to enjoy them more often. We absolutely loved Taranaki, particularly South Taranaki and Hawera and I think it would take the top spot on our 'favourite places' list so far. To be honest I don't think we really wanted to leave! Fortunately we had the pull of exploring the 'Forgotten World Highway' to entice us away. This is a 160km stretch of road between Stratford and Taumaranui and is quite literally like being in a forgotten world. No amount of flashy photography could do this place justice; you simply can't convey the absolute MASSIVENESS of the hills and landscape around you. With no cellphone reception, no Internet and nothing and nobody for miles, we could have quite happily lived in there!
The Forgotten World - 160km of awesomeness
When you visit this place, you really understand the meaning of 'as far as the
eye can see!'
Miles and miles of narrow winding roads - no tar seal here!
Was like driving a rollercoaster!
We emerged back into civilisation and knew exactly where we were going to spend the night. Roselands at Waitomo! We stayed here once before and loved it - best of all it's free! Waitomo Caves is a hugely popular tourist area and you can spend an absolute fortune here if you don't know what's around. However we had heard such terrific things about Roselands from other campers we decided we would check it out and were just as chuffed with it as everyone else. Roselands is a family restaurant and working farm on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful King Country. The people are wonderful, so friendly and helpful. They let you use their facilities during opening hours and allow self contained camping vehicles to park overnight for free. The surroundings are beautiful, you can pat the friendly farm animals and you even get a free glow worm show at night in the car park! What we love most however is their $10 'all you can eat' dinner - it really is all you can eat and their beef stew is out of this world! Absolute heaven for tired campers who have just driven a couple of hundred kilometres and real home cooking, served up with pride. Would recommend it to anyone and certainly not just campers; its a beautiful relaxing place to spend an evening, surrounded by native bush and birdsong. You won't find cheaper beer or wine anywhere either!
View from Roselands - the mighty King Country! A real view of the Kiwi heartland :)
Our morning welcoming party!
We spent a peaceful night tucked away in the trees and woke up to the sound of a rooster crowing (at a reasonable hour, mercifully!) and a couple of inquisitive goats and a donkey. The King Country isn't called that for nothing, with its impressive landscape and enormous hills and we were in no hurry to leave. Gareth had never been to Waitomo Caves before so, being the top tourist attraction in the area I was keen to show him - until I saw the price. The Waitomo Caves I had enjoyed and remembered more than 10 years ago no longer existed. It has since been divided into three 'experiences' and you have to pay $50 for EACH ONE! Even the 'package deal' wasn't much help and for the two of us to go and see all the good stuff it was still going to cost us almost $200.
I ranted and raved about the injustice of it all. Call that progress? It was just wrong! There had to be something else we could do to make the most of this beautiful area. We got the map out, hopped online, rang the Department of Conservation and came up with a plan. The next few hours were a pure joy of unforgettable free entertainment. First we saw this...
Marakopa Falls - 35 metres high, astoundingly beautiful and no $50 fee to see it!
Us feeling very pleased with ourselves that we DIDN'T spend $200
Next we visited Piripiri Cave in the middle of the bush. It was enormous, pitch black and cavernous and you had to climb down into it using your own torch rather than the automatic soft lighting provided at the paid ones but the inside was just as spectacular and once again, free!
Typical Waitomo bush trail
The mouth of Piripiri Cave, which you had to climb into.
Perfect if you're claustrophobic and scared of the dark like me!!
Our last stop was at Mangapohue Natural Bridge, so called due to the 17 metre high limestone arch which spans across the Mangapohue Stream and is all that remains of an ancient cave system. This place has to be seen to be believed! We took soooo many photos here, it was just incredible but here are a few:
We could easily have spent all day at all three of the places we visited, and indeed you could if you wanted - without being pushed along and rushed by busloads of tourists, which there were dozens of parked outside Waitomo Caves. We still didn't want to leave King Country after seeing such spectacular sights but at least we felt we had done the place justice - and it didn't cost us a thing!
I guess one of the reasons that saving money is so much easier on the road is because you have so much more time to think, to see, to work things out. We're no longer pulled in a million different directions the way we were and I'm not too busy doing housework or feeling obligated to always be doing a certain thing in a certain place at a certain time to clog my mind with things which get in the way. Maybe it's a selfish way to live then. But selfish or not, I don't think I would want it any other way now.
Besides, we haven't even got to the South Island yet, that's the most important part and where our mission really begins! And that, dear reader begins next week. We just have one more thing to do in the North Island this weekend and we can't wait as from then on, our merry nomad lifestyle is set to be even easier and cheaper still!