Today seems a perfect day to be writing as it marks two months today that we have been living on the road! Originally I had this bright idea of devoting a post to each place we have visited but sometimes we simply travel too long and cover too much ground to be able to keep up; not to mention the fact that power and Internet is a luxury. We finished off the year on a high - quite literally - by achieving our goal of making it to the very top of New Zealand at Cape Reinga. This really was a wonderful couple of weeks and after our disappointment in the Bay of Islands the Far North couldn't have been more different. This was REAL New Zealand. Just one single lane highway peppered with tiny towns along the way and you could go for miles without seeing another car.
We toured around Doubtless Bay and Karikari Peninsula and were struck by their unspoilt beauty. One place I think which will always stand out for us is Matauri Bay, with its crystal clear water and golden sand. As you can imagine, coming from the Coromandel Peninsula we have seen a LOT of beautiful beaches but we have never come across anything like this. You absolutely cannot put a price on a view like this, yet one of the things we loved best about the place was that the houses overlooking the bay were not million dollar McMansions but ordinary homes lived in by ordinary people, many of which were as basic as you could get but were still standing, with no danger of being demolished and rebuilt on a grand scale by people out to make money or show off their wealth. Not only that, unlike most places we had come across there were no signs all over the place decreeing what people could and couldn't do. People could simply come here, admire and enjoy. So refreshing and just the way it should be.
Matauri Bay from the top of the hill
We visited so many places during this time and loved them all. Another favourite of mine was Mangonui, a quaint fishing village where the sea lapped alongside the main street and you could enjoy a beer at the local historical tavern while you waited for your fish and chips to be cooked and the locals would come and introduce themselves and share stories. Visiting Cape Reinga was an unforgettable experience - not simply because of its beauty but the feeling. There was such a sense of anticipation as we approached the very edge of the country and although we were far from alone when we finally arrived, there was no ignoring there was a very spiritual air all around the place.
Cape Reinga - it's the end of the earth as we know it!
Of course once you reach the end of the earth there's nothing for it but to turn around and come back again! Which we duly did, marvelling for what seemed like the hundredth time about the amazing diversity of our country, from the pure white sand of Spirit's Bay to the red earth and incredible giant sand dunes at 90 Mile Beach. Where else can you see sheep crossing the road amid acres of farmland only to literally come face to face with the desert five minutes down a gravel track?!
Seriously freaking big sand dunes!
We promised that we would catch up with our loved ones for Christmas so began the journey back to where we had started, but not without spending a couple of nights at my favourite adorable campground in Warkworth. There was nowhere else I would have loved more to spend my birthday and we spent the day admiring the gorgeous scenery and strolling through the kauri forest at the tiny fishing village of Leigh before returning back to our campground for the evening. The plan was for Gareth to be the birthday chef and cook my favourite steak so we could enjoy it together outdoors in the campground pergola. However the evening took an unexpected and very different turn when we were joined by Cory, the groundskeeper and fisherman we had the pleasure of meeting last time. Upon me telling him that I enjoyed waking up to the sound of music coming from his caravan in the mornings and him learning it was my birthday, he promptly went to his caravan to fetch his stereo and his entire CD collection for us to enjoy! And there we sat for hours the three of us, listening to the stories and words of wisdom from this very youthful 71 year old, along with every kind of music from opera to country. In fact, we sat there for so long, it was after 10pm before I got my steak dinner! But it didn't matter, it was one of the simplest and happiest birthdays I had ever had.
Gareth with Cory - one of the nicest, wisest people you could ever meet!
By now Christmas was just around the corner and we spent a lovely couple of days with my Mum and Peter. This was the first sense of feeling to us that it even WAS Christmas, as we had been almost completely isolated from all the hype and everything that goes with it. It was wonderful to see Mum looking so well after beating bowel cancer just a few months before and particularly lovely to finally see her able to enjoy the house she had moved into earlier in the year. From there we went back to our old home of Whangamata, where we stayed with Gareth's mum and caught up with both my boys. It was fun being tourists in our old home town! We went fishing and tramping and despite the usual madness of being there over New Year (which we always swore we would NEVER do again) I learned to appreciate the place all over again. The hardest part was leaving my boys to continue our travels - it was hard enough the first time! But the truth is, I no longer have a place to call home so we just have to keep on moving.
Christmas on the Coromandel. It ain't home any more, but it ain't half bad!
Which brings us pretty much up to today - greetings from Taranaki! My goodness, what an amazing place it is too. It was actually voted 2nd best region in the WORLD by Lonely Planet and we can see why. So much to do, so much free stuff, so many quaint little places and diverse scenery. I'm a bit worried I'll never get Gareth out of here! But we have one more mission to undertake this weekend before we finally head to the South Island and I'm keeping it secret for now - don't worry, all shall be revealed soon!
Apologies if today's blog is a little long, there has been much to catch up on. I shall try and keep more up to date from now on! There is still so much I want to share, particularly when it comes to the cost of living this lifestyle and the many things we are constantly learning. But today we are celebrating our two months living on the road. I can't believe it's been that long already! 3,500km covered and many more yet to go. So many amazing places, so many special moments and so much still to look forward to. I don't miss living in a house, I don't miss any of the stuff I have in storage and I certainly don't miss bills or housework! I do miss my boys so much it tears at my heart every day and I miss my pets. I also miss real mashed potato, cheese on toast and drinking wine that isn't warm. And there is nothing I appreciate more than a hot shower I haven't had to pay 50c for!
The Three Sisters, Taranaki
Waverley Beach, South Taranaki
Living on the road is better than I ever expected. I would recommend it to anyone. It has even given our little dog a new lease of life and having her with us makes our travels even more special. What I didn't expect was to feel so much guilt. Guilt for not choosing to live in a conventional way, for not running with the norm, for not wanting to own more stuff, for not wanting to suffer both physically and emotionally in order to make paying an endless stream of bills my goal. I have heard since from others who also travel permanently that this is a common reaction. Why is it, that we are so ingrained to feel bad for wanting more out of life?
And so every so often I have to remind myself that I don't have to do what everyone else is doing. None of us do! Life is for LIVING and if the world was to end tomorrow at least I know I have spent the last two months cramming as much as I possibly could into it!