The First 13 in New Zealand

Has it really been 13 days since I arrived to New Zealand?! You could say I’ve fallen a bit behind on blogging, but the truth is, I’ve had to tend to basic needs, but I’ll get to that later.

The journey started on Sunday in Wellington, which go figure, was windy. Having been there before, it wasn’t anything too exciting; rather a place to crash for the night, as my flight arrived at midnight.

Monday, was spent driving to Havelock North, where my friend Tom and his partner offered up a spot to crash. After having left the right-hand drive region of the world (Pacific) three years prior, getting back into a rental brought a slight feeling of anxiousness. Fortunately, New Zealand is fantastic for accommodating their foreign tourists and the glaringly large red and white arrow which read “Keep Left” was enough to sort me out.

Tuesday through the following Monday was spent meeting Khalif’s crew and checking out the restaurants, pubs, and breweries in the area. As he made abundantly clear, Hawkes Bay is flush with craft restaurants, breweries, and wineries, and that’s where they spend most of their time. Tom being a wine-maker and chef, was surrounded and connected to anyone and everyone in the hospitality trade. As much as I felt welcomed into his circle, I didn’t get the feeling this was my tribe.

Monday was ‘drive to Auckland’ day. The mission was and had been to find a van to turn into a home. After searching out Hawkes Bay, I had only found two suitable vans, but didn’t want to settle there. Since most of the online postings for caravans originated out of Auckland, I figured it would be worth my while to drive north. After a six-hour drive, I decided to bed down at the Orere Top Ten holiday park, just south of Auckland. Taking a step back here for a moment… Before leaving the U.S., I had this beautiful vision of sleeping in a hammock to both conserve space in the van AND as an alternate sleeping option. After doing a bit of Google Recon, it seemed feasible to tie one end to a tree and the other through the B-Pillar of my rental car. After everything was rigged up and the obligatory Instagram picture was taken, I tested out the nest.

Unfortunately the 2016 Ford Ecosport wasn’t worth of holding my roughly 120KG (265LB) American ass. It wasn’t the 550 cord that snapped– actually, nothing snapped. It was the slow creaking of the plastic and metal of the Ecosport, which after I was quietly reminded, was a rental. It would have been just my luck to snap off the spare tire cowl or permanently tear the window seal… Alas, I had to fold and sleep inside. This would be the first of three nights to-date in which I slept in a compact vehicle. As ‘holy-fuck-was-that-terrible’ uncomfortable as it was trying to fit all 6′-4″ of me into a car meant for 4-5 average sized Asians, I considered it “all part of the experience.” My only first world complaints: Mosquitos and back knots.

Tuesday to Friday I spent at the Brown Kiwi backpackers in Auckland. This 19th century house-turned-hostel was actually pretty chill. Not sure how they got this place passed through city ordinance, but I’m glad they did. Most of the guests were either German or French, sprinkled in with Swiss, American, Irish, and even two babies. This place felt like a big family home. The kitchen was often busy with someone cooking their native meal and the back garden, especially in the corner, was occupied by Europeans chain smoking rolled cigarettes and drinking cheap beer. I, as usual, spent my time on the fringes, avoiding the expected and superficial conversation topics of ‘where are you from’ and ‘you speak funny,’ in exchange for a show-and-tell with a 60-something German named “Peter” highlighting how many times he had to cross the border between Argentina and Bolivia while driving north. Seems like no matter how often I try to stay away from people, I do tend to run into someone worth conversing with– usually their much older than me.

After only a half day of sussing out a few different car dealers in Auckland, I decided to proceed with the 2001 Mazda Bongo (see next post) from a dealer in Napier, which happened to be the second van I test drove. On Friday, I turned in the rental and took a flight back down to Napier. Unfortunately, the Bongo wasn’t ready, but the dealer hooked me up with a (even more compact) spare car to use for the night. Once again, I opted to stay in the car, vice go a step further and pay for a hotel. I’d like to say that this stay was better than the first, but it was worse. However, the mosquitos left me alone, lose-win.

Saturday brought my new(ish) van. After finalizing the handover and getting a bit of diesel, I headed off to the Napier Non-Self Contained Freedom Camp. Directly on the ocean, the freedom camp is an organized location for travelers to spend the night, with little amenities. The non-self contained means vehicles that don’t meet the NZ standards for off the grid camping for up-to three days. For the first night of crashing in a van, I could not complain about the view. A couple of points I found note-worthy: The Mr. Whippy ice cream truck visited out park and I saw kids come out of the god-damn wood work. No shit, music and all. The second, while waiting outside of the two single bathrooms, I ran into a Frenchman who needed to shit. While we were both waiting, I said “might as well go use the trees,” to which he replied, ” you’re a man! Go over on the beach, look up at the moon and pee!” To which I most certainly obliged. I gotta tell ya (or whomever reads this) that it was fucking majestic. Just me, the ocean, a full moon, and the waves crashing on a beach made of perfect skipping stones.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:32 a.m. shivering and wrote a note on my phone:

It’s 5:32 a.m. and I am cold. The air mattress was filled with warm air and it is almost flat now. The single blanket isn’t doing much more than keeping hypothermia at bay. I almost pissed the bed, but fortunately woke from that dream. My upper body is pretty knotted from poor sleeping (tonight) and sleeping in two different cars over the last week. I can see why people spring for foam bedding. I’ll need to get a fuck off good blanket and see if foam is available today. Is winter almost here or is because I’m at the beach? Data doesnt last long when using my phone for GPS and throughout the day. Even if I’m using free wifi at stores, it’s just not long enough. FUCK I’m COLD. 

I ended up getting up around 6, after debating whether to leave or not.

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