PART 1: BACK IN NORTHLAND
Today is Wednesday and my heart is heavy while I’m leaving South Island for good. I land at Auckland airport like I did on my very first day in New Zealand, except that now Monster is lighter and that I know exactly where to go to catch a coach towards the city centre. It’s raining outside and the sky is grey. I only have one month left on North Island before leaving the country for good. Ouch. Same for Flo, aka Monsieur Wellington, who’s having only two weeks left here before flying to Hong Kong and then going back to France. That’s why we’re meeting up again, for our very last road trip in New Zealand.
I “met” Flo thanks to the Pvtistes.net forum (a French community about people travelling with the Working Holiday Visa scheme) on a discussion about nervous French people landing in Auckland in June/July 2015. We exchanged our blog websites URLs and finally, we met IRL in Hahei Beach about a month after my landing here. We got along pretty quickly, because we have the same interests, especially about being foodies and getting fat like pigs since we got in New Zealand. We went on a road trip together, discovering Hobbiton, Rotorua and Taupo Lake. We crossed the Cook Strait together while crossing from North Island to South Island, from Wellington to Picton while he was going on another road trip with his best friend. We kept in touch all along our New Zealand adventure, while he was milking cows in Oamaru and I was dancing with fruits in Te Anau. It was such an evidence to end this kiwi adventure with one last road trip together…!
COUCHSURFING IN AUCKLAND
I landed in Auckland, a little bit sad, but Flo welcomes me with a postcard from Hélène, the one who wrote an article about me for Pvtistes.net and was on a road trip with Flo over the Great Ocean Road in Australia. New Zealand is so small that back then I gave her Flo’s number so she could write a paper on him as well. Friendship did the rest as we say in France. I’m happier now, we’re about to eat like pigs in a Food Court on Queen Street. For 10$ you can have a huge plate of Asian food.
After a short ferry journey to Devonport, we meet our friendly Couchsurfing host, Hamish, who’s a masseur-landscaper and lives in a small house by the sea. We cook a crazy huge meal for him and his friend who I completely forgot the name. Well, Flo is mainly cooking because I’m too busy laughing my head off, a little bit stoned, a little bit drunk, for Hamish is pretty generous with his magic cigarettes. We put on the big show here: roast chicken with roast potatoes and a delicious apple tart for dessert. I can’t really recall the end of the night except that I fell asleep like a big baby. It was a long day indeed.
WELCOME BACK TO NORTHLAND!
We’re not interested in staying in Auckland very long. But our original plan is falling apart: we wanted to hike the Tongariro Crossing, the most famous and beautiful (as they say!) day hike of New Zealand. Peter Jackson shot the Mordor scenes over there, around Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu volcanoes. Unlucky for us, the weather is crappy. We rent our car at Ace Rentals and decide to start our road trip from the end, let’s go to Northland, baby! This time, the boot of our Nissan Tilda is way bigger than the one on our last road trip. I could almost fit in there with my fat ass.
After my road trip with Anaïs, my HelpX experiences in Opua and Kerikeri, it will only be the third time that I go up to Northland. I like this sunny end-of-the-world-like region and I’m more than excited to show it around to Flo! We have a short break stop in Waipu (the village of the Day we saw a whale) in order to pee and buy some CDs for the car for the radio is just unable to receive any decent station. I buy a kiwi songs album, another one with classical music and the Ravel’s Bolero, and finally one with stereotypical French music. We’ll realize pretty soon that none is really listenable (except for the classical music one but Flo hates it) and we’ll finally plug our MP3 players to some portable speakers that we bought. On our way to Kerikeri, we pick up a lovely German couple: Martin and Wiebke. They just arrived in New Zealand and we got along so quickly that they will follow us for the next three days: that’s the true Adventure, you know, these unexpected meeting on the road.
The lunch break in Whangarei is bringing me back some months earlier, while I was wandering those streets with Anaïs. Nostalgia is under my skin, and my smile as well when I retrace my own steps. That day, we end up in Kerikeri after a nice walk around the Rainbow Falls (where I already spent a day walking while I was working as a Helper at the nursery). We spend the night a Relax A lodge backpackers which is a lovely haven outside the city amid the orange trees. The owner is an old Swedish guy and there are some old photographs of him and his family all over the place, which makes this place very cosy and comfortable. In fact, we’re even allowed to bring with us a bag full of New Zealand oranges for our next big trip the day after!
CAPE REINGA: THREE TIMES OR NOTHING
…We’re going to Cape Reinga baby! That’s the occasion for me to go back to this magical place for the third time. And this lighthouse at the end of the world is definitely one of my favourite place in New Zealand amid this wilderness and untouched nature. The day is sunny, the day is bright, and summer is still here. We stop at Cable Bay to enjoy the view and bath my feet a little to refresh. I’m running around like a crazy kid again.
Later on, that’s on the 90 Miles Beach that we got our 10 years old back with a legendary photo session of us jumping. And then we drive to Cape Reinga. I can remember every single turn, every single view, every single landscape. And when I see Flo, Martin and Wiebke’s sparkling eyes, it makes me bloody happy. We hike the Te Werahi Track, take some pictures with the famous signpost and while Flo is shooting Monsieur Wellington, I’m carving my name and Anaïs’ one on that bench. You know, that bench on which we left our mark 9 months ago with a vivid. It has faded away, so I’m now carving us there, with my swiss knife, in this magical place. On our way back, we’re exploring the Te Paki sand dunes, without getting lost this time…
That night, I’m going back to Endless Summer Lodge backpackers, one of my favourite backpacker in New Zealand. We spend the late evening at the beach, Flo and I, meeting giant crabs and getting wet by the high tide coming up. We share about our anxieties about coming back to France… Let’s be honest, neither of us wants to leave. We became addicted to our freedom and we “cordially” say ‘no thank you bouffonne’ to this adventure’s ending. The next morning, we go bathing in the Tasman Sea. It’s freezing to death but it feels so good being free to be crazy!
RUSSEL IS REVEALING ITS CHARMS
We’re fresh, clean and excited to go back on the West Coast because, in Russel, my friend Tom from Napier is awaiting me. Remember Tom, this English guy who was ‘working’ with me in Napier Prison. We had numerous water (and flour, and eggs…) battles together. He’s now working on a camping ground and living in a trailer after spending all of his money in Napier. Tom who used to make me English Breakfast tea with milk, Tom who’s the best sandwich maker in the world, Tom who taught me how to drive left so I could drive us back to the prison when he was too drunk to do so. He’s such a character, Tom, you know. It’s shaping up to epic laughter.
But before that, we (re) discover Paihia, Opua and this walk that I used to borrow every day for Geocaching or taking pictures while I was Helping on a boat in Opua Bay: the Opua-Paihia Walkway. We take the car ferry (that was bloody awesome) heading towards the lovely town of Russel, nestled between hills and sea with its Victorian buildings and its off season seaside resort atmosphere. We start Geocaching on Flagstaff Hill and I realize that Martin is a serial geocacher who has already discovered over a thousand caches worldwide!
At Orongo Bay Holiday Park campsite, Tom welcomes me with an American couple around a traditional pizza oven. It’s a bit cold outside that night and my friends found shelter in the common building. I come and go between them, the fireplace heat, and Tom and his spicy pizzas. Our reunion is explosive, the flour is flying all over the place. I spend the night in his trailer catching up and watching Robot Chicken. Sometimes Tom’s saying that he would like to marry me, but he’s always saying that, Tom, when’s he’s a little drunk. When the morning comes and it’s time for me to leave, he makes me some sandwiches and makes me swear that I’ll be coming back to save him from his trailer life.
We drop Martin and Wiebke in Paihia, they’re going to look for jobs around here. We’re kind of sad to leave our hitch hikers… They even pay us some gas for the car as a thank you/danke schön gift, but we don’t want them to, you know because we picked them up to help them, to share with them, to wander with them, as so many did the same for both of us.
I’m leaving Northland again with a twinge in my heart. But what does makes me feel happy, you know, it’s when I see some stars in Flo’s eyes. He almost skipped Northland if it hadn’t been for me. And I showed him my very own Northland, those cities those tracks, those beauties that blew up my mind several times before.
We’re back on the road now. We still have so many things left to see.
To be continued…
LET’S GO THERE!:
ACE RENTALS AUCKLAND, 39 The Strand, Auckland
RELAX A LODGE, 1574 Springbank Rd, State Highway 10, Kerikeri
RAINBOW FALLS, Kerikeri
90 MILES BEACH, Northland
CAPE REINGA, Northland
TE WERAHI BEACH TRACK, Northland
TE PAKI SAND DUNES, 47 Te Paki Stream Rd, Cape Reinga
ENDLESS SUMMER LODGE, 245 Foreshore Rd, Ahipara
PAIHIA OPUA WALKWAY, Opua – Paihia
FLAGSTAFF HILL, Russel
ORONGO BAY HOLIDAY PARK, 5960 Russell Rd, Russell