New Zealand,  Oceania,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Orewa, Karekare, Piha and Auckland (New Zealand): last days in the land of kiwis

After the visit to Cathedral Cove, we spend long hours on the road to come to Orewa where we spend the night in a Top 10 campsite. It rains a little in the evening but the weather is splendid the next morning. JB jogs on the long beach next to the campsite (Orewa Beach). It is also one of the favorite beaches of the “Aucklanders”, or “jafa” = jargon to say “Just another fucking Aucklander”. When you live in the 2nd most pleasant city in the world, well, it attracts jealousies

Part 1: Travel Diaries

Waiwera Thermal Resort & Spa

If we flee Auckland it is to enjoy the last moments in our van. And to go to the thermal spa next door: Waiwera Thermal Resort & Spa. How lucky we are! We go there on the very day when there is a BBQ party. The first 100 guests (including us) get a free BBQ dish. And with the 25% discount given by our campsite, we end up paying only 38$NZ for 2 starters and 2 dishes

Contrary to a lot of “Hot Pools” found in New Zealand (near Taupo or Franz Josef Glacier), this one really uses thermal water, not heated. We are entitled to about ten pools, small or large, one of them showing movies. Unfortunately, it’s without sound or subtitles so the interest is less

I especially like sulfur pools: one at 40 degrees and the second at 48 degrees. The 48-degree one is very small because no one goes in it. It’s much too hot. I manage to dive in it, as long as I don’t soak my feet, which seem to be more sensitive to heat than the rest of my body. In any case, it isn’t recommended to stay too long, and it is better to keep your head out of the water (amoeba present in thermal waters)

Karekare

Clean as a whistle, we head to Karekare Beach, the beach where “The Piano Lesson” was filmed. When I watched it for the first time, I was particularly intrigued by the passion that one can have for the piano. At that time, going to the conservatory 3 times a week was a chore for me, an obligation. The film made a big impression on me. I’m not looking to visit the film locations, but someone told me about it and it made me want to go (while we’re at it, eh)

The real beach (2/3 of the beach is missing on the picture)


You can see this beach from 1mn22s onwards

To reach the sea, it is necessary at one time or another to cross a very small river of 2m width. The water only reaches the ankle but you can’t cross it with your shoes on. So take out your flip-flops instead

New Zealanders love to walk their dogs on this beach. It is super big, you have to walk for a long time on the fine and flat sand to finally be able to dip your feet in the water. The beach isn’t ideal for swimming, but great for surfing and walking. There is quite a lot of wind, it lifts the black sand and creates small black shadows, like ghosts. Heated by the sun, the black sand is particularly hot and shiny. We already had a black sand beach like this near Kaikoura but this one is 1000 times more impressive because of its size

Piha

Advised by my guide NZ Frenzy as the best place to spend the last night in a van, Piha and her campsite close to everything (beach, hiking) were chosen for our last night in campervan. Once again, the luck is chasing us, the boss of the campsite, fan of music, organizes a mini festival on her own campsite, with a succession of great music groups, and foodtrucks too good

We make a small round trip of one hour..

…to the Kirekire falls, 90m high. The most motivated can continue the hike and climb to the top of the waterfall, we saw them from below

This is the place where there are still some Kauri, including this one

The beach of Piha is also very beautiful with black sand (and the big pebble in the shape of a lion), but compared to Karekare, it is plain… 😀

Auckland

That’s it, it’s over, we pack up our stuff, pack our backpacks and drop off our stuff at the hostel

We go to a service station to have our van washed, we chose wrong, here there is no self-service vacuum cleaner, we have to take a 40$NZ package for washing AND cleaning the inside of the van. Finally, it is better like that because the car is returned to us in a perfect state. We would never have had the strength to clean it so well

An employee of Spaceships welcomes us warmly for the return of the van, she doesn’t even check the condition of the car. After complaining about the left door not opening for a week, we are “compensated” with a free cab ride to our hostel. I’ll do a review of Spaceships later but overall, we are happy with the service. Especially since I forgot my NZ$60 manuka honey pot and they kept it for several days waiting for me to come and get it back

Auckland, I love this city !!! We spent our last 3 days there in New Zealand. Without car, we have more the laziness to explore it, moreover we are very tired after 3 weeks of driving non-stop, but we like the little that we saw. Auckland reminds me a lot of Sydney for its shady streets, its CBD (central business district) with a lot of Asian restaurants, and its proximity with the sea. It’s a very expensive city compared to other New Zealand cities (between +50% and +100% for restaurants), each bus ride costs 3$NZ, and apart from its free museums, there isn’thing interesting to do for tourists

However, walking along Queen Street is super cool. In Auckland, I feel like I live here, I don’t feel like a tourist. The streets are already full of Christmas decorations, it’s funny this contrast between the overwhelming heat and the songs evoking snow and wind that you hear in the stores

We go to the Auckland Fish Market, an obligatory stop because we liked the Sydney Fish Market too much. Small disappointment anyway: here, the sashimi is sold by weight but it is already cut in small trays. Whereas in Sydney, one chooses his piece of salmon, makes it weigh and only then the saleswoman cuts it in sashimi

Anyway, the main info is that it’s cheap: NZ$13 per tray; and it’s fresh

This is also the last opportunity to eat a “bun cha” at Vietflames, 210 Victoria Street West (don’t search on Google Maps, type in the address, they aren’t yet on Google Maps)

Addicted to shopping, I robbed a few stores, including The Cosmetic Store, looking for Korean face masks. The inside is cute

Last picture before departure, with the cardboard version of Gandalf (found in our YHA hostel)

That’s it, it’s the end of our stay in New Zealand. I have written the guide of New Zealand here if anyone is interested

Part 2: Practical Tips

  • In New Zealand, watch out for thermal pools. If it is indicated on the official website “heated pools”, the water comes from the tap, it isn’t thermal water. It is better to go to the municipal pool and pay 5$NZ instead of going to hot pools and paying 20$NZ (like at Lake Taupo, or Franz Josef Glacier). If, on the contrary, it is marked “geothermal water”, “thermal water”, go ahead (Hanmer Springs, Rotorua, Waiwera…)
  • I can confirm that Auckland isn’t the best city to start his trip. The traffic is very dense, there are 4 or 5 lanes, and the exits are announced shortly in advance. I was so stressed that I let JB drive around Auckland. For someone driving on the left for the first time, it’s better to start in Christchurch and finish in Auckland.
  • Despite the reviews on TripAdvisor, we found the YHA hostels in Auckland super clean, pleasant and well located.
  • If you bring honey back with you, you must put it in checked luggage, it is considered liquid.
  • It is best to avoid buying honey, mud, manuka honey products at the airport because the prices are more expensive than Auckland. It is better to go to Farmers for cosmetics or Health 2000 (Queen Street) to buy some.

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