Northbound from Auckland: The First Night of Camping

Tuesday, 09-09-2014: Day 20.

Gannets and Hokey Pokey

We had another expensive buffet breakfast ($27 for each adult, the kids paid their ages) before we headed off to the THL office to secure our (pre-paid!) camper van, which was going to be our home for the next two weeks.

After flying 34 hours on five planes in the past eight days, we're relieved we wouldn't have to get on a plane for two weeks. At least I was, until I saw just how big the camper van we'd be driving around these small islands was.

It looks smaller in the pictures.

It looks smaller in the pictures.

We got up to speed on such important matters as how to empty the waste water and how to clean out the toilet, both of which had to be done about every three days, then, with more than a little trepidation, I fired up the behemoth and jerked my way out of the parking lot. We haltingly made our way over to the nearest Countdown and loaded up on some groceries for the trip, then we were on the road.

I really didn't want to be driving this thing around Auckland, at least not until I was a little more comfortable with driving a giant, unwieldy vehicle on the left side of the road, so we headed up to our first campsite at Muriwai Beach Motor Camp, about an hour's drive north of Auckland.

I'll be honest here, driving this beast along these narrow roads (there are times when it barely fits into the lanes of the road—and by barely, I mean inches of clearance on each side) is not a lot of fun, especially when everything is backwards.

Muriwai Beach Motor Camp

This is a nice little camp and pretty kid-friendly. Plenty of open space and a few swings. Jackie was happy she got to jump rope at last.

As we checked in, the camp host suggested we take a look at the nearby colony of gannets. So we selected a site, plugged in, and we were camping. Still feeling the effects of the large buffet breakfast, we made a light lunch, then decided to walk over to the beach and see these gannets.

Low tide, Murwai Beach.

Low tide, Murwai Beach.

We followed a walking trail up a set steps to a rock ledge. It was low tide at Murwai beach, so we were able to walk right out onto the ledge and look out over the ocean. There were so many barnacles on this ledge, you had to be really careful where you walked. It was a popular spot for fishing, surfing, and gannets looking for dinner.

Be careful, we're dodging barnacles.

Be careful, we're dodging barnacles.

There were gannets everywhere. Many flew overhead, some with clumps of barnacles in their beaks, but most of the colony was spread out over the surrounding cliffs and a prominent rock tower.

A lot of gannets.

A lot of gannets.

We continued to follow the trail up the cliffs and, at one point, got pretty close to a few of the nesting birds. At one point, there wee only about 50 of these clumsy birds, but now there are something like 1,000 pairs living here.

Close-up of a few Gannets

Close-up of a few Gannets

We walked back and stopped at the Sand Dunez cafe for fish & chips and Hokey Pokey ice cream (New Zealands's most popular flavor); the girls thought it tasted a little like salted caramel.

We walked back to the camp and used the free wi-fi in the laundry room to pay some bills and catch up on a few things before we headed off to bed. Then, as the sun started to go down, the fun began as we tried to figure out how to turn the couches at the back of the camper into the bed.  Much hilarity ensued, but we got it figured out—at least good enough for our first night's sleep in the camper.

Notable Statistics

  • Kilometers driven: 60
  • Orange safety cones hit: 3
  • Gannets seen: thousands
  • New ice cream flavors sampled: 1

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Northbound from Auckland: The First Night of Camping
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