Tuesday, August 14, 2012

And The Trip Began...

     It seems every time I get left in charge of planning a camping trip, it comes out quite interesting.  This one was par for the course.  I have included a handy-dandy, color coded map to help you along the way.  Yes, Our journey was that complicated...

    Just click on the map above and you will be able to follow along.
Red: Day One, Part 1
Orange: Day One, Part 2
Blue: Day Two 
 Yellow: Day Three   

On the car ferry!
    Day one began with getting up at 6:00am to take the farm car to the mechanic shop for its yearly WOF (Warrant Of Fitness) tag.  Kind of like a DEQ inspection, only more invasive.  Last year when this was done, it cost our employers over $400.  Some mysterious seat belt issue.  This is example 1 of where "Chadding" as Lizzy likes to call it comes in handy.  After talking with the owner for 45 minutes, I'm handed a bill for $60 and sent on my way.  I stop at our neighbor's house to swap our car for his van, "Chad" for a few moments, end up with a keen place to go hiking and some ideas where o camp in the future, and home I go.  Lizzy in the meantime has done an incredible job of getting everything together in time for us to catch the 10:30am car ferry off the island.  Here we go, dog and all on our great adventure!
    Upon arriving in Auckland we are taught our first lesson.  Google maps in New Zealand really sucks.  Thank goodness paper maps still exist!  Driving in another country in it's most populous city in a borrowed vehicle is nerve-racking enough.  Doing it with a map that tells you to drive in circles...  Maddening!!!  Lizzy to the rescue!  She had the foresight to bring along the previously stated paper map, and as my wonderful co-pilot, managed to direct us to our first stop: Arataki Visitor Centre
The uhhh, "Masculine" entrance to the center
View from rear observation deck
     This is where we are taught our second lesson.  One that I thought I already learned when I was applying for my visa here in NZ.  Information on websites vs. information over the telephone vs. information in person is always conflicting!  And confounding!  While at the visitor's center I decided to confirm that it is ok for us to have Betty Blue in our campsite.  I looked on the website and yes, it's ok, I specifically asked when making our reservations and was told, "Yes, she's allowed.", and upon asking in person, nope.  No dogs allowed over night in any Auckland Regional Council campsite!  Arrrrgghhh!!!
    Example 2 of where "Chadding" helps out.  I speak with the park rangers for a bit, explain the situation and the fact that we just took a ferry from our island and drove an hour to come camp in their beautiful forest, and they relent and give us a new campsite and a pass with the dog for a night.  Rejoice and on with the adventure!  Next stop:  Piha for black sand beaches and the best surf on the North Island!
    The following are a few pictures from one of the most amazing beaches I have ever been on.  The sand is actually black, and is magnetic from the iron content.  When we arrived it was a torrential downpour and we had to wait in the van for it to stop.  And when it did, it was beautiful!
Lizzy and Betty on the way to Lion Rock

The view south from half way up Lion Rock

The view north from Lion Rock
Lizzy next to a monument to a Maori tribal ancestoress
    So, this is where our trip starts to get really, really interesting.  Lizzy, Betty Blue and I climbed up Lion Rock to get a better view of the beach.  Betty was off leash and minding pretty well.  We took some pictures, admired the scenery, then started to head back.  Betty lead the way down and disappeared into some grass.  I followed and found her licking some tin foil with some sort of residue on it on the ground.  I scolded her, then off we went.  We went and played on the beach for a bit, threw a stick for the dog and all was well.  Or so we thought.
    As we were driving away from the beach to our "new" campsite, Betty started acting a little strange.  She was riding in the back of the van just fine all day, and now she was freaked out about something and kept trying to jump into the front seat.  As I'm driving.  Up a very steep, very windy road.  She gets scolded again and off we go without further incident to the camp.
    Our campsite is just south-west of a little town called Huia in the southern part of the Waitakere Ranges.  What we were NOT told, was that to get to the actual camping area we had to ford a stream that was a bit too much for us with all the rains currently dumping on us.  We decide to camp in the van in the parking lot to save us the hassle.  This is where we notice Betty Blue acting very strange.  When she was walking around, she looked just fine.  When she stood still, it looked like her hind legs were about to give out.  Then she started staggering around and really freaking Lizzy and I out.  We get her to eat, then put her to bed in back of the van.  She can barely hold her head up, and when she does she does the bob n' weave like she was drunk!  We are nearly convinced the dog is going to die, but there is nothing we can do at that moment.  It is getting dark and we are miles from anywhere.  We decide to tough it out and she if she is better in the morning.  Lizzy and I hunker down after dinner to do some reading in the back of the van, and right when we are about to go to bed, a set of headlights appears in the parking lot.  We think it's the rangers come to tell us we can't camp in the van.  Nope.  We see one headlamp, then two, then four, then a whole bunch.  And they're running around.  And running some more.  Then talking right next to the van.  Then in the creek next to the parking lot.  Then they leave!  Were we just visited by boisterous aliens???
Gypsy van the next morning
More amazing carvings

Our kitchen

    The next morning we find that all is right in the world.  No strange lights, a perfectly normal dog, and the beginnings of some decent weather.  After our trip and consulting with some other people, we came to a final conclusion about the dog: She ate someone's dope stash on Lion Rock and suffered the effects for 18 hrs.  That'll teach her to lick strange bits of foil!  As for the strange lights, we run into some sort of high school outdoor group on the trail the next morning.  I can only assume (and hope) it was them.
    So day two has us starting on good weather, good dog health, good spirits with the humans, and an amazing hike through an amazing water catchment / rain forest in New Zealand.  It is also one of the more grueling and demanding hikes I have been on in a while.  The following pictures will give you an idea, but they just don't do any justice to the sights we saw:

A Kauri log on an old train cart used for logging circa 1900's

Waterfall off the side of a mountain

Lizzy and Betty Blue stream crossing

Waterfall and rock pool off trail

This was the trail a good portion of the way up the mountain

Even Betty had a hard time!

The sights were worth it

Nature's helping hand!
    We ended our hike just in time for the rains to come in.  Finally some good timing on our part.  We hosed our selves off, scrubbed the dog, headed to Drury where we were supposed to be picking up our Chickens on Saturday.  Upon arrival, I spent a few moments "Chadding" with the gentleman working the counter of the pet store making sure it was ok that we picked up our chooks the following day, and picking his brain about a dog/van/camper friendly area somewhat near.
 This was followed by a long, drawn out trip from the middle of the North Island, to the Firth of Thames (pronounced Timms...), disappointment at multiple potential camping spots, all the way to the town of Thames (pronounced Timms...).  Here we encountered petrol attendants who didn't know where any camping was around there (even though there was a sign for camping 15km away in their parking lot), and sidewalks that didn't allow any dogs...  go figure...  We decided to take the road next to the petrol station in hopes of finding a pullout we could stop and cook dinner and sleep in.  And we drove.  And drove.  And drove off the paved road.  And then drove over a ford in a stream.  And drove.  And then miracles!!!  We came across a visitor's center in the middle of nowhere!  Closed!!!  Arrrggghhhh!  So, we drove a bit more.  We found a campsite!  With a toilet, garbage, and water!  Huzzah! 

We promptly set up camp, cooked dinner, and tried to unwind a bit after a drawn out afternoon spent driving all over the place.  I told Lizzy we were going to have an adventure!
Oh. I almost forgot.  At some point I decided to go utilize the magnificent facilities available to us.  As a went to sit down on the great, white throne, my headlamp strayed across this guy here:        <-----------------------!!!!!!!!  El Monstro!  Almost scared the crap right back into me!  I had to take a picture to show Lizzy.

In the morning we woke up, had a leisurely breakfast, and restarted our wondrous journey back toward Drury.  We were  all about the kumara, eggs, and smiles!  Lizzy already posted prior what the next stage of our trip entailed.  By the way, we have to thank Karma and the DOC for our last night.  Our site was a honor system pay spot.  When we went to put money in the envelope, we found we didn't have any change other than a $50 bill.  Not going to put that in for $10 worth of camping.  So we promised ourselves it the visitor's center was open when we left, we would pay the tab.  Alas, it was closed and we had a good end to a hair-pulling camping trip.  Even when I think I've done my research.  I have to triple check.  Lizzy is planning the next one!


No comments:

Post a Comment