After my arrival in Wellington I let my bike and me rest and lived for some time in a community house called Crows Nest. It was created as a home for travelers, people from all over the world were constantly coming and going and it was a great and inspiring time, but I’ll tell you another time more about it on this blog.
From there I decided to go on a road trip throughout the north island with three friends, Mikael, Max and Felix. I already knew Mikael from the Crunchy town community in Melbourne. Max was there, too, but at a different time than me but in Crows Nest we have lived together for a while and have become friends. He has always impressed me with his positive nature and his self-discipline, and together with his brother Felix they make a pleasant team of traveling companions. It is good to travel with friends and share the experience. From Wellington in the south we wanted to go once across the island to the northernmost point, Cape Reinga. We traveled in two cars and explored the north island in this comfortable way.
It was the first time for me to spend more than a couple of days traveling by car and this kind of travel is quite different from riding a bicycle.
You can take much more with you and don´t need to worry about luggage and shopping. You are faster and more flexible. In an hours drive you cover a distance for which you would need a day on a bicycle. The number of possible destinations is much bigger, while on the bike you just pick a direction and then start to ride.
It is a comfortable way to travel, but seeing the landscape through the car window can also be boring. Fortunately, there are enough opportunities to stop and visit one of the most beautiful places. Often you have to share this with tourists, with more than three million international visitors in 2016 (population New Zealand about 4 million) you are rarely alone. Sometimes there are whole busloads of Asian tourists, but often just one or two Vans parked a few meters further away..
Freedom camping prohibited
Many travelers are traveling by car. This can be the big luxurious rented mobile home with kitchen, shower and toilet (once I saw people arriving in the evening to a place and leaving in the morning without getting out of theyr car once), or the classic converted van, with a bed in the back , or just a small car with a mattress inside or tent next to it. The rise in numbers of these travelers in recent years has also led to more annoyance about garbage and other human droppings so that cities and districts felt compelled to restrict the freedom camping. In many places are now camping prohibited signs or it is only so-called certified self contained vehicles allowed to stay there. This means you have to have a toilet as well as shower and water tank in your car to be allowed to stay in these places legally. Some of the Van people gear up their cars and buy one of these portable chemo toilets to get the certification as self contained but most other cars have limited options to find a place for the night where they don´t risk a 200 dollar instant fine.
The monitoring of these rules is handled differently. For some cities it seems to be a nice extra income and they control suspicious places and cars rigorously. In other places it is more tolerated and the risk of getting fined low.
We too want to avoid paying for a place to sleep. The caravan parks are at least 20 dollars per person and in a hostel you pay 25-30 dollars for a bed in a room shared by sometimes 8 or more people.
We generally respect the no camping signs and try to find places where you are explicit allowed to spend the night or where no one is bothered and no one notices. There is usually also a public toilet nearby and a water tap to fill the bottles or to wash dishes.
The other side of the supermarkets
In the evening we simply cook in front of the cars, often at one of the many rest stops with table and bench.
Before we go shopping we always look behind the supermarkets. In New Zealand there are often blue plastic barrels of fruit and vegetable waste, which seems to be used as pig feed or compost. The problem is only that much in there doesn´t look like waste and can be eaten without any reservations. So we save all this food and thereby reduce the food waste a little which is estimated to be 30-40 percent worldwide. (Here is my video about dumpster diving in Melbourne).
We also reduce our costs of living in that way, because shopping has often become needless after a dumpster dive. Especially in Auckland it is terrifying to see how loaded with food the dumpsters are, often still perfectly enjoyable and before the consumption date or only with minor deficiencies.
But enough of the words, here I show you the beauty of the north island in photos.