The Seabird Coast has such a nice sound and it’s an easy drive from Auckland, maybe a couple of hours. Steve and I decided it was a good location for the weekend. We left Waiheke on Saturday morning, carrying a new bike rack for the Bongo and the usual collection of stuff. After provisioning at the market in Howick, we headed south and stopped at the Wholesale Tree Company for lunch. The café is dog friendly and even puts out water dishes for its canine patrons. One of the neighboring tables had a pair of bearded collies stretched out beneath.
In Alfriston we saw a group of camper vans and buses parked near the local school with a sign welcoming the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (http://www.nzmca.org.nz/index.html). It looked interesting so we stopped to see what it was all about. The motor campers ranged from small vans (like the Bongo) to large converted buses. Several members welcomed us warmly and, if fact, convinced Steve to join the association, two of them providing instant sponsorship. One member told us he had just traded a van similar to ours for something larger. He had done more than 500,000 kilometers (without standing headroom) before moving up. The rally weekend cost members $10 (NZ) and the local school hosted a benefit breakfast for $2.50 each. With eggs and bacon donated by surrounding farms and homemade baked goods and labor provided by parents, the school probably did pretty well.
We continued to Clevedon and out along Kawakawa Road toward the coast. Steve planned to get out and ride his bike after we left the hilly Hunua Range and I would drive the “sag wagon” on to the campgrounds in Miranda. We found a good spot to stop and Steve got settled on his bike. I waved goodbye and drove off. Around the first bend, it was clear we hadn’t left the hills just yet. Poor Steve.
The drive to the campground took another hour or so. I checked in at the office and went to park in our assigned spot. This was my first solo trip in the Bongo; in fact, I’d never used reverse gear. While the van is easy to drive, it’s very long, maybe 15 feet or so. I backed into the space carefully, got out to check and I was miles away from the power point. I backed up again. When I got out this time, I was only inches away. Lucky me; I had no idea I was so close. I plugged us in, popped the top up, stowed some food and Steve arrived, much more quickly than I expected. I had wanted to be sitting in the shade with a cool drink in hand. Maybe next time.
Most of the Miranda Holiday Park was really nice, but the designated dog area was clearly an afterthought. Of course, we could use all the amenities of the campgroundpool, showers, kitchen, laundry, petanque courtbut Sam had to stay in the dog area. This was located on the entry drive/parking lot in a vast sea of gravel. Parking lot security lights made night as bright as day, despite our curtains, and a bit of a sleepless night. A little more care (say some grass and bushes) for the dog spots would make this an excellent weekend destination.
Last time we camped, I decided I really needed to try a little harder with the food issue so this time we actually had fresh food planned for dinner. In the communal kitchen, several people were eating and cooking. A young couple had supermarket pies (truly disgusting things with flavors like “mince and cheese”); another couple had takeaway fish and chips. I got started making a frittata with eggs, sausage, peppers, onions and cheese. Beside me a man was cooking up a storm and it smelled great. Clearly he had done this before. He was making chicken curry and rice and kept pulling additional ingredients out of various boxes. When I told him it smelled great and that he must be a good cook, he said he had to be, he had a lot of mouths to feed. I came back later to wash our dishes and he was serving up his curry to his partner and their four kids.
On Sunday we had a leisurely drive along the coast, stopping at a beautiful beach for lunch. There were several campers in the area and their styles ranged from tents, to vans, to buses. Steve had stopped to chat with several of them the day before and learned that they were actually another motor camper rally. The area was reminiscent of Cape Cod. The water was warm and shallow, actually a large bay between the coast and the Coromandel Peninsula called the Firth of Thames. After lunch we drove along the East Coast Road, stopping for photos and turned inland at Kaiaua. By now the weather had turned hot and the coast road was more crowded (relatively) with Sunday drivers. Around Mangatangi I spied a truck that would be a perfect replacement for Robin and Chickie’s old one (see photos). We drove briefly along Route 2, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, and then headed back along the country roads passing through Happy Valley and Hunua. (In fact, as we watched the TV news on Monday, a truck loaded with lumber had overturned on a bend of the road squashing a car. Several people died. The announcer said this time it was not the fault of the road, the weather or the drivers. Then whose fault was it?) Our trip circled back through Alfriston and all the campers had gone leaving the school grounds to a lonely strawberry vendor. The road from here leads back to the busy Botany area and we stopped to do some shopping before making our way to the ferry and back to Waiheke.