We set out on the road…

After arriving in Auckland, we spend a few days seeing the sights, including the architecturally impressive Auckland Art Gallery.

Bark cloth from some Pacific island

We pick up our campervan, home for the next few months. We name her ‘Kiwi’. I suggest ‘Kate’, after Kate Sheppard, the woman responsible for New Zealand being the first country to give women the vote in 1893. (For comparison, women in Switzerland got the vote in 1971.) I am overruled.

Kiwi and me

Note the homemade awning constructed from a cheap tarp, a couple of tent poles, and numerous bungee cords.

We head out of somewhat over-Sinified Auckland for the Coromandel Peninsula.

Back in the saddle again

New Zealand is very scenic.

Van with a view

The east coast experiences a gold rush in the 19th century. This leaves towns with many Wild West-style buildings.

Storefront in Thames

We take a shortcut known as ‘The 309‘ across the peninsula. Among the sights we see are herd of free-range pigs. Good old NZ pork on the hoof.

Slouching towards Gadara

The twisty gravel road passes through some nifty rainforest.

A photo of the Waiau Waterfall…


…made better by adding Maria

 We drive down the coast, then inland to Matamata and camp by some hot springs.

It’s pasta night

Campgrounds are expensive in New Zealand. Almost double the price of Australian campgrounds. No wonder so many people stick to ‘freedom camping’. (Not our thing at all. If you can afford a motor vehicle, surely you can afford to pay for amenities like hot water and electricity.)

Sight or Insight of the Day

Because we are in the area, we visit the set of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. It is extremely touristic, that is, wildly popular.

Welcome to The Shire

It’s actually quite a sight. The story of the site’s discovery by Peter Jackson on this lucky family’s farmland is a tale in itself.

I test out a Hobbit-sized bench

Maria, with little cultural reference to JRR Tolkien and his work, is dubious at first. But eventually succumbs to Hobbiton’s charms.

Maria in front of Frodo’s door