Christmas has come and gone and we have begun a new year, twenty-twelve. With the ending of twenty-eleven come a few stories about the holiday and the wonderful camping trip I went on.
Christmas Eve was spent wrapping presents and relaxing. Also it was spent breaking into a hostel.
One present that I had wrapped of my own was for my friend, Will. We had shared a room in the hostel when I was first in Auckland. We had hung out almost every day and he helped be buy my car, checking it out to make sure it wouldn’t break down before it was off the lot. Lately Will has been difficult to get ahold of. He works constantly as a bouncer at a bunch of Auckland bars and clubs so he’s out all night and sleeps all day. I really wanted to get him his present before I left to go camping but I could not reach him. So I decided that desperate times call for desperate measures. I drove into town and went to the hostel where he is still living. I went to reception and explained to the girl working (who was also Canadian and who I had had previous run-ins with) what was going on. I figured she would take the present and leave a message for him. Instead she gave me the key to his room. I took the elevator up and went and knocked on his door. Sadly, there was no answer. I decided to hang the present on the door, but on a second thought I changed my mind. After all, things can get stolen pretty easily at hostels. I figured I just open up his room and set the present on his bed. I hadn’t even signed the gift, but he would have known it was from me. Turns out he didn’t even have to guess. I unlocked and opened the door and stood there almost looking as stunned as Will did. He was sitting on his bed, in a total daze. I gave him his present and we sat and chatted for a bit. He thought it was hilarious, yet creepy that I was able to get a key to his room. I left to head back to Andy’s to get ready for Christmas day.
This year was a very different kind of Christmas for me. It was the first time I wasn’t spending the holiday with my family, and it was summer opposed to winter. Even the Christmas trees here are all long pine needles instead of short ones. I thought Christmas would be an extra difficult part of this trip for me where I would become super homesick, especially since I would be spending the day with a family who I had never met. Fortunately, I was wrong. Christmas was a lot of fun! Spending it with Andy’s family was so totally different from the average Christmas I was used to that I wasn’t homesick! Instead of turkey and mashed potatoes we had ham and four different kinds of salads. There wasn’t even pie for dessert! Everyone wore shorts or summer dresses and we all sat either around the living room or out on the deck in the sunshine. It was not nearly the formal dinner I was used to.
We did a $30 gift exchange, which was fun, I got a little clock, it’s cute, but I don’t really have a use for it. Andy got me another present too (actually, three). We exchanged presents at his house, and I was super excited when I opened the box up. I got a nice sweater, which was awesome because I only brought one over with me. The other thing in the box was a Polarizing filter for my camera. I was so totally excited, I had wanted one so badly, it makes a world of difference when I take some of my photos now. I was just bouncing around because of it, I thought it was an amazing present so I was stunned when I found out there was more.
I ran out to my car to grab some laundry that needed to be done before we headed up north. When I opened the car door I noticed a triangular piece of foam on the floor of the driver’s seat. I pointed it out to Andy because I didn’t have a clue what it was, he didn’t seem to either. As I reached down a flash of white caught my eye, there was a booklet in the driver’s door pocket, which I definitely hadn’t left there. I pick it up and on the cover is a picture of a car stereo. My immediate reaction was to glance at my stereo and to my surprise it was brand new. I looked over at Andy who was just grinning. He had gotten up at 4 AM to replace my car stereo because mine wasn’t very good. He replaced my speakers too. The black foam that had originally caught my eye was foam from the inside of the car door that Andy had missed when pitting the door back together. I almost cried, it was quite a Christmas present.
Once we were all set and ready, Andy and I took off to Whananaki to grab a camp site. We chose to leave on Christmas day because boxing day is when everyone from Auckland heads north for vacation. It was a good choice too, we hardly had any traffic to deal with. The other reason that made it a good choice was that we got one of the last camp sites left. Even so, we were on the opposite side of the camp ground from the rest of Andy’s family.
We set up our tent then walked down to see everyone, who like us, had left right away. Now, I have been camping numerous times growing up, but never like this family camps. There were two carports attached with a big 3-room tent on either side. Andy’s parents had one tent and his Sister and brother in law had the other. The two carports were used as a kitchen and a dining area. There were 2 gas fridges, a gas stove, barbecue, sink, tables, you name it, they had it.
The three sites around this big tent set-up were sites belonging to Andy’s other brother and his sister in law and their two kids, his uncle, and his cousin. Once one more site had emptied in the area Andy and I moved our tent up there too. It was some pretty impressive camping. Did I mention there was also a shower tent with huge solar heated water bags for warm showers?
The camp site was a beautiful spot, right on a sandy beach, surrounded behind by rolling hills. It’s a shame it rained all week. It was cold and dreary but we didn’t let that bring us down. The whole family basically sat around in one of the carparks playing games of Rummy-O and Asshole. It was a lot of fun and there were lots of laughs. It reminded me of spending rainy days with my family at The Lake, everyone crammed into the little camp playing games. The rain wasn’t really an issue because of the fancy set up, until the thunder and lightning came. The night before New Years Eve the thunder rumbled, the lightning struck, and the rain came pouring down. I have always loved those kinds of storms, but spending one in a tent was new. With every flash of lightening the outline of all the bags in the tent became visible. The ocean roared, when you could hear it over the crashing thunder, and the rain didn’t falter from its total downpour. It was hard to sleep that night, but sleep did eventually come. And so did a 6 AM wake up call.
The tent Andy and I were in made it through the night, his parents however, weren’t so lucky. Everything in their tent was absolutely drenched. We had to pull everything out to dry and put a tarp over top, hoping that would prevent further leaks. The poor guys camping beside Andy and I had a rough night. There were 4 guys and a little 2-man tent. They two who slept in the tent must have regretted it. The two in the car may have been more squished, but at least they were dry. One of the tent-sleepers had woken up in the middle of the night and had realized the tent was leaking, so he went out to the car, not bothering to wake his friend. When his friend woke up the next morning he swung his feet over the side of the mattress to discover water up to his ankles. I’m glad that didn’t happen to us.
The clouds seemed to have drained themselves and as morning grew closer to afternoon the sky began to clear. Andy and I had made plans that day to go do a couple things, so we were glad it was going to be nice out for us. We packed up lunches for the day and got our hiking shoes all set and ready to go. I went to the car to start it and nothing happened. I tried again, the car turned on, so the battery wasn’t dead, but the engine wouldn’t turn. We tried and tried to start the car, many campers came and offered the small amount of knowledge they knew. Andy and I were about to resort to knocking on tents in search of a mechanic when one lady came by and told us to use jumpers. We weren’t sure how that would help as it wasn’t the battery, but we tried anyways. Andy’s brother, Blake came by and hooked up his car to mine, we started the car and pumped the gas. We could tell it was so close but it just wouldn’t go. After a few minutes of constant pumping of the gas the engine finally turned. White smoke poured out of the exhaust. The way the wind had been blowing last night all the rain had gotten blown right under the hood of my poor little car. We let it run until the smoke stopped before finally taking it out. We stalled a couple times trying to slowly leave the campground. The car would go fast, but she sure didn’t like the slow speeds. She started running smoothly once we got her onto the road and we were off on our adventure.
Our first stop wasn’t a planned stop at all. We had barely left the area we had been camping in when we got stopped by a flooded road. We considered crossing, but the water was up to the bumper of a flatbed tow truck, I didn’t think my car would make it. We turned around after watching a couple people try and struggle through it and we headed down a dirt road instead, just a minor detour. Then off to the Hundertwasser toilets we went.
I was more excited that I should have been to get to these toilets. I had to pee before we even left the campsite, but I decided to hold it instead of using the outhouse. I hate outhouses. I have had a fear of them since I was little, the thought of being trapped inside that small, filthy room. The possibility of falling into the poo tank. The thought of the floor caving in and again, falling into the poo tank. Or even just the image of the flies coming back up out of the tank and running into your bum as you were doing your duties. There are so many reasons to not like outhouses. I was relieved I had a bottle of hand sanitizer as there is never anywhere to wash your hands after using one of these treacherous toilets. Even if there was, I would still feel the need to take a hot shower after leaving the toilet. So, no, I did not use the outhouse that morning. I held, and held, for the winding trip to the magnificent Hundertwasser toilets. I never really thought of a washroom as being a nice place, a tourist attraction, a piece of art even, until I saw this one. Pieces of coloured glass and tiles formed the walls- every colour and pattern imaginable. There was so much to look at as you sat down to do your stuff that it made you wonder if that is how your father imagined every toilet he used- spending as long as possible in that tiny room. I never expected to go from using the most disgusting toilets to the most impressive one in the span of a day. Too bad I had to go back to the campsite and to the outhouses again later.
Our next stop was the Kauri Forest. We went to Visit Tane Mahuta, the biggest of the Kauris. He stood 51.5 meters tall and was 13.8 meters around. It does not compare to the 75 meter tall douglas fir I saw in British Columbia, however this kauri tree is 4.8 meters bigger around. Kauris are some fat trees. The second biggest Kauri was only 29.9 meters tall, but he made up for it in being 16.4 meters around. They are very impressive trees, to say the least. The stroll through the forest was a wonderful walk through the New Zealand bush. It was all in all an enjoyable day.
The next day was New Years Eve and yet another dreary day. Unfortunately, many campers had packed up and left due to the bad weather, so there wasn’t much partying happening. We sat around playing card games all night and eating s’mores cooked over the gas stove. It was fun, but no big booming party for us. Five minutes before the midnight countdown Andy and I joined his sister and brother-in-law in strolling over to another campsite where a large group of people weren’t letting the weather get them too down. We didn’t know any of the people there so we stood on the outside and counted down with them, pretending to be a part of it. We got some hugs from random strangers who were too drunk to care, we cheered and screamed out the traditional “HAPPY NEW YEARS!”, we celebrated being among the first people in theworld to celebrate the New Year, and then we went back for another game of Rummy-O. It wasn’t the most eventful of New Years, but it was still fun. It rained everywhere across the country that night, so at least I managed to stay dry.