The Hawkes Bay Caravan Club: The Joy of Intergenerational Friendship
After completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, we had one desire and one desire only: have a hot shower. We ideally wanted this to be coupled with a decent campsite, less than an hour’s drive from the end of the track (we had just been walking for ten hours after all), which wasn’t obscenely overpriced just because it was in the vicinity of Tongariro. This brief luxury for a night would be enough to revitalise us and send us on our way, back to the squalor of our far more basic, one-long-drop-toilet-between-80-people freedom campsites.
We found our answer in the National Equestrian Centre, to the north east of the stunning Lake Taupo. Green, peaceful, serene, hot showers, and best of all, only $5 (about £2.50) each.
Upon arrival, we were surprised to find a few other campervans parked up in this somewhat remote and unusual, yet delightful, spot. Almost as soon as we slotted into our space, a lady in a nearby campervan welcomed us, introduced herself as Robyn, and said that we were welcome to join the rest of the happy campers for socialising later on.
As time went on, we gathered that this merry band were the Hawkes Bay Caravan Club, and it just so happened that they had chosen to come to the Equestrian Centre for their weekend rally.
This was the beginning of our swift descent into premature middle age (or so my mother insists on calling it). Our one night stop was extended to two, then three nights as we moved from day visitors, to friends, to fully inaugurated members of the Hawke’s Bay Caravan Club (complete with club badge – I joke not).
Our daily routine for these happy few days went a little something like this: receive a gentle(ish) wake up call from Robyn’s dog, Millie, yapping next door; enjoy a leisurely breakfast; join the group to spectate the latest equestrian antics happening right on our van/doorstep (it just so happened that we’d picked the very weekend when the national gig championships were taking place at the equestrian centre!); have morning tea, which would swiftly merge into lunch (with a lunchtime tipple); share tales of caravanning adventures, featuring nudist colonies amongst other anecdotes; take an afternoon nap; get involved with more equestrian spectating; get pressured (as the token ‘young ones’ of the group) into having a ride on one of the gigs; share a group supper; play some lovely tame games (featuring ‘guess what’s in the bag’ and ‘nature treasure hunt’); head off to bed at an obscenely sensible hour.
We decided that middle age suits us; we can’t wait to get there in actual age so that we might enjoy such pleasures as afternoon naps guilt-free.
In all seriousness, though, these were some of the warmest, most inclusive, genuinely lovely people we met during our time in New Zealand. It was such a great reminder of the joy that can come from sharing life with people who aren’t necessarily our age.
We were somewhat devastated, at the end of the weekend, to learn that the president of the club had believed we were genuine members of the ‘Devon Caravan Club’, due to a process of Chinese whispers. We still harbour deep concerns that our honorary membership was granted under false pretences.
Returning to our Belgian pals: Wwoofing in the Waitakeres, Part 2
We were delighted to have the opportunity to head back to the Waitakere Ranges to spend our last few weeks in New Zealand wwoofing with our Belgian pals, Erik, Miranda and the boys. It felt like we had gone full circle, ending our NZ trip right where it had started. Rather fitting really…
Not only did staying with our Belgian-Kiwi wwoofing family make selling our (eternally nameless) van much more straightforward due to the proximity to Auckland (boo hoo – bye bye van), it was also absolutely brilliant to finish our trip where we started, in great company with good friends, where we laughed, shared, played football (admittedly more so on James’ part), ate delicious food, and worked pretty hard too!
Speaking of work, we were quite excited (much as Erik and Miranda won’t believe it) to get stuck into a fairly big project while we were there: to carve out some terraces (eventfully to be transformed into beds) into the side of a garden slope, which involved a LOT of shovelling, as well as setting posts in concrete and building retaining walls. It was a great challenge, and really fun to work on something together after a long break from wwoofing where we had purely been touring around in the van.
Staying in the Waitakeres gave us time to reflect on all our memories from the past 8 months, as well as to plan our USA trip… something totally different to get excited about!
We can’t believe our travels are coming to an end so soon…