And here it is – the first photo of Alfie on the road, showing my precision at backing into a car space for the first time. As you can see I straddled it. This was at Gordonton, an hour out of Auckland and when I was ready for a coffee. It felt good, and even better when the view from the cafe window was of this wee machine smiling back at me.
Next, I stopped at Tirau, where my big brother awaited me with his much larger camper van. At last, I would have some company on the road! He’s joining me for the first two days of my trip, and being an old hand at traveling in camper van, will be able to cement some of the loose and woolly instructions rattling around in my head after my initial ‘going over’. Tirau is known for its corrugated iron sculptures – and many local businesses from Cambridge through to Taupo have signage or an icon cut out of corrugated iron and painted. We parked beside the huge sheep who are emblematic of the area and are an info centre and wool shop.
Stephen had already partaken of lunch, so I headed over to the bakery and got a couple of chicken on a stick, and chewed them on our continuing journey south. How nice to slot in behind another camper van and for once BE the annoying slower cumbersome traffic that holds up cars. What a happy feeling! Not that we did hold much up – the trucks that we followed did a much better job.
We crossed the beautiful waters flowing out of the lake into Huka river, and then just before the main township of Taupo, pulled to the right and in to the embrace of the ‘Lake Taupo Holiday Resort’. The man behind the counter was new to the job, and so made quite the stromash of signing us in with codes and passes. Eventually we trailed around to the premium spots on concrete right beside the hot pools. Joy!
How good that first cup of Earl Grey tea tasted from my china cup lovingly tucked in amongst the plastic in the drawer. I had really enjoyed driving Alfie south, and the sense of being high up on the road and able to tackle the hills and traffic so well. It was much easier than I feared.
Before long we headed in for our first hot swim in these natural spring baths – complete with a bar/restaurant that serves food from either the pool side or behind. I had a non-alcoholic cocktail to celebrate. We soaked until we shrivelled.
Slopped out dripping and cold and made our quick way back to the vans. I stayed in my towelling robe and we enjoyed a champagne and cheese in celebration of the first day of travel.
It didn’t seem much later that we were heading back to the pools to order some dinner – fish and kumara (sweet potato) chips. Mmmm. Starting to feel quite cold and shivery, so as soon as they were downed, we were back in the hot pools as the dusk and dark cloudy skies descended, and the lights lit up the water all around.
And now I’m in my cosy camper van, the curtains pulled, the heater on, and feeling very replete. A great start to the trip!