Going home (Ngongotaha to Levin)

I was slightly dismayed by the teeming rain, I had a long drive ahead.


I was very mindful that I was ‘attached’ to the site and that unattaching was part of the routine I needed to do before I hit the road. There seemed quite a lot to retain in my rather apprehensive mind – undo the power, roll it up, put it in the compartment and lock it, remembering where that key was kept. Turn off the gas, lock the compartment. Make sure the toilet was closed (that one very important), lower the satellite dish and the roof vent. Push each of the cupboard doors into the locked position (not that easy with long nails), have all the curtains tied back, check there was nothing that could become a missile and lastly, put the step inside (I did leave a step in the middle of the outdoor parking at Wellington airport on a very wet and windy day, it must have looked amusing, just there, alone). A thank you to the managers and a wave: it was 9.50 am and I was going home!

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I haven’t driven in Rotorua (Sulphur City) for many years and it was very different from the last time. I got into the right lane, stayed there, oblivious of the rain and the traffic, and drove out of town. Once I was on the highway, I found a pull in area and had a coffee. I had been driving for at least 15 minutes! Lena rang while I was there, I welcomed that. It was 10.18am when I departed again.


It’s not a difficult drive from Rotorua to Taupo, reasonable roads and not much traffic, no major towns. I was surprised at how much of the forestry had become dairy farms, some still in the process of. I guess they hadn’t heard that the price for dairy had slumped badly. If they had, I would imagine they were rather annoyed.


The land looks so naked, stripped of it’s pine trees with one of the timber mills in the background.

I didn’t call in to Taupo, I really would have liked to but I was aware that I would have the parking issue that may involve small spaces and reversing. There is now a new bypass so I sailed on by.


On a clear still day Lake Taupo is beautiful. Today wasn’t one of these. 😦


I stopped at the “picket fence”, named for the fishermen standing in the lake at the outlet of the Waitahanui stream, catching fish. The line of fishermen could be loosely visualised as one. The lake was still choppy, the weather breezy and it was cloudy. I used the “bathroom” in the van, parked on the side of the road and felt very amused. I did have to ask Lena, via text, if the loo flushed without electricity 🙂 It was 11.20 am and I had travelled  94 ks in 1.5 hours. It was going to be a slow trip!


The ‘Picket Fence’ (not my photo).

I was beginning to feel reasonably relaxed driving as I went through Turangi and on to the Desert Road, which is only 60 kilometres in distance.  It is called a desert because of poor soil quality due to many volcanic eruptions and altitude, and has some interesting scenery. There are wild horses, the Kaimanawa Horses, released by settlers, the New Zealand Army uses it for manoeuvres (it’s not uncommon to see Army vehicles) and there are the 3 beautiful mountains, which are active volcanoes.

Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngarahoe and Mt Tongariro

Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngarahoe and Mt Tongariro

Mt Ruapehu’s last decent eruption was in 2007. I received a phone call from one of my daughters who was working on the ski fields at the time, “MUM, Ruapehu’s erupting, come and get me”. She was rightly terrified but nobody was hurt in the eruption, thankfully.
The road is quite winding and steep in sections and I was feeling slightly concerned about the lack of power. This was the first time I had driven a diesel vehicle, I knew it wasn’t turbo, but it didn’t feel quite right. It was a slow journey to Waiouru, at the end of the Desert Road and I pulled over frequently to let the traffic pass me. It was cloudy, I didn’t get to see the mountains.
I pulled into the gas station at Waiouru and had to get the handbook out to see where the lever was to open the place where you fill it up with diesel. It must have a name, I have no idea what it is. I asked them to check the oil (again a look at the handbook) and it was almost out of oil!! I was so very thankful that I hadn’t gone any further, if I had I likely would have blown the motor!!!!!  Again I had two lovely young ladies to help and have a good laugh with.



The Ducato drove much better with the oil top up and I carried on to Taihape, a mere 28 kilometres away. I managed to find a parallel park with no car behind and without the possibility of someone parking in front of me and went to McDonalds for a burger. It was now 2.16pm and I had travelled 222 ks (138 miles) from Rotorua. 🙂


Taihape is the gumboot capitol of New Zealand!

From Taihape onwards, to Levin, I didn’t stop. The weather improved and my only concern was going over the rather narrow and longish Whirokino Trestle bridge, not far from home. I arrived home at 4.20pm. It had taken me 6.5 hours to travel 360 kilometres (223 miles), a journey usually talking 4.5 hours!!


The bridge is old, long and narrow. It going to be replaced. During floods, the water can come up to the bottom of the bridge.

I was home, feeling very pleased with myself and pleased to see my Phee! ❤



Paeroa to Lake Rotorua.

It was the fourth of July, and I was having my own celebration.


With the business side quickly done and a firm handshake from “the dork” (Lena was impressed with that) it was official, I owned a camper van. Lena showed me all the important stuff, like the toilet, the power, the gas and was off back to Levin. I am so grateful for her help, not only in choosing the Ducato but taking me to Paeroa with having to go back the next day. It’s a long way to we Kiwis, living in a small country.

4 July 12.46pm

The supermarket was across the road and I bought a few supplies for the next two days.  I had brought my pillow and a sleeping bag so I was very basically prepared.


I was about to fill up with diesel when the thought occurred to me  “Uh oh, no insurance!”. I spent an hour on the mobile sorting that. The 2 young ladies working at the gas station were clearly amused, what was this lady doing! I had been parked there for ages.

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So . . . . . .  to my first solo drive, carefully planned, to the adjacent gas station. We filled up, I climbed back in, started up, drove to the curb and realised, in my haste, I had forgotten to pay. The young ladies were laughing at me 🙂 Thanks heavens I realised or my first solo drive would be followed closely by the Police cars and sirens!

It was now 1pm, Lena had kindly left me her GPS and off I went, slowly and over a rather narrow bridge, holding in my breath and praying there would be no traffic. Not welcome to Paeroa but farewell!!


It was possibly the slowest trip, ever, from Paeroa to Rotorua. Had there been a cyclist on the road they would have overtaken me. Fortunately, the traffic was light and I didn’t hold anyone up, I would pull over if needed. At Waharoa, just before Matamata (home of the Hobbits), I stopped for coffee and a sandwich. I text Lena and she had stopped at the same place. Waharoa has a population of 10 (that’s not true, I just Googled and it is 400+). I also got my Lotto there, and won nothing.


Driving through the thriving metropolis of Matamata (population 7,500) I saw Hobbit buses and the Hobbit i-Centre but was not confident in parking so carried on, sobbing quietly at the missed opportunity. A borrowed photo will have to suffice . . . . .

I did see it with my own eyes though!

It rained from Matamata to Rotorua so I was pleased to know the windscreen wipers were efficient, I hadn’t thought to check. By now I was reasonably confident at knowing I was correctly positioned on the road and not once did I hit the rumble bars. Pretty good, I thought. I even managed to change the radio station and sing along with it! Going over the Mamaku Ranges was a slow process, by now the rain was persistent and visibility not good. Somewhere I saw a red car that had gone off the road and was lying sideways against a tree after going through someones fence (I read later nobody was injured). There was nowhere for me to stop and check, or I would have.


Fitzgerald Glade, not far from Rotorua

I could tell I was approaching Rotorua with the gentle smell of sulphur!!! I hadn’t travelled this road before so really, I had no idea where I was, although the GPS was giving me occasional instructions. I couldn’t get it to adhere to the window so it was lying on the passenger seat.


Then I was there, at Ngongotaha and at the Willowhaven Holiday Park. I had made it, safely.