After a week on the road in our campervan, we made it to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The campervan was a great way to explore the country, but morning temperatures were gradually getting colder, and we weren’t packed accordingly.
Entering Auckland, we stopped off at the War Memorial Museum. This was both a museum and memorial, with the names of many fallen soldiers inscribed on the halls inside. The museum had exhibits ranging from the Maori Wars in the early stages of European settlement, to the Vietnam War and beyond. It was amazing to see how Kiwis were called up, historically as required for the British Empire, but still fought bravely and for the greater good of humanity. Their numbers were usually small comparatively, but their spirit and sacrifice was just as great. Some of the exhibits were also a reminder of just how massive the British Empire was during the first half of the 20th century. New Zealanders entered the WW1 as separate colonial provincial battalions, but in the end earned their Kiwi nickname and crafted a unified national identity.
Our journey to the Coromandel started off a little rocky. Our car wouldn't start and it had rained all night so our car was a little stuck. Luckily the Holiday park gave us a jump and helped push us out so we were quickly on our way. The forecast called for rain all day so we took our time going to the Peninsula. We stopped on the way in Hamilton to visit their Gardens. It's different than the other botanical gardens we had visited (that Chris loved oh so much). The Hamilton Gardens are themed from different places and eras. They have a Japanese, Italian Renaissance, Tropical, Maori, Indian Char Bagh, and more. There were other sections that were being renovated. We quickly walked through the gardens during a break from the rain then continued North. Once at the Peninsula we stopped to get some maps and information on the area, grabbed some fish and chips for dinner, then camped that night behind the Ngatea Public Library where freedom camping is allowed. Most free camp sites in New Zealand are only for self-contained (bathroom onboard) vehicles, but they do have a select few that are free for all types.
Wellington is New Zealand's capital city, but only the third largest in the country, behind Auckland and Christchurch. We arrived in the morning and luckily could check in early to our Airbnb. It was in the middle of town a few blocks from Cuba Street and the harbor. We grabbed a quick breakfast then went to the Te Papa museum. One of the best things about New Zealand is that the museums, parks, and gardens are all FREE! The museum was really interesting with exhibits on the formation of New Zealand, earthquakes and volcanoes, wildlife, immigration and a special exhibit on New Zealand's role in the WW1 battle at Gallipoli where they lost 2779 soldiers. It was an important battle in New Zealand's history that created a national identity apart from Great Britain and influenced their involvement in future wars. ANZAC Day, a day to remember all Australians and New Zealanders that served and died, also takes place on the anniversary of troops landing in Gallipoli, April 25th.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.