We recently bought a van! We're thrilled to be living the true #VanLife dream in New Zealand now that we are the proud new owners of a cute Mazda Bongo. We thought long and hard about a unique name and are pleased to announce that we named her... Bongo. Yes, we love her.
She came to us through Facebook Marketplace and after a bit of a scrub and some organizing, she was ready to head out on roadtrips. We have a longer roadtrip around the North Island planned next month so we decided a test run would be the ideal way to spend the weekend.
We also bought a beautiful little Fujifilm X-T1 with an 18-55mm lens, so combined with a van, my birthday and Valentine's Day, we packed up and celebrated in style - out on the open roads of New Zealand!
Stop 1: Cape Palliser
We left Wellington after work on Valentine's day, a Friday, to reach the free campsite at Cape Palliser. Self-contained campers give travelers much more freedom in that they are able to camp in sites that are often unmanned and, as such, free, because they require fewer facilities.
In the morning, we hung out with the seals along the coast before climbing the 252 steps of the Cape Palliser Lighthouse for epic views of the Wairarapa Coast.
Stop 2: Putangirua Pinnacles
We drove back up the coast to the Putangirua Pinnacles, a place I visited back in October. The scene of the Path of the Dead from Lord of the Rings was filmed here so naturally it's a draw for avid photographers and lovers of the series. It's an incredible beautiful and unique walk that takes about 45 minutes each way from the car park. We wandered in awe beneath the massive rocks before enjoying lunch out the back of Bongo.
Stop 3: Castle Point
To round out the day, we drove northwards through the wine region of Wairarapa and Martinborough, where Nico worked for a few weeks last year (in order to get his 3-month visa extension by completing 3 months of agricultural work!). We pulled into the free camp-site at Castle Point just as the sun was setting, providing us with an incredible pastel pink sunset framing the majestic Castle Rock in a delightful evening glow.
Strong wind pushed us to cook inside our van to avoid our dinner being full of sand from the seemingly endless beach stretched out ahead of us.
We woke up before the sun was up in the morning, bundled up and climbed up the path to Castle Point Lighthouse in time for sunrise, a magical and peaceful moment soaking in the beauty of the new day. New Zealand is the first country in the world to see the sunrise; we think that's pretty special!
Stop 4: Tararua Forest Park
After sunrise and a slow morning enjoying the beach from our van, we headed back towards Wellington, stopping along the way at the Tararua Forest Park, a popular camping and hiking spot. We went for a hike to stretch our legs, winding our way up to the Rocky Lookout with views over Mount Holdsworth and the surrounding mountains. It was refreshing and felt so incredibly vast.
We are so thrilled to have Bongo, the freedom she offers and the places she can take us. We can't wait for our adventure all around the North Island in March!