A Travellerspoint blog

Sandy Claus

A second Christmas on the beach on the other side of the world

Kia Ora dear readers. Has it been nearly 4 months already? Whoops. Somebody once told me to never change, so I took that to heart.
Actually I don't think anyone has ever told me that :(

The start of my new job (my old job but in a new country, if you remember) unfortunately came before the time of finding somewhere to live. So it was two weeks in Airbnb rooms before finally I found someone willing to let me live with them.

Apparently that wasn't even the hard part though. Trying to find a cheap-ish bed and mattress in a country where IKEA doesn't exist? And I don't have a car? On top of the fact that I am a well-known cheapskate... Challenge reluctantly accepted. I couldn't buy one in advance as I didn't know if or when I'd find a house, which meant it was a last minute affair, and I spent days going back and forth between various furniture websites. Finally I settled on a bed/mattress combo which would be delivered the day after I move in. I had a $10 airbed ready for my first night. What a relief, right?

Wrong. Despite taking the money from my account, they decided to cancel my order the day before I was due to move in. *Insert upside-down smiley face.*

Women's World Cup Final

Women's World Cup Final

In the end I straight-up bid the buy now price for a bed and mattress on TradeMe (like eBay). I didn't have the time, energy or patience to risk a bidding war. A lovely old man delivered it, and even brought his drill so he could come and assemble it for me. First week in the new house and I already brought a guy up to my room, score! ;) ;) It is the hardest mattress known to man but you know, I'm getting old so maybe it'll be good for my back.

Anyway, now with a roof over my head and a bed to rest it on, I could get on with my life. In November I went to the Women's Rugby World Cup semi-finals, which England won, and the final, which England lost. It was a close match against New Zealand, at a sold out stadium, so the atmosphere was great nonetheless.

Around the same time, I started to look for a car. I needed to get to the Coromandel for Christmas, and the rental prices were insane, so it was actually cheaper to buy one. But just like the bed story, I had a fast-approaching deadline. After a few weeks seemingly touring all of Auckland's suburbs, and spending my life on facebook marketplace and/or a bus, it was on my birthday that I eventually got one. The only gift I got on the day, and it was from myself. Dear Lord what a sad little life, Emma. Catch me rolling around Auckland in my second-hand granny car, beep beep.

First "big" road trip was to the Waitakeres, a regional park less than an hour from Auckland. Went for a mini-hike on a hot day, and slipped over twice in the space of 30 seconds, much to the amusement of Jordan and Charlotte, who absolutely have never brought it up since then!

Catherine arrived in New Zealand the next day. We met in Australia in 2019 and both had to deport ourselves back to the UK during Covid. She's living in Sydney again, so came over here for Christmas and a big ol' campervan road trip (coming soon to a blog near you).



Almost immediately, she stole my car and went for a joyride round the North Island while I was still at work. I still think she's done more miles in that car than I have. When I was finally free from my job on 23rd December, we headed for an outdoor cinema. Classic Christmastime activity, watching Home Alone in the park in the middle of summer. The film started fine, but after a minute or so the sound cut out, so they restarted it. Then the same happened again. Then again. The third of fourth time round they just left it running with no sound.

Unlike most festive films, there was no happy ending or Christmas miracle. It was shut down after about 20 minutes, due to "technical difficulties we haven't been able to fix".

On Christmas Eve, we stocked up on festive food and made the drive up to Tapu in the Coromandel to join the gang. The Airbnb was definitely unique... Set in the hills, we had a caravan, a hippie bus and a gypsy wagon to sleep in. Plus an open air-ish kitchen and a single bathroom complete with a compost toilet. That was a lot of fun for the eight of us!

Christmas Eve activities included a swim in the river, and making pizzas in the outdoor pizza oven. My Italian roots came through, I was a natural with the paddle!

We slept super well in the surprisingly cosy little gypsy wagon. I haven't actually watched peaky blinders but I'm sure there are some comparisons to be made between me and Tommy Shelby.

After bucks fizz and pancakes, it was onto a second ever Christmas Day for me spent at the beach. It will never feel normal. I plan to spend Christmas 2023 at home in the cold, where I belong. Drank some cold ones, went for a swim, got sunburnt... You know, all the classic Christmassy things.

Dads at Christmas

Dads at Christmas

Donned in my new Christmas t-shirt, a pair of shorts and some flip-flops (plus a Santa hat, obviously), I somehow became the new dad of the group and was tasked with looking after the fire for cooking our Christmas dinner. I took my duties very seriously, with a drink in one hand and a fire-poking stick in the other.

No roast dinner in site, but the BBQ was, I would say a success. Albeit sometimes a bit of a slow one.

Boxing Day had yet more beaches. We braved the 26km of mainly gravel road, and for the most part tried to ignore the weird noises from our cars... The cars, and passengers, did make it to Hahei, where we got the park and ride to Cathedral Cove. I had been here before, but it was another beautiful day with stunning views, so I absolutely did not mind. Being more of a peak time, the beach was a lot busier than my previous visit, but still plenty of room for us, and plenty of time for more photoshoots.

We spent longer than planned frolicking on the beach, before starting the long ascent back to the top. There are some bays on the way up, but I think because I needed the toilet I didn't join some of the others in that detour. That turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. Josie and I reached the top, and after I went to the loo, I suddenly remembered seeing a sign that said the last shuttle back to the car park was at 6pm. It was about 6:15pm at this point. Ah fuck.

Cathedral Cove views

Cathedral Cove views

That then triggered Josie to remember that the car park shut at 7pm. It was about a half hour walk to the car park, so we thought we'd go rescue the cars and wait for the others. However, it was at that point I realised... Catherine, on a beach what seemed like miles below, had my car keys in her bag. Oh double fuck. We frantically messaged the group with our conundrum, and luckily she looked at her phone and was not in the middle of the ocean.

Josie and I stress-walked to the car park, planning out all the worst-case scenarios along the way. Would we have to camp in the carpark? Scavenge for food? Walk miles for a room?

Meanwhile, Catherine was stress-running up the track from the beach.

Thankfully due to heroic efforts all round, we saved both cars from being locked up, and found time for a well-deserved ice cream while we waited for the rest of the group. After that stress, we elected to take the longer, but non-gravel road home. For the sake of our hearts and our cars.

While Catherine and I were only there for 3 nights, most of the others had been staying in the Airbnb with awful wifi and a compost toilet for nearly a week, so I think they were definitely ready to say goodbye. I would not miss the possums in the kitchen, and the limited bathroom facilities... Three nights was pretty perfect for us, but it was still an emotional goodbye the next morning.

Cathedral Cove Gang

Cathedral Cove Gang

After a day at home of napping and laundry, and finally whipping out a cheeseboard, I was back to work 28-30th Dec, so off Catherine went again on another little solo voyage. For new years, we knew we didn't want to do anything big and/or expensive, so along with my friend Jordan we stayed home and got quiiiite drunk, then headed to Mission Bay to get a good spot for the fireworks 'spectacular'. Spectacular it was not. I wasn't expecting London or Sydney levels of a fireworks display, but considering they make a thing out of being the first major city in the world to welcome in the new year... daaamn this was truly, overwhelmingly underwhelming. The official display was a few, what looked like sparklers, shooting out from the sky tower. It was laughably bad. So we continued to drink, take terrible selfies and roll down the hill like children. Everyone else had disappeared by 12:15 anyway.

I'm sure you can imagine how New Year's Day went. Mostly napping, eating, and packing for our South Island campervan adventure, to begin the next day. And to be read about in my next blog...

Posted by EMCAT 09:53 Archived in New Zealand

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