Broomhilda, Broomy. Or as our Instagram followers may have seen: #bigasscampervan. Broomy got her name from the character in the movie Django Unchained, which we watched during our time with her (and we always seem to come across Germans in campervans, so it kinda fitted). She definitely was a mighty white beast (excuse the pun – she was rented from Mighty Campers!).
Since owning a small campervan in New Zealand a few years back, we had always wanted to try one of the big campers that have become widespread throughout the country. Finally we had our chance – five of us were to rent one over Easter, which was great because Shaun and I could never afford to rent it alone! Seeing as we had four whole days off work, we decided to go to a region that is too far from Auckland for a normal weekend trip: the Hawke’s Bay.
So we piled five adult’s gear, including three surfboards (!), food and beer into Broomy and braved the terribleness of Auckland’s holiday weekend traffic (it took us 45 minutes to get across town from our place to Pia and Mike’s, a journey which usually takes 10!) and eventually headed south. We rocked along to the great hits of the rural Waikato radio stations and eventually ended up in Taupo, where we spent the night. We all snoozed away alongside about a million other campervans on the shores of the lake in the freedom camping carpark (hurrah for being a self contained camper!).
Brrm brrm brrm brrm… nothing. The fridge died halfway through our first night. What the $%^&!!! The gourmet cheeses, the Spanish chorizo, the olives! (Yeah, we like to travel kinda fancy). All were goneskis. We were rather annoyed (read: seriously pissed off) as it appeared that the battery powering the fridge had crapped out, and we had been promised by the campervan rental company that we didn’t have to plug into campsite power every night. We had just driven for about five hours (driving charges the battery) and the fridge had died after about four more hours. Not a good look. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend (and our food) – we only had planned to plug in for one of the four nights, the rest was to be spent freedom camping.
A relatively curt call to the rental company the next morning didn’t help, with them suggesting that we could ‘waste half a day’ (their words) going into a service centre, or plugging in every night. Not useful. We decided to deal with it and put any salvageable food into the chilly bin (thank goodness the boys had wanted one to keep their beers cold!). Moving right along, we headed east towards the coast and our destination.
After wining and dining (details of our favourite appetite whetters will be revealed in future posts) and even getting some beach and surfing time in at Waipatiki Beach north of Napier, Broomy bravely climbed to the top of the precarious Te Mata Peak near Havelock North. In a normal-sized car, the Te Mata Peak road ain’t too bad – yeah there’s a steep drop off the side of the road, but heck – in a high-sided campervan it’s downright scary! The only thing stopping you tumbling off the side of the road is a foot-high wooden barrier. Like that’s going to stop a #bigasscampervan.
But oh boy, it’s worth that scary drive. The view from the top is nothing short of magnificent, and I don’t say that lightly. You can see north up the coast towards Napier and even around to Mahia Peninsula on a clear day, and to the west, if you’re lucky, you can get a glimpse of Mt Ruapehu – the North Island’s tallest mountain. We stayed up there for sunset (a glorious, golden sunset) before our stomachs started groaning for dinner.
After Mexican for dinner in Havelock North we headed back up the peak road (this time in the dark, only slightly less scary as you couldn’t see the drop off but you still knew it was there) to try to freedom camp at the top. The city lights from Napier and Hastings were so pretty, and the full moon was out in full force. Unfortunately, we got a rap on the window at 10 p.m. as the security guards came to chase us down from the top. Dammit! Ah well, it was worth a try.
We headed back up Te Mata Peak the following morning before breakfast and were treated to this stunner of a view and some crazy fog. So epic!
Most of the remainder of the weekend revolved around food, wine, and beer. The Hawke’s Bay is good for that – I swear I gained a couple of kilos in a couple of days. We sampled some amazing produce from the region, and I must say that one of the best things about staying in a #bigasscampervan is that you can buy food and wine to take home with you! Excellent… tehehe.
The Hawke’s Bay is full of lovely hidden gems like the waterfall below – this is Maraetotara Falls on the way out to Waimarama Beach from Havelock North. The boys bravely gave the rope swing a go before realising how frigid the water was. Whoops! It made for a good photo op though.
Eventually, we had to say adios to the lovely Hawke’s Bay and head north to Auckland. But there was one final stop in Taupo – Pia had heard of some free thermal pools close to the town so we sniffed them out (literally, they smelled a bit like sulphur). It was mental – a naturally hot little stream drains into the mighty Waikato River five minutes from Lake Taupo and you can sit in the hot water. And so can the rest of the world. It was ridiculous how many people were there at 8 p.m. on a Sunday, and we even went back at 7.30 the next morning and we still weren’t alone! Yet, it was lovely to relax in the hot water and not have to pay a cent.
In the end, we complained to the campervan rental company upon Broomy’s return about the dead fridge and they reimbursed us some money for our ruined food. Kudos to them – we really appreciated it, although it would have been better to have a reliable fridge! But overall, Broomhilda was a star. We loved the extra room the #bigasscampervan offered, and it was awesome that five adults could all stay inside (it was a bit cramped, but manageable). Here’s to a successful Easter road trip to a beautiful part of New Zealand – and to Broomy.
Do you love travelling by campervan? Tell us about your favourite road trip!
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