Overlanding to Australia: Part 16
The Defender is on its way across the equator to the Southern Hemisphere and the couple's next destination
The Defender is on its way to the Southern Hemisphere and the honeymooners’ next stop
Haydon Bend and his wife Me-an are enjoying a honeymoon with a difference – driving overland around the world in a Defender 110. Each month LRM is reporting on their progress. For their latest news see oplongdrive.com
After a 17-hour budget airline flight which confirms why we decided to drive around the world, we arrive in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland. The harbour and green patchwork pasture greets us as we descend into a damplooking spring morning.
The Pamina ship, which is carrying our Defender down the Pacific, is due to arrive in a few days, so we settle into life as backpackers, exploring the city and working with our agent to get the car released as soon and smoothly as possible.
Our first task is to get the customs clearance. As we are temporary importing the car into NZ on a Carnet de Passage, it is pretty simple. We fill in a customs declaration form and submit a list of items in the car and after 45 minutes we have a stamp in our Carnet.
Three days after the ship has docked, our container is finally unloaded and taken to a compound where it will be inspected by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). It is time to find out if all the hours we put into cleaning the car has paid off.
We are not allowed to be present at the inspection but Richard who runs the compound has a look at the car and tells us to get certain things like camping and fishing equipment out for inspection. He runs his hand under the wheel arch and looks in one of the hidden dirt traps under the body and says that he thinks there should be no problem. However, we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out as the inspectors have left for the day.
Well, Richard turns out to be absolutely right. We receive the call to say that our car has been released from quarantine. We're very happy to get the car through first time as it saves us any extra cleaning charges.
Next, we need to get the Defender road-legal. For that we are required to pass a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) test like an MOT and pay some road user charges and a levy. We visit the VTNZ garage, a chain of workshops where you can get the test done and pay all the appropriate charges. Not surprisingly, they don’t deal with temporarily importing foreign vehicles very often and John, the manager, is called to deal with our case. John loves his job and takes it very seriously. He turns out to be a good bloke and gets everything we need sorted in an hour, at a cost of £60.
Now armed with many stickers on the windscreen, we hit the road heading for the surf town of Piha on the west coast. It is dark by the time we get to the campsite but we settle in to our first night in the tent for a while. It is good to be back.
The next thing on the list is self containment. In order for us to be able to freedom camp, we needed to be fully selfcontained for a minimum of three days. This means enough fresh water and the same capacity for grey water storage, having a sink which connects to the waste water and having a toilet. We put the word out on Facebook before we arrived in New Zealand to see if anyone knows if it is possible to get the certification for a Defender. A generous Land Roverloving Kiwi called Melissa responded and offered to lend us her spare kit.
We arrange to meet Melissa at an event called Brits on the Beach. We don’t really have any idea of what to expect but are intrigued by the name. It turns out to be a small gathering to showcase the best of British cars with a feel very similar to a May Day village fête. There was everything from classic Minis to Massey Ferguson tractors and a few Landys, too. It was interesting to get a foreigner’s perspective on what being British means. The New Zealanders' interpretation of this is Morris dancing (some dancers under the age of 30, may I add), Maypole and a dog agility challenge called Scruffs.
Getting a self-containment certificate turns out to be pretty straight forward when you have the help of a local. We show the bloke our kit, pay the fee and he gives us a blue sticker which certifies that we are responsible campers and we are all set for exploring New Zealand.
We make our way steadily north on the east coast of the North Island from Auckland, admiring the stunning bays with boats a-plenty. We hop from bay to bay, driving no more than 20 miles a day for a week, camping and fishing in idyllic places. We meet Melissa again at the most northerly point in NZ at Cape Reinga for a drive down the famous Ninety Mile Beach. Melissa is bringing a friend, Veronika, who has previously travelled from Auckland to Paris in her Td5 110. We should have plenty to talk about around the camp fire. These Kiwi birds love their Defenders!
We wake early to get the tides right for our cruise down the beach. Access to the beach was a little unorthodox as we drive down a hard-packed sandy stream bed, meandering through massive dunes. After about a mile we round a corner. The tide is high and on its way out. The waves are big from the Tasman Sea and the sky grumpy. It feels like our first adventure in NZ as everything prior has been tarmac or gravel and pretty sure-footed. Off we go.
The sand is hard but it takes us ages to travel two miles, due to the constant stopping to get photos and to treat Melissa to a good brew. We start to motor down the beach and it becomes a little mundane so the cruise control gets set to 50 mph and we chew up a few miles. We meet up with Veronika about halfway down and head to the exit of Ninety Mile Beach, famous for being only 55 miles.
Pining for a fire and a bit of a wild camp, I do a map study and locate a beach off the beaten track. We have a group chat and it turns out Veronika has been before and recommends the dunes as a good bush camp. The beach is deserted and we head off to the dunes early to find a camp spot and test our soft sand driving. We find a spot, collect some driftwood and have a big cook-up and some local wine. The weather was a little British but we have had a great few days. It was especially good to get off road again and get some local knowledge from the ladies.
We continue our journey as a triple Defender convoy, visiting the oldest Kauri tree – which is some 2000 years old – and other places of interest. As we reach Auckland again, it is time to say goodbye to Veronika and Melissa for now.
Out first few of weeks in New Zealand have flown by. The Kiwis are a very practical, helpful and friendly bunch. They seem to apply common sense to the rules so not to let it hold them back. They are also super-friendly and welcoming. We are really impressed with the country so far and can’t wait to see what more it has in store.
End of Ninety Mile beach. Start of the 3 Defender convoy.
Our ship docking in Auckland – the container with our Defender inside being offloaded
Our camp amongst the sand dunes
Cape Reinga - the most northerly point in the north Island
Carving on the largest Maori war canoe
If you’re gonna be a bear, be a Grizzly. If you’re gonna forage, forage for oysters
Long exposure shot of a waterfall
Around the camp fire in the sand dunes
The blue badge of responsibility. This self-containment certificate allows us to freedom camp in NZ
Above: Gannet and Gannet colony at Muriwai Beach
Classic Land Rover at Brits on the Beach