Barely able to sleep through the wind and the rain pelting our tent, I was happy when morning came.  I slowly woke to the feeling of being drenched in humid moisture.  My hair was damp, the sleeping bag was soggy and I realized we were soaking in our own condensation.  My eyes opened and I  wash shaken to my core – about two dozen mosquitos hung directly above our heads.  They had been in the tent with us the entire night.  My ass hopped out of bed and I started packing up the camp around a sleeping Steve.  But soon enough Steve’s shriek announced to the camp that he was awake.  We rolled up the tent and got the hell out of there, itching all the way; bathrooms would have to wait until we felt safe again.

We took turns driving and applying cortisone cream.  Steve’s legs were covered in large red splotchy welts.  Mine were strangely welt-free even though I’m a walking allergen indicator.  It wasn’t until I tried to unsuccessfully put on my shoes that I realized my feet were so completely swollen, the welts had consolidated into one giant hive and the skin was pulled taught.

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I had a temper tanty moment, ready to head home, but Steve reminded me that we’d be just as itchy at home as we were on the road.  So we pressed on towards our next stop, Tauranga.

The coolest thing about driving the coastline is that just about everything is unmarked.  Not many sightseers head out that way which is a shame for them, fortunate for us.  Much of the area is Maori land and if you do a little research before you head out, you can find the places the original wakas landed after leaving Hawaiki.  The gannet colony (it’s a bird, a cousin of the Booby to be more specific) in one of the touristy parts of the island has signs and all kinds of sightseeing tours, but the actual landing sites of the original war canoes carrying the colonizing Maori tribes gets no mention whatsoever.  So before you come out here, do your reading and keep your eyes peeled.

For instance, I happened to spot this waterfall as I turned to scratch one of my many mosquito bites.

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I still don’t know if this is a made up animal.

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This is the entrance gate to a KINDERGARTEN.

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JEE ZUS

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Sheep on the lam

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You come across maraes, ornate Maori meeting houses, in every small town you pass.  You’re welcome to take pictures with the zoom lens but don’t be an asshole and enter the property without arranging an invite ahead of time.

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We picked up a local map and saw an enigmatic site, “big waka in a paddock”.  No explanation was given as to why there was a giant war canoe sitting in a paddock or how it came to be there.  But that’s just the kind of thing that gets Steve and I to leave the main road and head off on unpaved backroads looking for a lonely waka surrounded by sheep.  After about an hour of searching, we spotted it.  Only, we were so far away we couldn’t get a closer look much less get a good picture.  It was on private farming land and we knew better than to go traipsing through someone else’s property.  Still, that giant waka is a mystery.

Yay, an animal we know definitely does exist

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And here’s the talisman of good travels – a random stray cat choosing your car as its shade spot while you toil in the hot, humid sun setting up camp.

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Our site in Tauranga was less “holiday camp” and more Kiwi hillbilly trailer park.  We had trouble finding the place as we were expecting a spot by the water which we technically did have.  However, the other two sides of the camp were bordered by an autobody shop and a van rental.  We shared the site with 18 wheelers parked next to caravans on cinder blocks and luxuriated in their 50 cents for five minutes showers.  Still, we were confident we gave the Te Araroa sand flies the slip and that’s all that mattered.

One side note.  As we unrolled the tent and set it back up, we noticed blood splotches all over the interior.  Oh yes, you guessed it.  In our panic to get away from the mosquitos that morning, we rolled up the tent, inadvertently squashing all of them.  But they left their calling card – our own blood, smeared all around the inside of the tent.

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I think Steve more than deserved his tankard of beer after a day like that.

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