At 10 o'clock we met Britz, our camper van. Small enough to fit within a 'car' category, big enough to be our mobile home for the next 19 days on the winding roads of New Zealand. It was a white Toyota Hiace, with mini kitchen, gas hob, microwave and a fridge. Several hidden bench compartments and a back door board that opened as a bed completed the picture. It also had another sleeping area positioned just under the roof that we could unfold - but we decided it's perfect for all our bags and spare bedsheets.
We named it Bruno Britz although originally I wanted to call it Sabs Moving Castle. We liked it - it looked friendly and cosy next to the serious camper vans parked beside it. We dropped our bags on the floor and set off to the nearest supermarket to fill it up with provisions.
Our plan for today was modest - a two hour drive to the Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula on East Coast of the North Island. The sand of this famous beach was hiding several hot volcanic springs and one could use a shovel to dig himself a little spa pool on the beach.
The roads turned out to be great - well maintained, up to 100km an hour and crossing the most beautiful landscapes we could imagine. New Zealand was definitely rising to the challenge and amazing us with dense forests, green fields to the horizon and rolling hills that any Hobbit would appreciate. After a while we entered Coromandel Peninsula and the road became winding and enclosed in beautiful forest. It felt like being in Europe again if it wasn't for the giant ferns that gave New Zealand the shape of its national symbol. It was warm and sunny with small white clouds like from the Simpsons painted on the blue sky.
We reached Hot Water Beach and our first campsite in the evening - the Top 10 Holiday Park. It was a nice quiet place with all the amenities and only 2 minute walk from the beach. We parked, connected the electricity and organised our little home on wheels. It was the first camping night - for both of us the first camper van camping in our lives.
Later on armed with a shovel we walked to the small beach. There were a few surfers there and the South Pacific was basking in the sunset.
The idea with the Hot Water Beach is that during the low tide you dig a little pool in the sand and the hot springs running under the beach will fill it up with hot water - and you've got a handmade spa. When we arrived, there were already a few people there sitting in their holes. I must say - it looked a crowd of rather large children playing in mud and building sand castles. Every now and then a wave would come and flood the sand holes and everyone would frantically start digging and repairing the wall around their little pools.
Laughing we joined the group and realised that once you find a hot spring and dig a pool - sitting in hot water and watching the sunset is a rather nice experience. Especially that since we came early - we could observe other people going through the same efforts of finding the spot, digging, securing from the waves. a jolly crowd of grown up kids on the beach. Priceless!
After that we cooked our first camper meal, quickly turned the kitchen into a bedroom and drifted away under chilly starry sky. The first day was done and we were officially camper van folk now.