Although it’s a fast growing and relatively new brand Dethleffs still has a family feel about it with fellow campers often parking next too, or close to each other when at a campground often sharing stories or experiences with their vans. So when we arrived in Lumsden on our South Island tour and saw the Dethleffs van belonging to Fred and Christine we parked next door and introduced ourselves.
We must have struck the right note with the two of them as they suggested that we join a small group of fellow Dethleffs Owners that they are members of. Although originally consisting mainly of members from Northland it has become more about friendship than about place of origin although it still retains the Northland feel.
So when the invite arrived from Jackie and Rob for the next event to be held at the new NZMCA camp at Tokerau Beach the weekend after Queens Birthday and with itchy feet at home we were both keen to attend. The email list included 29 recipients making us think that it’s not quite the small group that Fred had mentioned but obviously not everyone would attend.
The days prior brought rain, then rain, then even more rain, making both of us very nervous about the surface of the camp at Tokerau and the thought of getting stuck in the mud yet again. Turns out Rob and Jackie where having the same thoughts as an email arrived mentioning a change of venue along with an invite to fish and chips at their place on the Friday before the weekend.
Having left Auckland a couple of days prior and explored around Whangarei Heads (click here to read the blog) we arrived in Kerikeri at the NZMCA camp mid morning managing to nab a nice dry spot on the gravel. Last time we stayed here we noticed the Tea House that had recently opened a few doors down from the camp but did not visit.
This time with both of us a little peckish we decided that we would visit for morning tea or as it turned out Devonshire Teas. If you are staying at the camp then it’s definitely worth the short stroll to have the warm scones with fresh clotted cream and jam really good. There is also an extensive range of teas, which are also offered for sale if you like them, they just don’t advertise it very well. So just ask.
There is also a very friendly Irish Wolfhound that will come and say hello. He is a rather large dog! Very cute though.
Last time we visited here we walked the length of the river trail (click here to read the blog) so I won’t go into detail here but we did walk halfway down the trail and then up the road to get a few supplies from Kerikeri. It is such a pretty walk.
By the time we got back to the van the Dethleffs were starting to arrive with Christine and Fred amongst them so it was a good chance for us to catch up before the weekend event started in earnest. In all we had 10 Dethleffs vans in the camp that night with a Frankia and Rapido plus a couple of caravans making guest appearances. The firm surface had been completely taken over with no room if anyone else arrived.
Rob and Jackie who live in the nearby retirement village had kindly opened their house to all of us for the shared meal of fish and chips, that went down really well.
It’s such a small world as when in Blenheim we met John who also lives in the same complex and of course owns a Dethleffs, turns out he was joining us on the weekend as well.
Before we hit the road the following morning John insisted that we stock up on mandarins from the old orchard behind the retirement village. Before the trees are bulldozed for further housing soon, an opportunity to good to turn down.
We arrived at the campsite in Mahinupua which is not in any travel guide or an any app and is available only if you phone first and make a booking with payment expected by Koha rather than any fixed price.
John who is a regular here told us that we should park with him at the far end of the beach as it’s very sheltered and gets the sun much longer than those parked in the middle of the camp so bowing to his knowledge this is what we did. Even if the others thought we were both being snobby it was all about the wind and sun.
With everyone settled it was time for the morning cuppa and a chance to start getting to know all the others. In total 11 vans with Sarah and I, John on his own, Fred and Christine, Neville and Sue, Ken and Jill, Rob and Jackie, Graham and Irene, Colin and Gaile, Bruce and Raewyn, and Mitch and Dallas.
From the other end of the beach there is a 2 hour return walk to the trig station at the end of the peninsula so with the introductions and lunch out of the way it was time for Sarah and I to get in the 10000 steps for the third day in a row, after yesterdays walk into Kerikeri.
As the track gently rose upwards there were a couple of great chances to look back down at the campground to see what a beautiful place we were in. Also because it’s all sand under the grass there was no mud in the camp and no chance of being bogged down a double win!
The walk out to the headland takes you past some very nice accessible and some not so accessible beaches where you could imagine on a hot summers day you might be one of the only people swimming on this remote headland.
I thought that we had our fill of stairs climbing up the hillside with the walk we did on Thursday so when we came across another set of never ending (or so it seemed) stairs I almost despaired but actually this walk was nothing compared to Thursday and we soon had the stairs knocked off.
It took about 45 minutes to reach the trig station and the views of the islands beyond the end of the peninsular. Back in the 1990’s I was lucky enough to come up to Whangaroa game fishing around these islands so it brought back a few memories for me.
There are two routes at the end of the trail that take you to the trig station with us walking the coastal route on the way back which is meant to be about an extra 5 minutes walk but it may have taken us a bit longer as we stopped to admire some really good views.
I did get a little worried however when I noticed substantial cracking in the ground below the path near the cliff edges and I wonder if there is a large landslide coming as the cracks appeared to cover a large area.
Going back down the stairs it seemed much easier than going up them, I wonder why that was! Then it’s not far from there back to the camp ground. Not the hardest walk we have done by any means but still had me huffing and puffing a bit, at times, with just over 1 hour and 40 minutes there and back we returned to the campsite in time for high tide and a spot of fishing.
Earlier in the day Colin and Graham had launched Colin’s inflatable but rather than put together our own inflatable we had chosen to join some of the others fishing from the beach. Rob had told us that the best fishing was at the estuary end of the beach so Sarah and I set up the surfcasters with high expectations.
Sadly no one fishing from the beach that afternoon caught anything. Colin and Graham however returned with a decent size John Dory that they actually caught about 100 metres from the beach.
Happy hour rolled around faster than expected on the Saturday night or maybe people just started a little earlier than we are used to. But as you can see by how well wrapped up everyone was it was just a little chilly. Had it not been for the great company I think everyone would have been in their motorhomes hiding from the wind which seemed stronger once the sun started to fade adding to the plunging temps.
As the sun started to set on what had been a glorious day and before the icicles started to form on my nose Sarah and I retreated to our motorhome to make dinner and thaw out. That night with just the lapping of the waves against the beach it was a great nights sleep.
We woke on Sunday morning to find that the weather whilst reasonably warm wasn’t as nice as it had been the previous day and some couples decided to head home. That just gave those that remained, including us, the chance to socialise a bit more and for Sarah and I the chance to really meet some of the group.
It’s really funny but with only 6 motorhomes in the camp including ours I managed to loose Sarah twice during the day as she disappeared into various motorhomes catching up with some of the ladies. Whilst some of the guy’s especially Graham and Ken spent time discussing various things about their motorhomes. That’s them you can see underneath the van looking at modifications to the waste system.
We decided to have another go at fishing that afternoon with both of us catching and releasing a small Kowahi each. So a much better result than the day prior but no dinner for that night.
I didn’t take a photo of the happy hour on Sunday night but Jill sent me the one she took and although it was a much smaller group than the day prior it was at least a little warmer and with the smaller group it was a good chance to have another chat with these Dethleffs owners and start working on some longer term friendships.
Standing behind Sarah and I in this photo is John who we had invited to dinner that evening. others in the photo are Fred and Christine in front of the motorhome. Jackie and Rob front and centre and Irene in the blue of to the right. A great bunch of people.
Monday morning and the weather forecast to turn to complete custard over the next few days we decided to retreat home rather than continue the journey through wind and rain. We will head out again when the weather improves a bit.
Big thanks to all we met over the weekend for making us feel welcome. With special thanks to Fred and Christine for inviting us into this group and to Rob and Jackie for organising this weekend and inviting us into their home. A really special weekend.