The long way home
Earlier this year we were heading through Auckland on our Far North trip and decided to pop into the Feldon Shelter workshop to have a proper look at their tents. Daniel fell in love on the spot (I wasn’t too far behind) and we decided we needed one - the only problem being we had a perfectly good bed in the back of the Prado. We reluctantly left without buying our tent.
Fast forward a few months and we’d bought our new truck (the Hilux), and were working out the best way to turn it into a solid camper. We quickly decided a rooftop tent was the best option for us, so the second the Feldon pre-orders opened we got ourselves signed up. We got in touch with Ash at Kaizen Works to ask about about getting a mount built up so we could run the tent over the tub of the Hilux, and he absolutely blew us away with his build.
Finally, our tent was ready to be picked up - we could have got it shipped down, but what a great excuse for a road trip! It’s a solid eight hour drive from Wellington to Auckland if you stick to the main roads, but where’s the fun in that?
We’d hit up the Tukino ski field in the summer and had been waiting for an excuse to go back and see it covered in snow. As we headed north from Waiouru we watched the thermometer dropping, and soon enough it was snowing on the road. I’d taken the first shift behind the wheel, so when we got to the turn off to Tukino, I pointed the truck up the mountain and went for it.
What a buzz! Driving on snow was like nothing I’d experienced before. The road was covered in slushy ice and volcanic rock, but when Daniel jumped out to take a photo he was immediately waist-deep in fresh, soft, fluffy snow. We're such Wellingtonians - any amount of snow is an exciting amount.
The Feldon team were awesome at getting our tent installed and gave us a quick runthrough of how it works - super simple. They let us chuck all our sleeping gear in it before we folded it away, and we were back on the road and ready to camp within an hour. After a quick stopoff to visit Rich at NZ Offroader, we found ourselves wondering which way to head for our first night in the tent. After checking out the weather forecast, we decided to head east, and as I’ve always loved the Coromandel area - Whitianga it was! We headed over the amazing 309 Road (named for its 309 corners) just as it was getting dark, and set up our tent for the first time... in the rain. My bad.
Thankfully the weather cleared up overnight, so in the morning we headed up to Opito Bay for breakfast. It’s an awesome bit of highway following the coast, now we want to head back up and get right up to the top of the peninsula. Another one for the bucket list!
We took another look at the forecast and decided to head back west. We followed Coroglen Road through the Coromandel Forest park to Thames, stopping off to check out some old gold mines on the way. Daniel took a random side track which got steeper and narrower, and ended up on someone’s property, so he had to reverse all the back down again - the fun side of taking the path less travelled.
We headed west to Port Waikato, deciding we were confident enough with the tent now to really get ourselves lost. From the port we headed south along an amazing gravel road, with the idea of ending up near Raglan. We were well out of cell reception and the road had so many intersections - we’d have been lost without our Topo map. It was a much longer road than we anticipated, but with so many lambs, calves and baby goats to watch as we drove along. We came out just north of Raglan as the sun was going down, and headed to camp to park up for the night.
Raglan was beautiful in the morning, we definitely could have stayed for days. Unfortunately we both had to be back at work on Monday so after a short stop at the beach (the water hadn’t heard the warm weather memo), we headed on south. Whaanga Road offered the most beautiful west coast views we’ve seen yet, and terrain from beach, to gravel through native forest, to red, volcanic sand.
We stopped off in Kawhia in the afternoon, then headed inland and ended up back on SH3. We still had one more night to go, and thought we’d try the tent out in some colder climes, so pointed the truck back towards the central plateau. We got the beauty of driving towards the mountains just as the sun was going down, and brought the trip full circle by hitting up the other side of Ruapehu.
Daniel absolutely loves the Pokaka Mill campsite, so we took the turn and headed back into the bush. We suddenly realised it was dark, we were out of cell service and we had no idea what the condition of the road would be - it’s known for its epic slips in winter. Taking a punt we continued on, and after 30 minutes of some pretty dodgy terrain we were setting up for dinner in the middle of nowhere. The stars were amazingly bright out there!
We reckon it got down below freezing that night, and the wind was coming straight off the mountains. The truck was covered in ice in the morning, but in the tent we were all good wrapped up in our thermals - it blocked the wind completely. Nailed it, Feldon!
After a hot coffee we reluctantly packed up our tent for the last time on the trip home, and headed back out of the campsite. We wiggled our way south to Whanganui, then took the highway back home. It was an awesome trip, with all of our favourite things: mountains, beaches, gravel tracks and getting lost. Time to start planning the next one!