The Good The Bad And The Ugly In Aotearoa

8 months, 2 Cyclones, 1 car accident

Unbelievably, it has been over 8months since I left the shores of Blighty. Since September, I have settled in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as revisiting Australia for the first time in 13 years. What better place to base myself other than the beautiful Bay Of Islands? Initially, I booked just three nights in the birthplace of New Zealand. Then, two jobs and 6 months later it became very difficult to leave this paradise. I mean why would you want to leave here?

After leaving Australia in mid-November, we expected to hit the summer running when getting back to Aotearoa. Unfortunately, now well into Autumn we are still waiting to see summer. Unfortunately, New Zealand recorded one of the wettest years ever and THE wettest summer since records began. Two major cyclones hit the North Island in January and February and the aftermath is still being felt across the country. Not the summer we had planned or were promised from the ‘Winterless North’. I think I actually captured the NZ summer perfectly on Tiktok.


Making the most of the New Zealand summer time #cyclone #cyclonegabrielle #gabrielle #newzealand #summer #nzsummer #fyp #fypシ @nzherald @1News

♬ september on crack ft. a recorder (Earth, Wind & Fire – September) – frickin weeb

We did, however, fulfill the dream of purchasing a self-contained Van (called Max the Mazda). So planning our #vanlife trip from North Island right down to the mountainous peaks of South Island for winter was in full swing. That was until we were involved in a car accident with a double-trailer logging truck around 6 weeks ago. I will explain all later in the article.

Max’s Maiden Voyage

Our maiden journey together in Max would take us to the very tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. This is a place of huge spiritual significance among the Maori people. A real must-do on the bucket list. Cashing in on views and beaches of the Karikari Peninsula and our first-night ‘freedom camping’, the road trip was well underway.

A quick stop off at the jaw-dropping Henderson’s Bay before heading up to Cape Reianga itself and second-night camping, scheduled for just around the corner from the famous lighthouse, ready to watch the sunrise over where the Pacific Ocean and Gulf clash.

That would have been the goal had a roadblock not been put in place just 20km from our target destination. A raging wildfire was the reason for this and the area around the Cape had to be evacuated. With 250km travelled so far we got turned away 20km from our destination. Being told this road would be closed for the next few days, we dropped off for a visit at the sand dunes off of Te Paki Stream before finding an alternative freedom spot for the night. The staggering Spirits Bay.

Spirit’s Bay

One thing about travelling is that you just never know when your plans may be changed without warning. This is one of the beautiful things about the freedom of travelling. Without this set back we would never have visited one of the most stunning spots to camp.

Spirits Bay, Northlands, Aotearoa

So after a spot of fishing, and getting out fished by Hannah once again… we settled down for a freshly caught and prepared dinner. Then spending our second night in a sensational setting of beauty and tranquility. Little did we know what would lay ahead of us on our return journey back to Paihia and the Bay Of Islands.

The Great Escape

Starting out on our 95-mile (150 km) journey back to the Bay Of Islands, we found ourselves stuck behind one of the enormous double-trailered logging trucks for about 45 minutes. Unfamiliar with the single-lane winding roads, we planned our overtake at the longest straight stretch of road for miles. All clear and finally able to get around this monster logistics machine I started the overtake with around 1.5 km of clear straight road ahead.

As I passed the first trailer, the truck driver decided it would be a good idea to overtake another vehicle. Obviously, without checking his mirrors, they moved for the overtake. With nowhere to go and already halfway past the truck trailers, the lorry loaded to the brim with tons of cut logs smashed straight into the side of the van. My only option was to put the brakes on and wait for impact. Swerving to the right would have left us down a ditch and in serious trouble.

The Ugly

SMASH! The truck without hesitation began the ear-crushing metal-on-metal clash from the back of the van all the way to the front bumper collision. Braised for the absolute worse we prayed he would swerve back into his own lane. Smashing off the passenger wing mirror in its final act he drove on down the road.

By some miracle, we were left completely unharmed and pulled to the side of the road. Pretty traumatised and shaken we checked Max for what we expected to be a trainwreck. Somehow the damage was nowhere near as bad as we expected. We realised someone must have been watching down on us at that moment. How many other people can say they were hit by a multi-ton logging truck and live to tell the tale? Let alone without a scratch on their body?

Vanlife On Hold

Somehow the van damage did not affect its ability to drive. The collision caused more aesthetic and panel damage rather than write-off territory. Insurance and details were exchanged, we were just happy we were in one piece.

This does now mean the travel plans and van life would have to be put on hold. In true Aotearoa style, it has taken 6 weeks to finally arrange repair work to be sorted for poor Max. A road trip to the South Island of New Zealand would be pretty difficult without a vehicle. So what now? To quote myself earlier…one of the most beautiful things about the freedom of traveling is that plans can always be changed. I’m not to be one to sit and twiddle thumbs. Why leave destiny in someone else’s hands?

South East Asia Calling

Escaping the Aotearoa winter for south east asia

So… why wait around in a New Zealand winter with no means of transport when we can follow the sun? From the 18th May 2023, we take off for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our journey from here will be South to North Thailand, travelling with friends we have met and worked with while living in Paihia. From Thailand, we then travel over to the ‘Land Of The Dragon’, Vietnam. We plan to take in the sights of the capital Hanoi, before heading up on a journey around the famous Ha Giang Loop in northern Vietnam. Over the next month, we will journey from North to South, taking in the likes of Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City to name but a few gorgeous destinations. From here our plans are pretty fluid, with loose plans to visit Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia along the way.

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Keep Up To Date

I hasten to add, this is by no means the end of our journey in NZ. Quite the contrary. We have actually had our visa in New Zealand extended by 6 months by NZ Immigration. Also from 1st July as a UK passport holder, we can now extend our visa for an additional 2 years after this extension. More news will develop on this as we progress after our return from South East Asia.

If you would like to follow the journey please be sure to like and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok. You can find me across social media on @travelwithcooky

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