Sitting in a muddy hole for a few hours feels much better than you would imagine. Especially after ‘tasting’ some wine.

It took us a few days but today we realised our path had taken us pretty close to the Northlands Wine Trail. Armed with this newly acquired information, it seemed rude to not partake.

There are 17 wineries on the trail, so there is no shortage of choice. New Zealand’s wine industry is very new, but they already have some interesting and original blends of more traditional grape varieties, and surprisingly, some really good port. Im fully aware that it’s generally frowned upon to swallow the wine, but to be honest, it was so good it seemed as if it would be more rude not to. I even tried the Chardonnay, a wine I normally don’t get on with, and was pleasantly surprised.

After the wine tasting we felt the need for some liquid refreshment of a different kind, and our Lonely Planet travel guide suggested the Ngawha hot springs, apparently the best hot springs in the North Island, and for just four bucks too! We smelt the springs before we set eyes on them, as an overpowering whiff of rotten eggs crept into the car as we approached. The smell is due to the high levels of sulphur in the water, because of its volcanic source. The somewhat ghetto looking springs didn’t disappoint, with over ten different pools of varying temperatures, and each with its own specific healing properties, due to the different mineral concentrations within each pool.

We spent a good few hours sampling the different pools, starting with the more mild pools at around the mid to high thirty degree mark, and moving on to some of the hotter pools, coming in in the low fourties. We both tried ‘The Doctor’ named not for its healing properties, but because of the MotoGP connection – the temperature stays at a steady 46.

After the hot springs we were both too relaxed to drive any great distance and so found a small local camp in a farmers field. The woman who checked us in was friendly enough, with two gorgeous dogs, but the campsite itself was a little on the strange side, with the kitchen, toilet and shower being housed in an old cowshed, complete with old milking machinery, rusty chainsaw chains and dairy farmers publications dating from the nineteen sixties. As it was almost dark when we arrived, the surroundings were a little creepy, so after a quick dinner of risotto we called it a day, and left pretty early the following day.

Cowshed camping

Our campsite for tonight is Trounson Kauri Park, a NZ heritage site managed by the Department of Conservation (or as I keep referring to it the ‘Department of Conversation’ in a Monty Python-esque slip that Jo finds hilarious. We arrived pretty early, and had a pretty chilled day, mostly due to an entire day of rain that would give the UK a run for it’s money.

The intention was to stay up late and take a walk through the Kiwi reserve in the wee early hours. Kiwi are nocturnal, and notoriously shy, so a red torch is recommended, as wealth as a healthy dose of ninja-like stealthiness. By the wee small hours however, we had drunk far too much Fine Ruby to be in any way stealthy. Coupled with the puring rain, we decided it was best to rain-check the midnight ramble for another time. Probably for the best.