New Zealand, Travel

North Island, New Zealand: Notes from the Passenger Seat

The ten hour drive between the world’s coolest little capital of Wellington and the big little city of Auckland, is my single most travelled route in the country. today, let me drive you through the experience– must have’s, must do’s and must snaps.

1.) Camera

First and foremost, I am a traveler AND a photographer, not a travel photographer. Ergo, I cannot be bothered with manual settings and tripods when traveling. It helps that I have a photographer for a boyfriend, so he does all the photography engineering (which is stiff and boring, bazinga! :P)

I do, however, snap away with analog cameras. I dig the element of surprise in using film, the hopes for happy accidents. The art that I know is unrestrained and that is very well embodied with the analog loving.

GEARS: (Lomography) Fisheye 2, Diana F+, Colorsplash, Holga CFN, Sprocket Rocket | (Polaroid) 300, 600.

PROs: affordable, low-maintenance, can be put anywhere without having to worry about a broken lens, lightweight.

CONs: lomo: non-instant, poor depth of field | pola: expensive film


2.)  Sunglasses

An active lifestyle doesn’t leave so much room for accessories, so I invest in whatever I have left. A pair of sunnies isn’t only my favorite accessory, it is also an essential. I’m big on dramas, and sunglasses are my secret weapon for that. It conveys character, even on days that my eyebags are the size of Texas. I am particular though of what to wear where.

GEARS: Cheap aviators from Cotton On in blue glass/silver frame and black glass/gold frame, Calvin Klein bronze-framed aviators, Ralph Lauren Square framed oversized sunnies. The boyfriend, on the other hand, is loyal to Oakley’s Ducati.


3.) Signspotting

New Zealand is the most tourist-friendly country I’ve ever been to. You can go out of the airport, pick up a free map, rent a car and you can go to anywhere in the country without getting lost. And if you ever will, everywhere is a tourist spot, there is absolutely no need to worry.


4.) Detours

The problem with sign spotting is that, it can be suggestive. Tempting, even. A million times we have run short of time because we make unplanned turns because of interesting signs that were not really part of the itinerary. But as they say, it is the journey that counts, not the destination.


5.) Fruit Markets

One of my favorite things in road trips are short stops in roadside fruit markets. Fresh fruits, cheap prices.


6.) Music

For what fun is a road trip without an accompanying music trip? Aside from the iPad/iPhone playlists, I keep an album of CDs for road trips. And my favorite of all? OPM. (Parokya Ni Edgar, Eraserheads, Silent Sanctuary, Imago, Teeth, Yano, Kamikaze etc.)


7.) Beaches

A drive along the coast is an oasis in a road trip desert. There is always calming about the sight, feel and smell of water. New Zealand has freezing bodies of water though, even the sea. Especially the sea.


8.) Countryside

North Island boasts of a rich farming community. Driving from Wellington to Taupo, acres of farmlands wrap superhighways in seas of green. I particularly brood on this part of the trip, thinking of Heidi, a TV program from my childhood, which was set on a countryside like New Zealand but was dubbed in Filipino.

New Zealand is as big as the Philippines, but the population is only 4 million, 86 million of the total Philippine Population. Imagine how much free space this country has— that is the blinding expanse one can see from the road.


9.) Sheep

When my mom came out from the arrival lounge of the Auckland Airport on her first visit to the country, her first question was, “Where are the sheep?”

No, they don’t roam around the cities.  But on a road trip to Palmerston North aboard the Naked Bus, she finally saw herds and herds, much to her utter joy. She told me later that night that she didn’t really believe she was in NZ until the very moment she saw a sheep.


10.) Roadside Cafes

Over the years, I have learned to live with the misfortune of not having rice and <i>sabaw</i> in most NZ restaurants. But a life of chasing the sun and beating the weather has taught my palate to enjoy the quick fills on the road. Apart from fruits, I usually devour steak pies and fish and chips while on the road. For drinks, the ultimate Kiwi faves are Lemon and Paeroa and Bundaberg.


11.) Desert Road

Think Road to Vegas, that is exactly what State Highway 1’s Desert Road is. When on the Desert Road, one is actually, at least 3500 ft. above sea level, the highest in the country’s state highway networks.


12.) Mt. Ruapehu

Nature is  indeed ingenious. It is surprising to suddenly see a desert in the heart of a country with rich farmlands and abundant waterscapes. But once you’re there, you will understand. The Desert Road’s neutral brown is a necessary pathway that leads all eyes, all attention, to the grandeur of the snowcapped Mt. Ruapehu.

Unstoppable may be too strong as an adjective. But a freak head-on collision with another vehicle in a suburb near Huntersville two years ago confirmed just that. Still bearing the pain of spine contusion, I found myself embarking on another roadtrip to the Taranaki region a mere three days after the accident. I knew since, that I was more afraid of NOT living more than I’ll ever do with dying.


(all photographs, though without watermarks, are mine.)

Published by Rain Campanilla

Born under the star of Sagittarius, the centaur of adventure; and in the year of the Rat, the ever curious--- Travel is my birthright.

30 thoughts on “North Island, New Zealand: Notes from the Passenger Seat”

  1. Kero says:

    great photos! thank you for sharing your road trip. I too like to stop by on the road for fresh fruits. my boys are such fruit addicts!

    1. rain amantiad says:

      @kero: you are welcome. do drop by often <3

  2. chrisair says:

    I love that fish eye pic @ fruit markets

    1. joy says:

      ako ang napagod sa road trip mo hihi, but that was very enjoyable 🙂

      1. rain amantiad says:

        @joy: sa dami ng makikita on the way, dka mpapagod, pramis 😀

        1. Pang says:

          You have a nice blog….like your blog.

            1. thepinaysolobackpacker says:

              great captures! inggit ako, gusto ko din makakita ng snow capped mountain at desert!

              1. rain amantiad says:

                @thepinaysolobackpacker: plan a new zealand trip! daliiii! 🙂

      1. Marky says:

        I love roadtrips with lots of detours and yes, I used to own a Holga camera and it offers an added thrill of only seeing your photographs days later (in my case years – since I still have undeveloped rolls lol)

        1. rain amantiad says:

          apir to undeveloped rolls! <3. hope to travel with PTBs one day someday. I envy the meet-ups! 🙂

  3. Kara / Travel Up says:

    I love your photos! 🙂 I can relate to what you said about not being bothered with manual settings and tripods when traveling. Sometimes perfect moments just pass you by because you’re too busy fixing the settings on your camera.

    1. rain amantiad says:

      Kara: See? This is what I am thankful about with PTB. I find kindred spirits, people of like minds like you 😀

  4. chichi says:

    love your travel stories. this. and everything in between. i remember your accident and this road will be more than memorable.

    1. rain amantiad says:

      Thank you for reading Ate Chi. I remember that there was a breathtakingly beautiful gorge just before the bend where our car swerved to the wrong lane and smashed another car. Perhaps, we lost sight of the road. Idk, there are still chunks of what happened that I cannot piece together. But I thank God I’m alive to tell the stories. Travel On!

  5. Ion says:

    looks deserted. nice photos! nice shots rain!

    1. rain amantiad says:

      ion: only have 4 million people for a country the size of the Philippines. imagine 🙂

    2. Ads says:

      I also love to play music for those long drives especially those Pinoy alternatives that you also have. It keeps me wide awake while I drive going up north here in the Philippines.

      I very much enjoyed your road trip and does remind me joy rides of my own. Thanks a bunch!

  6. Palagutom says:

    New Zealand is such a heavenly place and your blog speak well about it.

    1. rain amantiad says:

      Thank you very much! We have 2 islands here: 1 is home, the other one is paradise 🙂

      1. Michelle says:

        Love love love the photos!!! Dreamy indeed! 🙂

          1. Pinaywriter says:

            I am a *list-loving* kinda person and I loved this blog because of it. And the pictures are *lovely*. I wish I could find a bf who can handle the techside of photography too. *god please send a loyal travel loving has sense of direction photography loving bf soon that or enough money for a decent camera*

            I have friends who live and work in NZ and they told me it’s lovely. I’ll tell my friend to check things out when she goes there.

            1. rain amantiad says:

              @pinay writer: i started with an SE k800i camera phone. while waiting for the bf and saving for the camera, capitalize on what you have. it’ll take you places 😀

  7. EDMARATION says:

    such a lovely place. Please do cliimb Mt Cook for PTB. heeh.

    1. rain amantiad says:

      @edmar: that is quite a challenge, but why not? there is a prequel to that, though. remind me to remind you in May 🙂

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