Christmas Camping in Mangawhai

Some of the campers in Mangawhai

From Opua, where we spent our first couple of weeks in New Zealand and met the awesomest CouchSurfing host Willi, we sail south to Whangarei to meet Jordan and Gergana and their two boys Hristo and Boris.

At Jordan and Gergana’s house

They greet us like old friends, offering us warm hospitality and assistance. Right away Jordan and Ivo drive hundreds of kilometers all the way to Tauranga to pick up our new dinghy with Jordan’s trailer, saving us a few hundred dollars for delivery. We celebrate with beer and banitza.

Visiting Jordan and Gergana in Whangarei

Thanks to our popularity in Bulgaria (our motherland) as world travelers, we are meeting Bulgarians everywhere we go. Bulgarians living in the countries we visit or their friends who are following our blog, contact us every time and in every place on our way we get to make new awesome Bulgarian friends. Our journey around the world has become greatly about the people we meet and especially the Bulgarian people we meet wherever we go. And in New Zealand we met more awesome Bulgarians than anywhere else!

Ivo with Jordan in front of a Christmas tree in Onerahi Anchorage

Our friends visiting us in 20+ knots wond

Next we visit Svet and Dara, and their two kids Vokil and Sofia (also Bulgarians, friends of Jordan and Gergana), and spend a few days housesitting in Magawhai, an hour south of Whangarei. The few days stretch into a few months. We basically move-in in their house, occupying the old caravan permanently parked at the end of the big front yard, or moving to a tent, when other families visit for a few days’ stay and the caravan is needed to accommodate more people. Maya and the kids are great friends, and we all enjoy the awesome company of Shelby the cat, ruler of mice and sparrows, and the three dogs: Puku, Ruby and baby Bristol. Baby Bristol is a few months old, spoiled bundle of joy, sleeping in the house in forbidden places, and doing her business in the center of the living room or next to the washing machine.

Maya with her friends

We arrive in Mangawhai sometime at the end of November and moor Fata Morgana in the tiny bay a few minutes’ walk from the house. Gradually, more and more Bulgarian families arrive too from other parts of New Zealand and all the way from Bulgaria, parking their cars and caravans in front of the house, covering all the rooms with mattresses, spreading their tents in the front yard near our caravan until there is no more space, invading the back yard. By the end of December, the place looks like a campground, with no rules, no organization, and only one toilet. Actually, there is one rule, and one rule only, and Svet, our host and main Jedi,  is strictly enforcing it: “No one goes to bed before midnight.” They call this “Celebrating Christmas”.

The “campground” in Mangawhai at sunset

Kids of all ages are running around, jumping on the trampoline or sitting in front of the TV, while the mothers are constantly cooking and washing dishes. Every day the campground wakes up early to the sound of babies crying. A few sleepy mothers prepare breakfast and turn on the TV, so the fathers can continue their hang-over sleep until noon, at least. At noon, almost everyone is awake and the smell of coffee is in the air. We sit outside on the porch around an old chest made of kauri tree, which we use for a table to put our coffee cups on, the morning sun shining, everyone a bit reluctant to speak, people lining up in front of the bathroom, and we make the plan for the day.

“Let’s go to the beach.”

It’s important to mention here, that in New Zealand the months between November and May are the hottest, and this is the time of the summer vacation.

It takes somewhere between 2 and 5 hours to organize the going-to-the beach activity, deciding who will be in which car, which beach, who is not going for whatever reason, preparing mountains of sandwiches, getting the kids ready with their swim suits, wetsuits and towels. Sometime in the late afternoon the Bulgarian heard is at the beach- fishing, surfing, splashing and playing football (or soccer). We love football, it’s our national game.

The Bulgarians at the beach

One very strong Bulgarian characteristic is- we are a loud people. We are impulsive, excited when with friends and very loud, rivaling the Italians. So you can imagine a group of 30 plus Bulgarians playing football on the beach… Curious people would come from far away to ask what is the language we speak, or rather, we scream.

Fun and Games at the beach

Tired and hungry, we return at the house with only one shower. At some point, the water, which comes from a rainwater collecting tank, finished very suddenly and surprisingly, while someone was using the washing machine, another one was in the bathroom and the dishwasher was in the middle of its cycle. It hasn’t been raining for a long time. Panic.

The men quickly respond to the disaster: cars are leaving, the water supply guy is found, he says he cannot come today, a gift of a bottle is given, he comes today. The water tank is full once again and we are back in business, after a few hours of complete drought and uncertainty.

The evening is the greatest and most important part of the camping’s routine. In the backyard, Svet and Dara have parked an old fishing boat made of kauri, which after renovation can be used to accommodate a few more campers, but now is just sitting in the middle of the place, as decoration. Next to it is the BBQ. Another smaller boat, also made of kauri and used for catching whales one hundred years ago is turned upside down and raised above a home-made bar, where every evening we bring drinks and food, music and even lasers for added epicness. Between the two boats is an empty space with a metal car wheel in the center, used as an improvised fireplace. We sit around the fire watching it intently and sip drinks until midnight or later.

Dancho and Koko- the evening begins.

Thus, we celebrate not only Christmas, but also New Year and all small and big holydays, and regular days in between, until Easter. The New Year’s party is of epic proportions like a scene from Emir Kostunica’s gipsy films, with over 50 people, all Bulgarian, except our Belgian friend Gill and the two British DJ’s, both named John, one married to a Bulgarian girl we call “Tzuki”. Yes, there are DJs, and there are lasers and a smoke machine, and traditional ring-dancing in clouds of dust, kids and dogs running around, mountains of food and rivers of alcohol. The only thing missing is a live pig roaming around and a shootout.


Thank you for your hospitality and friendship

Dara and Svet, Voki and Sophia

Jordan and Gergana, Hristo and Boris

Stefan and Petia, Nikola and Marko

Dido and Nataly, Koko, Stefko and Toto

John and Tzuky, Imogene and Isabelle

Miro and Eva, and Mira

Koko and Svetla, and Evgeny

Krasi and Biliana, Magy nd Aglika

Marieta and Ivan Boevi, Stasy and Nia

Pach ond Maria, Volen and Maxo

Joro and Vili




More photos




Мира и Дара правят мартенички

Maya and Sophia dying their hairs


















Watch the short fun YouTube video with more interesting events from Mangawhai

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