Amongst the Kiwis: a road trip through New Zealand in a GLE.
Feeling at home.
The moment you set foot on one of the islands of New Zealand, you are in another world. The vegetation is different, the air is different and the people have a different manner too. More relaxed. Friendlier. Kinder. It gives you a taste for more! That is why the two bloggers Tamsin and Christopher set off on a 4,000-kilometre-long road trip to investigate New Zealand’s North Island. Christopher is also a photographer, and he documents the whole trip with his camera. The vehicle for their voyage of discovery – for Tamsin it is more like a trip down memory lane, because she comes from New Zealand – is a Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 d 4MATIC.
GLE 350 d 4MATIC:
Fuel consumption combined: 6.6-6.4 l/100 km;
combined CO₂ emissions: 179-169 g/km.*
Right at the beginning of their journey in the city of Hamilton, the pair notice another positive aspect of the Kiwi island: because New Zealand is so sparsely populated, there are virtually no traffic jams. This means that the trip northwards in the GLE is very relaxed. It’s more than 400 kilometres to Cape Reinga, the end of the first stage, at the northernmost point on the North Island. For most of the journey the companions travel along State Highway 1, the most important artery.
Travelling for longer distances in the comfortable SUV is no problem with the DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control activated. Every so often, the two travellers leave the highway to admire the countryside at their leisure.
Ninety Mile Beach: a sand highway.
It's worth making a detour to experience Ninety Mile Beach, for example. The sandy beach is just under 90 kilometres long, and all of it can be driven on – the name is slightly misleading, because in fact this section is only 55 miles long. Ninety Mile Beach is actually part of the public road system in New Zealand and only all-wheel vehicles are allowed to drive on it.
This makes it perfect terrain for the Mercedes-Benz GLE equipped with all-wheel drive system 4MATIC, which, after a long highway section, has unsurfaced ground under its 20-inch wheels for the first time. 100 kilometres per hour is permitted on the beach – gliding over the sand at this speed is a unique (driving) feeling!
A pig called Nadja.
Later, on a lonely country road, there is another highlight in store: close to small Coromandel Town, Tamsin and Christopher encounter a farmer who is just feeding his pigs. There is a sweet little pig that they particularly like, called Nadja: the farmer is just carrying her in his arms. He is more interested in the GLE and he takes a few photos with his mobile.
Before the journey continues, Tamsin and Christopher have to shoo a few pigs out from under the car – they've chosen the warm place under the exhaust pipe to have their siesta.
Surrounded by nature.
And New Zealand has a few more natural experiences in store. On Coromandel peninsula and at the north of Spirits Bay near Cape Reinga, there are some delightful camp sites right next to the sea where you can spend a few relaxed days outdoors. The peninsula is a favourite destination for New Zealanders. Many people come here for the weekend, particularly from nearby Auckland. Tamsin and Christopher are delighted too: sitting on the boot sill of the GLE, they enjoy the sunset together. On the spur of the moment, they decide to stay the night in Port Jackson.
Impressive in all disciplines.
The GLE proves to be a thoroughly practical companion in the important road trip discipline of “spontaneous overnight stops”: to change the SUV into an overnight camper, all you have to do is fold down the rear bench seat, which is child’s play, and spread out a couple of sleeping bags for the night. Through the panoramic sliding sunroof you can watch the stars in the sky, which shine particularly brightly here next to the sea, far from the city.
The GLE in its element.
The journey continues southwards. Here there are countless lanes and gravel roads threading through the island countryside like small veins. Bright green meadows alternate with dense forests – the idyll is reminiscent of the floodplains in “Lord of the Rings”. And that is no accident: the location where the movie village of Hobbiton is located is not very far away, close to the small town of Matamata. Despite the picturesque surroundings, you need to stay alert at the wheel – because unexpected obstacles can crop up time and again, for example, there are often stretches of water to ford, depending on the season and how much rain there has been. All-wheel drive system 4MATIC and the GLE’s ground clearance prove to be of great advantage on several of these crossings. It would not be a good idea to get stuck here, far from civilization, as garages are rare out here – and you cannot rely on the mobile phone network either. On the other hand, the locals are always only too glad to help, as Tamsin knows, having been here on many trips in the past with her parents.
New Zealanders are such helpful people. The wilderness bonds people together: if you run into difficulties out here, they drop everything to help you. But Tamsin and Christopher have been travelling for more than 2,000 kilometres without any mishaps – the GLE runs like clockwork.
Recharging the energy reserves.
The diesel engine of the GLE 350 d 4MATIC makes for impressive driving, not only because it has plenty of torque but also for its economical performance. All the same, there finally comes the point when the 93-litre tank is empty. The two fill up with fresh diesel at a small filling station. The friendly attendant also provides a few good insider travel tips for discovering the area – friendly small talk at the pump is not unusual in New Zealand. Tamsin’s and Christopher’s energy reserves are run down too, and it’s time to buy a snack from the little shop. Ever popular in New Zealand: fish and chips. Fast food such as deep-fried fresh fish is not something you buy from a fast-food chain, because there are not many of those on the island. A more typical feature is farms with a farm shop where people sell their own produce and also offer snacks.
Countryside straight out of the movies in Tongariro National Park.
After a stop, the journey continues along Desert Road; it winds through countryside straight out of the movies towards a volcanic massif. The peaks of the volcanic craters tower up to a height of 2,797 metres in the cloudy sky. One of these is Mount Ngauruhoe, which became “Mount Doom” in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. The name Desert Road was chosen not without reason: the steppe countryside around the volcanic massif is barren and desert-like. There is not a tree in sight. Only scrub grows here. An impressive place – Tamsin and Christopher park the GLE by the roadside and enjoy the wide open space.
The volcanic lake and the capital.
Now it is time for the last destinations before returning to Hamilton. The two stop briefly in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. This is located on the southernmost tip of the North Island, and the area around Wellington is not only extremely windy, but with 190,000 inhabitants it is one of the most densely populated areas in New Zealand. A short snack, a coffee to go, a hint of big city flair – then the journey in the GLE continues to the last destination: Lake Taupo, a huge volcanic lake with many picturesque stretches of road, and the town of the same name on its northern shore. The volcano last erupted more than 1,800 years ago. As the myth goes, the lake is the pulsating heart of Māui the fish, a demigod very important to the native Māori people. Just one of the many exciting histories and legends surrounding this unique island. In three weeks in New Zealand in the GLE, Tamsin and Christopher have seen and experienced a lot.
For 4,000 kilometres, the SUV has demonstrated its all-round qualities both on and off-road. One thing is definite: the two will come back to the South Island for a road trip. In a GLE? Definitely! Or perhaps in a GLC ...