Monday, May 9, 2016

Day 99 - The East Coast Blitz

After the few hours on the ferry, we arrived, unloaded and got back in our home on wheels. We began our last adventure...the North Island East Coast. From Wellington we ventured 281kms through the winding roads, rolling hills, covered in sheep, with the random farms along the way, all the way on a random back road that was so rural that we figured we must be lost. But, as we were committed to our paper maps for navigation, it did in fact say that there was a town called Mara down the road we were travelling, which was our desired destination. We drove quite a ways only to discover that Mara, was a sign with about 4 little houses clustered around a T-intersection. It was obvious that Mara likely had been a town once but now was not much more than a hamlet or village. It was a place. Not much more. Fortunately it was a gorgeous drive, otherwise our endeavour would have been in vain. 
After this adventure to find Mara, we headed to our campsite for the night. Another wonderful free campsite on Te Paerahi Beach. We were fortunate as always to experience an incredible sunset and sunrise here, an incredible midnight moon. Nothing like a mid-night bathroom break to be completely knocked off your feet by a breathtaking star filled night sky. 
After our usual early morning wake up, we got on the road and back tracked a bit to set the place with the longest name in the world. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. This place, specifically a hill, is near Porangahau. The story of how this hill was named is a rather interesting piece of Maori history. According to the sign here it translates to, "The summit where Tamatea, the man with big knees, the slider, climer of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one." Tamatea was born to be an was in his blood. Canoes, wives, children and many other things come up when you search this name.

As we drove along in the morning hours, the beauty and grandeur of New Zealand continued to take my breath away and the words from my mind. This country never ceases to amaze me. 

Our drive from the Te Paeraki Beach Campsite took us through Napier, Gisborne and all of the way to the East Cape, our final destination for the day. 516 kms of more incredible rolling hills and gorgeous coastal views. Along our way we stopped at Tolago Bay to see the countries longest wharf, a whopping 660 meters. It really did not seem that spectacular but was still nice to see. Yet another example of New Zealand's claim to fame that everything is the most incredible sights to see. That being said, part of Eastland history and apparently a great spot to fish, it was a beautiful evening mucking about on the historical wharf. 

After sternly being told we could not stay the night in the parking lot at the wharf, which we had zero intentions doing, we made our way on a very bumpy road, in the dark to the campsite where we would be staying the night in order to make our way to the East Cape Lighthouse where we would watch the sunrise. This spot is said to be the most eastern point in the world and the place where you can boldly say that you were the first in the world to see the sun rise. We were up at 6 am which turned out to not be early enough. As I had previously explained to my friend, we had to climb 800 steps to get up to the lighthouse, and at 6 am the prospect of this task was not welcomed with smiles and enthusiasm. I nearly perished trying to race to the top in order to not miss out on the sunrise. Left in the dust of my friend, I trudged along the steps, willing my sleepy legs to get me all the way to the top without failing me. Alas, I made it moments behind my friend. The sunrise was not as spectacular as the frantic race to the top of this hill was, but it was definitely worth it nonetheless. There is something very beautiful and grounding to be in a place that makes you sit and contemplate the intricacies of this world and of this life.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Day 97 - A South Island Farewell

This past week has been a bit of a whirlwind, but mostly in New Zealand style, still chill and relaxed. In the past week we traveled the longest distance in the shortest amount of time. Since my friend was leaving New Zealand behind for new adventures we had to get up to Auckland in a week. Along the way we decided that he had to see the eastern coast of the North Island before he left. He had seen a part of the rest of the country so we had to complete the trip with experiencing the east coast of the North Island. From Dunedin to Blenheim (846km), Blenheim to Wellington by ferry (131km), Wellington to Napier (322km), Napier to Gisborne (214km), Gisborne to the East Cape Lighthouse (190km), East Cape Lighthouse to Matamata (377km)m Matamata to Thames (107km), and from Thames to Auckland (103km), our final destination together. This whole trip was a good 2,290km for our old station wagon but left a multitude of memories to add to our New Zealand adventure.

Everything started with our morning departure from Dunedin. We stopped at Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach along the Otago coast not too far from the city. The boulders randomly laying out along this beach were fascinating. These boulders are uncovered concretions. Now I definitely had to look up what a "concretion" was as I had never heard of such a thing. I am going to let you take the opportunity to look it up for yourself. It is a rather interesting process, which if I try to explain I will do it now justice. Before looking all this up it was actually quite fun to imagine how on earth these boulders ended up on the shore of this beach.

From here is was time on the road in the wagon, listening to our staple playlists, talking about anything and everything, and sitting in silence taking in the never ending incredible scenery. We arrived in Christchurch in the late afternoon. We stocked up on food/snacks and went on a hunt for for coptic drawing pens for my dear friend since he would not be able to find them in SE Asia. We were thankfully successful. This was the most we saw of Christchurch as it became dark as we drove out of the city. We could see some remnants of the earthquake as we drove through the city but because we didn't stray from the main roads. If I ever make it back I would like to explore more of this area for sure. Our drive continued on until we made it to our campsite for the night, Blarich Campsite right near the ferry. We had stayed here where we first crossed over to the south island. We enjoyed a very healthy road dinner of chips and the best coconut oat cookies this night as it was so late when we arrived neither of us wanted to put in the effort to cook anything. Once again the night sky of New Zealand did not disappoint. So many beautiful stars, all the time. We woke up and made our way to the ferry. On the way through the valleys and orchards we found some heavy laden apple trees on the side of the road that we were very happy to help ourselves to.

And one last trip on the ferry for us to end our South Island adventures. There were certainly places that we did not have time to see but that was okay. There is sooo much to see and we had seen so many places that it was impossible to see everything in the time we had. North Island here we come.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Day 95 - Dunedin Neverending

A late night drive from Invercargill brought us back to Dunedin where we stayed a few more nights. We ventured to St. Claires Beach and my goodness what a beautiful spot it was. 
Another breath taking spot. 

I convinced my dear travel mate that venturing out to Larnach Castle on the ridge of Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle was built by an Australian man with a dream to build a castle as a private residence. On our wandering of the grounds, we learned that this man had 3 wives die and in the end he took his own life. A tragic story with a lovely little castle left behind. The grounds were beautiful with so many interesting plants. Succulents everywhere!

Our next destination was Sandfly Bay to hopefully get a glimpse of more penguins. 15 km outside of Dunedin and yet another gorgeous place to see. Really, when there is a beach, there is beauty. Despite the normalcy of sandflies attacking you here, this is not where this particular beach got its name. Thankfully there were very few pesky sandflies here. With the large sand dunes and the windy nature of this coast, the sand flies off the dunes surrounding the bay. We also discovered that this beach is a popular location for Sea Lion's to bathe in the sun. 


The sandstone coastline of south of Dunedin is gorgeous with its high rocky cliffs and at this particular beach, a hand carved tunnel, built in the 1870's, which at low tide leads you to a secluded beach at the base of the cliffs. This was one of our last stops on our last night in Dunedin. The sound of the waves crashing into the cliffs was mesmerizing. 

Once we left the beach we headed back into town for a farewell dinner with our gracious host at the Dog with Two Tails for some eats and live Jazz. It was a wonderful last evening spent in the wonderful city of Dunedin. 
Since my German friend decided it was getting too cold in New Zealand and needed some warmer weather booked a flight to Vietnam. It too nearly all of my willpower to resist purchasing a ticket for myself. This meant the we had to gear up to get back on the road North to get to the airport in Auckland in a weeks time. 

Day 95 - Dunedin

The weather transitioning out of summer and into fall. You can feel the chill in the air....I think Dunedin is a beautiful place to experience this transition of weather. We arrived in Dunedin after spending the weekend with new found friends in Balclutha who graciously let us stay with them all weekend after they found us on the side of the road in the rain, taking pictures of deer. 
Thanks to a lovely friend, I had an acquaintance in Dunedin who offered his abode for us to stay at. An intelligent man doing incredible research on suicide and preventative measure in the country. An incredible house, built in 1882, whom he shared with multiple roommates, which made the experience a little bit interesting, but seriously what can you expect when you are crashing on a couch. The house used to be the home of one of the pioneers of plastic surgery in New Zealand. Every common room was bare but grand. We took over the grand living room with 15 ft ceilings and two comfy couches that we sunk into after days of wandering the area. Beats a campsite for sure this time around. Spending a week in Dunedin was wonderful....this was a New Zealand city that I could stay in for a prolonged period of time. 

The people...the landscape...the history...the beauty...the Scottish influence...and basically the feel of this beautiful stone and historic city...It made me feel at home. 
In theprevious photos shows that my friend and I went on a hike of Mt. Cargill. It was not a hike at all since due to my misdirection, we ended up driving basically all the way to the top of this mountain. Which was epically annoying since I had my hiking hating friend all geared up to walk up this hill to get to this beautiful look out. It was a very disappointing realization that we had accidentally driven to the top. Who even makes a hike that you can drive to the top of?!? Silly Kiwi's. 
Dunedin is where I had "The Best Ice Cream In Dunedin" yet another of New Zealand's claims. It honestly was delicious ice cream but this is the only place I had ice cream from so I cannot attest to the grand claim of "the best". It was good ice cream but you can get the same stuff all over the country. Dunedin is very much so a college/university student town. You can feel it. Not a bad thing at all. It actually gives the city a great dynamic. We spent a lot of time at the local library whic spiked my interest in their Nook and Cranny Music Festival. It was honestly one of the most interesting festivals I have been present for. I discovered an artist just by listening and wandering around the library for a few minutes until I found her....Abby Wolfe...stole my heart. There was something so magical about hearing her incredible voice bounce off of the stacks of books surrounding her mini stage. It was amazing. In contrast, the next day we got on the road and drove to Invercargill for a rugby game. We even drove over 200km to see the game...thankfully having seats under the shelter which meant we did not get rained on at all once the clouds opened up after we sat down to watch the game. Sitting out of the rain but watching the men on the field running through the downpour was awesome.