Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 102- The End of the Epic Adventure of the Canadian and German Travelling NZ

After driving north to spend the night on the coast in Te Kauwhata for a night of relaxing and fun along the Coromandel Peninsula. After what would be our last pancake breakfast together, we drove to the southwestern end of the peninsula to Thames. A small town with a library where my my German friend could solidify his plans for Vietnam. I was so tempted to tag along with him but, alas, I did not. Probably a choice I would eventually regret but that is okay. 
Regrets teach you lessons for next time.  

After a short drive to Auckland, and a quick lunch break at a viewpoint just outside the airport, we sat eating and enjoying each others company before my friends flight left for Vietnam. Sitting watching and listening to the roar of the planes overhead was very bitter sweet. Adventure was calling my friends name and he absolutely had to go.

It is difficult to accurately describe the experience of meeting a stranger while travelling, bonding with them in a certain way that makes you feel immediately safe around them...enabling you to trust them and travel around a country with them for months, sharing space, however big or small, sharing food, stories, incredible moments....moments of awe, happiness, sadness, struggle...moments of strength, weakness and vulnerability. Until you have had this experience you will never be able to understand the bond that is created between two humans who did not even know each other existed until they met on a foreign land and decided to adventure together. It is a truly special experience that I hope everyone in their own way gets to experience at one point in their life. I feel truly fortunate and blessed to have been in the same hostel room in my first two weeks in country with my dear German friend. To have spent enough time with each other in Paihia to realize that we wouldn't mind travelling with each other. And to have made the decision to meet back up after parting ways, to hike the Tongariro Crossing and continue on adventuring together. Which was the start of our trip in our wee, very touristy, rickety station wagon. Meeting new friends along the way from all over the world. Trying to avoid hitting hedgehogs and possums...and keeping the kea birds from eating our car and stealing our cooking supplies.  Teaching each other our native languages along the way. Blasting German tunes as we drove along the winding roads. Happy to drive 80 km/hr down the New Zealand highways, sometimes slower, especially on the roads with vertical drops offs, no shoulders and only little wooden guard rails to catch your rush, no care in the world, taking in every sight and place that we possibly could. Pure bliss is what it one of the most diverse and beautiful countries I have been to yet. I would not trade any moment of this adventure for anything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 100 - Hobbitan

Next on our East coast blitz was Matamata where the shire resides. We drove there, could not find an open free campsite so ended up camping on the roadside. It was actually kind of nice. Little did we know we were literally only a couple kms away from the shire at that time. We did not find this out until later when we got on the tourist bus that would take us to the shire and we drove past where we slept. We spent the day in Matamata, and found the coolest Op Shop. I bought a beautiful 80's style low lawn chair. It completely cooking time by the wagon at night. It was perfect and only a couple of dollars. I don't recall if I have talked about Op Shops but they were some of the best places I went to in New Zealand. An Op Shop is a second hand store and New Zealand legitimately has the best stuff out there. I would move to New Zealand just to furnish a house with amazing things I have found in second hand stores. So after a lovely day wandering Matamata, we boarded a tourist bus and made our way to Hobbitan. Seriously, the view of the rolling green hills, covered in sheep, with wind blown trees on our way to Hobbitan was absolutely beautiful. This country continually
takes my breath away and sometimes I do not even understand how it can be so beautiful. And now for a whole wack of pictures because there are no words necessary for the rest....

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.