Holy Hannah! It is December 20th already! Only a few days to go until the Summer Solstice (and Christmas!) here in the Southern Hemisphere so I suppose I should update the ol’ blog. I managed to travel to five more areas in New Zealand before hopping over the Tasman Sea to find a certain red-haired gentleman. It’s amazing how a few hundred kilometres can make such a world of difference!
The Coromandel Peninsula is where this decidedly more Huck Finn-y portion of my journey began. White sandy beaches, craggy bays and untamed bush made for splendid isolation. Mind you, isolation isn’t quite as delightful when the bus drops you off in a field of cows with no ocean in sight. Not to knock the Naked Bus coach line too much, but let’s just say they make up for their lack of washrooms with their friendly customer service. It sounded like this:
“What here? With the cows?”
“The campground is just down the road.”
“How far? You can’t drive a little further? I just don’t see anything…at all.”
“Not my problem. Get out.”
Thank you sir for your chummy cajoling. Anyhow, once I did find out where I was going (only 1.5 kilometres down the “road”) I was met with beautiful Pohutukawa lined cliffs and soaring Kauri trees. Hot Water Beach was incredible! An underground river of geothermic (up to 64 degrees Celcius…hot indeed) water flows to the surface of the Pacific Ocean and for two hours on either side of the low tide you can dig your own personal hot pool. Cue Dark Side of the Moon’s “Dig that hole, forget the sun/ And when at last the work is done/ Don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one.” Wise words Pink Floyd, wise words. Digging holes in the sand and then sitting in them, wine in hand, is awesome. I also made the uphill trek by bike to Cathedral Cove, where this scene from the Chronicles of Narnia was filmed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39xnFVV4IpQ
Breath taking! Just like everything else in this beautiful country. Well, pretty much.
I did not love Tauranga, my next stop after the Coromandel. When I got off the bus in a crusty industrial area I found a lot of drunk hostel people, and….that’s about it. So not amazing overall, though the beach at Mount Maunganui was full of shells and surfers and plenty of beach volleyball which was fun. The Bay of Plenty has plenty to offer I am sure, I just seemed to miss it somehow. I’ll have to get a mulligan for another time!
Arriving in Taupo after beer pong and slimy floors was a welcome change. This vibrant town was small, but was full of things to do! It is situated on Lake Taupo, the second largest freshwater lake in the Oceania. With a surface area of over 600 square kilometres it sits in the caldera of yet another North Island volcano. Those volcanos certainly know how to erupt and leave beautiful landscapes thousands of years later! Some even know how to erupt days before my arriving in Taupo thus closing the close by Tongariro National Park. The National Park is one of three UNESCO sites in New Zealand, and I would have loved to hike the Tongariro Crossing, had it not been covered in a giant ash plume and lava. No big deal though, I spent my time here kayaking to Maori rock carvings on the lake, off-road biking and finding apiaries. And when my ankle said to me “You are pushing your luck on these bananas steep trails young lady” I would walk around town and find the amazing graffiti art from the yearly graffiti competition. What a fantastic use of public space! New Zealand in general rocks the Casbah for its innovative use of public space.
Napier city. Art deco, art deco, art deco. Parapets, lightning bolts, greyhounds, geometric shapes, garish greens and pinks, awesome. For someone who loves the post-Great Depression era for its design, fashion and music this is the place to go. (Check out http://www.artdeconapier.com/ for a more in depth description).
Hawke’s Bay. Wine, wine wine, wine. I now know exactly how little I know about these delicious grapes, but I had so much fun touring around vineyards all day! Who knew there was so much finesse to this industry? My super local host did, and I will try my best to remember everything I learned, over a glass of Bordeaux Blend.
“It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch-or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.” I couldn’t agree more. Someone told me before I came to Wellington that you can be whoever you want to be in this city. The person you want to be probably wears thick rim glasses and hangs out in places like “Meow” or “Hummingbird”. The person you want to be can spend all day at Te Papa museum or Cuba Street and rides the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. The person you want to be is impervious to rain and wind and compensates for said weather by being creative and welcoming. Yes, this city is amazing and was a fantastic end to my trek around New Zealand. Farewell for now Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud. I’ll be back soon!
(Merry Christmas everyone!!!)