Monday, 30 December 2013

Mingling with seals in New Plymouth

Before heading towards Wellington, where our ferry goes at 8th of January, we spent another couple of nights at a couchsurfing place near Inglewood. It is a super friendly, welcoming family from Holland, living in a house they built themselves on a little hill surrounded by paddocks. They are amazing hosts and we are having a great time filled with playing guitar, interesting talks, relaxing and catching up with our photos and the blog.


Arriving in Taranaki region, we continued straight ahead, towards the Mountain. It is visible from afar, but almost always hidden behind clouds. Locals warned us that it is a very shy mountain. For that, we were quite lucky.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Forgotten World

Leading from Taumarunui southwest towards Taranaki, Highway 43 is a seemingly endless curving road through green hills, sheep- and cow farms and more green hills. It's called the “Forgotten World Highway”.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Rotorua and Taupo - the Central Plateau

Boiling Earth

Rotorua, the geothermal centre of New Zealand, one of the main tourist attractions, turned out to be a rather short stop on our way. Before you even get close to the city, you are welcomed by the unmistakable, ever present odour of sulphur, blown into the air by the many geothermal hotspots along the highway. The most popular one, Wai-o-tapu ('holy waters'), charges you around 35$ for the smelly experience. The colorful lakes must be interesting, but for our taste it was just too much money for something so focused on artificially drawing tourists.
They put up Maori style poles and decorations everywhere, which would be a good thing, if it weren't just for getting more people and money there and forcing the towns popularity just a bit more (quite small and not soo remarkable by itself, but with what felt like thousands of rather pricy hotels and motels lined up everywhere). To keep the tourists' good mood up, they even 'help' the geyser with some chemicals to spout off at exactly 10:15 each day.
Long story cut short, for us it was all a bit too artifical and too smelly.

Of Forests and Lakes

East Cape and Waioeka Gorge

State Highway 25 follows the Pacific Coast down to Waihi, where it becomes SH 2 and leads around the remote East Cape. We saw a lot of softly curving sanddunes, waves and puhutakawa trees, painting Red on the green hills with their flowers.
We stopped at Matata, a cute DOC campsite with super friendly owners next to the Ocean. We didn't only get a night's sleep, but also a copy of the 'Pacific Highway travel guide' and two home grown Avocados for our supplies.
After studying the guide we decided that the more interesting route would be the one straight through the middle instead of all the way around the cape.
So we fueled up at Opotiki and turned inland to Waioeka Gorge. It was definitely a good decision in terms of views: Untouched bush on steep hills and a winding river always close.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach

Highway 25 changes its face completely once it turns away from the seaside into Coromandels inland. The steep dark structures of the Coromandel Ranges come into view and the Highway fights its way through the bush in endless winding ups and downs. Strong stomach recommended!
The scenic lookouts along the way are amazing. Over the tips of the green hills there is always a bit of ocean to see.

Coming to the east coast we had a detour to Whangapoua and a short, pleasant walk to New Chums beach, supposedly one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand. It stays true to its reputation: golden sand, turquoise waters, surrounded by old trees and fascinating rock formations. It stretches for quite long and there where not that many people there. A beautiful place to have a rest!

Coromandel Peninsula

Coromandel and its beaches were our next goal. We followed the Highway all the way up north, through Thames (for us it was just another town – not really interesting), along the shore with some stunning lookouts on the way, to Coromandel town, where we had a little stop for an iced coffee and a power plug to load cameras and laptop.
From there the roads got smaller and worse, until we got the sealed road behind us and watched the sun sink below the ocean and the moon rise over the green hills and gnarly trees of Coromandel's far North. The gravel roads up there are a bit scary at night, because they are literally right next to the sea, and quite high above it in parts, so if you look out and down from your window, sometimes all you see are the waves crushing against the rocks. But the views make up for the driving. After about an hours worth of gravel, we reached the first of three DOC camp sites and gratefully took the chance to fall into bed.

Karangahake Gorge - this time in the sun :)

After leaving Hobbiton we spent the night at Dickey Flat, a free DOC campsite next to the Waitawheta river. It's a beautiful spot, very close to Karangahake Gorge. Since I have only seen the Gorge in bad weather before, I was glad to wake up to sunshine the next morning. I had a nice little walk along misty fields and when the sun was a bit further out, we had a bath in the river. The weather is great so far, we have warm, sunny days and mild nights. And the actual summer hasn't even started yet!

After our encounter with the cool river we headed out into the sun again – onto the Karangahake walkway, leading alongside the river and through the bush, with old pipes running along the way and many great views of the Gorge. The walkway partly leads through old mining tunnels and along railway tracks. They dug their way all through the steep hills and way underneath, creating a tunnel network of many levels, with entrances everywhere along the track.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Hobbiton - Kay's photographic impressions


Waking up the next day without any plans, we had a look at the map to decide where the road would lead that day – and saw that on our way to the Coromandel Peninsula we could have a stop at one of THE tourist attractions: Hobbiton.

For two 'Lord of the Rings' lovers a must-do. So we headed off to Matamata, the town next to the movie set. They take a lot of pride in their Hobbit neighbours and even the i-site (the visitor centre) of the town is built to look like a hobbit house.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Leaving the big city!

Merry Christmas to everyone!
A lot has happened since we are traveling again and we will start to update the blog bit by bit, beginning with our departure in Auckland on 15th december...

Packing up all our stuff in Auckland felt weird. We lived here for several months and it was like home for a while, we got to know awesome people at work and around it and had something like an everyday life within the working holiday. From time to time, we even forgot that we are in a foreign country.
Still, getting out of the big city was a relief and we were very excited to hit the road again and discover all the beautiful places that are waiting for us!

Monday, 2 December 2013

A cloudy day at Karangahake

Karangahake Gorge is a beautiful area of steep hills south of the Coromandel Peninsula, covered in native bush and divided by the winding Waitawheta river. There are old railway tracks and mining tunnels you can follow and everywhere the rusty remains of pipes and other constructions peek through the rocks.
I definitely want to do one of the walkways when I'm there again.

We were there for the climbing - which gets you to even better views of the gorge on top of the cliffs!
We only managed one climb, though, because our map (and our orientation :) led us through the bush for more than an hour before we actually found the rock - and after the first climb it started raining. We were warned that this is the wettest spot in the North Island :)
Still it was beautiful and I'm looking forward to go there again!