Life moves pretty fast when you are on the road. You have all of the regular life stuff (except for jobs, I guess) but with a logistical layer of accommodations, route-planning, activity-research and Tetris-esque vehicle packing, layered on top. Clearly blogging has fallen to the wayside along with exercising and vegetables. Here I will try to summarize a bit of the adventure without putting too much pressure on myself to completely relay all the details. I make no apologies for the delayed nature of this post – we had stuff going on!
Leaving the South Island was hard. We packed our car the night before because we had to hit the road before sun-up. In our bleary, early morning haze we saw this crossroads and realized we were really leaving.
It was a sad irony that one of our most beautiful drives on the South Island was our last – from the Moutere to the Picton ferry. We watched the sun rise as we wound our way through the slowly evaporating mists of the morning. We boarded the Interislander ferry and crossed the Cook Strait to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, in the south of the North Island.
Being in a real city (pop. 200,000!) after so long was a bit shocking. Tall buildings! Crowds! Cable cars with LED-lit tunnels – madness! We were invigorated by tripping again.
We stayed at Airbnbs, while also Airbnbing our house back home. Love/hate relationship (mostly love). Here I get a nice surprise in the boudoir. I miss my brother-in-law but not that much.
Te Papa is The Museum of New Zealand and one of the best I’ve ever been to. We started with the Gallipoli exhibit (New Zealand’s first engagement in WWI and a major nation-building event). They personalized it with a series of massive photo-realistic sculptures. Each one filled a room and we learned these real people’s real stories.
Then a trip to the legendary Weta Studios – the go-to place for practical effects for films. It was an inspiring creative space and now we have a couple modelling projects on our to-do list.
It’s fun (for me, anyway) to see how different places and people do things differently. Check out this garbage can. It uses solar energy to compact itself so it doesn’t need to be collected nearly as often. Cool tech.
While Julie and Lyla spent the day nursing colds in front of the fire, and biking around Turangi, Camille and I had the chance to do one of of NZ’s ‘great walks’ the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
We walked up a volcano (past Lord of the Rings’ Mount Doom) and down the other side. These other-worldly bodies of water are called the Emerald Lakes.
Afterwards, we all met up and braved the hordes rewarding our efforts at the local hot springs pools. Seriously, where are the people?
In Rotorua we went on an elevated 1km hike that was entirely in a redwood tree canopy. We went at night to see the amazing wooden lanterns (of designer David Trubridge) light up the forest in a way that was novel and unforgettable.
We also visited a centuries-old Maori village in a geothermal area. I did the haka but we won’t be showing pictures.
I was a doubter but our friends the Bisbys insisted that visiting Hobbiton was worth the detour and money. This place could use a dedicated post – it was fascinating but I’ll just leave you with a round door photo. (fun fact: Peter Jackson couldn’t find the perfect oak tree to transplant above Bibo’s house so he had one made out of steel with 200,000 handmade leaves sewn on. Standing in front of it, I couldn’t see it was a fake. Considering the budget to make this place made my head spin.
Like so many other things, L&P is world-famous in New Zealand. We had to visit the birthplace of the kid’s favourite decadence. (We tried sending a couple cans via mail back home to the girls’ friends but they exploded en route).
There is a place called Hot Water Beach where volcanic activity below the surface heats the ground to spa-like temperatures. Due to the tides this part of the beach lies mostly underwater but reveals itself everyday. Holes must be dug anew and they fill with heated sea-water for the ultimate chilly beach day hack. We always knew that we had to go there and so by 10am the beach engineering project had begun.
The Coromandel Peninsula. Making picnics 3000% more picturesque since forever.
Our ‘off the grid’ airbnb. Solar powered with rain tank water and a composting toilet. Also, a 2 hour super windy road to the closest town.
In Kawakawa we visited public toilets (on Lyla’s request) designed by the architect/artist Hundertwasser. As a rule one of the things New Zealand excels at it public toilets. Generally public space is respected and maintained. It is a physical manifestation of a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude and it’s refreshing. Yes, I just wrote that toilets are refreshing.
Whangarei Heads. We hiked to the top and I rediscovered just how nervous Julie is of heights without restraints.
As a natural spendthrift I would not have been attracted to an extravagance such as a family parasail in the Bay of Islands (the first European settlement in NZ but now just a collection of villages and multi-millionaire vacation homes). Julie on the other hand isn’t handicapped by mere pricetags. She is much more interested in experiences…thankfully. Fun fact#2: 1,300 feet is a long way up.
We did a boat tour of the islands including this remote one. Maori boys would come of age by venturing out solo to this rock in the sea (multi-day journey), scale it’s cliffs and pluck a feather from a flightless bird unique to the island. Our captain decided to show off by taking the boat through the hole in the rock to our delight.
Russell, was once considered the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific’ due to the whorehouses and taverns rather than the nearby scenery.
Next up the Adventure Forest outside of Whangarei. This was a park that consisted of several obstacle courses of various difficulties and heights that are completely off the ground. There is a 5 minute instruction that shows you how to use your gear and then they leave you alone. This independence is what truly sets it apart from other similar experiences.
A couple videos that fully illustrate the experience:
Flying fox selfie
Bye, bye, Little Birdie. You served us well. Good luck with your new owners.
The big repack.
Our final day. We took a ferry out to Waiheke Island which is only a 30 minute ride from the bustling Auckland but feels a million miles away. We did cartwheels on the beach, drank native wine, chatted to locals about the Royal Wedding, hiked through jungle-forest and generally just took one last gasp of New Zealand.
Later that day with one year’s worth of possessions.
Next up…Los Angeles!