September 11, 2012

Vanna White Takes New Zealand

Ahhhhhh, New Zealand! This was one of our most anticipated countries. It was a surreal feeling to finally arrive here after looking forward to it for so long. 

We flew from Cairns, Australia all the way down the Great Barrier Reef and into the North Island’s largest city, Auckland. Within a 20 kilometer radius of Auckland there are 50 small volcanoes, now most converted into grassy parks. On top of Mount Eden there are views of the city, harbor, and skyline-defining Skytower.

Auckland is also where we were scheduled to pick up our home sweet home for the next month. Let me introduce you to our VW campervan, which we named…Vanna White. Get it?!?

New Zealand is made up of two large islands with the stereotype being that the North Island is more tranquil and the South Island is more jaw-dropping. A lot of people come to New Zealand and only ever step foot on the South Island. We dedicated an entire 5 weeks to explore this country – the size of Colorado – so that we could do the full tour.

We had the most arduous time deciding where to go with our precious days. We are not out of touch. We know that 5 weeks is way more than most people get on a normal vacation, but even 5 weeks is nowhere near enough time to see all of the amazing spots this country has to offer. Our initial pass at a route looked like this.

Ha! We had to have some major strategy sessions. It’s hard to write this without sounding like a brat, but if there’s one problem with New Zealand, it’s that there are too many good places to choose from. The unlimited number of enticing options made our heads spin. It took a solid few days to shake the “we’re not getting to see it all” feeling, which quickly spirals into a severe case of indecision. I’ve always been a check-it-all-off-the-list sort of girl, so I had a hard time with this at the beginning. I’m really curious how many New Zealand first-timers have had the same struggle. I realize this sounds like the world’s best problem to have.

Even by the time we had the keys to our campervan in hand, we still hadn’t decided whether we were going to drive North or South…so we picked East. From Auckland, the three of us (Steve, Katie, Vanna) headed to the Coromandel Peninsula to spend a couple of days. The highlights were…

Hot Water Beach – 2 kilometers below the beach, there’s a reservoir of hot water and heated rocks left over from volcanic activity 5-9 million years ago. That sounds all academic, but it basically means that 2 hours before and after low tide, you can go dig yourself a hot tub made of sand.

It was a pain to dig that pit, but it was worth it when we could lay in our ring of hard work, drink beers, and watch shooting stars while the waves crashed in front of us. Hot Water Beach is pure New Zealand…so unusual, and yet, completely natural.  

Cathedral Cove – rock tunnels, sea stacks, and beach caves sprinkled along the blue ocean with a waterfall shower to boot. Enough said!

Kauaeranga Valley – hikes among 1800s gold mining relics. With our “torches” (headlamps) a blazing, we walked through old gold mining tunnels that felt like they were never going to end. Eventually we just had to turn around and head for the light…and fresh oxygen.

I think the Coromandel’s interesting beaches and interesting hikes were the perfect warm-up for what was to come. And while the sights in the Coromandel were great, the driving was just as good. We were surprised how much this part of New Zealand looks like Ireland, with rolling green hills loaded with farm animals.

The cattle here are amusing. At first they’re a bit skittish when a human comes near…it’s the first time we’ve ever seen a cow run. But then the animals turn curious and begin a staring contest. Think about it, have you ever seen an entire field of cows looking in the exact same direction?

I’m going to write a lot about New Zealand. There is so much to capture and share. There are a few themes you’ll see a lot: (1) adventures, (2) farmland, and (3) camper-vanning. And so began our incredible 5-week journey around Aotearoa, otherwise known as New Zealand. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve... What's up with the six pack? And the gun show? Seriously? That's dangerous stuff to be showin on your blog, lol.

    You two look great, hope you have a great last leg on your trip!

    Sherry & Steve