After Christchurch we roared up to Kaikoura with baited breath wanting to catch some of the fabled surf that is there (reputed to be the best in New Zealand), however our lack of surf luck continued and in the 3 days we spent there only on the last day did we score some surf at a spot called Meatworks. While I am used to sharing the water with dolphins and sea turtles in Hawaii and elsewhere, having a seal come up on the back of my board and hang out for a while was a little strange.
To keep up with the active lifestyle I can’t help but lead, we drove from Kaikoura further north to the Marlborough Sounds region at the very north tip of the South Island and spent a day mountain biking the singletrack of the Queen Charlotte Track, covering 27 km in just over 4 hours. It was an exhilharating ride with the speed and turns matched only by the views (however the views didn’t give me bleeding knees from repeated falls at wreckless speeds). We just beat the rain and sailed away on our water taxi through the aqua-turquoise sounds hugging the little fishing village dotted coast.
From there it was back across the Cook Straight (though we didn’t get to drive the ferry this time), and back to Wellington where we parked the van in the exact same ocean-front parking stall we had been in a month prior outside of the Oriental Bay region. After a night out on the town that involved far too much eating/drinking and not enough sleeping, we stumbled into the Te Papa National Museum the next day for about 8 hours of mind-cramming facts on New Zealand and even participated in a Tibetan chanting workshop (kinda weird). Probably one of the best museums I have ever been to though.I have to say that one of the weirdest things of the night in Wellington was I met this girl from Cork, Ireland who’s parents owned a restaurant by the name of Scoozi that I had eaten at while I spent some time there in 2004. What makes it even stranger is that while I was dining at Scoozi our waiter told us that he had eaten at Polli’s in Maui while he was on a trip there! Talk about coming full circle on a global scale.
Anyway, minds hurting we drove up the coast with the intention of reaching Tongariro National Park, but were thwarted by a massive rainstorm. We pulled off to sleep at a sketchy location on the side of the road per is our usual custom (that and creeping out little children who point and stare at the homeless people), only to be awakened by police lights flashing in the rear windshield. Apparently there had been some thefts in the area recently and our van looked “suspicious” to some residents. Weird. Doesn’t everyone sleep on the median in a lowered van with tinted windows? We again the next day tried to make it up to Tongariro after a morning of surfing, only to discover that one our tires had blown out. So $150 and one day later we made it up to Tongariro, and it was one of the most amazing one day hikes I have ever been on. It is a 17km point-point hike weaving between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngamoana (the mountain used in Lord of the Rings as Mt. Doom), and it was exactly like walking through Haleakala Crater on Maui, only with emerald green lakes dotting the crater. Since we started the hike around noon, and the recommended time allowance is 8 hours, and it gets dark at 6:30 and had to leave time to hitch hike back to the other side, I ended up running the majority of the trail and finished it in about 3 and half hours, leaving enough time to hitch hike and still make dinner before dark. Productive day.
From there we dropped down the mountain towards Lake Taupo, only to discover that the van no longer had brakes. So after $310 and a night spent in the marina in the town on Turangi we rolled into Lake Taupo with a new wheel AND new brakes (aka I need a job, NOW). Taupo saw Ted go skydiving with Skydive Taupo (wanted so bad to join him, but remember that whole car trouble thing…can’t have it all right) and we spent two amazing days relaxing in the natural hot springs running through the park outside of town. Just imagine a waterfall meets a jacuzzi…meets a river amongst stunning mountains..you get the idea.
From there we dropped down through Rotorua and then into Mount Maunganui for some more surfing and BBQing by the beach. Mount Maunganui is where Kevin and I spent our first 2 days in the country 9 weeks ago, and it felt real cool to be back in a place I recognized and knew my way around, and weird to think of how much I had done since the last time I was there. We had to sell our surfboards in the Mount (again, stunningly poor, but battling), and from there went and spent the Easter weekend taking in the Jazz Festival of Tauranga with some unbelievable bands from all over the country. Watching all these unbelievable musicians just inspired me that much more to practice/get better at an instrument (gotta start somewhere with the ukulele right). And finally now we are back in bustling Auckland, at the same hostel I was in 9 weeks ago on my first night here. Really weird. As of right now the main mission in SELL THE VAN! as we leave in 3 days and could really use to cash in that investment. It looks like we have some potential buyers, but we’ll see. And that, if it is possible, is a wrap of my life down here in the Southern Hemisphere. The neear future looks towards Australia and all plans beyond, which are constantly changing, but I would have it no other way.