Eighteen Months and No End In Sight

It’s time to reminisce.

It has been exaclty a year and a half now since I began the adventure of a lifetime.  The memory of my departure from Canada still sits so vividly in my mind.

I had held myself together pretty well as I packed my bags to head off on my adventure. Not long out of high school and only six weeks past my eighteenth birthday, I was ready to tackle the big wide world. I worked hard to save up for these travels, spending my final year of high school working two jobs, not much time off. Not much partying like the rest of the kids. But I don’t regret that. Read more

All Blacks, Bungys, and An Active Volcano

It’s funny how quickly time passes. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Before you know it a whole year has passed. My year in New Zealand was by far the best learning experience of my life. It wasn’t all easy, oh there were many hard times to be had, but every hurdle jumped was another adventure waiting to happen. I wouldn’t change a thing about my year in New Zealand, except maybe extend it. My last couple months in the country were spent exploring, getting the adrenaline pumping, and making sure I experienced as much as I could. There was no shortage of fun to be had.

For my birthday my work gave me a ticket to see the All Blacks vs South Africa game in Dunedin. It was an awesome game, my seat was smack in the center of the field so I had a great view of the whole game. Seeing the All Blacks perform the Haka live before the game was quite impressive as well. My trip would not have been complete without seeing a game. The other part needed to make sure my year was completed, was the Nevis Bungy.

All Blacks All Blacks

I grew up in a house where every Sunday night my mother would have control of the television so she could watch The Amazing Race. It was a show I always loved to curl up and watch with her. Seeing all the different places in the world these teams got to travel, and all the different tasks they had to complete was something I always found really cool. There was one episode on when I was around twelve where the teams had to complete the Nevis Bungy jump in Queenstown. It was a 134 meter bungy, as soon as I saw it on the TV, that was it. I needed to go to New Zealand.

My last day in Queenstown, before leaving to drive back to Auckland, I paid the hefty sum of money to have elastics tied around my ankles before jumping into a gorge. I’m not going to lie, I was shaking in my boots as I climbed into the small gondola cart that would carry me to the jump station that was suspended over the gorge. This was the third bungy I was to do. While living in Canada I jumped the 45 meter bungy in Nanaimo on two separate occasions, so I should be a pro now, right? Wrong. As I sat down and waited while being harnessed in and had my ankles tied up the anticipation grew. The other jumpers looked at me as if I was a bit crazy as I sat there laughing and grinning away. Secretly, I was absolutely terrified- But that makes it more fun! The adrenaline pumped through my entire body as I slowly shuffled up to the edge. 134 meters is a long way to fall, especially when you have to willingly make the jump. My knees locked and I told myself how crazy I was, I took a deep breath and launched myself towards the ground. I laughed in relief when I felt the cord begin to gently stretch and slow me down. It’s always good when the bungy cords do their job. I still get the jitters thinking it. The jump was everything I had imagined, and more.

Nevis Bungy Nevis Bungy Nevis Bungy

Leaving Queenstown was hard. It had become home. So many memories were made in Cabin 22. Audrey, Becky and I had really made that place our own. It was sad to say goodbye. The hardest goodbye though was probably the one I said to Lil Red. I sold my precious car in Queenstown before we left. It broke my heart to see it go. I cried. A lot. That car meant so much to me. When I was travelling alone it was Lil Red that I talked to. We went on so many adventures together, all over the country. I will never forget that car. I hope the new owners take good care of it!

Saying goodbye to workmates  Lil Red

My last two weeks in New Zealand were spent driving (in a rental car :(  ) back up to Auckland, with Audrey and her boyfriend, Rob. We drove up the West Coast to see the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, then up to Punakaki to see the Pancake Rocks (limestone formations that were formed from the ocean pounding against the rock face for so many years). We drove through Arthur’s Pass, a beautiful drive through the mountains, that brought us over to the East Coast, to Christchurch.

Pancake RocksPunakaki Pancake Rocks Arthur's Pass Arthur's Pass

Christchurch was a sight to see. We spent a day walking through the city, I was hoping to feel an earthquake while we were there, but that didn’t happen. It was almost depressing to walk through such a beautiful city that showed signs of destruction in every direction. The amount of damage the two big earthquakes did to Christchurch was impressive. There were whole buildings left in rubble, fenced off, waiting to be cleared and rebuilt. The city center has made an effort to rebuild. There was a neat little section where the shops have all been put into shipping crates, at least one side of each shop is full glass. Each crate was painted in a bright colour. It was nice to see things are getting better. The Cathedral on the other hand is fully blocked off, waiting to be knocked down.

Christchurch Cathedral Christchurch Christchurch

We drove the rest of the way up on the East Coast, camping our way along. We took the Ferry across to Wellington where we spent a day at the Te Papa museum. It was definitely the coolest museum I have been in. There was a giant interactive floor map of the country. You could walk across the map and as you would step on tiles they would light up and display photos of the area on the wall. My other favourite part of the museum was the colossal squid. It is the only colossal squid on display in the world. It had to be at least 4 meters long, and still considered a small one.

Te Papa Museum Te Papa Museum

After Wellington we took a long drive down some quieter areas just so I could go to  Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It does look like I have just pounded my fingers on random keys for ages, but really, that is the name of a hill in New Zealand. It is recognized as the longest place name in an English speaking country, and the second longest place name in the world. It translates from Maori to  “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one”.

Longest Place Name

We spent the next few days travelling the North Island visiting different places. We drove around Lake Waikaremoana looking for a free campsite, but by the time we found the free site it was pitch black out and the area, in the middle of the woods, looked a little on the sketchy side. The fact that there was only one site being used, didn’t help us feel comfortable. It was the perfect murder scenario. We decided to not risk the chance of being shot by the hunter in the next tent over and we drove back out to a paid site where we set up camp for the night instead. It was a much more populated area and we were able to rest without thinking about whether or not we would wake up in the morning.

A couple days were saved for the Coromandel, just because Audrey and I had loved it so much the time we travelled it together. We spent time driving around and enjoying the lush, green scenery before heading down to Hot Water Beach for an evening soak. We didn’t have a shovel though and the night air was a bit cold so we spent most of the time rolling around in shallow pools of water, willing them to get deeper.

The Top Ten Holiday Park at Hot Water Beach wanted to charge over twenty dollars a person for us to pitch one tent. We were not up for spending over 60$ to set up a little 4 man tent. We hopped back in the car and drove off in hunt of a different location. We found a sign for Mill Creek Park a bit up the road so we took the turn off to check it out. It turned out it was not just a campground but also a Bird and Animal Park. We booked in for eight dollars each. That gave us full access to the Bird park and rest of the animals, as well as shower and kitchen facilities. We spent hours wandering through the park, following peacocks, talking to the macaws, petting the donkey, cooing over the week old piglets, and taking photos of all the different animals. It was an eight dollars well spent. This was the most enjoyable campground I stayed at during my year.

Bird Park Bird Park

The next day we packed up our camp site and headed over to Cathedral Cove for a day of snorkelling.  Audrey and I swam from buoy to buoy along the Gemstone Bay Marine Trail, reading about the different marine life in the area. We then trekked over to Stingray Bay to do some snorkelling with the masses of stingrays found there. There was one point where just standing in knee deep water I counted 13 stingrays sitting at my feet. It was a good thing I had a wetsuit on. I didn’t want to go out like Steve Irwin, a stingray barb through the heart.

Snorkelling Snorkelling

We stopped in Rotorua on our way back to Auckland to do the Zorb. The Zorb is a giant hamster ball that you sit in then get pushed down a hill. Audrey, Rob, and I all climbed into one Zorb, while the worker added a decent amount of warm water to the ball before pushing us all down the hill. It was a great laugh for sure.

Zorbing

I hung around Auckland for a few days, revisiting places I had enjoyed in my first few months in the country, and catching up with Andy. It was kind of nice being back, it just seemed so familiar. We decided to head off again though after a couple days. The weather was forecasting beautiful sunshine for Taupo and Tongariro National Park so we made our way down to attack the Tongariro Crossing.

The nineteen and a half kilometre trek over an active volcano is often claimed to be one of the ten best day treks in the world. I can see why. The scenery was absolutely stunning, there wasn’t one moment that passed during the entire hike that I was not in awe of my surroundings. The volcano, which had erupted in August was still smoking while we hiked across. There were signs posted asking hikers to keep stops to a minimum as the volcano was still active. We hiked through a valley, up a volcano, through a crater filled with snow, around lakes, and back down the other side. I cannot begin to express the brilliance of this trek. I am still left breathless now thinking back to how incredible the day was- Even if I did walk away with my face sunburnt to a crisp.

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Saying goodbye to New Zealand was heartbreaking. I cried as I got off the bus at the airport. I didn’t want to leave. The whole year had been so amazing I didn’t want it to end. It took all my effort not to let tears roll down my cheeks as I checked through customs and waited for my plane. I suppose though, where one journey ends, another begins. The story isn’t over yet, the setting has just changed.

Let my Australia adventure begin!

Steep Streets & Chocolate

I’m really bad at this whole updating my blog thing. I apologize for that. I have had a few people now asking when my next post would be up so I figured I should get on it. So here it goes!!

The rest of my journey through Southland went splendid. I left Curio Bay early in the morning to head towards Invercargill, It wasn’t far away, but there were lots of stops to be made! I Stopped off at the Slope Point first. Slope Point is the most southern part of New Zealand’s South island I sat 5140 kilometres from the equator, and 4803 kilometres from the South Pole. I had to walk twenty minutes through a sheep field in order to reach Slope Point, so unfortunately my trusty Lil Red just had to sit and watch from a distance as I made my way there. It was so cool to stand at that point and look out to the ocean. So peaceful, so alone.


My next stop was at the Waipapa Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1884, after a passenger steamer had sank just off shore, killing 131 people. The lighthouse is down a long, dirt road. On the beach by the lighthouse there are often many sea lions resting. There were a number of them there when I arrived. A few were basking lazily in the sun while others circled, barking away at each other. I crawled around in the sand for a bit, snapping pictures of them and watching them go about their daily lives.

  

I drove from Waipapa Point, through to Invercargill where I met up with a friend. He hopped in the car and we drove to Bluff together. Bluff is often considered the Southern Extreme of New Zealand, despite Slope Point being more southern. Bluff is the most Southern settlement of the South Island. Just like when I went to Cape Reinga, Bluff has a signpost with major cities and distances listed on it. Unfortunately, the Bluff  signpost did not have Vancouver on it. Johno and I walked through some of the trails around Bluff up to the old bunkers from World War II. I dropped Johno home, then went and checked into my hostel. It was a rickety building in the city center. I was on the third floor and decided against being lazy, so I took the stairs every time I went to the lobby or outdoors. This choice may have been influenced by the sign stating that because of it’s age the elevator could stop if you move at all while it’s in motion.

After a good night’s rest I headed off again. I stopped off in the town of Riverton to see the Riverton Rocks. It was a cute town and I was there for a few hours wandering around before heading off to BeachHouse for lunch. If you ever make it to New Zealand and happen to be in Riverton around noon, I insist you go to BeachHouse and order the Blue Cod. It was the best Cod I have ever had. Amazing. Over a month and a half later my stomach is happy just thinking about that meal.

After an extremely satisfying lunch I headed over to Colac Bay. Callum, the Kiwi I went to Glenorchy with, is from Colac Bay and suggested I go there. It was a gorgeous little beach town. I wandered along the sand and sat for a bit on the shore, watching the blue waters, listening to the churning waves, inhaling the salty air. It was so very relaxing.

As I was driving away from Colac Bay I saw a sign for a place called “Cosy Nook”, I thought it sounded cool, so I followed the signs. It was well worth it. There were only 5 little houses huddled up on the shore of the little inlet. It really was quite cosy. Just as you enter the little inlet there is a little outhouse, on the door of the outhouse is painted “Long Drop Lodge- Short Stay Only”. Someone has a sense of humour.

I made a few other stops along the way to my next overnight stop in Tuatapere. The holiday park I stayed at was dead. Apparently I was the first person in months to check in as a single. The rooms were cold and the showers had been shut off in most of the building. It was an eerie night alone, and I was all curled up in bed when there was a knock on my door. I froze up. I heard a woman’s voice calling my name. Which was a little odd as I had met no women there. I crawled out of bed and over to the door. Maree was another guest at the campground. She had just checked in and the owner of the site told her I had been considering heading into the Clifden Caves the next day but was unsure about going alone. She volunteered right away to meet me and come along.

the next morning Maree and I got up bright and early to head into the caves. She was an older woman and was taking a photography course in Invercargill. When we went into the caves I showed her how to change the settings on her camera to take better photos in the caves. We spent nearly four hours in the caves. It was a long trek through and the journey time was not helped by the both of us constantly stopping to snap pictures. It was fun though, and I was glad I had someone to explore the caves with. It’s definitely not something I wanted to do on my own.

I dropped Maree back in town and headed over to Lake Hauroko to do a four hour hike up to a lookout. Lake Hauroko, at 463 metres deep, is New Zealand’s deepest lake. The trail up to the lookout was steep and I was trying to go as quickly as I could. I didn’t start hiking until around 2pm and the sun would set around 5:30. I knew I would want to take a break once I reached the top to be able to take photos. Once I began the hike I realized I had not eaten since the day before. I had a small water bottle which kept me going for the duration of the trek but it left me feeling very nauseous by the end. The view from the top was well worth the hike up through. Just like many parts of this trip, I did not see another soul the entire hike. I drove back home that night and slept well after an exhausting day.

Although I returned home after my hike, this is not where my little trip ends. I packed my car back up in the morning, taking out things I wouldn’t need for one more night on the road, loaded Callum up into my car, and the two of us took off this time. We drove to Dunedin for the night to get in on a bit of the action that was happening with the annual Cadbury Chocolate Carnival. I had learned of this week long carnival over a year before leaving for my trip. It was one of the most anticipated events of my trip. The first day in Dunedin Callum and I just wandered around for a bit. We found a hostel to stay at, booked in, then headed down to the Speights factory. Speights is a pretty popular New Zealand beer and I have drank my fair share of it while here, as they say, “When in Rome…”. The factory tour cost twenty dollars and was an hour long. the end of the tour was the best part. there was a 25 minute brew tasting. It was pour your own tap beer, all you can drink. Callum and I made sure we got our money’s worth from that beer tasting. When the closed up we staggered off to the cinema to catch a movie before crashing out at the hostel.

I wasted no time in the morning getting ready to check out. the day had come. The day I had been waiting for endlessly. The day of the Jaffa race. Each year Cadbury hosts two Jaffa races. They make giant Jaffa Balls (Candy-coated chocolate balls), number them all, sell tickets for the numbered balls, then race them down Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. Each race has 25 000 Jaffa balls that roll down and funnel out through a small opening at the bottom where the winner is the first ball through the funnel. Although each race only lasts about eight seconds for the balls to reach the bottom, the anticipation was great and was well worth it. I had a great time. The race was the last day of the carnival as well as the last day of my holidays. After that it was back to work I went.

  

On a more recent note, I have been approved an Australian working holiday visa, and have my flights now booked to Sydney. The application process for my visa was all done online and was super easy. It only took half an hour from the time I sent in my application to the time it was approved. After that was approved I held back a couple weeks before booking a plane ticket, checking flight prices as often as I could. I finally, about a week ago, booked my ticket into Sydney for October 29th. My plane leaves Auckland at 7:30Am. That’s going to be brutal as I have to be at the airport two hours early and have to be up early enough to take public transport from the city center to the airport. I will arrive in Sydney at 9Am. I’ll have my whole first day to explore and check things out. I’m really looking forward to it, however I am still very sad that I will be leaving amazing, beautiful New Zealand in less than two months. Rattling. It has been a most excellent adventure and I know it’s not over quite yet!

Machetes and Penguins

Well, again it has been a while since my last post. Things have been going well in Queenstown. Still working away at my job as a souvenir expert and living the live in my little cabin. Winterfest just ended in Queenstown, it was a week full of fun activities. I didn’t really get to attend any though because I was working. I did however get to participate in one fun event. The Winterfest Parade. I dressed up in a kiwi costume that my workplace owns and got to dance around like a fool while waving at the crowds we passed. Another Canadian girl, Vanessa, who works at our sister store, also dressed up in a Kiwi costume. It was absolutely hilarious, as neither of us could actually see where we were going. I kept losing the foot of my costume and tripping over my feet. I accidentally ran into the camera man for the local news at one point. At least I was on TV!

The last day of Winterfest was Canada Day, it was also the first day off of my holiday! That meant it was time to party. I gathered friends and we created a plan. We all dressed up for Canada day and hit town. I, of course, dressed as full out as I could. It turned out to be a good night with a lot of funny stories in the morning. Even Callum, my kiwi friend, and Becky, my English flatmate, joined in on the excitement and dressed up.

After recovering from the night Callum and I hit the road for a little trip to Glenorchy. The drive is rated one of the top drives in the world, and I don’t at all doubt it. The scenery was beautiful and Glenorchy itself was no excepton. I thought Queenstown was beautiful, in comparison Glenorchy must be heaven.

I took a couple days to kick around the flat and just relax before packing up. I’m now back on the road for a week. I decided it was a good opportunity to check out Southland, the most South part of New Zealand. I loaded up Lil Red with supplies to last me a week, turned on the radio, rolled down the windows and took off. I forgot how good it feels to be so alone in such a breathtaking place. How at home I feel driving through unfamilliar land. Back to bliss.

I picked my way across the country until I hit the ocean. A few places along they way caught my eye, so I stopped to take photos. The Hoar frost that happens here is quite impressive. So thick and crystalised over every tree and grass it always catches my attention.

 I had hoped to camp the night in the little town of Kaka Point, however the hostel was closed for winter. I instead found a hostel in the next township, Owaka. It was the loveliest hostel with welcoming hosts. Split-level backpackers was my favourite hostel so far, the one I’m in tonight though, Lazy Dolphin Lodge, isn’t far behind. Both places are much warmer than my little cabin back in Queenstown. I never thought I would say this, but being able to say in a bed is a real luxury. I suppose that’s what happens when you spend months sleeping on couches and floors.

This morning I woke up at 6 A.M. WILLINGLY. I was surprised with myself when I actually manages to pull myself out of bed. I packed up my things and left the nice warm bed to hike to Nugget Point Lighthouse in the dark. That must sound like an odd thing to do, but I do have reason behind it. As Nugget point is located on the East Coast of New Zealand I would be able to watch the beautiful sunrise coming up from the ocean. Nothing between me and the Antarctic. It was a 25 minutre drive then a 20 minute walk along a cliff to get to the lighthouse. Fortunately, as I started my hike the sky was starting to turn pink, giving me a bit of light to see by. I may have been very sleepy, but the early morning was well worth the rising sun.

 

I returned to my car once the sun was in the sky and headed back down the winding dirt road. I quickly stopped when I reached Roaring Bay where the rare yellow-eyed penguins can be spotted heading out to sea in the earling morning. As I hiked down to the hide where you could watch the penguins from, I noticed three little tuxedos making their way to the water. Unfortunatly, I made an amateur mistake. Even though I knew I was heading down to try and capture photos of the little penguins, I hand’t changed the lens on my camera. As I fumbled to get the right lens on my camera body the fellows hopped in the ocean and swam off. I saw on the cliff, watching and waiting, never seeing another one of those finely dressed animals. I had other places to go though, so off I went, to Cannibal Bay.

Cannibal Bay was beautiful, but I didn’t get to see any of the sealions I was promised. I tried again in Surat Bay where another beach the sealions localed was located. Again, there were none to be found. As the rain started to come down I made my way back along the beach, returning to the shelter of my car. While checking my map and deciding where to head next and elderly man dressed in a sleevless windbreaker that was held together with duct tape, pulled up becide me on his bicycle. He looked at me as if he was looking to chat so I hopped out of my car to have a chat.

He turned out to be a Biology Professor at the university in Dunedin. He asked me about Canada and was well excited that I had lived in Nova Scotia. He asked question upon question about dulse. Do people still eat it? When is it farmed off the beaches? How do we eat it? Apparently he has done a bit of studying on the subject and wanted to pick my brain. He then informed me he harvests his own lots of the purple seaweed each spring. Curious to know if it was the same seaweed I had had many times before, he offered me a bag. He lives on his own and often picks more than he needs. I felt it would be rude to say no, as he seemed to thrilled about the whole situation. I followed him in his car back to his little get-away home.

 I was a little nervous as I got out of my car on the property. Luckily it was right on the road, so I was in clear sight of anyone driving by. The professor hopped off his bike and ran inside, returning with a big bag of the same purple seaweed I had eaten so many times before. It tasted a bit different from what I was accostomed to. My first though was that he had poisoned it, when really he just washed his dulse in fresh water before drying it. I was used to a much saltier mouthful.

 We chatted a bit longer about different things; My travels, his studies, Canada, New Zealand, ect. Before I headed off The professor stopped and asked if I like leeks. The question caught me off guard a bit as it was so out of the blue. He waved his hand over and I saw the huge crop of leeks he had growing. I gladly accepted his offer of one, I don’t think he would have been able to eat them all on his own anyway. He ran back to his little shack and came back with a big machete. It made me very nervous. He had many different sheds around the property, any one of them could contain the bodies of other lone travellers he had offered leeks to. I stayed well clear of the man as he carried the weapon over to the garden. He pulled from the soil the biggest leek I had ever seen. With one quick movement he swung the knife and cut off one end of the vegetable, turned it around, and slashed off the top. I couldn’t kep but notice the agility and skill with which he swing the machete. How quickly could he jab out and stab me? Thankfully, he set the knife down before walking over hand handing me the freshley picked veggie. I was relieved and glad that he genuinely was a nice old man and not a murderer. With a big thank you and a wave goodbye, I hit the road again.

I drove along the coast, stopping to do some different hikes, most of which led to waterfalls. They were beautiful walks and lucky for me the rain stopped each time I parked my car. I did all the hikes I had hoped to do today ecxept for the walk into the Cathedral Caves. They are closed at the moment due to the sea being too high and rough. I will have to try again do go before I leave the country. Everyone I talk to says it is worth going back to.

 

I found a hostel in Curio Bay for tonight. It’s just a short walk to the shore where a jurassic era fossilized forest can be found. As someone who has always had a fascination with fossils, I took great joy in walking along all the stone trees that lie along the rocky beach. I was also happy to know there were yellow-eyed penguin nests in the same area. Turns out I would get to see those little guys after all. When dusk hit I headed back down to the shore where I was able to watch the penguins waddle their way back to their nests for the night. They let me get fairly close to capture some lovely photos of the 18 inch tall birds. I was so glad to finally see some!

 

 I had been hoping since I have arrived in New Zealand to see some. I’m now all snuggled up at the hostel trying to decide where to head tomorrow, as well as what to make for dinner! As my internet is costing me a painful twelve dollars an hour I will leave you with that and update again soon!!!

Adventures Everywhere!! A Quick Catch Up.

WOW! Sorry for not updating ages ago! My laptop is currently broken and I haven’t made it into an internet cafe until now! Here’s a quick updat on what has happened in the past few months.

I arrived at Guy’s place in Eltham and spent the evening chatting with him and becoming familliar with my surroundings. Guy has a dog, cat, bird (I can’t remember the type. One of the big white ones), two turtles, and a rooster. He also has a five year old son who came over on the weekend. Cutest kid! Guy was really awesome. We spent hours every night with the stereo on, just chatting and exchanging stories. During the day I would go for hikes through the trails on Mount Taranaki, exploring the town, and hanging around the house. It was a super chill week and I had a great time.

I left Guy’s house after a week and drove to New Plymouth where I spent another week wokring for accomodation. New Plymoputh was a neat little town and I met a lot of super nice people at the hostel. It rained most of my time there so I slept a lot. On one of the few sunny days one of the guys I had gotten to know quite well took me out on his jetski. He took me out around a couple little islands where seals spent their day basking in the sun. It was a lot of fun to go skooting over the turquoise water on that little machine.

I headed back up to Auckland after my time in New Plymouth. I had been planning to stay longer but I came down with a bad case of strep throat and just wanted to be somewhere a bit more familliar. Plus Andy’s birthday was coming up! I spend a week in a half back in Auckland, recovering and hanging out with Andy again. I didn’t have much money so I just baked him cookies for his birthday. Then I ate most of them. It’s the thought that counts, right? We went to a comedy show in a little local bar on the night of his birthday. The comedians were pretty funny, one of them picked on me quite a bit for ending up in sucha a random little suburb of Auckland. Mostly everyone else who was there had grown up in the area. It was definitely a fun night.

The day I left Auckland was a long one. I left first thing in the morning and drove all the way down to Wellington. It was a seven hour drive. I stopped in a few different spots to take photos and enjoy my surroundings. I arrived in Wellington that night and found a spot to park for the night. It was at a little marine reserve, I lucked out, there were even free showers there! I was sitting by the water when all of a sudden I noticed a pod of dolphins swimming by. I grabbed my camera and went down to take some photos. It was starting to get dark by that point so I made some dinner in my car and went to bed.

The next morning I drove back into Wellington where I met up with Audrey and her friend from back home, Evan. I told them of my plans to head to the South Island where I would start to look for work. The grape picking season was supposed to be starting so I was hoping to find some work doing that. Audrey and Evan decided to join me so they both walked into their jobs and quit. We caught the ferry that night.

It took three hours to cross over to the South Island. We arrived at midnight and decided to drive until we could find somewhere to pull over and set up the tent Andy had lent me. We checked out a few different spots but considering it was pitch black out, it was hard to tell what our surroundings were. After another three hours we finally pulled over to the side of the road and just slept in the car. It was cramped in Little Red, but it was all we had.

We spent then next two weeks driving to different towns and vineyards hunting for work. We camped out every night at free campsites. We boiled water that we drew from nearby streams. When we wanted to drink the water we would pour some into our little frying pan to let it cool down enough to drink. the rest we stored in a water jug. We ate directly from the pots we cooked our food in as we had no other dishes. Luckily for us, Evan is a chef so we had delicious meals, It was awesome!!

One night while camping just out of Blenhiem we were hit with a storm. It rained so much there were puddles inches deep in the tent, everythign was absolutely drenched. The whole tent collapsed. We all moved to the car where we spent the night shivering and waiting for the rain to stop and the sun to come up. When the sun finally did come up we were able to check out the damage. Apart from everything being absolutely drenched, one of the tent poles had just snapped. We packed up our stuff and moved on. Nobody was hiring in that area anyway.

Our next camp site was at the Cobb River Dam. We had a little booklet with  breif directions on how to get there. It sounded like a quick and easy drive so we went to check it out. We drove two hours from the town of Motueka, up one mountain, back down, through a valley and back up another mountain. The second mountain was all narrow, dirt road. It was a pretty nerve rackign drive. We weren’t even sure if we were going the right way. We were nearly to the top of the mountain and the gas light has been on for quite a while. We met a truck on our way down. They said the site was over the top and back down the other side. Since we had gone that far we figured we may as well go check it out.

The view from the top of the mountain was like none I had seen before. We could see the campsite at the bottom. It would probably be another 20 minutes or so. We didnt think we would have enough gas to make it back. There was a little information hut at the top of the mountain. It was open so we went in and camped there for the night. The plywood walls and ceiling gave us more protection than out tent would have anyway. It was an awesome night at the top of the mountain. I wish we could have camped there longer.

The next morning we had to face the fact that we may not have enough gas to make it back to town. Just to save as much as we could we put the car in nutral and turned it off and just let it roll us down the mountain. It was a little frightening as the road was so narrown and the steering was a little on the resistant side, but we made it down without a hitch. We had just enough gas to make it into this little town. We filled the tank up, explored some, then headed back into Motueka to hunt for work and a campsite that wasn’t so far away.

We applied all through the town, but no one was doing any hiring. We had no luck there. We did however have luck finding a campsite a bit closer to town. It was on a DoC (Department of Conservation) site. We couldn’t find exactly where we were supposed to set up camp, so we just picked a spot that looked like someone had camped before. Just as we had finished setting up a van pulled up. A group of Scraggley looking men rolled down their windows telling us we were on private land and that we could camp there but they would like a donation of canned food or cash. They said if we drove a bit farther down the road we would see where to put it. They drove away and we decided we would check it out in the morning. Afterall we were right beside a DoC sign, and we hadnt crossed the boundary where the “Private Property” sign sat a few yards away.

That night we had a campfire and sat around chatting and laughing. Having a lovely time as the skies were clear and our tent seemes to be holding up okay from all the duct tape we had used. Our tent was set up right by a really steep hill. Unfortunately for me, once the sun had gone down I wasn’t able to see where the flat ground ended and I sprained my foot quite badly. I was so glad at that moment that I travel with a first aid kit. I pulled out my tensor bandage and wrapped my foot up and was all set to go again.

We left our tent set up that night as we planned to return later that night after some more job hunting. We crossed the private property line and left a can of corn for the men who had chatted to us the previous night- just to try and keep the peace. Apparently it didn’t work.

Upon returning to the site that evening we discovered our tent to be missing. It was a bit stressful not having a clue where it had gone. Luckily we had taken all our valuables with us. Evan decided we should go chat with the scruffy men and see if they had seen anything. They had. Not only had they seen what happened, they were the ones who took our stuff. They accused us of leaving crap on their property and said a can of corn was an insult. When we asked where the DoC site ended and their property started they got a bit more upset and avoided the question. We got all our stuff back though and we just moved our site farther away from their property. We didn’t hear from them anymore.

After a week and still no luck finding work Audrey and Evan had a proposal for me. They asked if I would be interested in heading to Queenstown. It was a twelve hour drive south of Motueka. It’s a huge tourist town and the adrenaline capital. I was a bit unsure as I was hoping to find work in a town that is a bit less of a tourist trap and a bit more of a cultural experience. I thought about it and decided we may as well give it a shot. If I didn’t like Queenstown it would be easy enough to pack up again and move onto another town. That was when they introduced the next part of the plan. They wanted to leave that night. Again I was unsure as I would have liked to be able to see all the scenery as we made our way down. I agreed to it. I would just drive back up the coast before I left the country. It wasn’t a big deal. Plus that’s half the fun of this trip, being that spontainous!

We took turns driving through the night. There were next to no cars on the roads. We met fewer cars than me hit possums. It was a long drive so we took turns napping too. Of course the one napping was never the driver, we made sure of that!! We arrived in Queenstown at 7:30 in the morning. It is so beautiful here. Totally surrounded by mountains, a crystal clear lake skirts the town center. I had to admit it was a really cool place. Evan found a job right away and found a place to live. Audrey and I went with him and crashed on his couch as we continued to look for work. It took about a month to find a job but we are now both employed. Audrey works tow part time jobs, one in Arrowtown at a French cafe, and the other as a night receptionist at a lodge. I am currently working at a big souvenir shop. It’s a really fun job, I get to meet and chat with people from all around the world. Some are on vacation, some are working, and others are on working holidays like me. The people I work with are all really nice, I am the only salesperson who is not either Chinese or Japanese. I help the girls with English when they are unsure of what a word means or what something is, and in return they teach me different words and phrases in their languages. Who would have thought that I would learn Japanese while in New Zealand?!

Audrey and I are now living together in a little Cabin with Becky, a friend Audrey met earlier in her trip. We are like the three muskateers. We do all sorts of random missions together, always having a laugh. Our little cabin is such a home and we have a constant flow of people coming to visit us and hang out. There’s never a dull moment. It’s exactly what we wanted in our home. I am so happy here and am really glad I agreed to come to Queenstown!

Congratulations! You have managed to catch up with me and my adventures. I’ll make sure to make it into town more often to get posts up!

The Forgotten World Highway and The Kitten I’ll Never Forget

After a few more weeks of being back in Auckland I decided to pack up again and head south. Back on the road, on my own once again. The day was dreary as I headed out. The rain poured down as my windshield wipers worked hard to push the water away at full speed.  I went back through Rotorua and Taupo, then down around Lake Taupo, making a few stops along the way at The Honey Hive and a volcano museum. I was making my way towards the Teranaki Region but decided to spend the night at the start of the Forgotten World Highway, in hopes the weather would clear up for the rest of my journey.

I awoke bright and early the next day to set off on the second half of the drive. My final destination was a small town called Eltham, where I had been in contact with a local about working for my accommodation. The drive was only supposed to take two hours, but I decided to pick my way along, taking my time and enjoying the sights. Guy, who I was to be staying with, was working until five that evening so I was in no rush. I stopped near the start of the Forgotten World Highway at “Lauren’s Lavender Farm & Café”, for some breakfast. The sun was warm and the scent of lavender wafted through the air as I sat and nibbled my way through a piece of home made quiche. I chatted with the owner, who’s name I was surprised to discover, was not Lauren. I did not find out until afterwards, while reading about the farm online, that Lauren was a member of their family who passed away in 2001.

After having a wonderful conversation with the owner and enjoying a most delicious breakfast, I was back on the road. There weren’t many houses along the 150 kilometre highway. It was so peaceful. Just the gorgeous rolling mountains, my little red car, and me.  I stopped for many photos along the way, and, at one point, I stopped for two hours to try and catch a kitten.

I was driving along a dirt section of the highway, absolutely nothing but nature for miles around. All of a sudden a little, black, fuzzy face and two big, green eyes peered out at me from the grass along the side of the road. Puzzled, I put the car in reverse to take another look at the little face. It was a kitten. It couldn’t have been more than a couple months old. I pulled over and climbed out. There was no way a little kitten like that should be living in the middle of no where. There were no other cats to be seen. I slowly approached the kitten, hoping it would let me pick it up. I thought maybe I could take it to the nearest town and search for someone willing to look after it. The kitten ran off into the bush before I could get too close. I looked to see where it had gone, the hill was near vertical and it ran down to a stream. There was a lot of the bush all along the muddy slope. The kitten had disappeared out of site. I peered down into the tangles of branches, hoping to spot the small creature. Suddenly, I heard a sound, a mewing came from the entanglement below. It was the most sad, scared, mew I had ever heard. I ran back to my car and pulled on my hiking shoes. I then grabbed my whistle, just in case I got stuck. I found a stream that ran under the road, down to the river, so I used the rock bed to scramble down to the bottom. The kitten cries persisted as I made my way down to the river. From there I made my way over to the hill, the branches weren’t quite as thick from this side. I slid between branches and crawled over fallen logs. I found sturdy roots to hold as I inched my way back up the hill, towards the source of the cries. A flick of a black tail, and a glint of those green eyes, the frightened kitten took off, disappearing again.

I waited in silence, standing totally still, hoping the little animal would come back out to investigate. It didn’t. After a couple minutes the cries started up again. I mimicked the calls, encouraging the kitten to continue mewing. I clambered forward again. Slowly, calmly, trying not to startle the animal for a third time. I eventually hit a wall. The branches became so thickly twisted together there was no chance I would be able to climb through them. I tried going around- no luck. I tried the other side- still, no luck. I went back to the river and tried to take it on from a slightly higher point. That didn’t work either. I eventually climbed back up to the road. from the top I scanned down the side of the slope, trying to seek out the best path towards my goal.

Up and down the stream bed I went. From the river to the road, and back again. Searching, climbing, mewing. My heart was starting to break. That poor kitten, all alone, no food, a fast running river the only source of water nearby. I had no idea how to convince the small feline that I was just there to help. I sat on the top of the hill for a while. Watching, waiting, hoping the black fur ball would come and approach me. When that didn’t work I had to think again. I went back to my car and pulled out a loaf of bread and my bottle of water. I don’t really know much about cats, I’ve only ever had dogs. I had to make up steps as I went, I had no idea what I was doing. I soaked some bread with water and tossed it into the tangle of branched below. Suddenly, those big green eyes reappeared. With much hesitation the cat made its way towards the bread. Looking at me, taking a step, stopping to look at me again, inching forwards a bit more, and so on. The kitten made it to the bread and started to nibble. I let this go on for a while before doing some inching of my own. I slid on my heels, one bit at a time, stopping whenever the kitten looked up. I was so close, but I guess the little creature thought so too, and it took off again.

I had now been there over an hour, trying to save that small creature. “I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU!” I cried out. Partly out of frustration, partly out of desperation. If I didn’t help that cat, who would? Still so small, how could it take care and survive in the middle of nowhere? The nights were starting to get cool, would the little kitten freeze? I needed to do more. I grabbed more bread, and a towel from my car and made my way back towards the place where the kitten had last been. I laid down the towel on top of the branches, placed the bread on top of it. I propped some branches up against the blanket and held onto one edge. I was creating a sort of trap. I thought, maybe if the cat would walk onto the towel to eat, I could quickly through the towel over it and grab it. Yes, the poor little animal would be absolutely terrified, but I would unwrap the towel once we were in the car, I would put out more bread, give it some water. Make up for my terrifying actions.

I sat there for ages, the cat wouldn’t come near my towel trap. I was running out of ideas. I came so close so many times, but never got close enough. After losing sight of the kitten again, no sign for ages, I decided it was time to go. I had been on the hunt for over two hours by that point. My feet were soaked from the stream, I was covered in mud and scratches from all my scrambling, and my heart was broken. I cried as I headed back to my car, defeated. So badly I wanted to save that small creature, but I couldn’t manage. I had no idea what else I could do. I left some more bread on the slope, and made a trail up to the road. I then made a nice pile of bread along the roadside. All I can hope is that that little kitten would make its way to that pile, and someone else would drive by and spot it and maybe they would have more luck saving that poor little animal. But for me, it was time to walk away. People tell me I can’t save the world, I guess they were right. I can’t even save a cat. I hate giving up.

I continued my journey along the highway, trying not to feel too sad about leaving the cat behind. I let myself disappear in the beautiful scenery once again. I had to move forward. Driving through that amazing landscape was a good way to calm down a bit. It’s hard not to feel at peace there. I stopped for some more photos when I came to a tunnel through the hill. This wasn’t just any tunnel though. It was really just a whole cut through the giant lump of land. There were wooden beams evenly spread out throughout the tunnel, the rest was just pure rock face. It was no doubt the coolest tunnel I have ever been through.

   

I arrived at Guy’s house a bit after five. He had called me an hour earlier saying he would be late but told me where the spare key was and just to let myself in. I was on a hunt for the key when he arrived home. Luckily, I hadn’t been searching long when he arrived home. Guy introduced himself and asked me how the drive was, we chatted as he went to unlock the door. Turns out he couldn’t find the spare key either. Or his keys for that matter. He went around back and checked all the windows, finally finding one that was unlocked. He pulled himself through the small window and came back around to unlock the door for me. It was a rather entertaining first impression that was just the start to an awesome week in Eltham.

Glow Worms, Hot Streams & Geysers in a City

The day after arriving back in Auckland from my trip with Audrey it was time to take on another adventure, this time with Andy. We had already planned it out before I had taken off with Audrey, so it was just a matter of packing up and heading off. We had three days and two nights to fill with fun and stories to tell. The challenge to have as good of a time as Audrey and I had had arisen, and Andy and I accepted the challenge. In less than 24 hours after returning from one trip, I was off again, this time heading to Raglan.

Raglan is a popular surf spot on a huge black sand beach. The day we went was overcast and we only had a couple hours to spend so we just walked along the beach, jumped along the sand dunes, and stepped on crunchy shells. It was neat to watch all the surfers wait so patiently for the perfect wave before they rode it into shore. The grace in which they caught the waves was incredible. Not something I have the balance or skill to do.

We then drove to Bridal Veil Falls where we hiked into the woods to admire the cascade of water. The light reflected off the mist, creating rainbows at the base of the falls. It was so peaceful and serene. We hiked down the stairs from the top of the 55 meter waterfall, down to the bottom, where we sat and admired and prepared ourselves for the hike back up.

As the day came to an end we realized we needed to find somewhere to set up camp. We drove to Waitomo and cruised down back roads, trying to find a spot out of the way where we could pitch our tent and sleep undisturbed. We weren’t having much luck finding a spot so in the end Andy decided we would be camping in a field. There were no cows in the paddock we settled on, and it was out of sight of houses and main roads. I was a little unsure about the whole situation, but as the sun sank lower and lower, and the sky grew dimmer and dimmer, I didn’t have much choice. We decided against having a fire that night so instead we sat in the tent playing card games and talking the night away.

We had no issues with where we camped. Every time a car drove by I would hold my breath, expecting it to be someone coming to holler at us, but it never was. We rose with the sun, packed the car back up, and drove away from the field leaving no trace that we had been there.

We made our way to Cave World, the company with whom we were to do our black water rafting adventure. We booked ourselves in for later that afternoon, and then we went for a drive to kill some time. I was so excited to do the Black Water Rafting, the wait was brutal. I counted down the minutes until I would be entering a hole in the ground. It doesn’t sound very exciting when I put it that way, but really, it was awesome!

When the time finally rolled around, Andy and I met up with the crew of other excited people and we were on our way. We had to stop first to get wetsuits and helmets. That was the worst part. Nobody likes pulling on cold, wet, neoprene. It was not a pleasant feeling, but I knew it would be well worth it. Once we were all geared up we each chose a black inner tube and made the climb into darkness.

We splashed through shin deep water until there was no light to be seen from the cave opening. Our guides told everyone to turn off their flashlights at that point. It’s a good thing no one was terrified of the dark. We followed the instructions we were given, and upon entering complete darkness the cave was filled with “oohs” and “aahs” as we all turned our eyes to what lay above us. Like stars on a clear night the cave was lit up by little glow worms. As we sat there gazing up, we were told that it’s not actually the worm that glows, it’s their poo. The guide then smashed his tube on the water creating a loud bang. The amount of glowing specs tripled from that. It takes “having the crap scared out of you” to a whole new level.

We were given the opportunity to wriggle our way into a little alcove where a big waterfall was hidden. Of course, I volunteered to go first. Looking up, I couldn’t see the top of it, I still don’t know how high up it went, but it was still very cool.

The next part of the adventure consisted of us hopping into our tubes, falling backwards over a little waterfall, then floating down the river. Everyone had their lights out, and we all just laid back and enjoyed the glowing poo. It was one of the coolest things I have done so far.

We finished our cave trip, got the photos then headed off to Taupo. It was evening by the time we arrived there, and we still hadn’t decided where we would set up camp. We stopped at Huka Falls to watch the masses of water being pushed down the river. It was pretty impressive.

Our next stop was Kerosene Creek, a hot water river about halfway between Rotorua and Taupo. I checked online and someone said there was a good camping spot there, so we hopped into the car and took off to find it. We had some trouble finding the turn off for the creek, as locals love to take down any signs people put up. They don’t want it to become overrun by tourists. We eventually found it and made our way down the extremely unkempt dirt road. We hiked into the woods, along the trail that had been stamped down. We spotted the river, steam rising off it. We grabbed our swimsuits, or “togs” as they say here” and jumped on in. It wasn’t the best smelling water I had ever swum in, but it was certainly the warmest.

When we began feeling lightheaded from the heat we jumped out and brought down our camping gear. We set up the tent and put all our belongings in it before jumping back into that stinky, warm creek, with the stinky, warm waterfall.

For dinner that night we used a knife to cut the tops off canned spaghetti. We placed the cans in the fire until they were nice and hot. We poured the spaghetti onto slices of bread and chowed down. It was a delicious campfire dinner.

The next morning we packed up our gear, went for another soak then headed off to Rotorua. Rotorua is a very neat town, geysers have popped up all over the place and there are bubbling mud pools found in the center of town. We spent a couple hours wandering through, checking out all the spots where steam was pouring from the ground.

We decided to spend a bit of money and have some more fun in RotoVegas. We bought tickets to take a gondola ride up the mountain, where we hopped aboard the skyswing. The swing was hoisted fifty meters above the ground where we were then dropped to swing back and forth over the edge of the mountain. It was a great thrill and a good way to get out adrenaline pumping before we hit the luge.

At the luge track we strapped on helmets and grabbed out karts, hopped on, and took off down the track. Andy and I raced down the hills, passing other lugers and trying not to run into young children. We took our corners sharp, putting our karts on their sides. Run after run, we went down the hill, pushing our limits and going faster with each run. Finally, the last run of the day, I beat Andy to the bottom. He had passed me in his kart, absolutely flying, went to take a turn, and didn’t make it. He went straight into the big dirt piles beside the track. I laughed as I watched him spin out and crash like the characters in Mario Kart games. Don’t worry though, he wasn’t hurt, and I was the champion.

We left Rotorua behind and made out way back Auckland. It was a great trip and we had a lot of fun. It was cool to be able to travel like that with someone who knew the area, knew a lot of the places we went, yet at the same time, was still fascinated by some of the things we did, such as Kerosene Creek and the glow worm caves. Our three day adventure was an awesome thrill, and with that I was ready to hit the roads again.

Canadians on The Coromandel

After working many long, hard hours campaigning for Red Cross and not earning a cent I decided it was time to call it quits. I had some money in the bank and had gotten a phone call from another Canadian girl, Audrey, who is in New Zealand on the same work exchange program as I. We had met up when she was fresh meat in New Zealand and we went out for drinks before she left on her tour bus the next day. We kept in touch as we had gotten along so well, so when she arrived back in Auckland ready for adventure I was all set to join in.

It was a Friday morning and I hadn’t even slept it. My phone was ringing and it was Audrey on the other end. She was asking if I wanted to go to Hot Water Beach, over on the Coromandel Peninsula.I figured I may as well, I had exhausted Auckland and was intching to go out and explore more. I had been planning to head to the Coromandel a few days later anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity! We decided to go on a trip for a few days and do the whole peninsula. I packed up my car, picked up Audrey, then we were off on a road trip. First stop: Hot Water Beach.

When people talked about Hot Water Beach, I nodded my head thinking it was neat, but probably just a little warm at best. I never expected it to be as hot as it was. I almost burned my feet at one point as I was looking for a spot to plunk down and dig my sitting hole- Turns out I had walked into the spring water which can be as hot as 64 degrees Celsius (147 F.). Audrey, myself and a friend of Audreys, Bruce, tested different spots around the spring as if we were all Goldie Locks. Some spots were too hot. Others were too cold. It took a bit, but we eventually found a spot that was just right. Now, the funny thing about this beach is that there aren’t many people swimming, or sunbathing. Everyone digs big pits in the sand to sit in. The warm water from the spring rises up through the sand creating your own little hot tub. The deeper you dig, the hotter the water gets. It was a little tricky to teach myself not to dig my toes into the sand, they kept getting burned.

After spending the better part of the evening getting wrinkled like prunes Audrey, Bruce, and I climbed out of our sandy spa to go dry off and head for Narnia. It was only a ten minute drive, then a forty minute walk through the woods before we were in Narnia. We didn’t even go through the wardrobe! No, no, we were at Cathedral Cove, a scene from the second Narnia movie. It was a beautiful beach, so amazing and breathtaking it felt as magical as a magical world would.

    

We spent the night at the holiday park by the beach. We had a few drinks with some backpackers from the tour bus, and all exchanged tales of our journeys to date. We all crashed out one by one, but as always, I was the last one up. I finally hit the hay at 4:30 AM as the other backpacker I had been chatting with was just as wiped as I was. we said our goodbyes and went  our separate ways. He had it rougher than I did though. He had to be back up and on the bus for 7:30. I didn’t have to be gone until 10:00.

Much to my dismay, I ended up kicking my day off at 7:30 anyway. The majority of backpackers in the hostel dorm were from the tour bus, so I was woken up as they all packed out to hop aboard the bus. Audrey was also up, and there was no chance at falling back asleep, so we loaded up the car and headed off. Not sure where we were going, or where we would end up.

Well we drove for hours, sticking to the east coast as much as possible. We stopped in one town to buy some meat pies, then hung out at a sandy beach to make sandwiches for lunch. We Oohed and Ahhed at every hill we crested and every lookout we came across. As much as I loved my trip up north in November, it sure was nice having someone to chat with and share the experience with. Photos of New Zealand make the country look beautiful, no doubt, but even so they don’t compare at all to the real beauty of the country.

We continued out drive up the peninsula heading North the whole time. Winding our way up and down mountains and along rivers and streams to Coromandel Town. We thought about stopping there, but no, there was still farther north we could go. To the tip of the peninsula we went. It was a 30  kilometre drive on a windy, narrow, dirt road. We were constantly in awe as we drove, taking an hour to complete the drive. We went slowly as the road was a steep hill on one side, and a plummet to the ocean on the other. We wound around hill after hill, careful to make sure no cars were coming around the corner in the other direction. The road was not quite two lanes so every time we met someone we had to slowly creep past each other, cautious not to pull over too far and fall to our doom. We almost decided to turn around and head back at one point when the road had a pull off spot. I’m sure glad we didn’t. Just as we came around the next corner, below us was a beautiful sandy beach. We figured there may be more so we continued to pick our way along further, seeing if there was a place we could camp.

  

We made it to Port Jackson, mission accomplished. There was even a camp site too. We paid the nine dollar fee and set up our tent right along the beach. It was the perfect camp site, and the hot sun was there to make up for it’s absence over my Christmas camping trip. Audrey and I wandered down the beach, taking it all in, then went for a nap as we were both exhausted. We had found a little piece of paradise.

                                  

We had a great day in Port Jackson and we didn’t get rained on that night either. Once more when morning rolled around we loaded up the car and were off again. The drive back down that dirt road went a lot quicker than it had the previous day, we were back on paved roads before we knew it. I quite enjoy those dirt roads, I’m not sure how much my car loves me for it though.

Highway 309 was a road I had read about and thought would be a fun drive. Audrey and I headed out of Coromandel Town after grabbing some breakfast and we went to find this road. We found the turn off for Highway 309 as we headed South. There was a sign hanging pointing us in the right direction. It was just an old rickety wooden sign, but the painted on “HIGHWAY 309” were unmistakeable. We took the left and continued on our way.

We passed some cars pulled over by a bunch of wild pigs, wondering why there were so many, but we kept driving to The Waterworks park. It’s a park that is full of little structures built for your water amusement. It’s a lot of artsy stuff, but we thought it would be fun. Audrey and I are both a bit cheap though, so neither of us were willing to pay the 20$ admission fee for it. We did however grab a pamphlet on the highway, reading through to see that the wild pigs are one of the attractions along the way. We decided to turn back and check it out.

We parked up the car and walked over to check out the squealy little creatures and have a chat with the man running the show. The man had a lot of land that he had turned into a wild pig reserve. He doesn’t eat them or sell them, he simply said “They’re my mates”. We got to hold some of the three week old piglets that were running around, and pet some of the big fatties who were bathing in the sun. It was quite a show that was happening. As we chatted with the farmer I couldn’t help but compare him to the chicken farmer from Napoleon Dynamite. He was walking around the pigs in his bare feet, which were black and filthy. It really didn’t help with my phobia of feet. We slipped away when another car load of people arrived and we headed for Castle Rock.

   

 

Castle Rock was the next stop along the way. The pamphlet made it sound like a really common hike, one that would have a well marked track and lots of people on it. Nope. Audrey and I weren’t even sure if we had found the right spot. We followed the directions the pig farmer had given us, which led us up a bumpy logging road. We went as far as we could up the road then pulled as far off the road as we could. There were deep ditched on either side of the narrow, dirt road, not so much as a spot to park to hike. But we went with it anyway, threw on our hiking shoes and made the trek up the mountain.

   

 

It wasn’t a long hike, but the trail was extremely muddy, not very well defined, and steep. It was fun though. We ripped up the trail, only meeting one German couple along the way, hitting the top in under an hour. It was a beautiful view and a good spot to relax, not another soul around for ages.

   If you look really closely you can see my car!

(If you look REALLY closely you can see my car parked on the dirt road!)

 

Once we made it back down to the car we decided to go for something a little more refreshing. Why not hit the Waiau Falls. We drove up and parked, went to test the water, and made ourselves some lunch. There were a couple kids jumping from the top of the waterfall, they tried to convince us to join in, but we opted out.

  

 

We made it back to Hot Water Beach that night for another quick soak in the spring after making our last stop at Cooks Beach. It was a beautiful, long, sandy beach. The sun was low in the sky and there weren’t too many people left around. We walked the length before heading back to the car. We still needed to find a place to crash for the night.

 

Audrey and I stayed in our little dug out spa until the sun had set. We then made the walk back out to the car to head off in search of a bed. My car was the only one left in the lot by the time we made it out. As we climbed in a figure crossed the road and made his way over to the car. The man introduced himself and offered us a place to stay. “My friend and I own all that land over there, you can just stay here for free if you like”, the smell of alcohol just wafted towards us as he talked. “We just saw that you were the only car left and we wanted to make sure you didn’t have any problems getting it started.” He told us before he walked away. We closed the car doors and locked them as soon as he turned around. Some people just give off creepy vibes, he was one of them. I shoved the key into the ignition and turned. Nothing. I tried my other key, still nothing. Audrey and I exchanged, looks, the same thought running through our minds, had he done something so our car wouldn’t start? We didn’t want that to be the case so I tried once more. Breath held, fingers crossed, the car started. We both let out a sigh of relief as we drove off down the road.

We hadn’t taken into consideration that most camp grounds close up their offices by 9pm. So we we hit the 10pm mark we were quickly losing hope. We drove and drove, hoping to find somewhere. Finally we reached the town of Tairua, and with it we found a hostel. The town was dead, not a car or human life form in site. We followed signs down to a hostel, we parked the car and went to see if it was open.

The kitchen door was open, so we let ourselves in. Audrey went upstairs where she found some backpackers who pointed us in the direction of reception. We wandered down the hallway, slowly, creeping, hairs standing on end. There was no one in the office. We rung the bell, no answer. We picked up the phone and dialled the number listed. We heard the phone ring, it was the phone in the office. We were both a little on edge so we hung up quickly and were prepared to scurry off when finally a lady approached from across the property.

We booked into a room and brought all our stuff in, still a bit nervous. I’m not sure what exactly it was about the hostel. Maybe the fact we arrived so late, maybe the lack of activity happening in the hostel, maybe the spooky moans of the old house settling. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but we were both glad we survived the night. No one was murdered, no bloody messages scrawled on the walls, everything was fine, and the sun shone bright the next morning.

Relieved to make it out alive, we headed off for our next and final stop before making our way back to Auckland. Whangamata has another one of those beautiful, sand, New Zealand beaches. We spent some time there soaking up the sun and contemplating swimming (which neither of us did in the end).

 

 

All in all it was a great trip. Many fun adventures and wonderful experiences. I was sad it had to end, but Audrey and I have plans to explore more together and surely find some more shenanigans to get into.