A couple days later we decided to take a day trip to Cape Palliser, a decent drive along small and near the end also unpaved roads but worth the scenic trip. You can greet the seals (but keep your distance), climb up to the lighthouse or grab a hot chocolate at the Lake Ferry Hotel on the way.
It is a couple hours past midnight on January 1, 2016 and I am dwelling through the streets of Wellington, New Zealand.
I just celebrated the new year with Julia, who lost her brand new phone in the crowd, and Mike, who had to work during until 2 AM. They are laying passed out in beds. Right before I decide to call the night quits as well I see the night sky turn lighter and decide to climb up Mount Victoria for the first sunrise of the year. Our hostel rests in the bottom of the mountain and it takes me a half an hour steady climb to reach the viewpoint. First workout of the year is a fact. Definitely a first sign I need to get in better shape. Maybe a good goal for this year.
I was definitely not the only one with this idea. Even more so, Together with a handful others I choose a good spot and took in all the fantastic views over Wellington Harbour. After an hour the tiredness of a sleepless night kicked in and I walked back home.
The next day, Julia comes knocking on my door with the great news that two guys from the hostel downtown have found her jacket and her phone. They uploaded a selfie with Julia’s phone on her Instagram account with the notice they found her found and she could pick it up at the hostel. Great story which we celebrated with Domino’s & Wine, a tradition that started during our travels.
Not much later the split of the tripod was near as Julia gathered all her stuff and left for Nelson with a job and a ferry ticket in her pocket. Off she went on that grey summer evening. Saying goodbye was easy cause I knew I was gonna see her again anytime soon.
In the meantime I’ve got a job as well at a hotel on the West Coast. I found a job quite easily on a online job board. A great website to look for a temporary job while you are on your Working Holiday Program.
And a couple days after Julia left Wellington, Mike dropped me at the same ferry terminal, a bit overpacked but excited to start a new adventure I hugged Mike goodbye and embarked on a journey to the South Island of New Zealand.
December 19, 2015
Mike, Julia and myself just finished our grand road trip across the North Island of New Zealand and had stranded in Wellington with the van. Mike had found a job there. Julia and me both needed to feed our piggy banks as well and decided to call this city our home for a little while and celebrate the holidays together.
The first days we explored the city and found cool spots and bars.
Te Papa Museum : A diverse and interactive museum. Make sure to see the (temporary) exhibition of Gallipoli – A moving story of the terrible war that begun for many New Zealanders there at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915.
One Big Parade : A beautiful drive along the beaches and bays of Greater Wellington. Start your drive at Oriental Parade and follow the coast all around Miramar (turn left at the Windy Wellington Sign for a slightly longer route) and continue all the way until Te Kopahou Visitor Centre. Make sure to stretch your legs at Lyall Bay and watch the planes come in. If you feel like continuing on unpaved roads after this car park make sure to have a 4 wheel drive cause we got stuck with our Lola (the name of the van).
A couple days later Julia already made plans to leave for the South Island after New Years while Mike got the job in a bar down Courtenay Place. Courtenay Place and Cuba Street is where most of the bars can be found. I was literally torn between staying in Wellington and find a job or leaving for the South Island as well but would decide depending on the job.
As we were preparing to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve I heard Mike scream from the bathroom. He just pulled a muscle in his back and was in serious pain. We jumped in the van and brought him to the emergency room. Luckily he was released a couple hours later with some painkillers and a good story in hand.
Merry Christmas ! At least we were together
Isn’t that the point of this holiday anyway ?
Aaaahhh good old Whangarei.
This must have been one of the places I’ve felt home the most in New Zealand.
Of course this was all because of two beautiful souls who I was introduced to during my travels through Canada last summer, Auntie Karen and Uncle Rick. Two of the kindest kind I know on this planet.
I had the privilege spending three weekends with them in this precious spot of New Zealand, away from the big travel crowds.
Whangarei is a three hour bus ride away from Auckland (we booked our tickets with Nakedbus) and were dropped off at the port of Whangarei, where a bunch of sailing boats rest peacefully in the harbour.
On my first visit, Uncle Rick was ready to pick us up. At that time I was traveling with Julia, a name you will encounter frequently in my blogs, and she is definitely worth mentioning cause she always manage to deliver a great story to tell.
Whangarei Falls : Nice spot if you seek some refreshment and wanna make a fairly easy walk.
Ocean Beach : Great place to go surfing or relax and get a tan (or sunburn in my case).
Mount Manaia : A not so crowded steep climb with incredibly rewarding views.
Abbey Caves : Way less crowded than the other glowworm caves and totally free. After a little walk through the meadows you arrive at the caves (mind the sheep poo). Be very careful cause it’s really slippery and be prepared to get wet from head to toe if you want to see the glowworms deeper in the caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight and when you are in the caves, not to shine the flashlight towards the worms but away from them. Be prepared for magic.
Smugglers Cove : Starting from the small parking lot with excellent toilets it is a nice hike over a small hill to reach this cozy cove that once was a haven for pirates. You can also combine this with the Busby Head Track if you wanna see some more cool views.
Definitely worth a visit !
If you visit Auckland without a visit to Devonport, you are missing out on a great side trip.
Devonport is conveniently located across the bay and can be reached by a short but scenic ferry ride from Queens Wharf for 12,00 NZD return trip. The ferry runs from early in the morning until late at night.
Once you embark to this little village by the sea you have two hills to conquer. The first one would be Mount Victoria which offers great views over Auckland and Devonport.
For more of these spectacular views you can make your way to North Head, bring a torch or a charged cellphone with a flashlight to make your journey through this maze of bunkers and tunnels complete. This historical coastal defence is a playground nowadays for all ages.
After you conquered the North Head it’s time to make your way down to Cheltenham Beach. This popular scenic beach is a great place to go unwind and have a romantic picnic. You can even extend your walk along the water and climb over some rocks until you reach Narrow Neck Beach (pay attention to the tides).
Grab a drink or bite on your way back before you jump back on the ferry to make your visit complete.
Photo taken from Silo Park, Auckland
Possibly the first place most overseas visitors encounter is Auckland.
This lively city has something for everyone to experience;
For the adventure seekers : Ever wanted to take a leap of faith and jump off the tallest man-made building in the southern hemisphere ? Well, you can. The Sky Tower makes that dream come true.
For the bon vivants : Saving your stomach for a decent appetite ? Well, then Ponsonby is the place to go and only a little climb from downtown. This neighbourhood is filled with restaurants, bars and little eateries where delicious smells of food are wafting through the streets.
For the ones who love the view : Want to keep climbing ? Well you can. Mount Eden will be more or less your final stop on the ladder in the Auckland area. This viewpoint offers great 360 ° views over the City of Sails. Also here you can clearly see the dormant volcano.
For the artistic stroller : For those who want to keep it closer to the water, there is an easy and fun artistic stroll you can saunter between the Visitor Information Center and the Silo Park.
For the ones wanting to escape the busy streets of the city : Devonport is your place to be. This little town is so amazing it deserves it’s own blog. So more on that in the next blog post.
After being (almost literally) blown away by the stunning Cape Reinga you can trade your windproof jacket for a boogie board and go diving off massive sand dunes.
It’s a drastic change of scenery from the hills in Scotland to the Sahara Desert in just a half hour drive.
Don’t have a boogie board with you in your backpack ? No problem, there are some local farmers who seem to have found a way to earn some extra cash beside their potatoes and dairy products. You can rent a boogie board for 10 NZD on your way to the sand dunes and return them at the end of the day. Keep an eye open for the signs and if you’ve missed those signs, you most likely can still get one from a pop up boogie board rental place at the sand dunes as well.
The climb to the top of the sand dune is a bit of a struggle when you take two steps uphill and slide one back down. But trust me, the dive down is worth the effort.
My friend Julia took it one step further by (accidentally) sliding sideways and making an impressive roll down the sand. It was definitely not her day but she took the fall like a trooper. Just make sure you lay down on the boogie board with your head first.
CHEAP BASTARD TIP : If you want to make this trip in combination with Cape Reinga and you don’t have your own car you can always look into renting a car for the day and fill the seats with travel friends and make your own trip.
We rented a car from Paihia for 24 hours and did the whole trip at our own pace. With a group of five we paid 36 NZD each for the car rental and gas.
New Zealand, land of immense beauty and undeniable contrasts. Cut in two by the Cook Strait, one of the most treacherous straits in the world. The best world deal you can get because you get two pieces of kiwi gold for the price of one.
Starting off in the very north of the country is where my journey begins, the mystical Cape Reinga. It is here where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clash and fight a spectacular eternal battle which sometimes results in waves that are over 10 meter high.
In the middle of this breathtaking cape sits one single sacred pohutukawa tree between the rocks. According to the Maori legend this was the place where the spirits of the dead left land and entered the afterlife.
The road to Cape Reinga may be paved with good intentions but it surely is a long and curvy way.
Our friend Julia wasn’t too pleased with these road conditions. Or maybe it had something to do with the bottle(s) of red wine we had the night before.
Luckily you get some stunning views along the way to ease her stomach for a bit.