On the 26th of December, what they call ‘Boxing Day’ in NZ, we started with a fresh morning walk in the Kauaranga Valley to a beautiful lookout where we had a clear view over the valley.
Because of our remote location we had no signal on our cellphones so we decided to return to more inhabited regions to receive word from Emma’s arrival. Te Aroha proved to be a good waiting spot: the Edwardian Soda Hot Tubs cleaned us from head to toe.
We received word that Emma would arrive the 28th so we spent the 27th in the Waitare Ranges National Park, 30 minutes drive from Auckland Airport. After the steep Fairy Falls Walk (it just kept on going up!) we indulged ourselves with The Best Brownie Ever (!) in Titirangi. The next morning we even had another one…
3 days behind schedule, due to snow, Lufthansa and Lufthansa, Emma arrived in Auckland! Her luggage did not. We stayed the night in the Quest On Eden Apartments, across from Emma’s former university and celebrated Emma’s arrival with tapas @ The Mezze Bar and cocktails @ the harbour. The next day we took a walk (down memory lane from Emma’s point of view) in Auckland and in the evening we headed for Coromandel Forest Park.
Our morning walk on the 30th of December was the Billy Goat Track.
Emma had already done this walk with Pieter 3 years ago and recalled that she had to throw away her clothes after finishing the track because they were smudged beyond repair with mud from falling down 100 times. We weren’t that keen on starting the Track. Emma also thought she remembered the directions of the Track. She did, to a certain point. Somewhere halfway the question was whether to continue down the track (or rather up…) or to take a connection to another track that led back to the car park. It ended by us just turning back, after having wrongfully climbed a huge, deadly hill.
But it was fun and a beautiful walk.
After coffee in Thames we drove up the coast to Coromandel Town, where apparently every Kiwi was spending New Year. There was but one spot left in the overcrowded holiday park, but we were blessed with an amazing sunset view.
The 31st we started with soaking our asses in a self-dug hole filled with natural hot water on Hot Water Beach. A lot of people had the same plan, so the soaking ended in a battle of shovels and evil children throwing mud at Andrew.
We escaped the overcrowded Coromandel Peninsula and after a three hour drive we arrived in Rotorua where we would be spending NYE at the Blue Lake Camping together with Bruce and Julie. We stuffed our fridge with enough bottles of sparkling wine and some delicious sausages, burgers and salmon for the BBQ.
Although we are used to going to bed at 10 pm we stayed awake long enough to celebrate the beginning of 2011. We cheered, danced and pulled some crackers. We can’t remember much more of the evening ;-) but there was one weird thing we noticed. Whilst doing our celebration-tour on our camping (don’t ask), there was absolutely nobody else celebrating. Most Kiwi’s already went to bed and the few awake ones just sat quietly by their tent looking at us like we were a bunch of drunken Belgians (they weren’t exactly wrong about that). Were we celebrating a day too early?
New Years Day started off a little slow, but after a yummy breaky with blueberry crumble pie our power levels were recharged. We said our goodbyes to Bruce and Julie and drove to Rotorua city to visit Te Puia. The guided tour through the domain showed us some Maori crafts and history, real life kiwis (they look like chickens with a huge beak), natural mud pools and spitting geysers.
Andrew even tried out the traditional Maori war face. His face does look scary…
In the afternoon we took a magnificent drive to Tongariro National Park. Our campsite (Discovery Lodge) had amazing views on the volcano that stars as Mount Doom in the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. This gave us a sneak preview of what we would get to see the next day during the Tongariro Crossing Walk and more important, of how high we would have to climb!
That brings us to yesterday, the day we had the life-changing (that’s what the brochure says anyway) experience of doing the Tongariro Crossing Walk of 19.4 kms. The nice thing about the walk is that every next kilometer has a totally different landscape and of course it is cool to recognize sceneries used in the LOTR Trilogy. The less nice thing is that the path goes up, up and up and then it goes dooooown. Muscles that we didn’t even knew existed got used. After 6 and a half hours of walking we were really tired but satisfied and amazed by the natural beauty of New Zealand. See for yourselves:
Today we had another active day at Napier but with a very fun side activity: We did a Bicycle Wine Tasting Tour! We visited 3 wineries, amongst which Mission Estate, the most beautiful winery owned by the church (those paterkes know what’s good). Their wines are absolutely divine. We also visited a cider house where we tasted 6 fresh ciders on the terrace in the sun. Life is good in NZ!
Tonight we are celebrating Melanie’s Birthday with a cozy “hapjes” diner. It is the first time ever Melanie’s birthday is in the summer and the weather allows us to eat outside. Yuy! Yippie!