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New Zealand

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

I've put this off for far too long and it's made me realize how valuable this blog site will be in our future travels. We will be able to document our experiences as they happen and have a written record to look back on. Having spent 6 months in New Zealand we have many stories to tell, but I'm already finding the details a little fuzzy.


Our favourite thing to do is hike and boy does New Zealand deliver. We explored picturesque bays, hiked to mountain peaks and trekked through old gold mine tunnels. We spent countless hours walking in the surf along several beaches. Waterfalls were in abundance and we stopped at every one we could. We drove the Forgotten Highway, hiked via ducts and explored caves with glow worms and weta. But if you've been following along on Instagram you already know all this...you saw the photos and if you haven't you can find a link to all of our Instagram photos on the Home Page. This site is supposed to be about the stories behind the photos. The anecdotes that you can't capture in a photo with a tag, so here we go.



Piha

You saw the amazing photos of Lion rock and the beautiful vista of the bay at Piha; what you didn't see was the drive...


We landed in New Zealand on October 3rd and spent the first 10 days getting set up with the motorhome, buying clothes and household goods, and getting a solar install in Tauranga. We were in heavily populated areas with excellent roads; although, driving on the left is always an adjustment. When we were finally ready to head out on our first official adventure Mike took us to Piha. The roads in New Zealand are narrow and winding on a good day, but this was on another level. You leave civilization and then plummet down the side of a mountain to the small town below. To say the road was winding is an understatement and by the time we reached the campground at the bottom our new brakes were smoking and very well broken in. Mike had the time of his life and will cheerfully tell you I'm exaggerating, but it was an experience that's for sure.



Wairere Boulders

You saw the photos on Instagram of some rocks and flowing water; what you didn't see was the magic!


I cannot begin to describe the feeling you get while hiking through the Wairere Boulders. The photos do not come close to doing it justice. It honestly feels like you're going to see fairies and wood nymphs just around the next turn. The moss on the boulders and the way the light filters through the trees to reflect off the water makes you feel like you've stepped into another world. The team that created the walking trail have made it even more magical by adding little fairy doors for you to find and labelling the landscape with places like the Dragon's Den. It's truly a place you have to experience for yourself, but I couldn't help but mention it here as the tendrils of magic still linger when I think about this special place.



The Road to Port Jackson

You saw Mike's epic drone shots of a small section of the road; what you didn't see was the approximately 200 meter drop into the ocean from the passenger seat.


Okay, this one is fully on me and my very healthy fear of heights. Mike absolutely loved this drive. It was a 25 kilometer drive on a two-lane (supposedly) gravel road out to the Northern most point on the Coromandel Peninsula. The road hugs the coast line and varies from sea level to about 200 meters up. It is crazy narrow and in several places you need to pull over to allow people to pass by going the other direction. They highly recommend driving north after lunch and south from the point early in the morning as there is a campground at the end, so there are lots of campers and trailers on the road.


In the photos you can see that Mike pulled over at a small bay to fly the drone. When we finally got back on the road we climbed up the hill on the other side only to end up nose to nose with a road construction crew. They asked us to stay tight to the left side as they moved their equipment by, but we figured it was safer to just back down to our parking spot in the bay. They were very impressed with Mike's reversing skills and we waited patiently for the trucks, trailers, and equipment to make their way down. Ultimately, the drive was uneventful with epic views, but it's not listed on dangerousroads.org for no reason.



Redwoods Altitude

You saw the photos of the bridges, harnesses, and helmets; what you didn't see was me jumping off a 25m platform at the end of the course. Mostly because the video Mike posted cut it off...lol.


Okay; if you've noticed a trend, I have a fear of heights, or rather a fear of falling. This was me stepping way out of my comfort zone to try something new and I have to admit for the most part I really enjoyed it. The harness made me feel safe, the bridges were challenging, but not overly terrifying and my first time ziplining was great since I was able to sit down on the edge of platform before gently pushing off. Then we got to the end where you're supposed to jump off the last platform, free fall for about 6ft and then be gently lowered in a controlled decent the remaining 23 meters to the ground. They said just look at the tree across the way and confidently step off the platform...say what?


You have to take a big step off the platform to avoid swinging back and hitting the platform and if you don't step far enough...they give you a little push to be safe. When I agreed to this adventure neither Mike nor I realized this was part of the course. Technically, there is another stair case you can climb down, but given that the platforms and stairs are all held to the trees with slings and each stair was free floating this wasn't particularly appealing either. I decided I would give it a shot, but was really struggling to force myself to just step off the platform. As I battled my inner desire to live, I felt a hand on my lower back and realized my time for deliberation had ended. If I didn't move quickly I was going to get help...so I stepped of the platform. The free fall until the harness goes taught was utterly terrifying, but the controlled decent afterward was manageable. Would I do it again? Not a chance! But I'm glad I proved to myself that I could.



Rotorua

You saw some photos of the lake and the geothermal hotspots around town; what you didn't see was the vent that opened up at the spa across the street overnight.


Rotorua is very active geothermally. The whole town smells like sulphur, the city water drains steam regularly and there are roped of sections of boiling pools around town. It's a little disconcerting to say the least, but very cool to experience. We spent the night in a free camp spot which was just a parking lot across the road from the spa that sits on the edge of the lake. Not very picturesque, but it was free. At 6 o'clock the next morning we got a knock on our camper door. It was one of the other campers who was staying in the lot. She said "I'm sorry to wake you. I'm not saying you should leave, but there have been a swarm of small earthquakes over night and a vent has opened up across the street at the spa..." So, Mike went for a quick walk around the corner and sure enough there was a steam vent just on the other side of the spa wall shooting steam about 10 feet into the air. We opted to pack up and drive to another spot for breakfast. It turns out over the few days we were in Rotorua there was over 400 small earthquakes, but this is fairly common and no alarm was raised. By that afternoon the spa was open and everyone was carrying on as usually. We ended up staying in the area for a few more days, but we paid for a camp site further from the lake. It was unnerving to say the least.


The People

You saw the epic views; what you didn't see were the epic individuals we met along the way.


In the interest of preserving people's privacy I don't intend to go into detail here, but I couldn't touch on the behind the scenes and not mention the people. We were fortunate enough to meet some incredible individuals that I hope will be life long friends. We were welcomed into their Whanau (family) with open arms and we will be forever grateful for the time we spent with them. Shout out to our friends in Kaitaia and Arapuni...you know who you are!


I hope you enjoyed these little anecdotes! Overall, New Zealand is an incredibly magical place to visit and if you love being outdoors we highly recommend you check it out. We had an amazing time and met some wonderful people. It was well worth the 14 hour flight from Vancouver. I promise to do better once we're on the boat and to post more often about the randomness we're bound to get up to. Thanks for reading!





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