Posts Tagged ‘Auckland’

December 12th – 15th: Coromandel Peninsula

December 16, 2008

Our drive toward the Coromandel Peninsula took us on NewZealand’s Pacific Coast Highway — sound familiar? (The tree with red blossoms in the background of this picture is the Pohutukawa, which we’d seen before but without its flowers — it blooms in late December, earning its nickname as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.)

The other Pacific Coast Highway.

The other Pacific Coast Highway.

We stayed in the teeny seaside town of Hahei for two days, soaking up sun and saltwater on the beach, and Becky even got a little sunburned. We managed to go swimming for a bit, cold as it was, until a rogue wave knocked us over and thievishly made off with Becky’s sunglasses. At nearby Hot Water Beach, we joined the crowds to dig our own hot saltwater pools in the sand, which are fed by underground, geothermally heated water.

A full moon rising over the beach at Hahei.

A full moon rising over the Pacific Ocean and the beach at Hahei.

We traveled on to Coromandel Town on the other side of the peninsula. The nearby Driving Creek Railroad was built over the course of twenty-six years by a local potter, who uses it to get clay from the nearby mountainside to his workshop. We got to ride the narrow-gauge railway up to a great viewpoint of the surrounding forest reserve and coastline.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Looking down from the punnily named Eyefull Tower at the end of the Driving Creek Railroad.

Looking down from the punnily named Eyefull Tower at the end of the Driving Creek Railroad.

Our last hurrah in the Coromandel was an afternoon sailing trip aboard the Trifecta, a nearly 30-foot trimaran sailing boat that was built from scratch by the skipper/owner who took us out. We were the only two people who’d booked for that day, so we ended up getting a spectacular personalized trip and one-on-one basic sailing instruction.

Jonathan tries his hand at the helm while Becky scrambles along the front of the hull to take pictures.

Jonathan tries his hand at the helm while Becky scrambles along the front of the hull to take pictures.

We drove on to Auckland, where we are now —cleaning out our little car and packing up to fly home on the 17th (and arrive nine hours earlier than our time of departure!). It’ll be hard to leave this place, especially now that summer’s really getting into full swing, but it’ll be good to return to some cold weather for Christmas — the Kiwi beach barbeque for the holidays seems just a little too otherworldly!

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September 3rd and 4th: Driving North

September 7, 2008

Once were safely on the ground in Auckland, the first mission was to buy or hire a car. We ended up with an adorable, zippy little 1996 Toyota Starlet for just NZ$11 a day for our trip. We’re quickly adjusting to driving on the left side of the road. Trickier is the fact that the controls for the turn signal and windshield wiper are reversed from what we’re used to, so we end up signaling some turns by wiping our windshield.

Isn't it cute?

Isn't it cute?

We set out in our new car to New Zealand’s Northland. We stopped for an afternoon in Devonport, just across Torpedo Bay from Auckland, where we had a terrific view of the Auckland skyline.

A view of Auckland from the beach

A view of Auckland from the beach

Our first trip out into the country also gave us our first of what will surely be many sightings of New Zealand sheep. They were somehow not as excited to see us as we were to see them.

Baaaaah.

Baaaaah.

From Devonport we drove north along the east coast. The scenery in Northland is spectacular. We camped in a park on Hauriki Bay, where we were awakened before dawn by a multitude of bird calls that sounded really unnatural. The park is the site of a project to reintroduce native fauna to the area, so they were probably denser there than anywhere else on the island. So much for sleeping in!

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.


We went on a hike from our campsite to a hilltop with a magnificent view of Hauriki Bay and then down to the beach, where there were a bunch of pohutukawa trees, some of the most bizarre-looking trees we’ve encountered yet.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

Heading up the west coast of the North Island along the Tasman Sea, we drove through the Waipoua Forest, home to the world’s oldest and largest living Kauri trees. We had to stop for about an hour to wait out a rainstorm, which was fitting for this rainforest. The vegetation was incredibly thick and was the most surprising combinations of evergreens, desert-like brush, and palms. The tallest and oldest single kauri tree, called Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest in Maori), scrapes the sky at over 50m tall and a whopping 14m wide.

Look closely -- Jonathan is short, once again.

Look closely - Jonathan is short, once again.

Sadly, the camera battery died before we were able to capture the breathtaking views from the northern end of the park, looking out over a small valley filled with lush greenery. The sun, just coming out after a spell of rain, added even more to the scene. We stayed in a hostel not far from there, overlooking the Hokianga harbor, where as we watched the sun set that night, a seal was playing in the surf.

September 1st and 2nd: Southern Hemisphering!

September 2, 2008

After traveling for two days and crossing the international dateline, we are finally in New Zealand!

Jonathan smiles through the exhaustion at the Auckland airport.

Jonathan smiles through the exhaustion at the Auckland airport.

We checked into our hotel where we would stay for the first two days and started planning our next moves in detail – then took a long and well-deserved nap.

We set out to see Auckland the next morning, starting off in beautiful Albert Park. The trees are amazing, and we got a good view of the Auckland skyline, including the Sky Tower. The spirit of adventure in NZ is so strong that people regularly jump off this building (okay, with wire harnesses, but still).

If you look closely at the large image, you can see two people getting ready to jump.

If you look closely at the large image, you can see two people getting ready to jump.

We were frustrated yet again by an art museum being remodeled (it’s not funny anymore, guys), so we had a delicious breakfast at a cute little cafe and checked out some of the shops and other neighborhood sights. We couldn’t resist going into a bar we found which was entirely made of ice, right down to the glasses our drinks were served in. It was wittily called Minus 5 (that’s 23 in American degrees!). They suited us up in parkas, gloves and boots for our half hour in the freezer.

Rowr - Becky is fierce.

Rowr - Becky is fierce.

We walked down to Prince’s Wharf and enjoyed looking out on the harbor of the City of Sails. It’s windy and a little cold here, where spring is just beginning.

It's hard to believe we're really here.

It's hard to believe we're really here.