The North Island (photos at the bottom…)
Upon finally arriving in Auckland after quite the long commute from Cape Town, I was ready for this new adventure. I’d gotten some tips/pointers from a few friends, but really had no plan… just a van (the Mystery Machine btw!). Auckland was a cool city, I got out and explored a bit, caught up with some old friends, did some wine tasting on a nearby Island- but then hit the road to get out into country. Unfortunately the weather was turning, so I was gonna have to play this a bit by ear.
In general I had planned on spending only 10 days on North Island and 15 or so on South Island. If the rain was going to be limiting some of the outdoor stuff I had planned I was going to have to be strategic about where I went and what I did. The one main thing I knew I wanted to do was the Tongariro Crossing- which was supposed to be an awesome day trek- it passes by Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings)- but that was going to have to wait till the weather cleared, so… where to go instead?
I first found myself in a town called Matamata doing some underground canyoning, cave/river exploring to check out a massive glow worm cave! Was really cool! I was tacked on to a family from California’s group and am in all their family photos as they go back and show friends back home 😉 I next ended up driving out to Hobbitton (the Shire movie set from LOTR), was awesome and incredibly peaceful- just like the movie. Spent the morning walking around, taking photos, then having a pint at the Green Dragon Bar… I’m a nerd, but a happy one…. After this, I parked myself in a town called Rotorua for a few days, it’s a bigger (as far as North Island towns go) and is known for it’s hot springs. This was as good a place as any to wait out the rain- checked out the springs, went to the local gym, did some day hikes, drank wine and ate chocolate in my van, and finally did some actual planning as to what I’d do once I got to the South.
About now I connected with a girl named Ashley, who is a friend of a friend from Chicago. She was traveling NZ with some of her friends as well and was about 10 days ahead of me. She sent me their incredibly detailed itinerary as well as some tips from their trip thusfar- I now had a much better idea of what to do… you know me, I’m not generally great at planning. We also figured out a time/place to meet up once I got down to the South- but we’ll get back to that story.
Finally! The rain stopped and I was on my way to Mt Doom. It was still a bit cloudy, but at least it was dry. The Tongariro Crossing attracts many visitors a day- aside from Mt Doom, it’s known for it’s side trails, amazing views, waterfalls, crystal blue hot springs, and mountain lakes. Will spare all the details (it was a ‘long’ 5 hour hike), except this one. After hiking up the steep/cold initial alpine trail, I was in the valley between the 2 mountains- but couldn’t see either due to the clouds. I had gotten a later start than I wanted to that morning and consequently felt myself being a bit impatient now hiking up behind all the slower tour bus groups/ families/ school field trips etc… As I stood in front of the clouded mountain, I recorded a video to some friends, describing my experience thus far and capturing where the mountain would be if it wasn’t so cloudy- and at that exact moment, the sun came out and the skies cleared. I was ready to chalk this up to ‘not being my time to see it’ similar to the Cliffs of Moher and the Northern Lights (neither of which I saw due to cloud cover), but here it was. Mt Doom. Right then I realized this was another lesson in patience. Had I gotten on the mountain earlier, I would have speed-hiked up to this point, and I would have most likely continued on, and missed it. Everything that morning: the late start, slower hikers, etc got me to this spot at the exact right time. I sent some heartfelt gratitude into the universe for the mountain and also thanked it for the reminder… be present, be patient, and trust that things do work out like there supposed to- be it trying to see a mountain, or any other life instances that we think aren’t going the way we want them to…
With Mt Doom accomplished I drove over to the coast- I’d been in NZ a week already and yet had to see one of the beautiful beaches they are known for… I found some! And as I had driven to the West Coast I found some amazing sunsets as well! I would spend the days driving/hiking/exploring and the evenings drinking wine and eating chocolate while watching the sun descend into the water…#bliss.
Wellington is on the southern tip of the North Island and where everyone catches the ferry to the South. It’s known for its wind, but I also found the coffee, craft beer, and food situation to be quite amazing as well. Unfortunately while I was there we all got an email from my Dad saying that my Grandmother was going to be leaving us soon. Though we all knew it was coming, I took it pretty hard for a variety of reasons… I remember sitting up on Victoria Hill that evening watching the sunset while meditating and seeking peace. My brain was trying to figure out what I was feeling and how I wanted to express myself- I didn’t sleep well that night in my van… The next morning I headed south- my lasting memory of the ferry between the North and South Islands will be sitting there, looking out at the beautiful scenery, while writing a blog post about Grammy which I’d publish after she’d left us. I was crying, trying not to let others see, it was the saddest I’ve been in as long as I can remember. When I was done, I sent it to my Dad so he could read it to her- I wanted her to know what I’d written, how I felt.
So that was pretty much the North (the quick version). The trip was off to a good, yet slightly somber start. I know I’d just need to keep trusting in the universe, keep expressing my gratitude for this adventure, and I’d continue to learn and grow as I was supposed to. Onto the South Island.
Sunrise in Auckland…
Catching up with my old friend Ashley!
My ride for the month!
Glow Worm Cave Adventure
A Trip to the ShireBilbo’s House
A traditional Mauri show in Rotorua
Off to find Mt Doom (and back when I thought 19k was far…)
Found a beach and sunset! (Taken before the barber in Wellington chopped my sweet travel hair 😦 )
A beautiful church and a restaurant you probably shouldn’t eat at 😉
The Wellington Sunset where I Meditated about Grammy, I Felt Like She Was With Me.
Just a guy on a hero's journey...