So, a couple years ago I went to New Zealand. And I didn’t have a blog then. So you’ve never seen pictures. And I really want to show them to you. Because they’re awesome. Really really awesome. So awesome. I loved New Zealand more than any place I’ve ever been, except maybe Aruba. I was made to live on an island. I can’t wait to one day live on one (maybe Heaven, maybe sooner?). I also want to tell you about the adventures we had. I don’t know if I have enough space to do that, because so much happened in three little days. But I’ll do my best. Because I want to remember those glorious long days. Here we go.
We were on our way home from Cru Summer Mission in Australia. We had been away from home for five weeks, but we had a layover in New Zealand and we were done with responsibilities for our job. We paid a measly $100 a piece to change our flights to leave Auckland three days later, and packed in all we could in those three little days. It was a once in a lifetime experience!! Well, I would go back again in a heartbeat but who knows if we’ll ever have the opportunity to do that again. All in all we spent about $1000 on the trip, which is incredible, seeing as usually that would be maaaybe the price of one plane ticket.
We arrived in Auckland around 3pm, snagged a rental car from the airport, and went to Piha beach in pitch black. The next morning we woke up to beautiful farmland-meets-the-ocean in Leigh. We did a glass bottom boat tour, ate lunch on the road near Auckland, and drove and drove and drove until we made it to the Coromandel Peninsula. We pulled over to take a few pictures, then went directly to hike down to Cathedral Cove. We made it before the sun set and took our time. By the time we made it to our hotel in Hahei, it was dark and the office was closed. We picked up our key, put our things in our room, and drove out to find dinner at the only place that was open, before taking a blanket out to the beach to gaze at the stars. It was easily the best day of my entire life. We awoke the next morning before sunrise to hike Cathedral Cove again. We picnicked on Hahei beach, then built a hot tub at Hot Water Beach. We swam some more over at Whitianga, where we were in a dream at the Lost Spring. We drove through small town after small town amongst the starry night until we arrived at Waitomo at 11pm. The next morning we were driven on a tour by a local Maori to see the mountainside, Mordor and Mount Doom, and glow worm caves. Then we quickly drove back to Auckland to say goodbye to the dreamiest place on planet earth!
I should tell you that my senior year of college I actually planned this trip through my Hospitality & Tourism Management class. We had to plan a vacation, and I chose to plan a trip for a couple to travel throughout New Zealand for ten days. I added in a couple of stops that I hadn’t known about at the time, but the itinerary was almost entirely taken from the paper I had written four years prior!! It is unbelievable and incredible that the Lord made this dream of mine come true! I am absolutely 200% grateful!! Oh yeah and this was my birthday celebration for my 25th birthday!!! I couldn’t have dreamt it up better myself.
Night 1 – August 6
I’m listing the dates for my own memory, and also so that you know it was winter in New Zealand while we were there. Opposite hemisphere, opposite seasons. I would also like to add that while you may think of New Zealand being close to Australia, while Australia is the closest island to New Zealand, it took us four solid hours by plane to get there. It’s a very strange feeling being in the middle of the Pacific ocean!! I loved it.
Once we picked up our rental car, Whit had to learn how to drive it. It was a stick shift, which Whit knows how to drive, but everything was on the opposite side of the car because they drive on the left side (NOT the wrong side) of the road. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help him because I don’t know how to drive stick. It was certainly cheaper than getting an automatic car, but I would NOT recommend that or do that again. It was incredibly stressful.
Thanks be to God, a short ways into the night’s journey we came across a Wendy’s. Since I had limited dietary abilities due to gluten restrictions, I told Whit we had to pull over, for I didn’t know if we would find another place to eat. I love Wendy’s so I was thrilled to be able to get a meal that I love (especially because the day before, my birthday, I ate a sad protein bar for dinner.) Low and behold, in the same parking lot as the Wendy’s was a bar that had wings. Umm, hello – two of Whit’s favorite things in the world!! God just wanted to bless us abundantly.
The cutest thing was that the menu listed “American-style wings.” At the end of the meal, the bartender asked Whit if the wings tasted American! It was too adorable to handle. (They did taste American, by the way. ;))
We drove on winding roads with all kinds of foreign flora around us. We passed little homes on the side of the hills. It felt like the homiest, friendliest beach town. I felt like we were in Hawaii, or on a movie set. It didn’t feel like anywhere I had been before (and I’ve been to beaches all over the eastern US and the Caribbean). We came upon a small town, and pulled over in a campsite to use the restroom. We pulled out the flashlights on our phone (tip for next time: bring real mini flashlights!! It gets dark very early in the winter) and walked the gravel path between campers to get there.
We figured we were close enough, so we randomly pulled over at the first side of the road area where we saw other cars parked. I excitedly opened the door, ready for my very first New Zealand site!! I grabbed my camera and sank my Toms into the sand underneath our car. Whit’s flashlight guided us behind a small group of college-aged tourists straight onto the beach path. We could see the sea grass in grayscale beside us, and I suddenly remembered that the sand was supposed to be black. We pointed the flashlight towards the ground, and – indeed! Black sand covered the bottoms of our shoes. I took my shoes off and walked barefoot in sand that was as powdery as any other, yet a completely different color than I’ve experienced before. It kind of felt like we were on another planet.
We could hear the ocean ahead of us, but couldn’t see it yet. It didn’t take long before we realized it wasn’t too far in front of us. It was so strange because the ocean was on the same plane as the pathway leading down to it. Normally beaches aren’t flat, but this one was. We shone the light on the sea and I about flipped out that I was on a New Zealand beach. I don’t take traveling lightly! It is an incredible privilege to be in a completely different part of the planet.
We shone the flashlight around and the light was blocked on the left side by a giant rock. It was covered with moss, trees, and plants. There was life in this place!! We walked closer and examined this strange structure up close. Then the waves came rushing up, all the way up through the rocks we were standing on! We almost got caught by the cold Pacific waters. I set my camera on a rock and took the picture above. It was nutso to realize that there was another beach (inlet?) on the other side of the huge rock, and it was incredible to see the cutest beach town my eyes have ever barely laid eyes on. Can I move here???
Before we went back to the car and after we had had our fill of the black sand, mossy rock, and waves crashing, I set my camera up for a long exposure of the beach. I want to tell you how bright the galaxy was, emblazoned directly above that big rock. Dreams, people. This couldn’t even be real. We had no idea what the beach looked like until I captured the frame below. Jaws dropped. We were utterly astounded. We were beyond excited, and so pumped for our first New Zealand experience.
We drove up to Leigh, a couple hours north of Auckland, and cozied into the basement of a bed and breakfast, Cape Rodney B&B. The precious owners had a carpeted room set up with a new bathroom and a heated blanket on the bed. We explored the adjoining room, which hosted a gallery of the owner’s art. We located the fridge, which already had our breakfast ready for the morning, complete with the gluten-free bread I had requested! We slept well.
Day 1 – August 7
Whit and I woke up from our warm memory-foam bed to bright light pouring in from the foggy window directly in front of our bed. We peeked out the window, got dressed, and wandered into the gallery/breakfast room. The room was walled with floor-to-ceiling windows, for good reason, we learned. This was our view:
What can you even say when you see that?? This was our first real view of New Zealand, and we were loving it. We enjoyed a full breakfast of toast and jam, yogurt, and cereal. Our sweet host came down to make sure we had everything we needed. We complimented her on her artwork, and she called to arrange our glass bottom boat tour for us. You have to call them to make sure they are running that day, and to let them know that you will be coming. We were bummed to leave that sweet place, but the morning light and incredible views beckoned us on to our first full day of adventure!
Pulling out of the modern, tucked away artist’s home, we were greeted by rolling pastures. We would soon learn that most of New Zealand is, in fact, a rolling pasture. We couldn’t have asked for better lighting on this 60-degree winter’s day.
\ Our rental car from “Jucy.” So Kiwi.
We finally kicked our butts and reminded ourselves that we were trying to make a 10:00 boat ride appointment.
Goat Island Marine Reserve
Our host had given us directions to this supposed glass bottom boat tour, but we had trouble locating it. We drove up and down farmy hills with the windows down, a crisp fall-like breeze waking us up. It smelled so fresh. We drove down a gravel road to a SCUBA shack at the bottom of a hill. We had seen a sign for snorkeling and thought that might be the right place. It wasn’t. They did give us more directions. We tried to piece together the directions in this tiny rural town with numerous roads on where this beloved Marine Reserve was supposed to be. Running out of time, we found a hill with a building (aka bathrooms and a research center) where cars were parked. Finally – other people!! We meandered down the hill, expecting to be the only ones on this little boat ride.
So, once we made it to the coast, we looked around for the hut where we could check in. There was no hut. No building, no hut, no people, no boats. Hmm. Are we on a deserted island? We kinda liked it.
Oh my gosh, there’s the boat! We looked out to sea and discovered our tour had taken off a few minutes prior without us! Didn’t they remember we had made a reservation?? With much hope, I ran out to the water’s edge and flagged the boat down. The captain waved, and to our relief, the boat turned around and made its way back to shore to pick us up. Another evidence of God’s gracious grace to us on this trip. So many things we didn’t deserve .We asked the captain a brief question to make sure we were in the right place, but he didn’t seem to mind. Kiwis. He didn’t even ask us to pay.
I forget what kind of fish that was, but there were a lot of them. Our guide told us that the water was unfortunately pretty murky today, but hopefully we could see some cool stuff. He turned around a bit and turned the motor off and we did see a couple of rays!! It’s in the bottom middle of the picture below, taking us about 1/3 of the frame. (Oh hey guy’s head that I never noticed before!)
Killer whales come to this bay often. I was praying the whole time that we would see one, but we didn’t. Whit is huge into nature dvds, if you didn’t know that about him, and we had watched Wild Pacific before going on this trip. I was dying over the fact that we were where whales live! The South Pacific is freaking cool.
If you read through this whole post, you are my friend. Everyone always apologizes for long blog posts, but they are my jam. If you like them too, let’s be forever-friends. And fortunately for you, you have several more big ones coming up!! 🙂