New Zealand – A Tale of Two Islands Part III

Our time on the South Island had come to an end. We were sad to be leaving the stunning landscape of the South Alps, however our excitement for the warmer weather of the North Island soon replaced our nostalgia of the South. We were already enjoying the warmer weather of Wellington as we stepped off the Ferry bringing us back to the North Island. We were excited to head back up to the center of the North Island to spend a few more days with the Uttinger family on their farm, but first was a stop about eight hours out of the way in a city on the West Coast called New Plymouth. Before leaving for New Plymouth we spent the night in Wellington. While eating dinner with a fellow backpacker we told him of our plans to head to New Plymouth the next day. He had been traveling by bicycle but had recently sold his bike in order to finish his travels by hitchhiking. We all hit it off well and we invited him to come join us for the next few days. Nicolas understandably agreed (who could pass up the opportunity to be crushed in a car for several days with such an enjoyable pair such as Carl and myself).

Our purpose of heading to the West Coast was to visit a mountain that we had seen in several postcards (The practice of looking through post card racks and making a list of beautiful places to go became common during our travels). This particular post card was of Mt. Taranaki. This beautiful volcano rises straight out of the flat surrounding landscape. It is an incredible sight to see and we did not want to miss it. So the three of us squeezed into our car the next morning and set off for Mt. Taranaki. As we were still an hour or so from the mountain we could begin to see its solitary form in the distance.

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As we got closer the clouds began to roll in and cover any view that we might have had with the exception of a few periodic breaks. Determined to capture some good pictures of the mountain, we decided to camp that night at the mountain’s base and then head out to some lookouts early the next morning. The night spent on the mountain was lively as we were able to greet many of the day hikers who had spent the last eight hours summiting the mountain and returning to base camp. From their stories we gathered that it was not a mountain that we were anywhere prepared to take on at this point.

The next morning we headed for a lookout which was said to have a fantastic view of the mountain. We were rushed in our attempt to get to the lookout due to the fact that the clouds were rolling in and storms were forecast for the afternoon. We found the trail head for the lookout, and with the much needed assistance of Nicolas, we rushed our way up the trail. After a few wrong turns through rougher than expected terrain, we finally made it to the lookout just before the clouds rolled in. It was spectacular! To add to the enjoyment of the view we were also joined at the lookout by a local Maori tour guide who shared with us the history and folklore surrounding the sacred mountain. It was a side trip well worth the drive, made even better by Nicolas’ unexpected companionship!

The next leg of the journey was back to the middle of the North Island, we were heading back to Taupo to drop off Nicolas and then to the farm for Easter Weekend. Another fantastic weekend spent with Steve and Ria and the boys. We also got to spend an enjoyable evening with some of Steve and Ria’s neighbors. Another shutout to these awesome friends for continuing to put up with Carl and me. However the weekend was not entirely relaxation. We had about two weeks before we planned on leaving NZ and our hope was to sell the car before leaving. So after a thorough wash and some tidying up we did a little photo shoot with Sunny (our car) and put her up on the trusty FB Marketplace.

As quickly as any enjoyable weekend seems to pass, it was soon time for us to move on as we wanted make it in time to catch up with some friends we had met on the start of our NZ trip up at YWAM Marine Reach. This second visit to the YWAM base corresponded with a going away party for one of the staff members. Being able to join in on this going away party gave us a beautiful glimpse into the love that these young adults have for one another. After a time of encouraging words, stories of how they had all been impacted by this friend of theirs and a time of prayer for her as she moved on, it left me with the desire to love the people around me the way that she had so obviously loved and impacted the people around her. Thank you YWAM for letting us be witnessed to this special time.

Also, a special mention of the awesome waterfall that they have on their property! Not many people can say they have a waterfall like this in their backyard!

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Now, out of all of the Lord of The Rings sites that we had visited, the one that had consistently been on our minds was the set of Hobbiton, which is the home to the Hobbits. I will be honest, I was a little skeptical knowing the level of tourism surrounding the site, but on several recommendations we decided to give it a chance and made it our next stop. The weather was perfect as we drove up to the site, a beautiful warm sunny afternoon. After driving up to the gate we joined our tour group and headed into this perfectly quaint village of vegetable gardens, round doored hobbit homes, and blooming front yard flower gardens. In the end it was a great experience, enjoying the chance to learn more about the filming of the movies, see the unbelievable level of detail put into the sets, and seeing the beauty of the area not to mention getting to drink a pint in the Green Dragon Inn. After hanging out at Hobbiton I am determined to build my own little community of homes built into the hills, Carl isn’t sold on the idea yet so I will have to put it off until after our travels!

Still in search of warmer weather we continued pushing North. Our goal was the north most point of NZ, a place called Cape Reinga. On our way back through Auckland we stopped in for a Sunday morning church service at a church we had visited on our arrival in NZ. It was fun to see some familiar faces and grab lunch with some previously met friends along with some new. While traveling for an extended period of time there is a certain enjoyment that comes from seeing familiar faces, even if it is only the second time meeting. However our goal was still to get up to Cape Reinga, so we put in a few days of driving and made it to the Cape in time for the sunset the third day. We also braved the early morning in order to witness the sunrise from the same point.

The Cape Reinga point is not only a beautiful location to see both the sunrise and sunset both over the ocean, but in looking out from this point you can also witness the collision of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea. These colliding ocean currents create a fantastic turbulence in the middle of an otherwise calm ocean, a unique site that I had not anticipated.

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Carl and I took this opportunity to not only take some photos of the beautiful landscape but to strike some poses for some potential blog worthy title page pictures!

After two days of being able to enjoy this beautiful area, we reluctantly left the cape and began the drive back down to Auckland in hopes that we would get some offers on the car over the weekend. Carl had been messaging back and forth with a few people but we had not received any serious interest up to this point. We decided to stop for a day or two at the vacation property of a connection we had made back at Steve and Ria’s. It was enjoyable to explain this connection to a concerned neighbor who asked us if we had permission to stay on the property when we responded that the owner was the “niece of a neighbor of a friend”! We never actually met the owner, but shout out to Steve and Ria’s Neighbor’s (John’s) niece for letting us stay on their property. It was a great place to stay for a few days as we waited for some interest on the car.

Our flight back to Australia was drawing near and we had received surprisingly little interest on the car. It was definitely not a unique sale, there are plenty of wagons for sale during the backpacker off season, however we knew our car was in better shape with less mileage than most others of the same price bracket, so we were convinced that as soon as we were able to show the car it would be an easy sale. Our first showing finally arrived. It was now Thursday morning and our flight out of NZ was on Friday (the next day!!!). We unloaded everything into the hostel where we were staying, took the car for good wash and vacuum, and went to meet the couple. We were relieved when we found out they were two backpackers about to start their own trip around NZ. However they had a few more cars to look at that evening and told us they would let us know by the next morning. Later that night, as we were trying to work out a potential plan B, we received the text that they wanted to buy the car! The next morning we picked them up from their Airbnb drove over to complete the paperwork for the sale of the car and had them drop us off directly at the airport in time for our flight that afternoon. I can think of plenty of less stressful ways to sell a car, however this sale couldn’t have worked out better letting us keep the car until our last day in NZ and then getting a free ride to the airport! It was now time to head back to the Gold Coast, relax for a few days and gear up for our final three months traveling around the OZ!
It’s always awesome to come back to our “home” away from home and relax with friends. It’s been a great blessing to be welcomed in by the Hopkinson family.
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