NZ Week 5 Road Trip Highlights

Day 29: Wairoa to Tatapouri

We took our time getting on the road out of Wairoa. Rather than heading inland northwest of Wairoa to Te Urewera, we chose to remain on the coastal route of SH2 and hit a few points of interest on the way to Gisborne. Our first turn-off occurred near the town of Nuhaka where we veered off 2 onto the sealed road for the Mahia Peninsula. After being welcomed by stunning seaside scenery, we rounded Mahia Bay and parked near downtown for the short Mokotahi Lookout climb. Warning: more spectacular Pacific Ocean views!

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NZ Week 4 Road Trip Highlights (Part 2)

Day 25: Stratford to Taumarunui

Got up at our usual hour and took off for Mt Egmont/Taranaki National Park with a quick stop for a few groceries en route. Based on advice given to us by an employee of the Stratford information center, we headed for the Dawson Falls Visitors Centre carpark. There are three primary access roads toward (generally) Mt Egmont’s east side. The road that departs Stratford and heads most centrally toward the park deposits you at the carpark mostly utilized for those seeking the quickest summit route. We at first had our sights set on the summit of Mt Egmont/Taranaki itself, but unfortunately a very late snowfall blanketed the top 1000m of the entire mountain only two to three nights prior to our visit.

What does this mean? Impassability to the summit on what would be an otherwise manageable day hike for the fit trekker. Snow (and effectively, ice) requires climbing gear that we just don’t have. However, by the time of our visit, the aforementioned snowfall had melted to the point that Mt Egmont’s sister peak (and lower by about 500m), Fantham’s Peak, was now in the clear. As a result, we journeyed to Dawson Falls carpark to embark on the Fantham’s Peak summit trail.

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NZ Week 4 Road Trip Highlights (Part 1)

Day 22: Richmond to Picton

We naturally designed this day to be more low-key after our Abel Tasman kayak + hike marathon the previous day. It worked out well since we also needed to retire a bit earlier in the evening due to having to be up at 4:00 AM on Dec 28th for the interislander ferry. We devoted the day to leisurely city strolling around Nelson followed by a scenic drive east to Picton. We had planned to visit Nelson, but what clinched the deal was our discovery of a weekly Wednesday farmers market near downtown … so we headed north from Richmond early morning and made our way to the market stalls.

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Abel Tasman National Park

This national park, in comparison with other New Zealand national parks, is small, barely constituting an area of 25 x 30 kilometers. But what it lacks in land coverage it more than makes up for with its surrounding waters and, most notably, in its convergence of the two. There really are no visitor access roads through the bush-clad, inner parkland, so in order to experience that area, one must embark on a multi-day trek. But because Abel Tasman is renown for its coastline, most avid trekkers opt for the Coastal Track, and it was a section of this path that we hiked on the afternoon of our visit.

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NZ Week 3 Road Trip Highlights (Part 2)

Day 18: Waitapu to Wharariki Beach

We enjoyed breakfast with the other travelers at the BnB and chatted with our Belgian hosts for a bit. After departing we headed one minute down the road to downtown Takaka for the Saturday morning market. We were excited for our first market experience in New Zealand, and what better place than Golden Bay. Unable to appreciate its hippie flair while just passing through the other day, we got the FULL effect at the market.

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NZ Week 3 Road Trip Highlights (Part 1)

Day 15: Hokitika to Charleston

We were much relieved that the morning greeted us with bright sunshine. Motivated by the pleasant weather, we got an early start to our sightseeing. Had to back-track just slightly south through Hokitika to pick up the main road toward Hokitika Gorge. Across the western dairyland, the road took several 90-degree turns around grazing plots past Kaniere and Kokatahi. Then we crossed a small bridge after which the road turned gravel for about 1k until the carpark. The rivers of New Zealand’s more northern west coast are especially noteworthy because they really do gouge a great deal of scenic waterway through the softer limestone of the region. The rivers on this side (the western side) of the Southern Alps are much stronger than the meager glacial melts off the east due to the roaring westerlies and ensuing rainstorms. Subsequently, the gorges that they create are spectacular, and New Zealand did a great job of making them accessible to travelers, whether by access road through parkland or by a plethora of commercial rafting/boating trips.

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Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About New Zealand

1) Resident drivers are CRAZY (and we thought Australian drivers were impatient!). They have no sense of personal driving space and do not hesitate to crawl up into your rear bumper. At the next break in opposing traffic, they then veer around you and re-merge just feet in front of your front bumper. The shop owner in Geraldine with whom we chatted for a bit said disdainfully that Kiwis blame tourists for the high accident rate, and then she readily admitted that Kiwis need to take a hard look at themselves. Why are most Kiwis in a rush? No clue, because it’s not like they have that far to drive or have anything that incredibly important going on. Also, it’s common practice to hug the left shoulder and slow down to allow bustling Kiwis to pass. Side note: you have three choices when filling up your vehicle … diesel, 91, or 95. Diesel is about 75 cents cheaper per liter than 91. However, at the end of the fiscal year, diesel guzzlers are taxed based on their number of kilometers driven.

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Driving in New Zealand

I don’t hate it. But I don’t love it.

Perhaps if our rental vehicle was a Subaru WRX or some other 4WD, road-gripping, over-powered rally car instead of a 20-year-old Toyota bubble van with a bed in the back, then maybe.

Perhaps if I had grown up in a country where I could traverse the length of it in a day (if earthquakes, mudslides, flooding, livestock or tourists don’t slow me down), then maybe.

But I don’t have a rally car, and I didn’t grow up here.

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NZ Week 2 Road Trip Highlights (Part 2)

Day 11: Knobs Flat to Kingston

This morning we executed our coach-bus-minimization plan at Milford Fjord. And yes, I must refer to it by its true geographic formation (a glacially-carved river valley) even though it’s internationally and cartographically known as Milford Sound. The thing is, Milford Fjord was named as a sound because the term ‘fjord’ had not yet even been defined at that time. Sorry for sounding geographically uppity (pun intended).

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NZ Week 2 Road Trip Highlights (Part 1)

Day 8: Kaka Point to Riverton

We dedicated today to the forgotten southeast coast: the Catlins. When journeying this part of the country, be prepared for cold and wet weather. Started off with an early departure from our Kaka Point campground, with first point of interest being just 9-10k down the road at Nugget Point. It was a chilly – but wonderfully scenic – stroll on the side of the mountain to the furthest reaches of the point near the lighthouse. We certainly weren’t prepared for the steepness and height of the surrounding cliffs, but then again, we’re back in Pacific country where the waves pound the shoreline from the south. We were lucky enough to spot dozens of seals lounging on the rocks that seemed like fathoms below.

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