Last time I wrote you I was on my way back to the North Island after kicking off the summer on the South Island. After jumping between islands one last time, I can now call the North Island my home—for the next couple months at least. My time freedom camping and traveling around New Zealand have come to a halt and I now find myself sitting behind a desk in Palmerston North writing this blog entry. But no worries! You’ll see that I’ve done enough traveling to tame my travel bug for awhile.
After arriving on the North Island, my friend Kyle and I drove the entire length of the island to its northern most region called Northland (also known as the ‘winterless north’ because of its year-round sunny weather). This area provided us with plenty of adventures and beautiful scenery. One place that I have to mention is Waipu Caves. I know in a previous post I mentioned another cave and talked about its glow worms. But the glow worms in Waipu—WOW! In the heart of the cave was a huge room that had cathedral high ceilings and walls covered with glow worms. It was like I was sitting in a natural planetarium, looking around at a galaxy of bioluminescence. Staring up at them, I was struck by the thought of how unbelievable this place and this country was. A cave like this was something you would find in Tolkien’s Middle Earth or some other fantasy land. Except this was real life! And I was right there experiencing it!!!! I suppose if you really think about it, our own world can be just as amazing as any imaginary land.
Aside from caves, Northland is home to an abundance of beaches, tropical forests, and diverse terrain. One of my favorite places was Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand. Aside from having an iconic lighthouse and a nifty yellow road sign, this area is sacred to the native Maori people. According to legend, Maori spirits travel to a pohutukawa tree near the cape and slide down into the sea and eventually to the underworld from its roots. Another cool feature of the cape is that it marks the meeting of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean. Looking out from the cape, I could see the waves from each body of water crash into each other, creating a line of unsettled waters. A very memorable stop for sure.
Northland was also home to my next wwoofing spot. For about a week, Kyle and I worked for our host Jen and her mother Joe—both exceptionally nice and welcoming people. During the day, we picked garlic in Jen’s garlic patch and did maintenance work in her olive groves. To pass the time after a day of work, Jen taught Kyle and I how to make braids out of the garlic so they could dry out and be sold. It was during this time that we had engaging conversations with Jen and learned about her childhood in Zimbabwe and South Africa. I once heard that the best conversations happen when there is no need for talking, which in this case seemed to be true. The act of braiding garlic took away all the pressure of having to talk, so our conversations just flowed naturally. Anyone who is traveling to New Zealand, I would highly recommend wwoofing! You learn so much and meet awesome people like Jen and Joe.
My final day at Jen’s farm matched up nicely with the arrival of the holiday season—which meant it was time to see my parents! Both Kyle’s parents and my parents had planned it from the beginning to spend the holidays with each of us in New Zealand. So 2 days before Christmas, Kyle and I traveled to Auckland to meet up with them. This day was something I was looking forward to for a long time. Six months away from home is a pretty long time so just being able to see my parents again was the best Christmas present I could ask for. Plus, my sister conveniently just finished up a job in Australia and flew over to New Zealand to meet up with us too! Nothing is better than having your own family as travel companions.
The first stop on the Hennelly Family Vacation was the South Island town of Wanaka. Here we mountain biked along Lake Wanaka, hiked the Rob Roy Track, and ate our Christmas dinner at the only open restaurant in town—Snack Shack Turkish Kebabs! My family had a good time joking around about how unique our Christmas turned out to be.
The next stop on our vacation was the Hooker Valley Track. I hiked both the Rob Roy and Hooker Valley Tracks a couple months back on our mid-semester break, but I didn’t mind hiking them again at all. And seeing the reactions from my parents and sister to the scenery was really fun; it reminded me of those feelings of excitement that I had when I first walked through those valleys.
The final destination of our vacation was a small, rural town called Takaka in the northern most part of the South Island. But on the way there, we made stops in Christchurch and the coastal town of Kaikoura. Because of its British ancestry, Christchurch is home to a plethora of city gardens and english style buildings. Some even claim the city to be more english than England! We only planned on staying only one night in Christchurch though, so one drizzly morning we took a leisurely stool through one of its many gardens. If I ever get the chance to travel to England, I’ll see if Christchurch lives up to its reputation!
Takaka was where we spent the remainder of our family vacation. Being close to Abel Tasman National Park (the smallest but most popular of New Zealand’s National Parks) Takaka was the central hub where we traveled to and from around the region. It also had a big art and craft scene, so parents were happy to get some unique New Zealand souvenirs. Outside the town we took hikes through the native bush, visited gold sand beaches, and explore caves. It was a very beautiful region to be in, but eventually the end of our vacation came near and we all had to fly back to Auckland and say our goodbyes. Being able to travel with my parents was so much fun and I was sad to see it end. I know the experiences we shared in New Zealand will be the topic of dinner conversations for years to come.
So like I said at the beginning of this post, my times road tripping around the islands of New Zealand have come to an end. Now I have an internship with Massey University to keep me busy for the remainder of the summer. But that doesn’t mean the adventures will be coming to an end—that’s what weekends are for!