We left the USA on February 5th and crossed the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line (what happened to February 6th?!), arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on the 7th. We arrived tired but very excited to start our adventure. One of the first things we noticed was how green everything was…hello summer! Dan was especially excited to learn about all the new flora around him.
Our first stop on the North Island, was the Waipoua Forest. The Waipoua Forest is home to most of the largest living kauri trees in New Zealand. The largest kauri tree, Tane Mahuta (“Lord of the Forest”), is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old and is 168 ft tall with a girth of 45.2 ft.
We headed northward to the ocean town of Opononi and camped at a holiday park. Each campsite had its own goat tethered to a post, assigned to trimming the lawn. We were also surprised by a late night visitor – a hedgehog! While we were surprised to see him, we later found out the hedgehogs are quite common in New Zealand and are actually considered pests because they eat native birds’ eggs (and the occasional endangered snail).
We headed to one of the beaches near Opononi where we observed oystercatchers and cormorants and spotted a crab (see video below) chowing down on some dinner. Speaking of dinner, we had our first awesome experience with locals when a couple offered us Green-Lipped Mussels they had just harvested at the beach. We went immediately to the campsite and steamed them for dinner. Tasty!
We continued our journey northward and headed to Cape Reinga. From the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, we watched waves from the Pacific Ocean collide with waves from the Tasman Sea. We camped on a beach east of the lighthouse and took our first refreshing, but slightly chilly swim in the ocean.
The following morning we hiked from our tent to the lighthouse and then down to a deserted beach to the south of the lighthouse. After a sweaty 13 mile hike, we stripped down and jumped into the Tasman Sea.
Leaving the tip of the North Island, we headed south and stopped in the city of Kawakawa. Here Dan’s favorite artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, had designed a public toilet. This was the second building we have visited that was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The first was the Quixote Winery in Napa, CA, with our great friends from WI. Most of his other buildings are in Europe which we can’t wait to see later this year!
We continued south to camp on the beach (again 🙂 ) in Whananaki. We took a day hike up to coastal open space and again encountered beautiful deserted beaches and spectacular scenery.
We headed to the Coromandel Peninsula yesterday (February 13th) and went on our first overnight trek to the Pinnacles Hut. The hike up to pinnacles was pretty grueling. It seemed like we climbed over thousand steps carved in stone straight up a mountain, but the view was an incredible 360 degrees of the Peninsula. We stayed in the hut at the top and made the trek down today. Ouch our knees hurt! We have settled in for the night at yet another beach campsite in Hahei. Off to Rotorua tomorrow!