I started my drive north, my first planned stop was Martinborough to check out the famous wine region.Unfortunately I missed the junction, which was obviously not sign posted!By the time I realised I was a few too many miles north and the wrong side of the Puketoi Mountain Range. w***. It was one of the things I knew Elizabeth & JJ would want to do when they join me in a week.
I wasn't a complete disaster as the wrong road took me back through Palmerston North which enabled me to six hour trek through the Manawatu Gorge.It was a lovely trek, which I completed in about three hours (I really don't know where they get their trekking times from). Most of the trek was through bush, but the track had three or four lookouts.The lookouts were fairly impressive, with lots of views of the wind farm, which sound boring but was actually really impressive. As I was traversed the eastern wall of the gorge it took me above the low lying cloud which was phenomenal.
From Palmerston North I drove up to Wanganui, the Lonely Planet gave this place a bit of an unfair write up, painting it as a bit of a dodgy town.Admittedly aside from the Wanganui River it doesn't have a great deal to offer but it's not a bad place.The river was the reason I'd stopped in Wanganui, I wanted to do some Kayaking and the river is one of the top places in New Zealand to Kayak.Bemusingly the local guides deemed the water too cold to Kayak on.I say bemusingly as when kayaking you are supposed to stay on not in the water, yet two days later I was white water rafting on the Tongariro River up in the mountains which was damn sight colder.
Anyway they wasn't going to rent me a kayak so I carried on my journey north through the Wanganui National Park heading towards National Park where I had two missions, to trek the Tongariro Crossing or mountain bike the 42nd Traverse. Of course the Tongariro Crossing (an alpine trek, taking you across three mountains) was impassible due to bad weather, the guy who ran the 42nd Traverse wouldn't run the trip with less than two people. I offered to pay him to come on the ride with me but he refused, feeling a bit pissed off but not yet beaten I went to the local for a beer, in a last ditch effort I took over the pub quiz master's mic and asked if anyone in the pub wanted to come after which a deathly silence perused.The bad weather on the mountain had also put skiing/boarding out of the equation too!
Bloody kiwis thought they were made of tougher stuff!
Decided to head back to Rotorua, smelly it maybe but MTB good & you can hire a bike any weather!En route I decided to call in to Turangi, I spoke with the guys at Rafting NZ who agreed to take me out on the rapids.So we took on the 3 hour decent which was absolutely amazing and made up for the other stuff being cancelled.
The weather was still pretty pants around the centre of the North Island, so I skipped Rotorua and headed further north to a little place called Wahi Beach.I hadn't planned to stop at Wahi, I was heading for a town called Tauranga, it is supposed to be NZ's Riviera.When I got to Tauranga I didn't really like the look of the place so kept driving which is when I stumbled across Wahi Beach.
I got talking to the owner of the campsite as I checked in, when I told her it was my birthday in a few nights she gave me my third night for free and a voucher for free coffee & cake at the local coffee shop.
I fell in love with Wahi Beach, it is a tiny costal village about two hours south of Auckland.It has a beautiful long surf beach and a fantastic atmosphere.I spent three days chilling out, running on the beach, sitting in the hot tub enjoying coffee and my book in the coffee shop overlooking the beach.If the village had a better pub I'm not sure I'd leave.
Wahi is a slightly larger town 11km outside of Wahi Beach, it has a pretty impressive open cast gold mine located at the end of the high street.I'd seen open cast mines on the TV but until I saw this one I had never appreciated the scale of them. It was bloody huge!The only other thing that Wahi has to make it stand out from all the other small rural towns dotted around NZ were the roundabouts that look like squashed Darlics!
After a chilled breakfast overlooking the beach in Wahi Beach I drove further north to Auckland to meet up with Katherine and a few of the othersguys at ACB for a some birthday beers, I ended up getting far far far too drunk but hey you are only 30 once or twice.
I had a few admin days in Auckland before Elizabeth arrived, don't think I have been that nervous in a long long time.I decided to hire a bike and cycle out to Mission Bay to clear my head.If I move to Auckland, I know where I want to live.Mission Bay is gorgeous a twenty minute cycle along the coast from Auckland, the scenery is amazing, the houses are stunning (but have the price tag to match) and the atmosphere is really chilled - oh yeah and there is a café that does the best eggs benny ever.
When I handed the bike back there was a road rider in the shop wearing a Barlow World jersey - The kiwi's don't really get the Gary Barlow thing, but he still laughed when I told him my name & asked where he got the jersey.
D - Day
I had an early check in arranged for the hotel on the day Elizabeth flew in, so I left the hostel looking like a bag lady and headed up the hill to the hotel.It's amazing how much crap you accumulate when you are on the road, I was tempted to ditch most of it about as I walked up the longest steepest hill in Auckland!I must have been a sight as I walked in to the reception of the swanky hotel in my flip flops, 3 bags with trainers and skiing helmets tied to the outside!
The room was pretty amazing, with fantastic views of the harbor and aside from the fire alarm being set of at 3:30am on the second night the hotel fantastic - it had a real bed and a bath my first bath in six months!
Anyway I unpacked my hundreds of bags and headed out to the airport to meet Elizabeth - for various reasons the next few days have been censored!