Friday, March 26, 2010

The Beauty of North Island New Zealand

Michelle and Craig’s thoughts:

Yes, we are very bad. We just completed 6 wonderful weeks in New Zealand and we are only entering our blog now. Do remember, that when we started this year trip, we warned you that we are very slow in entering journals. However, this is really bad for us!

Let’s see. When we arrived in Auckland it was early Sunday morning. The first thing we did was pick up our rental car. Thankfully, our motel was close to the airport and in the business section deserted on Sundays. Before we checked in, Craig practiced driving in the right side of the car and on the left side of the roads. He practiced driving into and out of the driveways on the opposite side. He concentrated on using the right hand for light signals, but occasionally the windshield wipers would go off! We don’t know how many times we would look left and right to make sure we could make a turn. We had to get used to “roundabouts” and looking at our right side mirror and understanding the rule of “right side always goes first“. It was very stressful in the beginning, especially after a long flight and going on very little sleep. Now that we’ve done 6 weeks of driving, we’re afraid we will have to relearn how to drive when we get back to Canada.

On our first day we visited Auckland’s downtown area and walked along their lovely waterfront. Customs Street is where people do all their shopping and the waterfront is where you’d find the trendy bars and restaurants. We also went up the Skyline Tower and enjoyed the view of the city. The next day we did a day trip drive to the Coromandel Peninsula. The landscape in New Zealand is amazing. Beautiful rolling hills and valleys, and gorgeous variety of vegetation. The drive along the coastline is breathtaking, not only because of the view, but also the ever twisting roads. Roads that are banked by a rock face on one side and a steep cliff on the other with no shoulders. We thought the drive in Hawaii was crazy, but New Zealand is just as nuts. We have never seen 15km/h road signs before, but you wouldn’t want to do anything faster around the tight narrow corners and there are multiple consecutive corners. We had to take turns driving because whoever was the driver would miss all the spectacular scenery. We stopped at many beaches along the way. One was called the Hot Water Beach where visitors could dig their own thermal spa in the sand between low and mid-tides. The Coromandel Peninsula is a gorgeous area. Really enjoyed the waves crashing into the rocks. Plenty of beautiful stops to sit and relax.

The following day we drove along the coastline in the Northland. The vegetation here is more lush because of the subtropical climate, which makes the scenery more enchanting. Also, this area consists extensively of Maori people than in any area of New Zealand. In the Waipoua Forest park we did some walks and saw the country’s largest living kauri tree, Tane Mahuta. It is 168ft high and has a girth of 46ft. It is about 1500 years old. The forest also contains around 300 species of trees, palms and ferns. Just gorgeous. We stayed in Kaitaia because it was a good base to travel the Aupori Peninsula the following day.

The peninsula is a thin strip of land no more than 12 km wide. We visited the west coast which is the famous Ninety Mile Beach. It’s the longest beach in New Zealand and is almost like a desert, with sand dunes that can reach 470ft high fringing the beach. It was amazing just standing on the beach and seeing the enormity of the area. We were there early morning and no one else was around. It was our private beach! We only drove a section of the beach because we were afraid to get stuck in the sand. Another awesome experience! Afterwards, we drove around the coastline in the area of Doubtless Bay and Bay of Islands. We stopped at several lovely beaches along the way including the Maitai Bay in the Karikari Peninsula and the beach in Paihia. Great places to relax and unwind. The towns along the coast are so cute and some have lovely cafes.

We cannot saw enough about the beauty of the coastline in New Zealand. It makes me, not Craig, want to cry because of it’s peaceful and inspiring beauty.

More of the North Island coming soon!

Michelle and Craig

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