Hello once again from New Zealand! I apologize it’s been so long since I’ve blogged last, but I will be doing my best to get caught up with everything that has happened over the past month within the next few posts.
Over the Easter holiday, we headed on a 5 day adventure across the North Island, traveling from Hamilton to the Coromandel Peninsula then to Gisbourne and stopping at Mount Maunganui on our way home. Ten Americans from LVC and one of our kiwi RAs, Leshaan, loaded up in a van we rented and headed out Good Friday morning. We started off with our two and a half hour journey to the Coromandel in order to see Cathedral Cove, a shooting site for the second Chronicles of Narnia movie. We pull into the Coromandel and it was packed! Heaps of people were there for vacation over the holidays and we had difficulty finding placed to park our large van, but after finally finding a spot we ate our packed lunches, got changed, and headed for the beach. It was only once we got to the sand did we find out that Cathedral Cove was another hour and a half walk from where we were so after stopping to take some pictures of the bright blue water we started off on the hike. Winding your way on a gravel pathway wasn’t my favorite part of the beach, but the view along the way definitely made it much more enjoyable. Everywhere you looked, you could oversee the blue water, rock formations in the ocean, and smaller islands that were farther out. Once we finally got to the cove, it was absolutely beautiful! The sand was soft and golden the Cove was amazing to walk under and it was perfect weather for a day on the beach. We were all super excited and rushed to get our towels laid down and as soon as I pulled my stuff out of our bag, I realized something was wrong. There was a brown mush on my towel and all inside our bag. A word to the wise, bananas are not a good snack to take to the beach when it’s hot! After we cleared the mushy bananas out of the bag and towels it was time to actually enjoy the beach. The water was nice, not too warm and not too cold, there was quite a bit of sand in the water and some big waves every now and then, but when you can stand in the ocean waist high and still see your feet, the small imperfections are definitely worth it. Once we all had enough time at Cathedral Cove, we started our walk back and visited Stingray Bay as well as Gemstone Bay. Even though we didn’t see any stingrays or gemstones, these areas were also beautiful with cool rock formations and clear water. We were then on our way to Pauanui, a small beach town where we stayed at Lauren’s house, a kiwi who lives in College Hall. Her family was so nice to open up their house for all 10 of us to stay in. It was such a blessing to have a place to shower and amazing food to eat after a long day of traveling and being on the beach. After a good night’s sleep, we were up the next morning to hike up Mount Pauanui. This was an incredible and a bit difficult journey up to the top with humid conditions and a steep incline, but once we get there it was worth every bead of sweat. The view from the top of Mount Pauanui was absolutely incredible, as you could look out over every part of the town as well as the ocean. We then started our hike back down the track and then off for a quick lunch of fish and chips in town. Before we knew it, it was time to start out on the road again, this time headed for Gisbourne.
This drive was quite a long one, with about 4 hours of driving time. We winded through the different roads and saw some amazing views until it got dark and then continued driving through The Gorge (which are known for having some of the windiest roads in New Zealand). Luckily, we had some great drivers (a big thank you to Christian, Andrew, and Tim!) and we were through that section safe and sound in no time. We finally arrived in Gisbourne late that night and were fortunate enough to stay with Leshaan at her house. It was late, so all 11 of us filed out of the van and made our way to the backyard where we stayed in a tent for the night. While it seems like it would be a tight fit, having 10 Americans all in one tent together, it was the most luxurious tent camping in history. We all had mattresses to sleep on, pillows, blankets, and the bathroom was just a quick walk inside. After heading to bed, it seemed like I had only been asleep for a few minutes when everyone’s alarms started going off again so we were up really early on Easter morning in order to see the first sunrise of the day in the world. We drove out towards the beach in order to try to get the best view, but the rolling hills of New Zealand created a bit of a problem for us because they completely blocked the sun from view where we stood. However, there is always a way to get around obstacles so while a few people decided to drive down the road a little ways, the rest of us decided to jump an electrical fence into a sheep pasture and to the top of a hill in order to get a better view. While some of the boys went sprinting up the farther hill, Tori and I decided to stick with a slower walk up the less steep one. Once we got to the top, we could tell the sky was starting to light up. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so the sunrise wasn’t the most perfect one to see, but it was still an amazing experience to say that we saw the first sunrise of Easter morning in the world. After the sunrise we all met up again and headed back into Gisbourne to Leshaan’s house and stopped at a small bakery on the way for some traditional hot cross buns, croissants, and Danishes. I don’t know if it was the surplus of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had eaten that weekend or if the bakery was really that good, but the pastries I had were incredible! The hot cross buns (a traditional Easter breakfast food) were warm, fresh out of the oven and the apple, cinnamon, and custard Danish I had was delicious. Once we finished our tasty treats, we made our way back to Leshaan’s to get ready for church. Most of us headed to a small Baptist church for Easter service so as soon as we walked in, everyone knew we didn’t typically attend services there, but they were one of the friendliest congregations I have ever met. There were many people who said hello and asked where we were from and how we liked New Zealand so far. Even after the service, the pastor came over to us to introduce himself and hold casual conversation with us. Right after, they also served hot cross buns, tea, and coffee where more people stopped to talk with us, typical kiwi hospitality. Once we were finished talking to them, we headed back to get changed and were again on the road to the Rearey Rock Slide.
This is a natural rock slide that people in the Gisbourne have been enjoying for years and it was definitely a unique experience to have. People bring body boards, inflatable tubes, air mattresses, tires, and just about anything else to float on to the slide to go down on. Leshaan’s family was very generous and allowed us to bring some of their air mattresses with us and a couple body boards. Once we got there, I was really nervous and watched some of the more experienced sliders go first and then finally got on a mattress with Tori for our first slide down. It was heaps of fun, until we hit a bump, I went flying off the mattress and had to slide down the rocks until I reached the end. With some minor cuts and bruises, I walked back up to the top and decided rock sliding was not for me and that I needed some recovery time from that experience. Everyone else had a great time sliding and I eventually went again, and that time was much more successful and less painful.
After a fun Easter afternoon, we were once again back at Leshaan’s house getting dressed for yet another occasion, Matt’s 21st birthday. We went to an amazing restaurant in Gisbourne that served their food on a hot stone grill. The restaurant heats up slabs of stone and then put the meat you ordered raw onto the stone and serve it to you that way and then you are able to cook everything exactly how you like it. A dash of salt to help the meat from sticking and you’re good to go. I’ve never been to a restaurant that did this so it was pretty cool to experience that for the first time and the food was absolutely delicious. Once we were done with dinner, we grabbed blankets and warm clothes and went to a nearby beach to hang out for the night.
When everyone finally got up the next morning, we were once again on the road and headed for Opotiki to stay with Leshaan’s aunt, Carol. It was great to have the ability to stay with her because she had a guest house that we were able to be in. Everyone had a bed, we could make our own food, and the beach was just a short drive down the road. Right after we arrived, we unloaded the van and almost immediately got changed to hit the beach for a short time before getting dinner started. The beach was nice, no one else was there and the actual beach stretched our really far until it hit water. The temperature was really nice and waves were pretty calm, the perfect mix for an amazing beach day. When we all had our fill of another beach, we headed back to get dinner started. Some buffalo chicken dip to start and then heaps of spaghetti for dinner, a pretty great combination for hungry college kids. A relaxing evening playing cards, pool, darts, and just hanging out was the perfect way to end a day after an incredibly busy weekend.
What was supposed to be an early morning the next day ended up being an extremely slow-moving morning. We all were up fairly early, but it seemed like we just couldn’t get ready to go in a timely manner, but it was ok because that day had the most incredible sunrises I’ve seen in New Zealand so far. The sky was full of hues of orange, pink, and reds and that created a beautiful sight over the rolling hills and mountains in the distance. Once we all took enough pictures of the sunrise, we ate a quick breakfast and got everything ready to travel to Mount Maunganui for a hike up the Mount and then some time on the beach. We arrived and didn’t waste any time, heading straight for the hike. The hike wasn’t too long, but was definitely not ideal to do in flip flops (jandals as the kiwis call them). However, the view was beautiful from the top, with blue ocean water on the one side and the bay on other. Once we completed our hike, we had a little bit of time before heading back to Uni. Some people went to lunch, other spent their time on the beach, and a few of us decided to walk out onto a small peninsula just off the beach that is a great place to take some pictures of the area. After a really long weekend packed full of adventure, we were all ready to make our way back to school and recover before classes started up again the next day.
Our Easter trip was full of amazing experiences, fun beach times, and great stories and sights I’ll always remember.
Over my next blog posts I will be writing about our amazing 17 day trip through the South Island. Stay tuned for that!