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Posts Tagged ‘Pancake Rocks’

Sushi-A-Go-Go

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

 

I am just a couple of days away from Auckland, which also means just a couple days from my return to the US.  It is coming incredibly fast, this imminent moment.  I know I’ve spent a year away, but going home means having to get back to reality, and that is something I’m not sure I’m ready for yet.  You see, my first title for this blog post was going to be “Heaven IS a Place on Earth” because New Zealand is just that; paradise, ethereal, surreal; nature’s utopia.  Easily one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.  Yet, I decided that this blog must be dedicated to the one who has made the last four weeks possible, the one who has moved me around this amazing country, who has provided shelter and been home base.  Her name is Sushi and she is a 1993 Subaru Legacy that Dore and I bought for $300NZD (approx. $255USD) in Christchurch upon Dore’s arrival.

Now, everyone knows the saying “you get what you pay for” and we knew that we were buying an old car, our girl has almost 300,000 km (180,000 miles) on her; a car which has problems, her prior Japanese owner told us in his broken English what might be wrong with her; and a car which might not get us to the end of the road.  But at that price, these were all things we were willing to deal with, to see what just might happen.  And we did.

We drove her hard for the first two weeks on the south island: across the huge Alps of Arthur’s Pass, up the windy roads of the West Coast, through the mountainous terrain of Abel Tasman and Golden Bay.  That’s when we had to have a repair done, which has made her a $725 car, and one we knew we needed to be gentler with.  So, as we hit the north Letting Sushi Cool Downisland this meant taking our time, making planned stops in beautiful riverside picnic areas or taking nature walks through Kauri forests to let her cool down and catch her breath (Kauri are ancient trees which grow huge, but have been endangered by disease and humans.  Not a similar tree, but similar concept to our Redwoods.).  All this worked out just right, allowing us to see things we may not have otherwise.  We have definitely gotten our monies worth from her in transport and accommodation as we’ve spent many nights camping in her.

Following is a quick rundown of what’s been done in the last month, all in a couple liners; 90%  has been camping and hiking, and most of the other 10% has been visiting vineyards and craft breweries, in lieu of cities and towns.  There is no way that words or pictures can do justice to the sheer beauty of this country.  To truly get it, one must see it for themselves.  Every road traveled, every forest traversed, every beach walked, every river swam, every bay spotted will take one’s breath away.  It’s almost unfathomable.  And the people are genuinely friendly, helpful, and full of pride for their amazing country.

Christchurch: devastated by four earthquakes from Sept. 2010 to Dec. 2011, CC looks like a war zone, so we bought Sushi and left.

Arthur’s Pass: the crossing from east coast to west coast.  Started at Castle Hill Boulder Field and ended with a full day climb to Avalanche Peak, 1833 meters (5500 feet) up sheer rock on a narrow trail for views of several glaciers, including Crow’s On way to Avalanche PeakGlacier.  Lord of the Rings fans, this is Mordor.

Hokitika: west coast artist colony, a beautiful beach covered in driftwood art; fun and groovy.

Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers: south end of the West Coast region, the worlds only glaciers nestled within tropical rainforest.

Greymouth: depressed mining town midway up West Coast.  The place we decided to start camping in Sushi.  Perfectly sized for the two of us to stretch out comfortably, paying a lot of money for petrol, and then we could stay wherever we wanted.  It was decided.

Pancake Rocks:  Incredibly unique geological formations.  Just a quick stop, but worth a mention.

Karamea: remote northern tip of the West Coast, on the western border of the Kaharangi National Forest.  Starting point of the Heaphy Track.  The beaches here are vast and empty, we hiked to Scott’s Beach, through rainforest to a white sand beach that ran as far as the eye could see.At Pancake Rocks

Upper Moutere/Ruby Bay: east of Abel Tasman, reunited with a couple we’d met in Thailand; attended music festival headlining New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop, talented and energetic, love them horns.  Delicious local craft beers on draft at The Moutere Inn.  If you like beer, this is a must stop.

Abel Tasman:  One of the Great Walks; dazzling bays every hour to two of walking.  Stayed three nights at Totaranui Campsite.  Solo hike south through beautiful Goat’s Bay, returning to a gourmet Italian dinner made by Dore; incredible what can be cooked up in one pot.  Then, big hike together north to Separation Point, home to a seal colony, and on to crystal clear tropical blue waters of Whariwharangi Beach.  Feasted for dinner on 40 of the biggest, most scrumptious New Zealand Green Shell Mussels which we harvested ourselves.

Farewell Spit: the largest natural sandbar in the world, 21 miles long and possibly a mile wide.  Breathtaking sight of rolling white sand dunes to the horizon.

Wharariki Beach:  just another beautiful beach (sense the sarcasm), different than all the others.  New Zealand just kept Beautiful Abel Tasmanastonishing me.

Onekaka/Golden Bay:  Shambhala Guest House, for a couple nights in a real bed, is also a yoga center and organic farm run off solar power and rainwater.  The Mussel Inn, the best bar/restaurant of the whole trip, brewed their own beer and cider, had delicious fresh food, a great staff, and an inviting and comfortable atmosphere in which we played a game of Scrabble.  Another must stop.

Te Waikoropupu “Pupu” Springs: quick stop to view what is literally the clearest water in the world, like nothing I’d ever seen.

Break here with bout of car trouble, an incredibly odd night at a backpacker’s that was housing Tongan fruit pickers, and a tow to Nelson the next day.

Blenheim: a series of vineyards, starting with George Michels, and then discovering MANA, an org whose farmers are all organic and biodynamic, so from there we hit three members vineyards: Fromm, Highfields, and Rock Ferry.  Each specialized in different varietals, and Rock Ferry has a remarkably good restaurant where we had a fantastic meal.Pupu Springs

Queen Charlotte Sound:  meeting up with our friends again, totally by surprise; we kayaked the sound, enjoyed a night with friends, and a morning playing mini-golf before catching the ferry to the north island.

Waiohine Gorge in the Tararua Forest Park:  fantastic walk through tropical forest along the banks of crystal clear rivers; met a fellow camper who had been deer hunting and gave us a generous portion of venison.

Hastings/Havelock: more vineyards, where the south island is most well-known for its Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, the north island is most well-known for its Chardonnays and Merlots.  Those worth mentioning, Trinity Hill, Te Awa which also labels Leftfield, Black Barn, and Crab Farm.  Delightful lunch at Black Barn, dining under vines dripping with grapes.

Napier: Art-Deco city.  Funky architecture, historic in nature.  Yummy Turkish food.

Break for second bout of car troubles trying to make it over mountainous terrain to Tongariro National Park.  Assisted by a couple of local guys we were successful in making a quick fix (stop leak stuff can work wonders) and we changed our

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route.  We really wanted Sushi to make it to Auckland.

Kaingaroa Forest:  the largest forested area on the north island, home to the placid and picturesque Lake Waikaremoana.  It was here that we cooked the venison and drank the perfect wine that we’d bought at Te Awa.

Rotorua: met a local who turned us on to Waiotapo Springs and Kerosene Creek, both sacred hot spring pools; Waiotapo at night was amazing, a sky full of stars and the pool surrounded by candles.  It was like nothing else.

Lake Taupo:  the largest lake in New Zealand and the one that feeds the powerful Huka Falls.

Karangahake Gorge: Dickey Flat campground, in the center of what used to be a flourishing gold mining town.  Hiked to Karangahake Peak, 544 meters (1632 feet), a big difference from the peaks of the south island; views of the Coromandel Peninsula, swims in Waitawheta River.

Lake Waikaremoana

 

Coromandel Peninsula: known for its beaches; some very touristy like Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove; we took the more treacherous remote road to Fletcher Bay.  Gifted with fresh fish and garden grown veggies.  Hiked the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, up the mountain biking trail for spectacular views returning via Stony Bay on the more level coastal trail.

Clevedon Farmer’s Market: if you are ever driving from the Coromandel to Auckland on a Saturday this is a must stop, absolutely the best farmer’s market I’ve ever been too.  Every single stand offers samples of their fare and it is amazing.  Oh, and don’t eat before.

Final stop, Auckland: stayed with Dore’s family friends, wonderful people, and were welcomed with an earthquake just after arriving, trippy.  Wonderful collection at Auckland Art Gallery.  Final meal, fantastic Malaysian food and incredible ice cream before heading to the airport to fly back to the US.

Time to give thanks.  Thank you, Sushi, for all you offered and making it all the way to Auckland.  Thank you, Dore, for being our official driver and my travel buddy…full circle.  And thank you, New Zealand, for being so absurdly beautiful and a Coromandel Peninsulamost memorable last stop.  I know I’ve written quite a lot here, so thank you, too, for reading all of this.  Truth is, it doesn’t even tell it all.

It is now several days from when I started to write this blog and I am in New Jersey.  Almost 48 hours back on US soil and while it is wonderful to see my family, it is strange and surreal, natural yet unnatural all at the same time.  There will be time to contemplate, ruminate, and reflect, and I’m sure that will loan itself to the next blog post.  Until then, thank you for taking this most amazing, life expanding journey with me.  It’s been one extraordinarily incredibly phenomenal year.  Namaste.

PS.  Photo albums will be posted soon.  Will let you know.

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Posted in Food, history, nature, travel, Yoga | 7 Comments »