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Another day in Napier

I wake up just before dawn, but don’t feel to go outside yet. I don’t want to miss the sunrise though and I open the backdoor of my minivan. It’s nice to have your bed right next to the ocean. From my bed I wait for the sunrise. It’s always a beautiful moment when the first light comes over the horizon. When the sun is rising I do actually get outside to take some pictures from the beach. I get dressed and have breakfast in front of the beach. Before I start driving, I decide to sit at the beach for a while. It’s a beautiful peaceful morning.

Watching the sunrise from my bed in the camper
Park in Napier
One of the first persons in the world today to see the sunrise
Six sisters coffee house 3
Park in Napier 2
Sitting at the beach
Six sisters coffee house 2
Park in Napier 3

The other day I had seen a nice looking coffee place on the edge of the city and that’s where I want to go this morning. I order a cappuccino and do some writing and reading. The coffee house looks out over the ocean and is a perfect place to sit down for a while. They don’t have wifi though and I want to catch up on some e-mail and news, so after finishing reading I decide to move to another place.

In my search for a free parking spot downtown I find a beautiful little park with a man made waterfall. There is a pond and there are many flowers. I walk through the park and climb a few rocks to the waterfall before I walk further downtown. It’s again a bright sunshiny day, it seems that this part of the country has better weather and that Napier is a sunshiny city. I find another coffee place, but again they have no Wifi so I go back to my favourite place. I get a free coffee again, because I have a full stamp card, so that’s nice. I update the blog and my e-mail and then get a text from Chelsea that I can also work at a desk in their office, that’s better than one of the small coffee tables and so I move again. The office is nice, it’s a webdesign agency and they have a desk in the corner free for me. I catch up with e-mails and things for work and do some programming for myself. It’s interesting how when I’m at the computer, I can completely forget where I am, especially when I’m contacting people in the Netherlands. When I lookup from my screen, I remember that I’m at the other side of the world. The people at the office leave and I say goodbye to my friend.

I decide to go to the Irish pub again, since I had a good time there yesterday. I read again for a while and then go online and discover that you can get a free audiobook at Audible.com if you register for a trial period (and you can cancel immediately again). I’ve already listened to an audiobook during the road trip and it’s great when you have to drive for a couple of hours to be able to listen to a book. It’s just a different experience than only listening to music.

Working a bit in Starbucks
New underwear for a week
Christmas lights
Watching friends in the evening

After a visit to the Iris pub I do some groceries for the coming days, because I’ll be traveling further again. I’m also almost out of clean clothes and didn’t find a place to do laundry, so I go to Warehouse, that’s the New Zealand version of Walmart or a bit like the store we have in the Netherlands called Action. They sell almost everything, so I also find myself some socks and underwear. Now I have enough for a week again. Enough food, enough clothes and tomorrow I’ll get some gas so everything is covered for a couple of days. When I walk through downton and it starts to get dark, I see that they’ve hung Christmas lights in the trees. It reminds me that back home it’s getting winter soon. Funny how it’s the exact opposite here and that the weather finally seems to get better here. In the evening I feel like watching an episode of Friends, just some simple laughing. I’ve got all seasons with me, so that’s nice. I find that a combination of activities during the day and some entertainment like movies or series in the evening gives a nice balance while traveling. I think I could stay in Napier longer, but at this campsite you’re only allowed to stay two days in a row and it’s also about time to heading North West again, so tomorrow the road trip continues.

Driving to sunny Napier

I’m not sure what to do today. I feel a bit lazy, but also don’t want to stay at this hostel. It’s an okay place, but not really appealing to stay longer. I’m doubting between heading east or west, because Taupo is right in the middle of the North Island. I decide to head east to go to Napier, to visit my Kiwi friend Chelsea. It’s about two hours driving, so not too far.

The road to Napier
Flowers in a park in Napier
The Six Sisters
Roadtrip food
Flowers in a park in Napier 2
Little library in an Irish pub
Arrived in Napier
Watermill in a park in Napier
Guinness and books

I drive to the Starbucks in town and find a parking place right in front of the coffee place. I think by now I’ve visited almost all Starbucks coffee places of New Zealand. I text my friend that I’m in town and a bit later she arrives and we walk by the shore and through the city. It’s nice to see her again and to see downtown a bit better. Last time I was here, I didn’t see so much of the city, because we went hiking on one of the hills outside the city. There are many pretty buildings from the 30s and on a sunny day like today, it’s nice to walk here and look around. At the end of the afternoon Chelsea has to leave again and I walk further through downtown by myself. I find a nice Irish bar with a small library in the back which looks like a perfect place for me to read a book. I order a pint of Guinness and read for a while.

I get the great idea to get pizza for dinner and have a movie night in my camper. I drive to the supermarket to get some beers and then to Pizzahut for a pepperoni pizza. From there it’s only a couple of minutes driving to the campsite next to the ocean. Having a nice pizza, a beer and a movie night is what makes traveling more comfortable. You need comfort from time to time to relax, sometimes that’s in form of a shower and a bed and other times it’s in form of a relaxing evening.

Retro buildings in Napier
Camping by the ocean 2
Pizza beer and a movie
Camping by the ocean

When the movie is finished I go outside for a moment and there are also many stars to see here. Not as many as at Rivendell, because this campsite is right next to the city, but still there are many. This campsite is really nice, because it’s right at the ocean, but also only a couple of minutes driving from downtown. I think I’ll stay in Napier for a few days before I continue traveling.

Climbing Mount Doom

I wake up when it gets light and go outside. It’s still misty, but it looks to be a bright day. I get dressed and start driving, because everything here is still wet and I’ll have my breakfast somewhere else. Also I hope to take some nice pictures of the beautiful road to this campsite in the first light of the day.

I take some nice pictures of the green hills and when I have phone connection again I map out a route to Tongariro National Park where the high mountains are. I’m really blessed with the weather today. Exactly at the day that I want to go hiking it’s a sunny day, not a single cloud near the mountains. I decide to go for the last major thing on my New Zealand list: climbing Mount Doom. Before I start the hike I make myself an big breakfast and a lunch package. I also pack a lot of water and my first aid kid, because I have heard that this is a really tuff hike.

Misty morning
Misty morning 2
Road through green hills
Misty morning at an off the grid campsite
Small road back to civilization
New Zealand Sheep
Closing the gate of the campsite behind me
Road surrounded by green trees
New Zealand Sheep 2

The hiking path starts nice and easy, but gets steeper the closer I get to the mountain. As usual I hike fast and am not wearing a shirt, but as I get higher it actually gets quite cold. After a little more than an hour walking I’m at the foot of the mountain. Here the path stops and some warning signs say that it’s dangerous to go further. Of course I do not let that stop me and I start the climb of Mount Doom. It is indeed the most difficult and most dangerous hike I’ve ever done. There is not really a path, I just have to find a way over sliding rocks, snow and ice and it also involves some rock climbing. What makes it the most difficult though is that the wind starts blowing very hard. It is a great adventure. A little help comes from two guys climbing in the distance in front of me, giving me some idea of where to go. It doesn’t take long before I catch up with them. One of the guys is thinking about giving up, but I encourage him to keep going, because you don’t want to stop half way. Later he thanks me that I helped him getting further. After about one and half hours climbing I reach one of the two tops. It’s really cold here and I’m glad I brought my had and gloves with me. I climb over the top and a bit down on the other side where there is no wind. Here it’s actually quite comfortable and the view is amazing. Because it’s such a clear day you can see the landscape really far. The rocks of the mountain are actually a bit warm, because Mount Doom is a volcano and I can also see some smoke coming from in between some rocks.

Road to the mountains
Mount Doom
Warning sign by the trek
Ready for a serious hike
Hiking to Mount Doom
Warning sign at Mount Doom
The path to Mount Doom
Waterfall
Another hiker following me

After having rested for a while and taking pictures at the top of the mountain, I slowly begin my way down. The way back is as I expected even harder, because I have to watch out more for not sliding down. I fall a couple of times, but fortunately don’t hurt myself too bad. When I’m almost back at the foot of the mountain I wonder if I should also have climbed the snowy top, but I quickly realize that it’s good that I haven’t done that. After a couple of hours climbing I got a bit tired and I still need to hike back to the starting point. I feel accomplished that I’ve managed to climb Mount Doom, something I will probably never do again. It was challenging and dangerous, but also totally awesome.

Enjoying the hike 2
Enjoying a free ice lolly provided by nature
The view at Mount Doom
Enjoying the hike
Some hikers with professional equipment
Steam coming from the mountains
Icicles
Walking on snow and ice
Enjoying the view at Mount Doom

On my way back I eat my lunch package and think about what to do next. After several days of camping I feel like getting a bit more comfortable again and I’ll probably look for a hostel or hotel when I’m back at the car. Five and half hours and 17 kilometer further I arrive back at the car. Feeling tired and accomplished after this great hike.

Reached the top of Mount Doom
The mountain now surrounded by clouds again
View from hostel in Taupo
Thats where I just was
Lakte Taupo

I drive to a town called Taupo, it’s a nice drive next to a lake that I had already seen from the mountain top. When I arrive in the town I feel tired and don’t want to drive much further, so I go online and find a hostel. When I check in there, the guy at the reception turns out to be from the Netherlands as well, so we continue our conversation in Dutch. After check in I do some groceries and make myself dinner. In the kitchen is a girl also from the Netherlands. It’s interesting to suddenly see so many Dutch people. We have dinner at the balcony and after that I’m getting my laptop to update the blog. I talk for a while with the girlfriend of the guy at the reception, also Dutch, and share travel stories. They’ve been in New Zealand for about four months and work now at the hostel. She gives me some tips for places to visit before I leave. I’ve met so many people who stay in New Zealand for months or years. Although it’s a beautiful country, I wouldn’t want to live here. It is a great journey, but I’m also fine with going home again in two weeks. I’m not quite sure yet what I’ll do in the coming days, but I like to see it per day what’ll come my way. For tonight I got myself a shower and a bed, so it’s all okay and then tomorrow the adventure continues.

A Warning, a Windmill and a Waterfall

It’s indeed raining this morning, so a good day to drive a couple of hours again. I’m heading North via the west coast. I first drive into the town Upperhut to get some gas. Just when I’m driving to the gas station I see some flash lights of a police car behind me. I get out of the car and greet the officer. He tells me that I was driving too fast and wants to see my driving license. He tells me that I can continue putting gas in my car and that he’ll be right back. The guy behind the counter in the gas station tells me that it can easily cost 120 dollars if you’re speeding just a bit. For some reason I’m not too worried, I’m just wondering if getting this gas will become more expensive by getting a ticket. When I walk back to my car the officer tells me that I don’t get a ticket, just a warning this time and I’m happy and thankful that this trip doesn’t get more expensive than needed. The rest of the day I’m paying more attention to my speed.

When I drive into a town called Foxton, I see a sign with ‘De Molen’, the Dutch word for Windmill. I’m curious and follow the sign. After just a couple of minutes I see a big Dutch windmill and it brings a smile on my face. It’s nice to see something from home again. I stop in front of the windmill and there is a restaurant called The Dutch Oven. When I walk inside, a friendly lady welcomes me heartily in Dutch. We start a conversation and I really enjoy speaking my own language again for a moment. The interesting thing is that when I’m home, I don’t think too much about being Dutch, but being away so far now I actually feel Dutch when I see all these familiar things again. I get myself a cup of coffee and write my blog.

Driving North via the West Coast
Most friendly Dutch lady
Inside the Windmill
De Molen
Coffee and a Brownie
Dutch products like hagelslag in the mill
The Dutch Oven
Me at the windmill
Driving between beautiful green hills

After finishing my coffee, I go to the windmill and climb to the top. I’ve seen many windmills, but it’s still fun to see another one, especially so far from home. I walk outside on the top, but since it’s still raining I quickly go inside again. At the bottom they sell typical Dutch products like Stroopwafels and Hagelslag. I have a short talk with some guys who moved here 40 years ago and still speak a bit of Dutch. Then I continue driving to the middle of the North Island. I get a glimpse of a snowy mountain, but it’s covered with clouds. I think I’ll see more of it one of these days. The other day I found a map with Lord of the Rings locations in this area and I visit one of the rivers and a very pretty waterfall. It’s a good idea to visit at least some of the locations, because it brings you to the most beautiful places of New Zealand.

Beautiful green hills
Mangawhero Falls Walk
Mangawhero Falls 2
A canyon river
Mangawhero Falls
Driving to an off the grid camping place
A canyon river 2
Me at the Mangawhero Falls
Driving to an off the grid camping place 2

Even though it’s raining today, it’s a nice drive through beautiful landscape. When it’s the end of the afternoon I search for a camping place in the neighborhood and find one with many good comments. It takes a small windy road through green hills to get there. It’s quite remote, there is no cell phone reception or anything. Only one other camper in the corner of the campsite. I park my car, make myself some sandwiches and turn on a movie. When it’s completely dark, I take a look outside, but since it’s raining there are no stars to see. It’s completely dark here, except for a small torch light at the other camper. Somehow it’s almost scary to be here in the middle of nowhere in the dark. The only sound you hear is the rain and the river next to the campsite. I wonder how it’ll look like in the morning and go to sleep when the movie is finished.

A peaceful day in Rivendell

When I wake up by my alarm this morning I’m tempted to keep laying, but I hear the Germans outside and I get up to say goodbye to them. Then I make myself some breakfast and think about what to do today. After a while the other camper also leaves and I stay alone here. Except for the birds it’s very quiet and it’s nice to be alone in nature. It has been a while since I was camping somewhere alone, that must have been in one of the bays in the North. I decide I’ll have a relaxed day today. I clean up my camper a bit, update the blog and read inside my camper for a while. Except for the park ranger who drives by a couple of times per day and maybe if some other campers will come later today, I’ll probably be alone the whole day. I might go for a short hike in the afternoon or just stay inside and watch some series. It’s nice to have a chill day and no need to go anywhere. I have food enough for today and tomorrow, so I can just stay here in nature.

Waking up in nature
Spending a morning reading in the camper
Me in front of a bridge
Healthy breakfast to start the day with
Hiking in the forest
Crossing a bridge on a hike to Rivendell
A cup of coffee to wak up
Hiking next to the river
Hiking to Rivendell

I stay inside and read a book until the the afternoon. For an energetic person like me it can be challenging to do almost nothing for a day, but now I actually enjoy having a lazy day. When the sun shows up and I’ve almost finished my book I feel that it’s time to go outside and walk for a while. I follow the river to Rivendell, the same hike I did about a month ago. I enjoy seeing the same places again and it’s a very different walk, because it’s not raining now. It even gets warm with the sun. I see more of what’s around me than I saw last time when it was dark and raining. I now see huge trees just a few steps from the walking path. In Rivendell is a bench with a sign on it saying that’s is placed there in loving memory of two people spending many hours in the park. I think that’s a good idea and I sit there for a while. After traveling for more than a month in New Zealand I find that this is my favorite place (perhaps except for Hobbiton). It’s the most peaceful place of all. Being here also reminds me that the adventure is almost over and the bit of sadness that comes with that thought shows me how great this adventure is. Thankful for this journey I walk back to my camper. I’m getting hungry and make myself some nice toast with eggs and cheese for lunch. I realize what a luxury it is to have this campsite in the middle of nature all for myself.

Huge tree
Flourishing tree in front of Rivendell
Sign on a bench in Rivendell
Me in front of huge tree
Catching up with some old friends
Rivendell 2
Back in Rivendell
Rivendell
Hiking on a sunny day

The rest of the afternoon I spend in my camper with the doors open, reading books. It’s a relaxing day and I enjoy it. It’s also one of the few sunny days, a perfect day to stay at one place. In the evening I make myself some soup for dinner, another easy camping meal which is still kind of healthy.  After I had dinner, a girl from California and a local guy arrive at the camping place. They also eat some food and he tells me I picked the right day to stay here, because tomorrow it’ll be raining again. I’m glad I stayed here for a day.

The Rangers Office
Private campsite
Beautiful view during sunset

The adventure goes on

How I love to wake up in a nice hotel. A good nights rest and a fresh shower can make so much difference. I feel more energized to continue traveling again, this was just what I needed. I also realize now that most of the worries were not so much about money, but more about work. Most clients are very understanding that I’m on vacation and I’m really thankful for that. There was just one client putting pressure on me to get things done. It made me feel stressed, because it’s challenging to get work done here. I’ve now decided to just accept the fact that the internet here is not as it is back home and that I simply cannot work so much here as expected and that some things might have to wait until I’m back. Having chosen to accept the current situation feels as a relief and I think it’ll enable me to also enjoy the last days of the vacation.

Putangirua Pinnacles
Vie from Putangirua Pinnacles lookout point
Enjoying hiking at the Pinnacles rocks
Road to Putangirua Pinnacles
Me in front of the Pinnacles rocks
Putangirua Pinnacles rocks 2
View from hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles
Putangirua Pinnacles rocks
Hiking with an English family

I drive to the Pinnacle rocks, a long drive through wide fields with nothing around. When I arrive it’s storming outside, but inside I’m calm and peaceful. I start hiking and already at the start I meet a nice family from England. A mom and dad, two boys of about ten years old and a young girl of I guess seven years old. She’s really funny and talks a lot. I hike along with them and enjoy their company. It starts to rain, but I don’t mind because it’s a beautiful hike. It’s funny how all moms seem the same, because this one is just like my mother when we were young, continuously worried that the children are alright and safe on the path. I understand it a bit though, because the path uphill is very muddy and slippery. I wonder why I put on my clean jeans this morning, because they’re already muddy. After about 45 minutes we arrive at the top and have a beautiful view of the pinnacle rocks. I say goodbye for a while, because I want to see the rocks from nearby. I do some climbing in between the rocks. I stuck in the mud almost to my knees deep, cut one of my fingers on the sharp rocks and get wet and cold from the rain, but I’m feeling better than I have felt in days. I feel alive and enjoy every moment of this hike. My sense of adventure is back and I’m enjoying this journey again.
After climbing the rocks I run back for a while to catch up with the family. I don’t have to run for too long, because they’re lost by the riverside. The path back along the river is hard to find, but together we manage to hike back to the parking place. I think that the hike was at least two hours in total and we all get cold, but it was great. We say goodbye and get in our cars.

I guess you're not supposed to hike here
Almost knee deep in the mud
Me climbing between the Pinnacles rocks
Pinnacles rocks 2
The walk back from Putangirua Pinnacles
Campsite at Kaitoke Regional Park 2

I get out my wet clothes, put on a warm sweater and turn the car heater on. I drive north for a while and then see that I’m not so far from one of my favorite campsites, so I go there. It’s nice to be at this place again, it’s a wide field surrounded by forest and there is a cooking area. Just like the last time I was here it’s almost no one here. There is only one other camper. I bake some pancakes for dinner and then another car arrives, a German couple. We talk for a while and exchange food and travel stories. They have made some nice pasta, so I’m thankful to also get healthy food. I in my turn make them happy with some apple ciders and pancakes, a good deal I think. We have a nice time together, but then have to go inside our cars, because it gets quite cold outside.

Campsite at Kaitoke Regional Park
Pancakes for dinner
Meeting a German couple
Another camper at Campsite at Kaitoke Regional Park
And pasta for dinner
Taking a picture of the camper at night

Before I go inside I look up and see the stars appearing. That’s one of the things I like so much about this place, you can see so many stars. The whole sky is covered with them. With my camera I manage to take some pictures of them and I enjoy the view until I get too cold. One of my friends had told me the other day that I might need to slow down my adventure a bit in order to enjoy it more. Until now I found that hard, but since I made the decision this morning to let go of work for a while and fully enjoy this vacation, I feel more relaxed and I think I can slow down now. I plan to stay at least one more day at this campsite, since I have food enough with me and don’t need to go anywhere. Time to slow down and enjoy the adventure at a different pace.

A day in Wellington

This morning the alarm clock wakes me very early when it’s still dark, because I have the morning ferry to catch. I already hear some cars getting in line, so I quickly get dressed and drive in line as well. There I enjoy my breakfast in the car and slowly wake up. When I get on the ferry I walk to the top deck and am happy to see that it’s quite weather today, completely different than on my way here. It’s beautiful to look around while we’re moving away from the South Island. This is what I had expected of the ferry ride and I really enjoy it. While I’m outside on the top deck a happy local guy starts a conversation with me. He and his friends are really friendly and likeminded and so we hang out for the rest of the trip. We have good conversations about life while we enjoy the beautiful scenery. Time passes quickly and before I know it, we’re sailing into Wellington. We say goodbye and go to our cars.

Picton
Making New Friends On the Ferry
Willis Wellington Hotel
Leaving the South Island
Old building and new building in Wellington
Willis Wellington Hotel 2
Farewell South Island
Old building in Wellington
View from my room in Willis Wellington Hotel

I had already gotten the idea to stay in Wellington for a day and enjoy the comfort of a hotel. After several days of camping I’d like a shower and a large bed again. I check in at a nice hotel and find out that the limit of my credit card has been reached. Fortunately I can still get some cash from an ATM, but the reality is that I’m almost out of money and still have two weeks left here. I don’t feel sorry for booking the hotel, because it gives some comfort and peace of mind for a day and a welcome change from camping. One of these days though I have to decide if I’ll dig into some savings or just go back home. I like the idea of going home, though it’s something I’ve never done before. I’ve never come home earlier from a vacation, but this time it seems necessary. I choose to park that decision for later and walk to downtown Wellington to do some sightseeing.

Wellington is a nice city to visit for a day. There are many coffee places, bars and shops. Like in Auckland there is a combination of old buildings and modern offices. I often like to see the contrast of that. It’s like seeing them together make the old and new buildings stand out more. I walk through downtown while looking around and then have a coffee somewhere and write my thoughts down in a notebook.

What are we looking at?
Writing in a notebook
Sal's authentic New York pizza place 3
A friendly fellow and his dog
Sal's authentic New York pizza place
Me at Sal's authentic New York pizza place
Getting coffee
Sal's authentic New York pizza place 2
nice-building-and-phone-in-wellington

Already weeks ago in Auckland, someone had recommended me to go to Cuba Street when I would be in Wellington. When I arrive there, I can see why. It’s a very cozy street with people sitting on terraces, street musicians and many little restaurants. My first stop is a place called ‘Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza’ and I order a slice of pepperoni. On the wall are many pictures of New York and for a moment I wish I was there again. My pizza slice is served and it’s one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had. It tastes just like the pizza in Brooklyn and it’s one of the highlights of today. I then walk further down the street and stop at a place called Havana Coffee Works where they serve great Cuban coffee. I sit by the open window watching the people walk by. This street is great for making many small stops and eat and drink something at several places. I walk a bit further and get myself some great Mexican food.

After dinner I walk to the waterside and from there uphill, outside the city center. I hike up to the Mount Victoria lookout point and have a great view of the city. Then it’s time to walk back to the hotel, because it’s getting dark. While walking I get some messages from friends who’ve been following the blog. It’s actually nice that so many people are reading this. The main purpose of the blog is to be a travel journal so it’s easier to remember all the experiences later, but it’s also a nice way to keep people up to date about the adventures and to stay in touch. So if you’re reading this, thanks for being part of the adventures!

Getting coffee at Cuban Street
Harbour and old church in Wellington
View from Mt. Victoria at Wellington
Getting coffee at Cuban Street 2
Just a few steps to the top
Great way to end the day

In the evening I return to the hotel where I have a cold beer left in the fridge and when I turn on the tv, one of my favorite action movies is on. Time to relaxe and forget about traveling for a moment. Just a night in a hotel once in a while makes traveling much more comfortable.

Last day at the South Island

It’s nice to be back in Nelson, a familiair town by now. I go to the Starbucks and update the blog, check my e-mail and have some coffee. I’m not quite sure what to do next. I’ve seen most of what I wanted to see and still have 2,5 weeks here in New Zealand. One of my friends brings up the idea to go back home earlier and I look into that. It could be an option as well, but I’m not sure yet. At least today I’ll have a relaxed day here in town. I drove enough yesterday, so I don’t plan to drive much today.

Nelson
The Delayed Ferry I won't be on tonight
Back in the Starbucks of Nelson
Catching up on Vegetables

In the afternoon I walk through town, get something to eat and then decide to go to Picton to take the ferry back to the North Island. Before this trip I had thought I would stay longer at the South Island, but since I’m here already anyway, I better just go back North. I buy a ticket and get in line to go on the ferry. After waiting a while, a friendly guy walks by all the cars to tell that there is a delay. I ask if I can take the ferry of tomorrow morning instead and that is no problem. He even tells me I can just park my car next to the office and stay here for the night. I like that idea and so I’ll take the ferry tomorrow morning early at 8am. I think this is much better actually than taking the ferry tonight and having to find a hotel late at night in Wellington. Now I’ll be early tomorrow at the North Island, so I have a full day to see where I’ll be going.

The South Island is great and spectacular. The mountains are beautiful and you can hike a lot here. Being here in Spring is taking a risk with the weather, but also makes sure you’re here before the big touristic crowds. I wasn’t so lucky with the weather, but I had a few sunny days. My highlights of the South Island are hiking at Mount Cook, staying at the Hippo Lodge in Queenstown for a week and visiting some of the locations of the Lord of the Rings movies. If I ever come back here, I would go to Queenstown, because it’s a good location to visit many beautiful places from. Places like Mount Cook, Glenorchy and the Mavora lakes are less than a day drive away and so easy to visit from Queenstown. I could have spend more time on the South Island, but it’s hard to guess how long some road trips take and now I find myself ready to go back to the North Island.

Road trip at night

When I turn on the road trip playlist this morning, the song Down Under comes up and it makes me realize that up till recently I didn’t know how the land down under was. It makes me appreciate that I’m on this adventure. It’s so easy to take things for granted, even when you’re traveling on the other side of the world. After some days it can just become normal to you. I know that in a couple of weeks I’ll be back home and look back on this great adventure and on all the things I did here. I know that I better enjoy it to the fullest, because I don’t know when or if I’ll come back here.

Following the West Coast heading North
Pancake Rocks 3
Me at the Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks 4
Too clouded to fly
Pancake Rocks 2
Pancake Rocks 5
Last view of the moutains in the south

My plan is to drive to Kaikoura, which I heard is a nice town on the east coast, but I first make a small detour first to the town Punakaiki where the pancake rocks are. Some people, under who my mom, recommended me to see those. It’s indeed a unique thing to see and it’s not hard to imagine why they’re called pancake rocks. I’m tempted to eat some pancakes in the restaurant next to it, but I don’t do it since I think I’ll bake pancakes soon again anyway. After this nice touristic stop I continue my journey through the mountains. I make another stop at an old mining town called Reef. It’s very old and has only a couple of streets, but the local bakery is very crowded. I get myself some coffee and a gingerbread cookie (I love those) and continue driving.

The road to Kaikoura is the worst I’ve seen in whole New Zealand and it reminds me of the roads in Eastern Europe. It takes a couple of hours to get in Kaikoura and unfortunately it’s raining here as well. The town is pretty small and I’m a bit disappointed. I think with nice weather it could be a good place to be, but now in the rain it’s quite depressing, especially because it was such a long drive to get here. I decide that I don’t want to stay here and turn around. It’ll be a long drive back and the more I’ll drive today, the less I have to do tomorrow morning.

Old miners house
Local bakery in small town Reef
Wisdom is at the corner of the streets
Old miners town - Reef
Time for coffee and something sweet
Road-trip-at-night

I decide to break one of my road trip rules and keep driving when it gets dark. Actually it’s a nice experience and fun to push myself a bit further again. The roads are really dark since there are no street lights here and I can’t drive too fast. I’m thankful that there are many trucks driving at night, makes it a lot easier. For a while I’m thinking of driving straight to the ferry, but I’m getting tired and don’t feel like leaving the South Island yet tonight, so I drive to one of my favorite towns of the South Island, Nelson. Around 11 pm I arrive at the camping place I was also a couple of weeks ago. Back then I was almost the only one there, but now the whole area is filled with campers. Fortunately I find a free spot next to the forest, almost the same place where I stayed the last time. I drove for more than 10 hours today and covered over 750 kilometers, so I’m quite exhausted but I also feel accomplished. I’m back in the North and one of these days will take the ferry to the North Island again.

Running out of gas

It’s great to have the freedom of running your own business from everywhere in the world, but it’s also challenging. Where in America there is a Starbucks everywhere, providing a good workplace wherever you go, here in New Zealand is much harder to find a good internet connection and workplace. The towns are smaller, this country more designed for travel and adventure than for work and comfort. Last year around this time I was in America with my family and found it quite doable to combine work and vacation, probably also because I stayed at one place. Here I find it challenging to combine the both and it sometimes makes me tired of traveling. At moments I just long for a normal workday or relaxing at a couch in a living room. I think it’s good to keep this blog real and also write occasionally about the less fun parts of the adventure.

Sitting by the fireplace
Blue Pools Sign
Blue Pools 2
Driving next to the lake
Blue Pools 1
Waterfall
Wanaka lake
Me by the Blue Pools
Waterfall 2

Having that said, I start this day with updating my blog and doing some little things for work and then having breakfast. I was planning on going skydiving here in Wanaka, but it’s very clouded this weekend and I’m running a bit out of money, so I decide to travel further. Before I leave I take some time to lit on the fireplace in the living room. Everyone is gone already and it’s nice to relax by the fire for a while. Just before noon I get in my car again. It’s a pretty drive next to the lake, though the weather is grey and cloudy. I’m glad I didn’t book the skydive, because I would probably not have seen much of the landscape. Another traveler told me this morning that I should stop at the blue pools. When I arrive there I see that it’s half hour hike. I don’t feel so much like hiking, but since I need to take a lunch break anyway, I might as well do it here. The hike is actually pretty and the pools are impressive. The water is so clear, you can look really deep into the water. I’m glad I stopped here, it’s definitely worth a stop and it’s nice to walk in nature for a while. Gas is really expensive in this area (2.24 dollar per liter, for my American friends that is about 8 dollar per gallon), but since the warning light was already burning and the next town is over 60km away, I decide to fill up the car a bit anyway and get more guess in the next town. It’s nice to live a bit in the edge sometimes, but I don’t want to get stuck here in the mountains. I continue my road trip to the west coast.

When I arrive in the next town there is no gas station and also not in the next town. Actually there is almost nothing in this area, just nature. The alarm light of the gas is turning on again and I’m starting to worry. I ask some motor rider in a small town where the next gas station is and he tells me it’s about 50km from where I am. I turn off the radio and the lights and continue driving not too fast. I’m counting the kilometers as I go and the next hour is the most stressful one of the vacation. I realize that though I might be saving five or ten dollars, this is not worth it and I’m not gonna do it again. I keep driving and just before I enter the town with the gas station my car is about to turn off. I give extra gas two more times and I thank God when I see a gas station at the edge of the town. The engine turns off and I roll into the gas station, I made it! A big relieve and a big smile on my face. This was enough adventure for today.

Gas lamp turning on
Going back in time
Huge fireplace
If they only had put this sign on the other side of the road
The proper size of beer
Jukebox
Historic Empire Hotel
Great dinner

I fill up my car, put some Spanish music on and drive happily further. I keep driving until it almost gets dark and when I drive through a small town I see a old building with a lot of colorful lights outside. I stop my car and see that it’s a local bar with camping place. I don’t have to think long about it, this will be the place where I stay tonight. I park my camper and walk inside the bar. For a moment it’s like I traveled back in time. There are old guys with hats and long beards, a huge fireplace and a pool table. There are antiques hanging on the ceiling and walls and the bar looks like it’s at least a hundred years old. I’m glad I stopped here. I order a beer and a burger with fries for dinner and sit down to look around and read a few pages in my book. There is a jukebox in the corner and old music is playing. I’m happily surprised when my food is delivered, it’s one of the largest burgers I’ve ever had. Even the other men in the bar are jealously looking at it. I quickly start eating and am enjoying my time here. After dinner I talk with one of the men for a while, almost everyone here is a local and they know each other since their child years. When I’ve finished my last beer I walk back to my car which I parked at the camping area in front of the bar. It’s still raining outside which makes camping in your car sometimes even more cozy. I hope the weather will be better again tomorrow, but it seems that this is the standard weather here at the west coast. One of the older men told me jokingly that they had one day with sunshine last week and that it’s always raining here. Fortunately I’m heading east again tomorrow.

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