Sunday, August 13, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 13

4 January 2017

Sunny day finally!!

I woke to a stunning morning, the view of the beach, outside the window, in the dazzling hot sun was a real stunner. I could hear the sound of the waves as I sat on my upper bunk bed. I dint want to move, for everything around was so beautiful and cozy. I scribbled something in my book and stayed in until I saw the girl below my bed was pulling out a placard to write her next destination.

Cape Kidnappers on a cloudy day

Cape Kidnappers on a sunny day
I asked her where she was heading. She said, she was doing the Cape Kidnappers walk and after 10 am there were low tides. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at it again, on a sunny day like this. So we thought we could together. I checked out of the hotel and go into my car. Not far off, there were two boys waiting for a ride. They hoped in with their huge backpacks. The small car was now fully loaded and still doing quite well. They got off at Clive, not too far from where they joined but we had to turn left.
Lovely sky over Napier
From here, we parked our at the parking lot and started walking towards the beginning of the walk along the shore. The place looked completely different and so much more colorful than yesterday. The color of the sky and the water made all the difference. It's a shame, I could not do the walk as I had to drive a long way back to Turangi, but I was sure to come again to Napier and for this walk.

View along the drive from Napier to Taupo
I bid bye to my co-traveller from Canada but now a wellingtonian. I returned to Napier and then towards Taupo. I was soon joined by a french boy hitchhiking to go to Taupo. We started talking but soon realised that his English was like my French. We sat mute for the rest of the journey. The drive was so much smoother and lot more picturesque this time.
Back in Taupo, the mountains where clearly visible
Once again, I had time to stop at some lookout spots for a stretch and ate some food we had packed. I offered him some of my kichdi. Not sure if he liked it, he dint come back for more and ate his energy bar. We spoke once again, closer to Taupo, and figured out that he was also doing the Tongariro crossing and was staying in Turangi that night. I offered him to take him to the backpackers I was staying at and he was more than happy.

Taupo Lake
Back at the lodge, once again buzzing with more people this time. All the rooms were pretty booked out. We prepared some lunch for tomorrow's walk, had an early dinner and the plan was to start at 4 am from the lodge. We made groups of 8 people each, two cars, each one parked at both ends of the walk. We walk from one end to the other so that we have a car to ride back to the start and then reach back. You'd end up paying 30 NZD just for the ride otherwise.

We were off to bed super early.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 12

3 January 2017

Another beautiful day in Napier!!

The sky was more clear this morning. I wanted to go easy today, nothing elaborate. Cooked breakfast, read and leisurely spent the morning in the Youth Hostel lounge. I booked in for another night in Napier than driving any further.

Injured penguins at the National Aquarium
 Visited the penguin feeding session at the aquarium. The little penguins were rescued from their habitats because of some injuries and are fed regularly by the staff. They were extremely cute creatures. Few too shy to come out of their nest and few others grabbing the food from your hands.

 Penguins are the National Aquarium 
It was so humid outside and I could go out in a T-shirt, finally felt like summer in New Zealand. I drove further south to Te Mata peak. It is a decent walk if you want to but I preferred driving all the way up and walked around from one hill to the other. The landscape was so unique with breathtaking views all around. On a clear day, one can see Mount Ruapehu towards West and Ruahine ranges down South. Not today though.

View from Te Mata peak
My next stop was at Cape Kidnappers, sounded interesting. It is a good idea to do this walk on a low tide day. The walk can get very risky and challenges when the waves get stronger. I preferred, once again to drive and walked to the beach. It wasn't an ideal day for the walk.

View from Te Mata peak
From hear I went searching for Tuki Tuki river, according to google maps it was 13 kms further South from Te Mata peak. When I actually reached the spot, I found myself stuck in a narrow road with no clue of any river what-so-ever. I couldn't even reverse the car, with some struggle I reached the paved road again and gave up the idea of locating Tuki Tuki river. Some misadventures!

View from Te Mata peak
I was back in Napier for another relaxed evening. Took a stroll in the city enjoying the warm breeze. Back in the room socialising with co-travellers, sharing stories across the table. Tomorrow I was heading back to Turangi.

View from Te Mata peak

Road trip in North Island - Day 11

2 January 2017

The most challenging day behind the wheels!!

It was very cloudy as expected the next morning. I dropped the American lady to Taupo and drove towards Napier. The drive was so beautiful that I stopped at most of the lookouts for a short stretch. Ian had also passed on a tip while driving, to take a stretch every 1 hour of driving to avoid soar muscles. I was applying that tip right away.

The view of the falls from the scenic lookout
I stopped at one of the lookouts to discover this gorgeous waterfall. It was raining by this time. The visibility as I headed higher altitudes got worse and I was struggling to keep pace with my driving. This was the most challenging one so far when it came to driving. The whole route was over an endless range of mountains and tall trees covering the sky above.

View on the way to Napier
I managed to stop at few more spots for a stretch when the rain gave break. It was post lunch when I reached Napier, another coastal city. It was light drizzles and as it was a public holiday, carpark wasn't an issue. I checked in at Youth Hostel on one of the main roads, located perfectly overlooking the beach.

View on the way from Taupo to Napier
I shedded my luggage at the hostel and got into my hiking shoes and did short walk just around the city, Bluff Hill walk. The sky was very cloud and the views weren't very colorful, yet the harbour looked stunning. Overlooking the city from the viewpoint, I realised, I had already fallen in love with yet another New Zealand city, Napier. The city has a vintage feel and flaunts its own character quite different from the rest of the country. It is also bestowed with lot of sunshine, warm weather and very old architectural structures.

From the bushes, I headed into the town for some grocery shopping. It being a holiday, the city was so quiet and not many people on the streets. It felt so homely here.

At the National Aquarium, Napier
I made a yummy dinner and sat around a table and struck a conversation with a japaneese girl across the table. She was writing a postcard to someone, I couldn't control the excitement and asked who was she writing the card for. She said it was for her granny in Japan. She continued her story and told that she was here doing a English course for past one year. She makes sure to drop atleast one card every month to her granny. I was glad to hear to her story. She was completely taken aback when I read, pointing at her card, are you writing Happy New year 2017, Ha Ha. She caught me in a bit when she realised that she had written the numbers 2017 in English.

At the National Aquarium, Napier
Later in the evening, I visited the National Aquarium. I'm always fascinated by places like Museums, planetariums and aquariums. For the reason that I get transported to another world when you are in there. I spent generous time going around and reading every bit. There live penguin feeding events were over for the day by then so I requested if I can revisit next days event on the same ticket. They were very kind to say yes.

At the National Aquarium, Napier
I was happy to have another day of hot shower back in the hostel. After enjoying a good meal, I went back to my books after a long time (about 2 days now). 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 10

1 January 2017

Taupo was busy. 

I was in Turangi before 10 am. I was intending to do the Tongariro Alpine crossing the next day and Turangi is an ideal stay option. The start of the walk is less than 20 kms from here. I checked into a vintage-looking, characteristic backpacker lodge. 

At the backpackers
There were already a bunch of people who were also planning the walk next morning. However the weather wasn't very great and Tongariro is not a place to risk. The weather on mountains can change any moment and on a cloudy day, its no joke. I wasn't very happy about it but it is how it is. 

Walk along Tongariro river 
Ian, the host suggested to go see around other places and return in two days as there was a small window of weather getting clear. He drew out a plan for me to drive East coast to Napier. The moment he said Napier, it rang a bell. Though it din't sound convincing that I had to return to Turangi again in two days, the plan to visit Napier stuck with me.

Walk along Tongariro river 
We sat down and listed out the places I could check out on the East coast. Sounded exciting!!

I made some nachos for lunch and enjoyed the warm couch, large maps, birds chirping in the lounge, Candy (Yes!!! Candy it is, again), their pet dog lazing around. It was a perfect place to just stay in and read books all day. 

Walk along Tongariro river 
Later in the evening, I and another lady from America, travelling here for a month, did a walk along the Tongariro river. She talked about her Son and his girl friend as we walked. She was completely surprised to know that I was an Indian and was still unmarried at 29. 

At night, there was so much buzz in the hostel that we all sat around watching a movie on the TV and went to sleep only by midnight. 

Walk along Tongariro river 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 9

31 December 2016

The last day of 2016.

The plan was to spend the New Year Eve in a serene place just like the last few campsites. However Taupo, my next destination doesn't have many campsites and those few are accessible through private. So there was a bit of uncertainty around my stay but I had a full day to figure that out anyway.

The Champagne pool

I started early from Rotorua and visited Wai-O-Tapu, the thermal wonderland on my way. I'd highly recommend this place if you are keen to check out thermal pools and natural geysers up close. Here is all that you need to know about this place, 

Devil's bath

It was an extremely hot day and quite a bit of walking around this place. The colorful sights definitely keeps you going as long as you don't mind the strong smell of sulphur. In particular, the Champagne pool and the Lady Knox geyser will definitely amaze you. I spent a generous amount of time here before heading to Taupo.

The Lady's knox

I was in Taupo late afternoon having nothing in particular to do. So I thought I might as well get my Sky dive scheduled for tomorrow. I wanted to start the year jumping off the plane. WHAT THE HELL. WHO DOES THAT. Anyway, I went to Tandem Skydive only to realise that they were closed on the 1st of January. But the receptionist asked if wanted to jump now. I was like, NOW??? NOOOO. And in the next one hour I was flying on a 12 seater plane with a big handsome man tucking me to his chest like a like a Wallaby tucks its young ones in its baby pouch. 

My first jump. Heights doesn't scare me. I still wanted to experience it. We were the last one to plunge. I dint see anything below from 15000 ft as there was a blanket of cloud below us and soon we entered the cloud and it was freezing cold and I struggled to breath. After passing through the white cold hazy path, the view cleared up with the Taupo lake right below us surrounded by mountains. Those couple of seconds where I felt like we were just hanging there middle of the sky and there is this MOST BEAUTIFUL SIGHT unfolding below us, was so precious. I would be there just gliding down slowly and ask for nothing more. 

The big hunk was now bored, he kept talking to me. He was explaining me places that were in our view. While I just wanted to some silence. Now he decided to make it fun, according to him, which was to do a roller-coaster ride and I lost it. I lost it completely. I shouted STOPPPP for GOD'S SAKE. You'll have the apple juice which I had this morning if you don't stop it NOW. 

And from now all I wanted was to get down and kick that apple juice out of my body. I landed grumpy and flimsy, hardly able to carry myself any further. I HATE that feeling. It took me almost an hour to gather myself and drive back to Taupo.

I was so hungry that evening and to my luck there was one and only restaurant open and had just started their dinner services. I hogged a full plate of Thai noodles in less than 10 minutes. After trying my luck with few campsites, I had to check-in at a backpacker lodge for the night. Taupo was high on music while I surrendered to a peaceful slumber.

Road trip in North Island - Day 8

30 December 2016

It was one of the most beautiful mornings. The ducks grazing around the tents, sun was already out. The warm water in the lake was very inviting and I enjoyed a good swim to start the day.

Morning scenes at the campsite

There is so much to see and do in Rotorua and also the campsite was so beautiful that I decided to stay in for another day. After having a good breakfast, I headed to the Rotorua i-site to find a walk around the redwoods. There are plenty of walks around redwoods, I chose to do a walk for couple of hours. It was a very sunny and hot day. The walk was in the woods and was cool in most parts.

Thermal pools

A walk in Redwoods is a must when you are in Rotorua.

The healers standing tall for hundreds of years

The nature is such a healer. This walk helped me heal wounds which were digging a grave in my body and mind for a long time and like a swing of magic wand, the walk in the woods made me heal everything. I will probably never forget that moment.

I was so grateful when I returned to my car for my lunch. The walk was tiring and I took a nap in my car parked in the shade of those trees. I slept like a baby honestly.

I decided on the fly to take a ride in the Rotorua Gondola. It was a perfect day to take a bird view of this beautiful city filled with lakes.

View from Gondola ride

I returned early to my campsite and made an amazing dinner. I felt so light by the time I went to sleep.

Relaxing the feet after a long day

I was experiencing what I ONLY read in books and heard from others about the healing power of nature. This was just the beginning.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 7

When going gets harder, take a break, not quit. 

29 December 2016

I reached Manganui before 10 am to climb the famous Mt Manganui. It was a brilliant day with so many people climbing up to get the best view of the city from the summit. Finding a carpark closer to the walk was next to impossible. I finally managed to find one almost 2 kms away from the start of the walk.

View from Mount Manganui

The city was crowded and so much happening. It was buzzing all the way up to the mountain. It was indeed a breathtaking view from the summit, which was not more than an hour's walk. It was challenging too at the near end but the view of the sea and the city keeps you going.

It was already lunch time when I got back to my car. I was craving for Potato wedges, Pita pit was outside the city of Manganui. I was determined not to settle for anything less that avro. By the time I reached and filled my appetite with potatoes, I realised that I was already on the way to Rotorua. 

Lake Okere

The drive on motorway gets boring, following line of cars and trucks, speed limit and lanes. But this wasn't a long one to reach Rotorua. And it got better as I got closer to the sulphur city. The sulphur in the air is so apparent, that you won't miss it. I stopped at Okere falls, least expecting to see a splendid falls hiding in this forest. A good couple of hours walk along the river was so satisfying. 

I din't want to raft, why? well, I wasn't prepared for one. I wonder, what do I mean by that. Lets be honest, I dint gather myself to just say yes and do it. 

I drove towards Blue, Green and Tarawera lakes from here. These lakes are known to be formed approximately 13,000 years ago. It showered lightly when I reached Blue lake, filling the sky with white clouds, the color of the water reflecting the same. I got back to the car and drove further till I the end of the road at Tarawera lake. And not finding the way to reach the Lake Tarawera campsite, I decided to check out Late Okareka campsite. 

Cloudy Lake Tarawera

The campsite was stunning. Without a second thought, I got my tent out and pitched right in front of the lake. I had run out of the my water supply, so had to drive into the city which was, to my surprise, just 10 mins ride from the campsite. I was like, WOW, I love Rotorua. I might consider moving there in future :) And this time, when I was driving along Blue lake, the sight had changed completely. The clouds had cleared out, gorgeous blue sky, white sand on the bank and the turquoise blue water. It just felt so right about everything, give it some time and the clouds shall pass. Something inside resonated, "This shall pass too" 

Blue Lake

Back at the campsite, when I had finished cooking some dinner, I sat in front of the lake, the ducks swam closer to the camp, the sunset changed the colors of the sky every second, the water reflecting the colors through some ripples. I was a moment of bliss to become part of the nature. It is hard not to feel that bliss when you are in amidst that quietness and serenity. It just happened very naturally and effortlessly. There wasn't any I left to explain that experience. 

Lake Okareka campsite

If there is one moment that has stayed with me even after 5 months of that trip, it is this. I am sure it will, for the rest of my life. 

The power of that moment is so strong that it sends me positive energy even today, and I'm sure, the power will not fade with time. 

I live for those moments. I re-live them through memories, impressions, this blog. 

At this moment, I was complete and content. I felt, the whole purpose of coming on a solo journey called life was fulfilled. 

That's put-your-feet-up-and-relax me


I slept peacefully until I was forced to wake up to the slow moans from the tent beside. The act had just started. I put on my ear plugs and went back to sleep. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 6

28 December 2016

The morning was extremely quiet. I pulled out myself from the tent for a short walk around the campsite. The nature around was still sleepy, the fog around the mountains, the morning dew still falling on the leaves, chilling stream of water flowing down. It was absolutely fantastic to be there at that moment. Every time I see the pictures of the stream, I relive those moments and it is just as enriching as it was when I was there. It was indeed a very special morning, I was very grateful that I could spend a night in such a pristine place.

Pristine it is
Today when I’m writing about it and recalling those moments, I feel I should have stayed in for another day in the camp, I’m not sure why I dint consider doing that. I wasn’t interested in driving north again to visit those busy beaches of coromandel, instead after having a muesli breakfast, I drove towards Karangahake gorge. I was there 3 weeks ago too, when I visited Auckland for a friend’s wedding. Well, the reason I wanted to stop here was to revisit a spot which had stayed with me during my previous visit and also, to enjoy wood fried pizza at Falls retreat. The pizzas are a must try.

That wood fried pizza man!!!

I reached Karangahape Gorge around 12 PM. I was already hungry, thinking about pizza and also the The Falls Retreat cafe is always quiet busy. I was at cafe around 1230 PM, I was attended after 45 mins (of course they clearly mentioned that the order will be taken only after 40 mins) and when I finally got my pizza it was 2 PM. I was starving by then and in no time I had hogged all except 3 slices. Not willing to push any further, I got that packed for the night.

This spot for some reason stayed with me
After this, I visited the spot I captured on my last visit, it was not more than a 10 mins walk. Who would want to walk after a heavy meal of this sort, atleast not me. I just wanted to find a cozy spot, get comfortable and take a nap. Just then, a random thought came in and like an adamant kid, refused to leave. I wanted to sit in a place where there is shade, the water flowing and there are birds around. Above this, I dint want to walk too long. I just kept walking ahead and came across a sign board for a waterfall in 700 mts. It seemed doable and it lead me to this remote corner, a steep section and I reached a small waterfall, hardly any water but a perfect shady place to rest. I sat there, searching for birds and after a while, one small bird flew right in front of my eyes as if it was there only for me. I now felt silly, for those stupid things I ask for. I sat there looking at the water and the bird occasionally, which were the only two things that were moving around me. I couldn’t gather courage to meditate here.

There was this water fall, enough shade and a small bird
After sitting there long enough, I returned to my car. It was around 5 PM now, too early to reach the campsite which is not too far off. I thought let me go early anyway, as there was nothing else to do. I reached Dickey Flat campsite in next 30 mins. The most crowded campsite, and what was wise planning again to reach early. There was hardly any space available to pitch a tent. Not what I expected, but no complaints, I found a small corner, next to the tree, pitched my tent. There was a stream running behind the camp, I got into my togs and took a dip. Washed myself and lazed around for a while. And I locked myself in the tent for the rest of the evening. It was so noisy, but I was busy with my books so nothing mattered.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Road Trip in North Island - Day 5

27 December 2017

I got my laundry done at a near by laundromart before heading down south. It would be a long day in the car as I was driving all the way to Coromandel. I started early so that I could visit a couple of places in Coromandel before calling it a day. The drive from Paihia to Whangarei was stunning. There was bit of congestion closer to Auckland was mostly on the State Highway. SH2 towards Coromandel was mostly long stretches of roads, where I could blindly drive without needing to apply breaks for very long stretches. I sat back and stretched myself as I drove and listened to music on my iPod, driving on long straight roads can be boring but a good idea to stretch. The last bit of the roads were windy and kept me on my toes, as always I enjoyed driving this bit.

I had some kichdi packed for lunch from yesterday’s night. I pulled over at a nice lookout point for lunch and a good stretch. It was around 5:30 pm when I reached Coromandel. With long day light, there was still lot of sun and I drove towards Cathedral Cove and Hot water beach. Both the beaches are on the eastern coast and not too far away from each other. From my research, I was told that these places will be very busy, and the hot water beaches has a narrow window of time during which only you can enjoy the hot pools. I dint want to miss Cathedral Cove, so drove there first, and looking at the time I dint have time to visit both the beaches the same day. 

Parking for Cathedral Cove was almost a couple of kilometres away but I tried my luck to find one at the smaller parking lot and drove all the way to the top and to my surprise there was one last parking space available. Life is made so easy for you. The view was stunning from here, the walk to the beach down there to the cove was about 40 mins walk. It was an extremely hot day, but the walk was inside the bush which made it easy. There were heaps of people all along the walk and by the time I reached the cove the sky was dark navy blue sky the sun stayed on the opposite side of the beach. The water was cold with high tides. 

I dint have any idea where I was staying for the night. All I knew was that there are 4 campsites on the northern tip of Coromandel Peninsula and I wanted to stay in one of those. I also knew that they need prior booking as it was a busy time. These thoughts occupied me as I was returning to the car. I waited until I reached the car to find out how far these campsite were. It was easily couple of hours drive to any of these campsites, thanks to the windy roads. Also there was some uncertainty on the availability, so I rang the i-site to find out. No answer. I was slightly disappointed and searched for other campsites down south closer to where I was. Broken Hills campsite was 47 mins drive from Cathedral Cove, I was not very convinced but there wasn’t any option left. 

I drove south west, pretty much the same way I had come. After a point I had to turn right into Puketi Valley, one of the finest and most pristine places on this trip. It was gravel road with beautiful landscape in all directions. The tall mountains on the far end of the east, the rivers, the bridges, the farms, everything on the way convinced me that it was not a very idea coming here. At some stage, it almost felt like I was lost and wouldn’t make to the camp before dark. I could recall a similar ride to Turtuk few years back. I finally made it to the camp around 8:30 PM and there was still daylight at the camp as it was on the western side of the peninsula. Before I could pitch my tent and settle in, I found myself staring at the tall mountain and realised that I always dreamt of staying in a place like this, in a forest amidst mountains. At this point, once again, I was left dumbstruck at the way the nature understands every small dreams and fulfils them for you. I was filled with gratefulness.

Broken Hills campsite
There were not too many people at the camp. I cooked my dinner and made some warm milk before I hooked onto the books inside my tent. After staying in a busy city, a long and adventurous drive, a long walk up and down the cove, this was the best thing that could happen to me. I felt so peaceful sleeping in the tent that night.