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Ohope Beach and saying goodbye to New Zealand

Ohope Beach and saying goodbye to New Zealand

By on Mar 23, 2015 in New Zealand, Places |

Ohope marks the last of our time in New Zealand.  We had heard this small beach town was a great place to enjoy some sunshine.  It didn’t disappoint.  After dropping off our campervan in Auckland, we picked up our new rental car and made our way down to Ohope.  Located in the Bay of Plenty, Ohope is known for its beautiful beaches.  We found a great place to rent on Book a Bach near the beach.   Wayne, the owner, met us when we arrived and showed us the entry to the beach across the street.  He also said we could take out his kayaks to the bay if we wanted.  He had built trolley holders that allowed us to pull them the 10 min walk to the bay.  The first trip, we almost got hit by a car crossing the road while navigating the kayaks on trolleys.  By the second time – we were pros, feeling like locals as we ducked under the fence next door, pulling the kayaks across the street and through neighborhoods. Besides kayaking, we enjoyed the beach.  There were a few rainy days, but mainly there was sunshine and empty beaches.  We soaked up the sunshine as much as we could and even body surfed on the waves. The last night we were in Ohope, we walked down to the beach to enjoy the moonlight.  We looked at the moon and stars while walking along the beach – soaking in the warm night air and smell of the ocean.  It also gave us time to reflect back on our time in New Zealand. Things to remember about New Zealand: Friendly people with phrases like “cheers,”  “good on ya” and “no worries.”                 Roadtripping Ferry Rides Southern Walkway – our feet hurt Black water rafting Lake Taupo The Catlins Watching the last Hobbit movie in the Embassy movie complete with “thank you” video from Peter Jackson to New Zealand. And so much more… The list goes on and on.  For the past 3 months New Zealand has been good to us.  We are sad to leave this magical place that has been home for the past few months....

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Tongariro Crossing – the hike to Mt Doom

Tongariro Crossing – the hike to Mt Doom

By on Mar 15, 2015 in New Zealand, Northern Island, Places |

Our trip to New Zealand is almost done. While we have a few things left on our New Zealand bucket list (there’s always more to do here) – there is one thing we decided we had to get done – the Tongariro Crossing.   This 19.4 km hike (close to 13 miles) is a popular hike in New Zealand especially since Mt Ngauruhoe (one of the active volcanoes in the national park) had an integral part in the Lord of the Rings movies – dress it up with some CGI lava and you have Mt. Doom.  Haven’t seen Lord of the Rings yet?!  *Sigh* Will hasn’t either.  That’s right.  We were able to watch two of the movies in Wellington and found the last movie that we watched in the campervan -it was kismet when we found out Jucy had free dvds and a dvd player in the van and the last Lord of the Rings movie was available.  Sadly-the movie froze before Mt. Doom came on the screen.  Somehow Will has not seen the volcano’s role in the movie.  *This is me – still shaking my head.* The Tongariro Crossing is known to be one of the best day hikes in the world.  *Warning* With the Lord of the Rings popularity – it has become even busier.  Unless you’re going in winter, be prepared to meet people traffic jams on the Tongariro Highway – the term people use for the start of the hike when the path narrows and you’re basically walking in a line of people.  Almost everyone we have talked to in New Zealand (at least on the North Island) have either done the hike or talked about wanting to do the hike.  The terrain is varied with steep inclines, extreme temperature changes, volcanoes, brightly colored lakes – need we say more?  We were in! We did a little research – figured out how to pronounce it (I can only say it like the video),  found a place to stay in Taupo (hello again, beautiful lake town), and crossed our fingers for good weather.  If the weather is bad – there is no walk.  With only one day to get ‘er done, we were praying to the weather gods. Good news:...

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Christchurch to Auckland: A Campervan Experience

Christchurch to Auckland: A Campervan Experience

By on Mar 6, 2015 in New Zealand, Northern Island, Places, Southern Island |

Wherever you go in New Zealand, there’s one thing you’re guaranteed to see eventually: the campervan.  Whether in the car park near a big hike, in middle of a big city, or near a landmark – campervans are a great way to see it all.  They come in all sizes from minivan to giant behemoth motor homes.  And New Zealand has a plethora of camping grounds ranging from free sites for anyone to paid camp grounds with high end facilities.  The down side – the campervans often come with a bit of a price tag and need a minimum of 2 weeks rental time.  No worries – New Zealanders (being the considerate and brilliant folks they are) have thought of everything.  Many of the car rental and campervan rental sites offer relocation deals.  For a reduced price, you can get a vehicle for a few days (depending on the deal offered and where you’re it’s being relocated).   Camping…in a van…while driving around New Zealand?  Dreamy.  So we stalked the relocation pages until a relocation deal from Christchurch to Auckland came up. Our Campervan Experience Begins Sue (our neighbor in Christchurch) was kind enough to drive us to the Jucy rental place to pick up our campervan.  She even offered to wait with us (seriously Kiwis, you’re too kind), but we insisted she head out.  Good thing.  2 1/2 hours later we were on the road.  Jucy made it up to us by offering us a free tank of gas, saving us $100.  The wait didn’t seem so bad after that).  We were off.  We hadn’t seen the north-western part of the southern island yet and had heard the Abel Tasman area was beautiful. Quick research on Rankers – the website showing tons of campsites including the cost, reviews, facilities, and whether or not they’re only for self-sustained vehicles (having a toilet on board), we found a free site that we could stay at about an hour south of Abel Tasman.  There are always hikes and scenic points of interest to discover on the drives. A quick pit stop: this walk was about five minutes from the road.  It also provided a good learning opportunity.  I have a bad...

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Christchurch

Christchurch

By on Mar 6, 2015 in New Zealand, Places, Southern Island |

Christchurch is the largest city on the south island.  That being said – we didn’t quite know what to expect when we arrived there.  We were warned by multiple people that the city suffered a lot of damage from big earthquakes in 2010-2011.  Driving up from Dunedin, we got to see some beautiful beaches and rolling hills before making our way in to the city. Whenever we find ourselves in a new place – there’s always the moment where we don’t know what to expect.   Will it be everything we heard about?  What will the neighborhood be like?  The people? After driving  over 6 hours, we pulled up to a construction filled street in dreary weather.  It was cold, we were tired, and no one was around.  Unloading the car, a neighbor peeked her head out of her door and told us how to use the key.  We didn’t have much time, left our bags and dropped off our rental car.  The three and a half mile walk back from the car rental didn’t paint Christchurch in a better light either. (then again it was the outskirts of Christchurch near the airport)  In one of my undergrad classes, the professor told us about a study that showed the importance of first impressions.  For one negative first impression it takes up to seven positive factors to change your initial thoughts.   Walking back, we were wondering what our time in Christchurch would be like. It’s amazing how sleep, sunshine, and a new day can give you new perspective.  All the construction on the streets is due to earthquake repair.  Even though the major quakes happened a few years ago, the city is still recovering.  Lodging can be hard to come by as permanent residents seek temporary housing while having their houses repaired. Our neighbor for the week, Sue, poked her head out and said hello to us.  She was born and raised in Christchurch, but spent 12 years in the US living in Oklahoma.   Where the wind blows sweeping down the plains?  Yes. That Oklahoma.  During her time there, she saw more of the states than most people living there. Spending so much time in the car left us a...

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Dunedin: Tacos, Views, and Penguins

Dunedin: Tacos, Views, and Penguins

By on Feb 27, 2015 in New Zealand, Places, Southern Island |

After winding our way around the Catlins, we were greeted with more spectacular views in Dunedin.  The second-largest city on the South Island is named after Edinburgh, Scotland.  Dunedin is a mixture of college town with European flair with the friendly Kiwi feel.   When they designed the city, they failed to consider the topography allowing for the creation of the steepest residential road in the world (we decided to skip out on walking up that road).   Instead of a town square or circle in the middle of downtown – hold on to your hats – Dunedin has an octagon.  Jokes about Octagon fights might have occurred – first rule of Dunedin Octagon – don’t talk about Octagon cage fights.   Alright, alright – the octagon is nothing like that.  Instead, it’s a a string of roads intersecting in a cool octagon shape where they have lots of cool shops, restaurants, markets and events. We checked out the Valentine’s Day Market Thieves Alley Market in the Octagon (still sounds better if you say it in a wrestling voice).  Check out what some people were wearing here.  The  market was packed with people, live music, and of course our favorite taco truck.  While the day started off dark and dreary, the sun came out allowing everyone to stroll the market enjoying sunny weather. Arriving in Dunedin- we drove to meet Kim and Matt -friends of friends who were kind enough to host us for a few days.   We’ve met quite a few people on the road and gotten to hear lots of stories, but always in passing.  It was really nice to get to meet Matt and Kim – hear their stories and get to share their world for a bit.  And what a world.  The dynamic duo moved from Denver to Dunedin a few years ago to start their own taco truck.  Genius since New Zealanders don’t have a lot of Mexican or Tex Mex.  In fact – when buying canned jalapenos at the grocery store, the clerk eyed the mysterious jar before scanning it with a “humph.”  Matt and Kim are also theatre gurus.  Matt just did the sound engineering for a production and Kim was in her...

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