Monday, November 21, 2011

This is going waaaaay too fast!!!

Wow!! I can't believe I'm approaching the half-way mark of my trip already!! What I've seen of this country so far is absolutely gorgeous... and the people are super friendly and helpful, everywhere I've been!

Where to start... Well, my first hiking trip was awesome - the group I was with was amazing! Kate, who is traveling by herself for a month, from Oz... Lee, who is also traveling by herself, and who is also from Oz, and who booked the trip at the last minute and celebrated her birthday with us... Jeff and Annette, a couple who are enjoying a quick holiday, from Chicago... and our trusty guide Justin, a born-and-raised Kiwi farm boy who did a fantastic job leading us around the North Island countryside.

We checked out some very cool glowworm caves, which truly are one of the neatest things I've ever seen... we hung out and played frisbee on the most beautiful white-sand beaches EVER... we hiked through every kind of terrain imaginable, from Jurassic Park jungle to farmers' fields to desert sand dunes... we drove for miles and miles and miles along the fabulous 90 Mile Beach (google it!)... we sea-kayaked (21km along the Pacific coastline, through caves, across a harbor, and up rivers)... we sandboarded (I swear I'm still brushing sand out of the cracks and crevices!!)... and we basically circumnavigated (on foot) the entire Cape Reinga peninsula. We even wandered through a Kauri forest (Kauris are massive trees) in the pitch dark, in search of the elusive and nocturnal Kiwi bird - too fun!!! Every day was a different adventure and I loved it all!

Now I'm on my way to Christchurch, where I'll start the second hiking trip. I'm traveling via train, which has been awesome - I've not been on a train before (except like commuter trains in cities) and I tell you, it is a kick-ass way to go!! I stopped yesterday at National Park Village, with hopes of hiking up around the volcanoes. However, it was socked-in pouring rain when I got here, so I spent the evening letting all my gear dry out while I sat in a pub and visited with the locals. Today it is clearing off a bit, and I'll be continuing on to Wellington shortly.

As far as weather goes, it has been nothing but sunshine and perfect temps, up until yesterday of course. Hopefully the sun will be back by the time I make it to the South Island... it is still fairly cool down there and I'm thinking I'll be needing the long underwear that I packed!!

Helena Bay - look at the turquoise water!!

The gang! Kate, Annette, Lee, moi, Jeff... and some random horse...

Gnarly tree - they are everywhere - I love the foliage!

The Bay of Islands

Sea kayaking... a wicked good time!!

View near Whangaroa Harbor

Gorgeous NZ sunset! This is on 90 Mile Beach.

Sand dunes - very cool and such a contrast with the lush landscape.

Cape Reinga - where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. 

Do Not Lean Over The Viewing Platform... I listen well, don't I!!!

North Island countryside, as seen from the train.

Waterfall - in case you couldn't tell.

I hope everyone back home is fine and nobody has strained themselves with all the snow-shovelling that is likely happening! Ha ha!! The rainy day mellowed me out a little, and I must say I'm missing quite a few of you... but I know I'll see you soon so I'll get over it... hee hee!!

Take care and I will try to update again before I leave Christchurch.


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