The view of Auckland from the boat to Rangitoto Island
After Samoa I was back in Auckland for another two days to meet my Irish friend Kelly who I had met onboard the Trans Mongolian Railway a couple of years ago. Kelly was working as an architect during the day so I was off to find something new to do in the city that I now visited for the third time.
Getting out of town and off to one of the islands was the solution, so I booked a return trip to Rangitoto Island to hike up the extinct volcano that the tiny island is made up of. The hike up was not more than an hour, but with the sun striking much hotter than in the city I was struggling with the warm clothes I had brought. With just half a liter of water and no way of filling it up on the uninhabited island I was glad that after getting to the top the next three hours around the island would be flat and downhill. On the way I stopped and went into some lava caves, visited some WWII bunkers and took some pictures of beaches and a lighthouse on the coastal walk.
When I got back I visited my friends office to have some beer at the rooftop there while she was working. Since it was only two days before my birthday she had prepared a barbeque with friends, beers and a birthday cake, which turned into a nice little celebration of my final time in the Pacific. The next morning she also let me ride her motorbike around town in the day before I boarded my nearly thirty hour flight back home to Norway.
After having just finished my journey with Stray in Wellington I was on a bus to Napier. I had contacted some friends of friends who said I was welcome to stay with them. Carol and Bruce were in their early forties and had a beautiful house on the country side with two dogs and a hundred olive trees in their garden. On the first day, Sunday they welcomed me to join a church meeting with them and to show me around in the city.
Napier is a city that is known as the Worlds most consistently Art Deco City in the World. For those of you who do not know what Art Deco is, it is a style of building from the thirties that exist mainly in post colonial cities that were built at that time. The reason why pretty much all of Napier is built in this style is because it had an earthquake in the thirties that made it having to be built up again from scratch. When I was there there was also an earthquake shaking the ground beneath me, but luckily not as big as the one eighty years ago.
Staying three nights with Carol and Bruce was a delightful break from backpacker life. They let me borrow their bike to cycle around in town and through all the vineyards in the area, cooked some delicious food better than the pasta I usually cook in hostels and let me relax comfortably in the evenings. It all was a reminder for me how I missed my own home and it is going to be good to get back to my own family and bed, even just for a few days next week before I continue my onwards travels.
Hawkes Bay and its surrounding areas has some of New Zealands most stable climate and is therefore an ideal place to grow wine grapes. Tour operators running wine tasting day trips are plentiful, but renting a bike will save you money which instead could be used for the two to ten dollar fees that most wineries charge for tastings of two to ten wines.
Full of ambitions I started my first tastings when the wineries opened at ten it the mornings, in hope that I over the two days would be able to visit all of Hawkes Bay’s 32 wineries.
On my first day I cycled to Te Moana Peak, down through Havelock North, across TukiTuki river and then from Haumoana into town. With a distance closer to a hundred kilometers I had visited ten wineries where most were open for tastings. Luckily I had someone picking me up afterwards, cooking me a good dinner and letting me retreat to my comfortable bed early in the evening.
With a small hangover and soreness in my bum and legs I started off with a ten am tasting close to Takapau, cycled from there through Fernhill and Puketapu into the city. About the same distance as the day before but this time visiting thirteen wineries. For the tastings I asked to only try the single grape red wines, where most of the wineries then dropped the tasting fees. When arriving in the city I visited the New Zealand wine center to learn about the history and process of wine making and try the virtual wine tasting. Both unfortunately and to my relief there were no-one working with the virtual wine tasting when I got there saving me the 25$ and probably a hangover the next morning.
In two days I covered most of the wineries and learned a whole lot about New Zealand wines. An absolute favorite of the wines would be the 2013 Marzemino, but I also especially enjoyed the 2013 Syrahs from the region. The most personal and friendly wine tastings were at Clearview Estate and Alpha Domus whereas the least were Elephant Hill and Trinity Hill.
The last couple of days have definitely made me want to do more tastings in the future and I will for sure try to do some when I am in Auckland next week or in Israel a couple of weeks after that.
Even with only two hundred thousand inhabitants, Wellington manages to boast a lot of cafés, bars, parks and museums. The city center has a lot of art around on the streets as well as nice places to meet, have a picnic or just relax. One of the days, despite winds and only 10 degrees in the air, we went swimming on the city harbour front where there was also dive boards and towers free for everyone to use.
Wellington also attracts Lord of the Rings fans from all over the World as most of the movies were filmed in studios around the city. Together with some British I met in my hostel I took the local bus (as it was much cheaper than doing a tour!) out to the Weta Workshop where they had made the effects for the LOTR and other blockbuster movies as well working on future films. It was quite interesting to see how they work as well as get an understanding of all the work behind making the perfect outfits and items for the movies. As it was Halloween they were also doing professional make up of scars, bulletholes etc for those willing to pay enough for it..
Halloween night was also the night for the Rugby World Championship Finals between Australia and New Zealand. Some people pulled an all nighter and went straight from Halloween celebration to the sports pubs to watch the games, but I found it easier going early to sleep, then waking up at four am and then just have a couple of beers for breakfast while watching the game fully rested.
The Weta Workshop has made sculptures, make up and items for all kinds of movies and even for private events
An hour driving on narrow gravel roads from National Park Village we got to the Blue Duck Lodge in Whakahoro where we would be staying the next couple of nights.
Upon arrival we where told a little about the endangered Blue Duck and why the lodge was named after it. The people in the lodge were all in some way working on protecting it from extinction. One way this was done was to hunt goats and boars, which are not native to New Zealand and are today considered a pest here, and then use parts of the meat to set up traps for the predators that otherwise could have killed the Blue Duck. The best meat was of course eaten, bones and the rest was fed to the pigs.
Me and a British guy called Frankie were so lucky to go hunting with a guy called Flake. He drove us up to the hills and taught us how to track, aim and shoot goats. When we walked uphill and already after an hour found a pack of goats with two huge Billie goats he got super excited. In his whispery voice he said that he had not seen as big goats for about seven months and that we should take our time sneaking up on them to make sure they did not get away. We approached them from above and Frankie would took the first shot on the alpha male that fell straight to the ground. Me and Flake grabbed the rifle to chase the rest of the goats running away and then laid down when they started slowing down. I shot my bullet shortly after that landing at the other billy boats chest and we were then shown how to gut the goats before carrying them an hour down to the car.
At the bottom we were shown how to skin the goats and cut meat from them that we got to keep and cook. It all gave me quite a taste for the wilderness and the lessons learned were priceless.
New Zealand is known for its nature and good hiking possibilities. The most famous of the day hikes being the Tongoriro Crossing that starts and ends outside a small town simply called National Park in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.
At first I thought I would be okay with my simple traveling clothes, but when I got there I was told that they would not let me go without proper clothes so I ended up renting all clothes possible from top to toe for fourty dollars and then paid another 35 dollars for the shuttle to and from the mountain.
The trek was 20kilometers and was supposed to take anything from five to eight hours, climbing up and down in varied terrain. When we did the crossing it was cloudy, windy and a couple of minusdegrees on the top so we wanted to finish the trek as early as possible without taking much stops on the way. We finished in less than five hours and rewarded ourselves with a a cold beer in the jacuzzi afterwards.
Had it been a clear day we would have been able to see colorful lakes, Mordor and Mount Doom from the Lord of The Rings movies but we did not see any of that. It was still good as an exercise and to get to know the other travelers from my Stray bus that I would talk to throughout the hike.