When an ex boyfriend of mine asked me to join him on a trip around the North Island I thought why the hell not. Like all the hearts that I unpurposely seem to leave broken in my path, we were still friends and what better excuse to explore more of what New Zealand has to offer.
I arrived in his old stomping ground of Wellington which seems like a pretty cool city, a bit like Melbourne on first impressions. Our drive took us north to Hawkes Bay, a major player in New Zealand’s food and wine scene. Views over the lush green coast from Te Mata Peak appeared even more breathtaking thanks to the kind weather that day. The night was spent in the small town of Napier which is known for it’s Art Deco. Napier has a nice feel to it but the beach and shoreline were a tad disappointing. A healthy veggie bowl at a local organic vegan cafe somewhat reverted the damage done by the visits to the many wineries in the area, a must for anyone travelling through the region.
Next stop was Taupo, home to New Zealand’s largest lake which amazingly is bigger than Singapore! Across from the lake I could see all three of the lakes largest volcanos still covered in snow. I enjoyed seeing the mighty Huka Falls roar under the viewing platform. I could have stood there mesmerised for hours. To my delight we hired mountain bikes and I had a wheelie (!) fun time getting lost in the MTB park. Now I’m even more eager to find a buddy to go biking with in Queenstown – any takers?
After a quick morning dip in Taupo’s natural hot springs, we headed to Auckland via Rotorua which is also famous for its volcanic hot springs. Already having bathed for free that morning, paying for another bath didn’t really seem worth it and after a look at the bubbling pools dotted about the area, we continued north. We were welcomed into the home of a couple of wine makers who wined and dined us and let us treat their pad as our own. I enjoyed a large communal meal with home-brewed beer and organic wines at their beautiful country house in beautiful Makatana, an hour or so up the coast from Auckland.
I passed on the eight hour drive back to Wellington and cut my road trip short to spend the remainder of my time off with friends in Auckland. It was nice to see some of what the north island has to offer but I craved company. Spending time with someone continuously on their phone may as well be time spent alone.
My wonderful friend Pauline and her fiancé Jazz came to my rescue once again by offering me a bed for the long weekend. My body clock woke me early so I sat in my favourite city eatery Major Sprout for a spot of blogging. After a few glasses of ginger spiced Kombucha and a ginger latte (I’m absolutely obsessed with ginger at the moment!) I was joined by my friend Mel who like me, has been exploring the world for a large chunk of her twenties. We’ve caught up in a number of countries over the years and sat down to a long brunch to talk travel, indecision’s and that ongoing quarter-life crises.
After brunch I took a ferry over to Devonport and walked 8km along the coast to Takapuna. Even alone, the walk was still pleasant and I found a charming little park to enjoy swinging on the swing, pondering about life and taking in the fresh sea air for a good 20 minutes or so. Takapuna itself was a little unimpressive particularly the most talked about Takapuna Beach Cafe which had “gelato” served with a scoop rather than a spatula (An old gelato maker in Italy once told me that true gelato should be soft enough to be served with a spatula, otherwise it is just classed as ice cream – Please note: Patagonia in Otago is one exception to this rule).
I was pretty crook from a few days of drinking heavy craft beer (a far cry from the Speights I am used to!) so I was a little reluctant to help Pauline, Jazz, and her friend polish off five bottles of wine but it happened and most surprisingly seemed to cured me of my dodgy stomach! The next day I helped Pauline and Jazz tidy up the garden challenging the kids to find me the most interesting piece of rubbish treasure in return for $1 to spend as they pleased. I love hanging out with Misha, Oliver and Tyler (aged 9, 7 & 3) taking them out on their bikes and to the shops to get ice cream (naughty babysitter alert!).
Friends came round for another fun filled evening at Pauline and Jazz’s on Saturday where I enjoyed my first kiwi BBQ. Sunday I joined up with some friends for a walk around Tapapakanga Nature Reserve which was a beautiful spot by the sea. Only an hours drive out from Auckland will get you to some stunning nature reserves with plenty of well sign posted walks.
The best thing about venturing outside of my current hometown of Lumsden is the increase in food and drink options. I seriously miss Asian food on the farm (my cooking doesn’t quite cut it) so a trip to Auckland’s night market was just what I needed to satisfy those cravings. There’s was one hell of a selection of food including the octopus balls I enjoyed in Osaka (Japan) and steamed BBQ buns from Hong Kong. The food quality may have not been five star but in terms of choice and value for money, the night markets score high.
After a perfect bank holiday weekend it was time to head back to the farm. I may have only got a glimpse of what the North Island has to offer but I now know that it can be just as beautiful as the south.
What I did notice though is that some places I drove through looked a little old and run down and while small rural towns in the south are old too, they have more of a country feel and less of the “riffraff” as my mother would say. There’s certainly still plenty of exploring to be done on both islands, and I’m already looking forward to my next adventure.