Back in the City of Sails…
I found myself ordering a long flat white ☕ 😕 with Anne and discussing where next to visit in our remaining time here.
Due to time constraints and changing weather, we determined not to spend time in the South Island, as we had yet to explore the south of the North Island. But then we thought we might venture across the Cook Straight anyway, and see just a little of the South Island – the north bit … As always, it’s the journey that’s the thing.
While pondering our plans, Auckland got hit by a raging storm with heavy rain, 140km winds, falling trees and fences, flying bins and power cuts. A friend told us that kids at a local school were pleased to find three extra trampolines had landed in their playground overnight😂. Time to get moving ourselves.
We decided to take the train, the Northern Explorer, down to Wellington and left Auckland early on a clear sunny day. The late summer had returned.
We’ve always loved traveling by train, and with its panoramic windows, detailed commentary and observation carriage, the Northern Explorer is a great way to go. And of course you travel through the farmlands of Waikato, up to the volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau, through Tongariro National Park and then down to Wellington on the Kapiti coast, a stunning journey.
We stayed overnight in the Wellington YHA, (very comfortable) and then got the early Interislander Ferry to Picton, traveling across the Cook Straight and through the Malborough Sounds. We were lucky enough to get perfect sailing conditions, both there and back, slowly navigating the breathtaking scenery.
Although the scenic Marlborough Sounds was reason enough for the trip, we made the most of our time in Picton, staying in the Tombstone Hostel and hiring a car to drive along the peninsula of Totaranui – the Queen Charlotte Sounds. We stopped at viewpoints as we drove and walked through beautiful forests, rivers, bays and shorelines.
Back on the North Island, we spent time in hilly, Windy Welli (though a lovely town, it lived up to its name), exploring the city and meeting up with friends of many years.
The coast south of Wellington, down by Owhiro Bay, was typically blustery and dramatic as we walked down to Red Rock point with Shona and Alistair
We also had a lovely afternoon walking through Zealandia, where we saw a range of native birds including Tui, Takahē and Kaka.
From Wellington, we drove with our friends Shona and Alistair to stay up in Ohakune by the Tongariro National Park. Friends kindly lent us their holiday home and we used it as a base to walk and explore the area. Having travelled through by train already, ‘tramping’ through the forests and hills gave us a different perspective, and we really appreciated how difficult it must have been for early settlers to survive in such a tough environment – including constructing a railroad right through it.
Walking through the valleys we came across farmland, native forests and the industrial architecture of the railway.
Heading back toward Auckland, we spent the afternoon at Orakei Korako Geo-Thermal Park. Run by Māori, it is a typical, surreal landscape of hot springs, mud-pools and geysers.
And, somewhat suddenly it seemed, our time in Aotearoa/New Zealand was over.
Fond goodbyes, followed by a flight back to Melbourne for more catch ups/farewells and soon we’ll be off to Western Australia (a flight that’s further from Melbourne than Auckland), a part of this massive country we have yet to visit.
We will be taking time out, and planning ‘where next’ in the final quarter of our big adventure.
Click ‘follow’ below to see where we end up …