Open End Trip

… what happens if you just go and don’t know. Remember the tour that concluded my time with Daniel in June, 1200km criss-crossing the North Island? Two months on, another Ridiculous Roady but so different. This time it was not to part ways on individual plans, but to venture into the very unknown. All we set was the direction: South. And which better way to commence the journey than heading to the very northern edge of New Zealand first.

Everything points down

… at Cape Reinga. After wrapping up our horticultural career, we hired a car in Kerikeri to reach the real end of the world in these latitudes. Up and up the road wound through some remaining native forest, then back down almost along the beach, until we reached the Cape in the afternoon. The horizon so wide, the crashing currents below, it meant to be a new start allover again. With fresh minds, new hopes and ideas and, most of all, the energy to tackle and cherish the remaining time in NZ. Five more months, the final third..

It had been a long drive so we broke it up by spending the night on the Karikari Peninsula. A perfect secret spot, if there had been one ray of sunshine. No matter, the lodge stood out among the best accommodation I’ve come across on my travels. That was actually the last serious sleep for the driver, as we would overnight on Auckland Airport after that. But the plan didn’t include airplanes this time.

New wheels, think big

Returned the car to Kerikeri, kilometre count: 500, and caught a bus to Auckland. Worth noting: the German cheesecake on a roadside stop, it almost caused nostalgia. To continue our tour we had booked a relocation car; a vehicle that the rental company needed in a different location than where it was returned last. In our case that meant taking a 4 berth motorhome all the way to Christchurch. In five days. For one dollar per day an amazing deal, until the extra costs took over… The van was massive and so was its ferry charge, but it also allowed travelling in “style” (not necessarily the best) and more independence through freedom camping.

The main reason that we needed wheels for our journey (besides the evergreen issue to transport our bikes) was to pick up Daniel’s piano again. It had spent a great winter in Raglan’s surf hostel, which meant to be our first stop. Between the torrential showers I took my bike for a short ride to the beach. Again, no classic Raglan surf but our highlight would take place in Rotorua that night.

Night at the Forest

Finally back to the steaming, smelly city, we headed straight to the Redwoods. That forest isn’t just a biker’s heaven – which we explored in May – it even features a treetop walk. Platforms high up in the pines and sequoia giants connected with suspension bridges, were lit up at night. Even exceeding our expectations, this spectacle of light and mighty trees created a truly magic atmosphere. Rotorua will remain with me as the most fun place in the North Island.

Hidden Wonderland

Counting Day 3, it was time to check out Wai-O-Tapu for its massive bubbly geothermal mud lake. Blop, blug, bluggy (Hungarian for blop) the mud was catapulted into the air periodically. Then we had a  short dip in the thermal hot stream before continuing towards Taupo. The Hidden Valley lived up to its name and proved to be a stunning detour. A little boat took us across a lake to where the earth was steaming. Sparkling boiling springs, vibrant colours, a steaming cave – this geothermal area turned out a great experience.

When we made it to Taupo, the showers had turned into relentless rain, so I gave up the idea of riding a few laps in the awesome bike park. Instead we carried on along the lake, still 300km to drive to our campsite that night. Through thick fog across the high country of Tongariro, I was grateful for such a determined and reliable driver as Daniel was.

Windy Welly

Late we arrived on the Kapiti Coast, eighty kilometres from Wellington where we would catch the ferry the next day. So lovely to wake up on the beach. We had time on our hands so I recalled everyone’s recommendations to go to Te Papa, the national museum. Honestly, after visiting a good bunch of museums like Waitangi or Dunedin’s Toitu Museum, my expectations were raised and it hardly impressed me. Still, a few more interesting insights into history and culture of this place that I’m only beginning to understand at last.

With the late ferry we crossed the Cook Strait again, probably for the last time. The windy day in Welly didn’t leave a doubt that it would be a shaky ride, and sure enough it was. Again I was glad about my genes that somehow provided confidence in rough seas.

Mountain Dew again

Day 5, the first morning to wake up in the mountains, frost covered the grass and our windows. Finally back to the south for good! The Nelson Lakes National Park lay en route and was a good place to take that picture of a travelling piano. Lake Rotoiti showed off its full beauty on that warm, sunny day – pity we had to cover another 200km on the winding roads through the mountains.

It was right there by the lake, that our immediate future was set up. Daniel and I had applied to numerous job listings all over the south island, individually and together, yet nothing had worked out so far. Finally we received that call, confirming a motel job work for accommodation. A little tourist village in Canterbury was bound to be our next home. We checked into our shared house later that day, not before another photo stop, and a very last one. The drive over Lewis Pass had become more and more stunning in the golden evening light. A little lake at St James really took my breath away for incredible vistas of the snow-capped mountain ranges. This area shouldn’t be too bad to stay in for another month or so.

One Day Detour

Still, we had a mission to complete. The final leg required a return trip to Christchurch to drop off the car, go shopping (our village has no decent supermarket) and somehow getting back. We chose to hitchhike – my attempts last month had left me courageous. Unlikely or not, we hadn’t even positioned ourselves on the highway when we were offered the first ride. A 85-year old ex-army officer picked us up and made a 20km detour only to drop us at the next promising pickup stop. As you might imagine he wasn’t too fond of Germany but didn’t try to kill me, luckily. Then, merely ten minutes waiting for the next ride. A teacher and white water rafter, giving valuable tips on mountain adventures, again did another detour for us to the last town in civilization. Not even from there it took long until we got the final ride in a bright campervan. That’s what I call a perfect journey.

Statistics for the eager ones: 500km by car, 270km by bus, 1340km by motorhome, 60km by ferry and 130km hitchhiking = 2300km in less than a full week but oh what a week. Ambitious rather than stressful, though we’re glad about another home to settle for a while. This is what an open end trip can work out like.

Next: Big mountains, a little work. Canterbury again.


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