...beginning of the North Island tour.
02.02.2011 - 04.03.2011 22 °C
We check out of the hostel after a horribly windy night that kept us wondering if the old creaky building would be still standing in the morning. The high winds continue as we stroll the Wellington streets hitting a few tourist hot spots. First off is the uniquely shaped parliament building called the beehive, a strange piece of architecture. The 120 km/hr gusts then blow us over to Old St. Paul's Church which was constructed entirely of beautifully carved native timber in 1866.
From the church, we make our way north to the hip heart beat of the city, Cuba Street. Cuba Street is lined with clever cafes, lively bars, and one-of-a-kind shops. On our way out of the city, our feet sore from covering miles of pavement, we take a detour through Aro Valley. This old neighbourhood of hippies is built along steep valley slopes with some crazy “deck” driveways.
We drive east out of the city into the clouds over the Rimutaka Range on a switchback road. The scenery is probably spectacular but the visibility is down to roughly 20 meters. Finally, we arrive at our campsite on the edge of Tararua Forest Park, with the winds still blasting. Julie finds a sheltered area for the tent just before the lights dim and we are covered in darkness.
Julie and I wake after yet another gusty night in the tent. We take a stroll to the rivers edge to relax before packing up and moving south along the coast to Cape Palliser. Along the way we suit up for a short hike into the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve. Up the gravelly river bed we go, then up to a lookout point high over the organ pipe formations which have formed over millions of years from erosion. We scamper back down to the riverbed and deeper into the gorge to stand at the base of the towering stacks. They are extremely fragile and we must keep watch for debris tumbling earthward. It's incredibly hot in the deep gorge, as we feel like we are being baked in an stone oven, so we decide to head back to the car.
Further south along the coast we pass the small fishing village of Ngawi with a strange assortment of bulldozers lined up along the beach. There isn't a harbour, so the fishermen pull their boats out of the water everyday and park them with their uniquely painted dozer.
The coast to Cape Palliser is scattered with sun bathing fur seals and miles of turquoise seascape behind the odd black sandy beach. We reach Cape Palliser and its candy red stripes high on a cliff above the road. The sun is still blazing down and walking up the 200 or so steps to the lighthouse doesn't seem like fun right now. As fast as we reach the cape, we turn around and head back north to Greytown, NZ's first inland settlement.
Greytown is also home to NZ's oldest intact main street. Wooden Victorian style buildings line the streets and are home to an array of cafes and artsy shops. After a short walk along the historic streets, we return to the same campsite as the night before and cool off with a swim in the Tauherenikau River. There are plenty of locals swimming and jumping off the cliff into the refreshing waters. We are told the dark river is home to some massive eels, so we make our swim a quick one before chilling on the rocks.
In the morning we pack up once again and make our way towards the west coast and the home of Harmony Farm. Along the way we stop in Lower Hutt for some op-shopping and a picnic lunch in the dunes of the Queen Elizabeth Park.
Harmony Farm is run by Ron and Leanne and a steady army of wwoofers. It's going to be a unique permiculture environment to live and work in over the next 10 days, we are very excited to be here.