Where the world drops off

One of my most effective happiness-boosters is being on the move. New places, new sights, new people, new experiences… I thrive on them. My little roadtrip around the northland reminded me just how much I like covering new territory. And just how much I like traveling in the off-season.  (It means having almost everything to myself.)

Traveling companions
Mangawhai Heads

Had I waited even a matter of weeks to travel north, the tourist season would have kicked off by then and I would have had to share all the natural attractions of the northland with other people (oh, no!). Not waiting for summer was a small price to pay. Although it wasn’t bikini-inspiring weather, it was still gorgeous considering it was late winter.

Mangawhai Heads
Tane Mahuta – largest kauri tree. Stands over 58 ft high with a girth of more than 45 ft.
Morning coffee near Omapere and its giant sand dunes

In a span of four and a half days, I drove over 1300 km. I traveled solo and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed time alone as much as I did on this trip. I stopped at beaches that are usually overrun with other tourists in the peak season – beaches that go on for miles in either direction – and I had them all to myself. I parked overnight in ocean-side holiday parks, where not another camper was to be seen. I ate in quirky little cafes where  the cafe owner and myself were the only people in the joint. I drank wine and watched sunsets and journaled and took photographs and stargazed. It was the perfect trip to decompress from city life.

Koutu boulders near Opanini
Good morning, sunshine
Bayly’s Beach

The focal point of my trip was Cape Reinga – where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. According to Maori belief, it’s the jumping off point for spirits of the dead to enter the underworld. And although it attracts more than 120,000 visitors each year, I had it all to myself (with the exception of a few people who quickly came and went). It was lightly raining and pretty windy, but I waited it out.

I was rewarded for my patience too – the weather calmed down, the sun came out and I was able to witness a beautiful sunset. All by myself. At the top of New Zealand.

Cape Reinga – at the top of NZ
Cape Reinga lighthouse
Cape Reinga sunset


Thursday, Ferris Bueller Style

What does one do when one’s dog needs to vacate the house for the day?

Take the day off work and go on an adventure!

There was inspection stuff going on at the house, so we all had to disappear for awhile. Armed myself with coffee, a map and directions for the drive out of the city. Not that I usually write out directions. Especially when I have a day to kill and I wouldn’t have minded if I ended up somewhere else. It’s all beautiful and demands to be discovered.

Scenic morning drive out to explore a new area + furry four-footed company + that magnificent feeling of freedom = absolute euphoria.

Leila-dog and I  did a hike out at the Clevedon Nature Reserve, then headed out to Tapapakanga Regional Park- we had the entire place to ourselves. It was perfect, although a bit creepy at times. It was so beautiful, yet completely deserted! I wondered what everyone else might have known that I didn’t…

Discovered there are a few of these frames in the Auckland area. This was just like the one we posed in at Shakespeare Regional Park a few months ago:

However, this time I didn’t have companions to take photos. Sometimes self-timer pictures while balancing the camera on a backpack don’t quite have the same effect:

Carrying Leila over these fences required some strength and balance:

So we took a break. Leila chased after things in the grass that only she could see, while I found some great seashells:

And then we ran into these guys, and I said aloud “Moo shall not pass!” and I laughed to myself. So, if you’re wondering “If Carolyn makes a laaaame joke and there’s no one around to hear it, does she still think it’s funny?”.

The answer is yes.

After a few hours of hiking and trekking, I headed back to the city for some in-house yoga at Lulu Lemon Ponsonby. Capped the night off with dessert first at the Chocolate Boutique, followed by the “best pizza in Parnell” at Non Solo Pizza. We sat in the enclosed patio area – so lovely, with wrought iron furniture, ivy covered walls, fountains and strings of lights. I haven’t been to Paris (yet), but it’s how I imagine it to be!

Happiness is: spontaneous weekday adventures.


Tawharanui trail run

Anzac Day!

I had been planning on looking into what they do here in regards to ceremonies and such. I figured at the very earliest it would be a late-morning thing. Should have done a bit more research, because the big ceremony turned out to be the Dawn Service at 6 am. Fail.

So, Marjo and I drove out to the Tawharanui Peninsula for a late morning trail run (my fur buddy had to stay home – no dogs allowed in Tawharanui National Park!). The initial plan was a morning of surfing, but we found out that everything was closed until 1:00 pm. So, no surf board rentals. But no disappointment though either. Surfing on a beautiful beach or running around a picturesque national reserve? I’m always game for either, so we worked with we had we had.

It was a bright, sunny day and quite a few people were gravitating to the park – apparently the campsites there are some of the best to be had (I’m going to have to go back to test that theory), the surf was great (for those who actually had surfboards!) and there was no shortage of perfect picnic spots to lay claim too (I would hope not, considering the park is 588 hectares).

It didn’t take long for us to break away from the more populated areas. We just charged our way up a dirt path through farmland to get up to the ridge that provided a panorama view of the rolling green hills and white sand beaches and a vast expanse of ocean. We trotted along tree-lined trails where the branches formed a canopy over our heads. We stopped at a cliff’s edge to take photos of the outcroppings of rocks and the crystal clear water below us, as well as Great Barrier Island visible in the distance. It was breathtaking! (Both in the visual sense and because running up those hills was a little strenuous.)

There were many trails to choose from – meaning I could head out there time and time again and not get bored of running the same loop. The only con is that it takes about an hour to drive out there, so it’s more of a weekend destination. But I’m slowly creeping my way up further north into new territory. I can’t wait to have a vehicle to call my very own! So much ground to cover in this incredible country…


So, three Kiwis, two Canadians and a Scotsman were scrambling up a volcano…

…Kinda sounds like I’m prefacing a punchline, non?
However, the truth of the matter is – hiking up Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings fame) was definitely not a joke.

Well, except for maybe this part, but this was fairly early in the hike, when we we had enough energy for frivolous things like joking and shenanigans and the like. (I had told my sister to get on my shoulders and be a scary Orc and this is what she came up with.)

Anyway, moving to New Zealand has presented me with many challenges to date. Mostly emotional and mental challenges. Like missing all my loved ones.  Or battling a borer infestation (which are essentially termites that I think look like wee baby cockroaches). Or having my credit card scammed. Or coming to terms with the fact that there are NO GAIN DRYER SHEETS HERE (or dryer sheets of any kind!…Yep, really roughing it over here).

The Tongariro Crossing has proven to be the most physical challenge so far. (Close second – running after a carload of kids that tried to egg Leila-dog and me while we were out for a run. Ha!).

It took us almost 9.5 hours total. The Half Dome hike in Yosemite still holds the title for the longest hike I’ve done (roughly 10 hours), but scrambling to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe was far more grueling (even though I had tackled the Half Dome with some stretched ankle ligaments from a snowboarding snafu). Those hobbitses made it look so easy.

It was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in quite some time. And this was the amazing group that I had the privilege of sharing it with:

And this is an aerial shot of our accomplishment (the mountain in the middle!) – it looks a little less forgiving from this angle ;).