Wellington is a wonderful place to live. I love it's people, it's energy and most of the time, I love it's weather too.
But every now and again it is lovely to get out of the city. It gives you a chance to refresh and put a new perspective on everything. This Summer Matt and I had Christmas with his family in Greytown. On Boxing Day, we hit the road. It was my first road-trip driving myself. As a Wellingtonian who walks everywhere, I am still on my learner licence at 26. Trust me, it is not for lack of trying - I must have set some record of not passing my drivers test five times! One, I still maintain, does not count because I didn't get to sit the test due to unforseeable circumstances (read: I couldn't find my licence on the morning of the test). So, with Matt by my side as a fully licensed driver, I was free to get ahold of the wheel. Wee!
The mountains gleamed, still snowy in Summer.
I drove the first leg from Wellington to Taihape. Matt then took over. He drove through Taupo and up to Auckland. My own family usually take the National Park route (they swear it's quicker) so I was excited to peer out the window and see the mighty Lake Taupo. It looked like a dream. I was so disorientated by taking a different road, I asked Matt, stupidly "Are we by the sea??".
The low point of the drive was probably Burger King in Tokearoa. Not only because it was maybe one of the most depressing small towns we had been through, but also a fatal crash happened just outside the town, closing off SH1. This made me feel quite scared. Matt also was spooked. We called our parents just to let them know we were ok. It had only happened an hour before. I kept thinking you can just be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It is so important just to drive safely. Who cares when you get there, as long as you do, right?
Finally we made it (I took over driving in Auckland again), in roughly 12 hours. Because it was Boxing Day, the roads were very quiet. After a lovely meal, and a cuddle with Timmy, we fell into bed, shattered.
The next day, I took Matt to see some of the beaches I have grown up with every Summer. This one is called Matapouri. Our top celeb spotting tale is that Mum once saw Carol Hirschfeld (former TV 3 newsreader, now at the beloved Radio NZ) there. Matapouri has lots of baches. It is a real holiday makers spot. But the beach is so huge there is definately room for everyone.
Although I love the beach in Summer, I also love it in Winter, when there is no one at all to be seen. The golden sands though, and the crisp blue sea and lapis coloured sky are heavan. I think if you are going to be staying on the east coast, and you can only take someone to see one beach, it would have to be Matapouri, or Whale Bay (around the corner). We are so lucky in New Zealand to have access to some of the most amazing beaches in the world.
For the rest of the time, we chilled out, took walks and played games. Matt is really good at 'Connect Four'. I don't mind playing chess with him, but I refuse to play 'Connect Four' with him now because he beats me - every single time! So while I sat out and kept you lovely readers entertained, checking out your Instagram pics (bad holiday person, I know), he played every member of my family (and mostly beat them). He has a secret strategy that he offers to tell people - but my family didn't want to know what it was because we want to work it out ourselves (which we did not manage).
The days were lazy and long. Mum cooked incredible meals. We swam in the sea each morning. New Zealanders really are so lucky we can go from sea to snow, without ever having to drive more than 5 hours.
The highlight of the trip away from Wellington was definately checking out the 'Perfect Day' cruise. The 'Perfect Day' cruise was done with 'Dive Tutukaka'. I had asked Mum to sponsor this as mine and Matt's Chirstmas present (at $169, it was expensive, but completely worth it and great value for what you get to do). Basically, 'Perfect Day' is a day trip out to the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve, where you can snorkle, paddleboard, and kayak - and you get fed yummy sandwiches for lunch too! How great is that??! They even have a small bar if you want a beer on the way home. I have been coming up to this area of New Zealand for over 10 years, but had never done the trip out to go snorkelling. So I was pretty excited!
It was a busy day on the boat when we set off from Tutukaka Marina - there were lots of people on board, including this beautiful blonde sea urchin.
The crew were also excellent, and had amazing customer service - although also some interesting methods of driving the boat. Typical Kiwi's. The people from other countrieson board must have thought were are crazy!
The mainland of New Zealand was so much further away than the islands seemed - 12 miles would be a long way to swim! We made sure we got back on the boat in good time.
This is Riko Riko Cave, the largest sea cave in the Southern Hemisphere. It has great acoustics so Neil Finn and other New Zealand musicians have played there (also recently, Auckland Jazz musician Nathan Haynes).
Apart from doing the 'Perfect Day' cruise, you can also dive at the Poor Knights Islands. But you can't go onto the island at all because it is stictly protected by the Department of Conservation. Jacques Cousteau, the most famous diver of all time, named it in his top 10 diving spots in the world.
People took advantage of all the activities on offer. Matt, as a ginger, does not partake in sunbathing, so we stayed in our wetsuits or our clothes most of the trip. We snorkled for about an hour and a half. It was incredible to see so many fish! I would highly reccomend this. I loved snorkling and exploring the coats of the islands. Truly magic! Actually, the perfect day...
After our snorkelling time was up, we drove into the cave. It had the most amazing echo when you yelled out (we ere encouraged to do this).
The edges of the cave have bright orange sealife growing off them. Next to the blue water, the colours are truly insane!
The boat left Riko Riko and we continued around the island some more, looking at all the archways. The Poor Knights islands were truly beautiful to look at. They have a magestic, haunting feel. Such a great summer day-trip!
We slept so well that night.
For New Years even, we hit the road again and stayed at our friend Holley's farm. Holley is from Whangarei, so is a true local. Surrounded by her Whanau, and some of our friends from Whangarei who made the trip up, including one of my longest best friends Maria, we had a great night enjoying some New Year fun.
I had fun hanging out with the kids!
The morning after - on New Years Day - I was woken up in a small bunk bed by the rain pouring down. Although we wanted to stay longer, me and Matt hit the road again in fear of the dirt road down to Holley's farm getting washed out.
The rain didn't let up. So after getting home safe we decided the next day to pack on up and head back down the country, from Whangarei, staying at Matt's sister's place in Auckland.
We weren't the only ones. It took 4 and a half hours to get to Auckland. It should have been 2 and a half! Matt and I tried not to go crazy but being bumper to bumper in traffic was really boring.
When we made it to Auckland, we drove through the village in Mount Eden. After dumping our stuff at Matts sister's place, we went to check out a place I had seen driving through called 'The Garden Shed'. The decor was all themed like an English country garden shed. I loved this so much - and also worried that I was already starting to turn into my mother. New Zealand Home and Garden Magazine, here I come!
We had the best bowl of fries ever - they were almost as good as the ones from Floriditas. Insanely crispy and salty and delcious. They sure beat the soggy chips we had had at McDonalds on the way through Welsford. We went home and watched Once were Warriors that night on Netflix (which I had never seen). Matt had to hide in all the horrible bits, which I thought was funny (not the film - that's certainly not funny). A truly great New Zealand film. I couldn't believe I had never watched it before.
The next morning we couldn't resist stopping at one more delicious Auckland cafe. I tried to go to the Little Bird Unbakery, but sadly it was closed. Instead, we found 'Petit Bocal'.
Everything on their menu was divine, but I went with the tinned Sardines and boiled egg. Lots of delicious fishy, oily protien.
If possible, the drive back from Auckland - Greytown was almost as bad as the one from Whangarei to Auckland. I mis-directed us out of Auckland (thanks google maps), my phone went flat and we had no charger (dumb), and we got lost around Palmerston North (and had a bit of a hoo-ha in Fielding which was hilarious in retrospect - not so much at the time).
However, we finally made it back safe and settled in with a good movie and lush dinner.
At this time of year, I love that the hydrangas are out - I had to take a quick, glorious snap of the ones in Matt's mums garden before we drove back on Tuesday morning (the Monday was a public holiday). Blue skies, blue sea, blue flowers...
Back it was then to Wellington and to work. Summer might have been brief - but there was sun, sea and surf (and skincare). Then to the city of Auckland (which I would love to visit again this year - I haven't been properly for ages). And yes, Wellington had chosen to turn off her good weather again, which everyone else had seemed to experience while we had been away.
Looking forward to a lovely 2016 in Wellington. More stories, more adventures, and hopefully at least one more holiday.