Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Zealand - the "we're going on an adventure" edition

Previously, Ness and I visited a bunch of waterfalls and also hung around Mount Doom for a while. Because obviously.

When we'd planned out our itinerary, we'd kept a free day in there with the idea that if it rained, we'd have extra time for hiking or whatever. Plus, we figured it would be good to have a day where we flew by the seat of our pants a little bit and had no idea where we were going to go or what we were going to do. Foolishly, however, we planned this day to be in an area where there's really not a whole lot to see or do besides more hiking.

So we figured that we'd head for the Forgotten World Highway and stop at anything interesting looking that we came across along the way. Well. We headed north along the highway and stopped at the Raurimu Spiral because a brown tourist sign suggested that we do so. It was pretty cool (more so if you're an engineer) but a little tricky to wrap your head around at first.
Model of the spiral
Actual spiral. You can see the gap in the trees and the tunnel on the right
Luckily, there was something up everyone's alley on the other side of the highway: a giant T. rex made of wood. BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY.
Clever Girl made a friend!

The road became a little hillier and we stopped at Piriaka Lookout where you can see clear back to Mount Doom:

We turned onto the Forgotten World Highway where things got even steeper, and we worried a couple of times that our teeny tiny hairdrier-for-an-engine car wasn't going to be able to make it. There were an increasing number of brown signs along the road, but when we pulled over, they all turned out to be for things that were a half hour tramp through a cow paddock and which recommended wearing gumboots. Which we had very little desire to do just to see the entrance to an old mine. So we drove on, and pulled over in a half-arsed "read the detailed sign through the car window" way for the next few. Until we got to Nevin's Lookout. It was a bit of a trek through a paddock gate and up a steep cowpat covered hill. But the view was totally worth it:

Eventually, after going through a completely awesome single lane tunnel through a mountain, we reached something relatively unexpected (although it WAS marked on the map, so we probably SHOULD have expected it) - nearly 20kms of unsealed road. We debated whether or not to drive through it, as the gravel was really coarse and we a) didn't have a proper spare tyre, just a space-saver one and b) were driving a car that had the hubcaps attached with cable ties. We dithered for so long that a massive Winnebago-y thing drove through, closely followed by a 4WD. We figured that would pack the gravel down enough that if we followed in their tracks, we'd be okay.

The gorge that the unsealed road ran through wasn't nearly as exciting as anticipated and by the end of it, we were both a little cranky (partly due to hunger, partly due to thirst, but mostly due to the fact that we'd turned the air conditioning off to help the engine along and the car was really stuffy and kind of dusty feeling...). There were several towns marked on the map, so we figured we'd stop in one of them for lunch. Except that they all turned out to be either closed (as it was a weekend) or nothing more than railway crossings. Eventually, hot and bothered and in desperate need of a wee, we reached the Whangamomona Hotel.

They could have served nothing but haggis and only had a squat loo, and I still would have been thrilled. Luckily, neither of those things were the case. After far too short a lunch break, we got back in the car and headed back the way we'd came with plans to stop for ice cream if/when we stumbled across one.

Of course, just to spite us, there was not a SINGLE PLACE SELLING ANY KIND OF ANYTHING until we reached Te Kuiti, a couple of hundred kilometres later. And by that point, we were over the idea of ice cream, so ended up with milkshakes from the cafe attached to the service station, which gave us the sugar rush we needed to get the rest of the way to Otorohanga, where we promptly checked into our hotel, sat around in our PJs for an hour or so, then headed out for dinner. After which we watched a random Topher Grace movie on TV and collapsed into bed.

All up, we (by which I mean Ness) drove about 600km on "highways" that were mostly twisty country roads populated largely by slow moving vehicles. We didn't really see anything particularly fascinating, and I managed to get sunburnt IN THE CAR. In short? If you add a free day to your travel itinerary? Make sure it's in a place where there's stuff that's actually worth seeing and doing without driving for several hours... Because it may start out like this:
But it'll end up feeling like this:
Also, if you're in New Zealand, don't trust the free maps that the hire car company give you. They're full of lies...

Next up, Waitomo makes up for everything.

K xx


  1. Oh gosh, New Zealand looks beautiful, but OBVIOUSLY just because of Mt. Doom and Hobbiton and all that. ;) I'm not such a fan of road-trips because moving vehicles + me = bleh. But I would love to see NZ one day.

  2. It's worth visiting just for the ice cream, to be perfectly honest. The gorgeous scenery and getting to run around like a giant nerd was just the icing on the cake.


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