In wake of the recent mass shooting in Christchurch, I feel it necessary to acknowledge the devastating tragedy that has occurred. Having recently traveled to Christchurch and throughout New Zealand, I can say Kiwis are some of the friendliest, most sincere people I’ve met. They have an inclusive, caring culture and I send them my sincere condolences and support for any policy changes they feel appropriate so that this act cannot take place again. No one of any age, race, gender or religion should have to go through the terror of a mass shooting regardless of where they are in the world. Not to address these recent events and their impacts would be disrespectful and irresponsible to the loss of the people of New Zealand.
The second half of my trip in New Zealand involved meeting up with Mom and Dad. We had several days together in Tauranga region, about two hours East of Auckland on the North Island.
The landscape was lush with rolling hills and many fields of corn. We held our breath as single lane highways poured themselves into narrow bridges. We whistled by passing cars, flicking by cows and streams of sheep. We stopped in at Little Lou’s cafe after inadvertently parking in a Wheelie Bin Services lot. Parking beside a dump truck, we hurried inside and helped ourselves to some gorgeous Chelsea buns and hot tea.
Once in Tauranga, we quickly discovered a grocery chain known as Pak’nSave. A merge of Costco and No Frills, I imagine this store is how most families afford to eat in New Zealand. They have a phenomenal wine selection (Daniel le Brun, anyone?) and a million kinds of fresh fruit and veg. The aisles are wide metal shelves that go to the ceiling, and tin foil isn’t $3 a roll. I would recommend going here for your grocery run!
The following day we climbed Mauao Mount Mauganui, an extinct volcano twenty minutes away. Rising from the ocean with water on three sides, Mt Mauganui towers over the town. We took the gradual path to the summit in lieu of the stairs straight up. The views from the top were great, and the volcano functions as a park for locals.
The day after we trekked some historic walks in a former gold mine. In Karangahake gorge, we were able to walk through the Hauraki trail, a 200 metre tunnel cut into the mountain for the former train. We took our own flashlight (torches) and were sprinkled with water as we walked. We also explored the former tram system and went through some more tunnels (no light at all there!) and saw the entrance to the mine itself. Our exploration was about 2 and a half hours, and I would recommend this experience to anyone for a morning outing or to those with metal detectors.
The third day in, Wairere falls suddenly appears on our radar. The tallest waterfall on the North Island at 153 metres is nothing compared to the 5km hike through dense forest, rock grappling and a steep staircase just to get to the lookout. I have loads of fun on this track, through you have to have your wits about you and watch your feet for uneven ground. The parking lot is a grass field with fencing and was completely full by the time we left.
Our final day in the region, we stopped in Rotorua. Our least planned day, we shopped for jade jewellery for Mom and got some ice creams after lunch at the information centre. We did have plans for another drive and walk to a lake, but with time slipping away we stopped at the Redwood forest. Another walk through dense bush, we were happy with our choice of activity and in awe of the beauty of these hundred year old trees!
On our way to our Airbnb in Pukekohe near Auckland, we had a last minute idea to go to the Botanical garden in Hamilton. If I have any sway over the things you do, I highly recommend you go to the Hamilton Gardens. We spent three hours walking around the various lawns and exhibits. Presented as an outdoor gallery and staging area with different themes, this garden will inspire you to plant your own flowers, vegetables, whatever. The first sections are by era – Japanese inspired rock gardens, English rose gardens, Roman-Grecian gardens, Indigenous gardens, then by theme – Alice and Wonderland, contemporary, herb, cosmetic and medicinal. We had lunch at the cafe which I also recommend, even if you only stop in for a coffee and a handmade treat. It’s a phenomenal garden and great spot for an afternoon.
That evening my parents and I had a quick dinner and enjoyed our views of sheep, emus and horses from a hot tub placed precariously on a hill. We got up early in the morning to beat the traffic to the airport, and said our goodbyes. My parents left on their cruise several hours later, and when I saw them ten days after they were relaxed and not looking forward to going back to shoveling snow.