The End is Near

We’ve arrived back in Auckland.  When we flew into  New Zealand, we arrived late at night and set out the next morning without visiting the city.  We knew that it was a city and that we didn’t want to bike through it.  As we gradually found our way out of the suburban sprawl, we quickly decided that when we came back at the end of our journey, it would be by bus.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We left Christchurch and took the ferry from Picton to Wellington and then took a bus up to Taupo.  We’d skipped over the middle part of the North Island earlier, so it was nice to have some time to explore. South of Taupo, outside of Turangi, we climbed up into the mountains.  The Tongariro Crossing is a beautiful track across a chain of three volcanic peaks.  These snow-capped mountains look down majestically over Lake Taupo, but from below you would not begin to imagine the sights along the trail: volcanic craters, golden fields, emerald colored lakes, wisps of steam rising out of hot springs.  Or so we’re told.  The day we crossed was cloudy and windy.  Patches of clear sky would roll through, every now and again, and we would be blessed with truly wondrous sights of the surrounding peaks.  For the most part, however, it was a lovely walk in the clouds.

From Turangi, we headed west to towards New Plymouth. We traveled along the Forgotten World Highway.  As the name implies, this is a piece of New Zealand that, inaccessable due to endless rolling hills and muddy roads, was slow to develope and was forgotten by the rest of the country.  The highway itself was not fully sealed until the 1980s and “fully sealed” doesn’t even apply as there is a 13 km stretch of gravel as the road passes through a gorge. There were six decently high saddles to climb up and over and any number of other bluffs and hills that kept us pedaling, even a tunnel to spice things up a bit.  The first night on this road found us camped beside a river and the second found us perched high on a hillside overlooking the fields below.  Two wonderful nights and a lovely piece of riding to end our trip.

Then it was into New Plymouth, back to the land of people, and on up to Auckland.  We’ll rent a car tomorrow to head further north and do a bit of exploring curteousy of an internal combustion engine. What a novel idea.

You’ll be hearing from me before we leave the island for good and at that time I’ll pass on my some last thoughts on this adventure, as well as many thanks to all the people who have helped up along the way. For now you will have to content yourself with some pictures of remarkable scenery.

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Seals along the coast ride up to Picton.

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The ferry ride from Picton back to Wellington.

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A pleasant farewell to our time on the South Island.

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A hidden thermal valley north of Taupo.

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Huka Falls, also north of Taupo.

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The crater atop the Tongariro Crossing.

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Pretty mountain peaks emerging from the clouds.

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The beautifully folded hills along the Forgotten World Highway.

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The sun rising over a fog-filled valley.

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Mount Taranaki,  south of New Plymouth.  This conical, volcanic peak looks down over the west coast and the Tasman Sea.

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