The coastline between Oamaru and Dunedin is a rugged, wind-swept sort of a place. It’s beautiful in the way that many of the South Island’s eastern beaches are, all pounding waves and spray-filled air, but it’s not typically somewhere that many tourists would stop.
Except, of course, for a long strip of sand near the little township of Moeraki.
On that particular strip of sand lies literally dozens of spherical boulders, ranging from fairly small to over two metres across. They look as if a bunch of giants scooped them up from wherever they found them and threw them down the beach, cracking many of them in the process.
The scientific version is far less interesting – something to do with cemented mudstone being exposed by erosion.
I think I like my version better.
The easy part was over.
Over the previous two days we had walked around 25km of the Queen Charlotte Track. There had been a few ups and downs, but nothing too hard. The track was well-maintained, we’d had plenty of sunshine, our beds had been comfortable – hell, we’d even had a hot tub to relax in. As far as multi-day hikes go, this was about as good as it gets.
Things, however, were about to change. The third day was going to be tough.
New Zealand’s South Island. My home for 26 years on and off, it’s a place full of memories. From being born far too early in a hospital in Dunedin, through childhood and teenage years in Ashburton, to university and adult life in Christchurch, much of my identity and perspective can be traced back to this large lump of dirt at the bottom of the world.
And now we were there.
Blue skies, lily ponds, towering palm trees – at first glance you probably wouldn’t immediately pick this photo to be from New Zealand, and yet, of course, it is.
Napier, on the far east coast of the North Island, is a fascinating place that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It’s a bit out of the way, off the main tourist routes that run down the middle of the island. Almost levelled by an earthquake in 1931, the subsequent rebuild has left Napier with a vast Art Deco legacy – it’s considered to be one of the best-preserved art deco towns in the world.
It’s not just the buildings that make Napier a great place to hang out, though. A long stretch of beach and so-called Mediterranean climate make the town a very agreeable place to live – and hey, anywhere with palm trees growing in the central city is always going to get my vote.
It was hard to believe that we were almost halfway through our time in New Zealand. We’d made it right up to Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island and now, four weeks later, were rolling into Wellington at the very bottom. The capital city is renowned for wet and windy weather – I’d had plenty of it on previous visits – and yet, as with almost all of the previous month, the sun was shining as we drove along the waterfront.
After all of the dire warnings I had given Lauren about what a New Zealand summer could be like, we had enjoyed almost embarrassingly glorious weather. The harbour sparkled in the afternoon light, bars and cafes full to the brim. It was a weekday, but it seemed like most of the city had better things to do than sit inside an office. On a day like this, that was hardly a surprise.