On the first day of 2016, we woke up surprisingly refreshed. We had planned to stay in Wellington another day if we were too tired/hungover to make the 8-hour drive back to Auckland, but we decided that we wanted to be home. After some tight maneuvering out of the parking lot (a van had parked behind us and there were literal inches between Godzilla and the cars on either side), we started cruising the streets of Wellington looking for breakfast. Wellington is famous for its cafes and coffee, yet because it was New Year’s Day most options were closed. We were just about to give up and eat granola bars on the road when we spotted an open (and busy!) cafe. M had a stack of pancakes and I had Spanish breakfast with our coffee, which was excellent fuel for our drive.
There were a surprising number of people on the road with us on our journey, but happily not enough to cause any slowdown. We drove through the small towns north of Wellington, cruised past the fields between Palmerston North and Tongariro NP, and wound our way along the desert road again. This part of the trip took about four hours, which we filled by listening to podcasts and music from our iPod.
Once we reached Lake Taupo, we decided to head up the east side of the lake and started looking for places to eat a now very belated lunch. We passed a few busy stops along the lake as they didn’t have picnic tables, figuring that there would be someplace better up ahead. This better place did not materialize and we sadly left the lake behind, hungrier than ever.
Finally, we passed a turnoff marked with a picnic table sign near Huka Falls. The picnic area turned out to be overlooking both the road and one of the many geothermal plants in the area, but we didn’t care. We made our last cheese sandwiches in peace (no sandflies in the North Island!) and rested up for the last push home.
After our last meal of the trip, we drove north again. Google maps alerted us to a massive traffic jam on the road from the Coromandel which we then avoided by simply staying on the 1. When we reached Auckland we went straight to Countdown, our grocery store of choice, to get some essentials for the night and the next day as well as fill up the gas tank one last time. Finally, we arrived at home! We unpacked the car, threw all our clothes in the laundry basket, took some much-needed showers and collapsed on the couch.
Though our trip started off poorly, overall we enjoyed it very much! We agree that our favorite was day eight: M liked it because of the helicopter tour and I because of the kiwi trip! Our trip was a bit of a whirlwind tour of the South Island, but now we know we’d like to go back to Kaikoura (when it’s not raining), actually visit Christchurch and hang out with more kea. However, the next trip we take will be to New Zealand’s third island, Stewart Island, in early March. More adventures are coming!