I'm still reeling from the absolutely perfect weekend I just had. To start things off, I independently came up with the recipe for beef bolognese at 2am Saturday morning. (Found out what it was after, if you were wondering. Also if you were wondering, I have perfected my recipe, and it makes a very hearty meal.)
Anyway, this weekend was big because I went on my first camping trip of the year with 18 of my mates in the Coromandel Peninsula, only an hour and a half south of Auckland. Honestly, one of the best parts was driving on the left for me. It felt completely natural, I almost kind of prefer it. The actual roads were really fun too, when driving through the mountains, I really had to handle the car (so many hairpin turns!).
The first stop was Hot Water Beach, which was pretty cold. The air, I mean. It was kind of cloudy (still needed loads of sunscreen) and the wind was pretty intense. But the ground was boiling! In certain parts of the sand, you could see little bubbles coming through where the waves receded. If you dug your feet in just a little bit, it got incredibly hot, incredibly quickly. It's like wetting your hand and then touching a pan on a hot stove for as long as you can. You don't last long.
Next was Cathedral Cove, a pair of beaches that required a 45 minute trek to view its greatness. I think all beaches should be like that. I should have to work a little bit to have an excuse to lay on the beach all day. Except I really didn't lay down too much, I was too busy getting crushed by epic riptides and climbing some of the local rock structures. The rocks were so soft! On top of every ledge was a pile of chalk-like dust! It worked perfectly for my hands. In short, these beaches were exactly what I expected them to be. The first day of our trip was very relaxing.
That night, we drove to the base of the Pinnacles mountain range, and camped under the absolutely beautiful stars. Everyone really bonded that night, it was quite the social gathering. Jess and I took pictures of everyone in front of the stars using a long exposure for the stars and a flashlight to expose the person in the foreground for a short amount of time. They came out awesome! I don't have any to put up here, but I'm sure they'll make their way to Facebook.
I digress. Sometimes I spend a lot of time here talking about things for which I have no visual aid. I have this idea that sometimes it's ok to put the camera down and just enjoy everything for yourself. Sometimes the moments in your life are more intimate than expected. A mental picture is sometimes all you need. For example, during our hike in the Pinnacles, I climbed some boulders off the beaten path to get some different views than the usual. These moments were just for me, I climbed ahead on my own, to be on my own for what was only a few minutes, but felt like an eternity.
The next morning was a slow start for most. The last night was most certainly a late night, and the cold weather definitely kept me from springing up at 8am. After a water run, we started our 7 hour tramp to the top of the Pinnacles, a 759 meter ascent over a distance of 12 km. The whole way up I was an adrenaline-filled machine that only sped up as the summit became closer and closer. All I can say is, holy stairs! The way up probably contained around 1,200 stairs throughout, as estimated by another fellow hiker. The higher we got, the steeper the terrain was as well. At one point, you can tell the rangers just gave up and made everything out of ladders. This hike isn't really for the faint of heart once you get near the top, 'cause it was a long way down. The hike itself was very peaceful, a lot like a Pennsylvania hike. There's lots of flora to look at, mountains to ogle, and birds to listen to, but I can't say it's a hike for seeing any animals. New Zealand seems to be the place for marveling at the amazing geographic features, rather than the wildlife (seeing as all of the pretty flightless birds and marsupials were hunted to extinction; I'm a little bitter that I can't see the 12 foot tall Moa or the Kakapo, the world's biggest parrot and my favorite bird). After relaxing (and eating) for an hour at the summit, we made our way down. This was incredibly painful for my knees, and near the end, I was short of breath after every hit they took. My body, however, held up really well and I wasn't sore at all the next day.
The ride back consisted of me and the rest of my awesome car eating Pineapple Lumps and various other treats. I wasn't driving home, so I really got to relax and hang out with my new friends. I like to think that our car really bonded. For some reason I haven't been putting in names in this blog very often, but I think these guys deserve a mention. I was in the international car; we had two Americans (Chester and I), a world-travelling Canadian (Tony), Wales' very own Rachel [McAdams] (no really, she looks just like her), and Gemma, our resident Londoner. I really enjoyed my time with these guys, they made our rides together very fun (mostly because of the accents).
The upcoming weekend should be fun as well, as I'm exploring a glow-worm cave and learning how to surf (at NZ's best surfing beach, of course)! There's honestly no end to the excitement here. I love New Zealand.
Also, something that I've seemed to pick up is Ashram Yoga. I've become a fan because I can really push myself as hard as I want in an injury-free setting, and it makes my back feel really good. So I've been doing that once or twice a week now. I also had my first Kayak rolling (drowning) class last night. I learned the rescue roll, so if I flip, someone can come over to me, and I can use their kayak to flip myself topside. It really is unnerving, the first couple of times your stuck underwater with no idea what to do. I'll be going back next week to work on the solo roll (so I don't have to get people beers as payment for saving my butt all the time).
See you next week!
A tree on a cliff on the way to Cathedral Cove
The average bit of path on our Pinnacles tramp
A flattering picture of Caroline eating a sandwitch
Tony pointing at stuff
The girls walking across a very unstable bridge
Our minor setback! One of the car batteries died early in the trip
Some cool looking plant
The town and beach near the beginning of the hike to Cathedral Cove
The usual view on the way to the cove
Some beautifully eroded rock, courtesy of the Pacific's powerful waves
Even the seagulls are pretty
The top, as seen from the not-so-top
The mountains, being majestic and stuff
The valley was surprisingly green, despite the terrible drought the country is dealing with
The views never really get old
Part of the group picnicking at the summit
RITchie chilling in a shrubbery
Sitting on the top of the world
The first ascenters of our group, eating sardines out of cans on top of a boulder