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Taking It Easy In New Zealand

March 12, 2010

After all of the hassles with the farm house, we decided that it was time to take a break and get out of town.  There was a concert in Wellington we wanted to see.  Plus we have friends down there.  So we decided to take a circuitous route to Wellington via the east and west coasts of the North Island.

This was our route—we went clockwise:

One of the main objectives of a vacation, or should I say holiday, is to have a change of scenery, relax and recalibrate your perspective on things.  There’s nothing like a drive around New Zealand to do that.  You see fantastic scenery and meet interesting people.

Our first stop was the East Cape, which is the bulge at the right side of the map.  It is wild and remote and beautiful. 

We spent the first night on the coast at a place called Te Araroa, population 174.  That is the place closest to East Cape and there you can see the most easterly light house in the world:

And that’s not all.  The campground where we stayed (we stayed in a cabin there, not a tent) also has something to boast about:

To really relax and recharge your batteries you have to slow down, take it easy and take the time to get involved in what is going on around you. 

Some of the unusual sights help you with that because you realize that you have stepped out of your daily routine. 

Like when you see a sign like this:

When we saw that, we said “Ha ha.  Isn’t that funny.”  But we soon learned that they aren’t kidding:


Sheep on the road don’t realize that they are on a road.  In fact, they like to take it slow in order to assure themselves that there is nothing to eat there.  The intellect of a sheep is such that they take a lot of convincing that asphalt roading is not edible.   They are oblivious to your presence and the only thing that moves them along is the sheep dogs or the farmer, if he’s around. 

Aside from the fact that they are fun to watch, the wandering sheep also provide you with an unexpected opportunity to slow down and look around. 

As we cruised along the country road behind the sheep, around the next bend we saw a small sign for “Historic Church.”  This being New Zealand and not Europe meant that the historic church would probably have been less than 100 years old.  But we decided to take a look.

The visit proved as cathartic as a visit to one of the great Gothic cathedrals.  It was an Anglican church built in 1924 by local Maori.  The walls are woven panels and the ends of each bench were individually and uniquely carved by local artists.  The stained glass was also done by local artists.

We spent a relaxing hour exploring all of the intricate details of the church—and we would have driven right past if it hadn’t been for the sheep!

After that we took our time.  The slow drive also allows you to appreciate the beautiful scenery.

And driving along the country roads was easy as the roads are good and there was hardly any traffic. Once you are outside of the main cities, all of the roads are, at best, two lane country roads.

However, every now and then we encountered construction along the road. Usually when confronted with road construction my reaction is a groan . . . if I’m in a good mood.  But I was on vacation.   

When they close one lane for construction, they will have people directing traffic:

We were the first car in line and decided to have a chat with the guy.  He responded by playing the air guitar with his stop sign and coming over to the car.  His colleague was having a morning snack:

And they invited us to join them while we waited!

We exchanged some unhealthy donuts for their refreshing watermelon and after a while got a sort of laid-back invitation to get moving:


The whole trip was a nice reminder that if we are always rushing to get to our destination, we might miss out on the many unexpected pleasures that the journey can bring.

But don’t ask me about this one:

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2010 5:10 am

    Gorgeous. Would love to be down there now…

  2. ray pfahl permalink
    March 13, 2010 1:30 pm

    Always enjoy your posts,that looked like fun,also reminded me to visit your parents Tom, and break them a snack,Ray

  3. March 13, 2010 5:30 pm

    I’m curious about the most easterly lighthouse in the world—did you see a Help Wanted sign?

    I always wanted to be a lighthouse guard. This one looks perfect. Does it have broadband?

    I’m curious now if the our Brooklyn Bridge here has one of ’em No Jumping From Bridge signs.

    • March 13, 2010 5:57 pm

      You are welcome to apply for the job of lighthouse keeper after I retire! The only downside to the job is that you have to walk up 245 steps to get to work. Actually, and unfortunately, the lighthouses here are all either being decommissioned or fully automated so it is no longer a viable career option.

  4. Gail permalink
    March 13, 2010 6:23 pm

    Thanks, Tom, the photos brought back great memories and we also have some of the sheep occupying the road.

  5. March 14, 2010 4:19 am

    I’d already had the Milford Track in the back of my mind, and now this has sealed the deal. I must visit NZ! I have visited your giant neighbor to the west and practiced my sheep-in-the-road driving skills there, so I am ready!

    • March 14, 2010 10:22 am

      Glad to hear! I haven’t done the Milford track but everyone who has that I’ve spoken to raves about it. Nothing as wild as what you’ve trekked though!

  6. Anahita permalink
    March 14, 2010 8:59 am

    Always a pleasure…looking forward to the next segment on your journey.

  7. March 17, 2010 4:37 am

    I enjoyed your pictorial tour of beautiful New Zealand.

    Your description of the sheep and the asphalt had an eerie similarity to the diets of Labrador Retriever dogs and goats: they will eat just about anything.

  8. March 18, 2010 6:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing those beautiful pictures .. I felt like for a moment, I was on the road trip, too. I’d love to see New Zealand in person someday.

    I’m taking a road trip this weekend to visit about a 1/4 of the 122 lighthouses Michigan has … so thank you for reminding me I should do a blog post about it. I love to travel and don’t write enough travel stories.

    • March 18, 2010 6:29 pm

      Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the pictures. It is possible to do a trip around NZ where you visit all of the light houses–they are all in breathtaking locations.

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