[Hawkes Bay/Lower North Island] North Island - Everything Else


Finally, it has come to this day! Today is officially my last day in the North Island!!! I will be taking the bus from Hastings to Wellington tomorrow and finally crossing the Cook Strait to the South Island!

The past few weeks spent here was so relaxing ... I would like to say ... mindfully productive. I haven't been able to catch up with everything that has been happening around me, but we've definitely visited a LOT of places and boosted my driving experience quite a lot! 

It was also ... quite stressful honestly, just to prepare and plan everything for the next part of my journey. Spending a lot of money ... just fixing things and buying things. I am extremely unlucky with electronics and automotive it seems. Yet it feels like I should just feel grateful for anything that can be dealt with just money ...

But anyways! Over this month, the journey has taken us to many of the big and small towns (on New Zealand standards) around the southern North Island, and I must say that I am rather impressed with many of these urban dwellings! Especially this current one I'm in right now, Hastings! Here's a short run through of the places we've been over the past few weeks! (Backwards!)


Hastings

I'm so surprised by Hastings! Only by hearing from other people talk about how there are a lot of seasonal jobs here, I would have thought its similar to Te Puke, which is rather small and depressing ... yet there's a good amount of cafes and secondhand bookshops here to satisfy me! 
Also the Sleeping Giant, Te Mata, just lying a short drive away from the city is a really awesome place, especially when the sunsets on all the rolling hills you can see in all the surrounding lands.


There was a wonderful exhibition at the Art Gallery called Selling The Dream, which was comprised of vintage 1900-1940's advertisements for New Zealand. It is super interesting to see the way New Zealand was "branded" decades ago and how it appeals to tourists back then probably still appeals to the modern traveler now. "In no other country is there concentrated such a wealth of scenic splendors!" 


Here in the city, we could see the banner flying "Most Beautiful City in New Zealand", well it definitely is waaaaay better compared to the little town called Feildings which we made a short stop to when we were near Palmerston North, just because on the AA brochure it was coined the "NZ's Most Beautiful Town" for FOURTEEN years! Big disappointment ... but we did take a picture of the road sign anyways!


Napier

I'm amazed by the Art Deco of this seaside city lying just minutes away from the stunning blue Pacific Ocean. We could see the cliffs towards Cape Kidnappers in the distance, shining once again in the light of the setting sun.



Wellington

Windy Welly they say, well it definitely was really windy! We felt it almost immediately as we were driving down the west coast, passing through all the little coastal towns, including Otaki Beach where we did take one step towards the beach and turned back (or more like, we were blown back!) 


No need to mention, the highlight of Wellington is 100% the Te Papa Museum, where they're holding the incredible Gallipoli exhibition since the Anzac memorial in April this year. 


This exhibition, called "Gallipoli - Scale of Our War", really depicts the SCALE amazingly. I've never seen anything like this. We first heard about it from a German girl we met on the river, the way she talked about it was also ... "I'm not really into museums, but this one is amazing. It is just ... wow. I've never seen anything like it." And so it really is worth the most pictures in this post ...




There were super large scale portrayal of the soldiers in Gallipoli. And they were just ALL SO REAL. All the skin, the scars, the hairs, the expressions ... I'm completely lost for words for the integrity of this exhibition. The way the story is told also really connects all the audience, there were so many people that I even saw crying and gasping as they read and listened to the stories. 




Other than the Te Papa Museum, we were lucky to have dropped in on their weekend market, where we enjoyed a really delicious Sri Lankan wrap from a stall. We walked along the waterfront, saw the harbor, crossed an eccentric but lovely bridge connecting the waterfront to the library, strolled along the famous Cuba street ... just getting so lost in this city just wandering around. 

I think this could be a place that I would want to stay longer in. Maybe.





Parirua

Wow, we didn't ever expect that we would stay here for so many days, not only because it was close to Wellington, but because its city was so much more packed with things to do than I thought. They had more than enough ANZs and Spark boxes within one block! And they had Burgerfuel!

The day we arrived there happened to be my brother's birthday, and they were holding the city's Christmas Carnival on the same day. The lawn was bustling with children, there were all kinds of bands playing on stage, everyone was out to enjoy the day's activities. 


Incredibly, the town was also launching the "fastest free wifi in the southern hemisphere", with fireworks following that, possibly for this celebration, but I'm guessing its mostly for Christmas actually! Unfortunately, the "fastest" free wifi did not work as well as I thought ... but it is still an applaudable feat! 


Palmerston North

We made it straight into the heart of the city, its prominent square where there a graduation ceremony of IPU just ended. Initially we came here just to take a shower, but we ended up staying in a domain outside of the city, where we slept next to a cemetery at night ... super thrilling for me! But all in all, the facilities were good enough!


The next day, we went for a short walk around Manuwatu Gorge. Having just left another gorge only a few days ago, I'm surprised at myself for wanting to be near another river so soon. 


However, the walk was quite different to what I thought, instead of strolling along a river, we went deep into the bushes, where we were blissfully protected from the strong winds, and it didn't matter that it was super cloudy that day when we could enjoy the coolness and lushness of the forests.


Wanganui 

We decided to escape the Tongariro area after waiting too long for the dull and ominous clouds to pass, heading straight for Wanganui, the creative city at the end of the river. Although the river was tamed and not as exciting anymore at this part, they still had a nice riverside trail, connecting many public art pieces, which we explored one by one. 



They city center was also bustling with activity of shops, museums, artist studios and as many other cities around the country, preparing for Christmas!

Aaaand that about sums up my journey around the remainder of the North Island! Not only will I be embarking to the South Island soon, I am also going to start a completely different way of travel - leaving the car behind, and bring nothing but my backpack. 

Most of all, I will be taking up the challenge of the amazing Te Araroa Trail - the 3000+km walk, crossing both North and South Island, with about 1300+km on the South Island part. It will take me through the Richmonds, the Nelson Lakes, Arthur's Pass, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown ...and ultimately Bluff, the very end of the world.

I am so so SO excited about this!!! Though it might be really difficult to post on a blog since I'm leaving my laptop behind too, I will do my best to keep everyone posted about my whereabouts! :D

The mountains are calling!!!



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