1YoT: Part 1 of our New Zealand Roadtrip, through Egmont National Park

I mentioned in my last post that despite our no-renting-cars-while-traveling rule, we rented a car and roadtripped through New Zealand. This post details the first leg of our roadtrip: north from Wellington, to Egmont National Park.

Egmont was not supposed to be the first leg of our roadtrip. Our original plans involved taking the ferry from Wellington to the southern island and starting our roadtrip there. Then the Kaikoura earthquake happened. The earthquake shut down passenger travel on the ferry for a week! And so, instead of simply waiting for the ferry to re-open, we changed our plans and headed north.

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Yay for traffic! New Zealand did everything it could to keep us in Wellington. This included not only an earthquake but also a storm that flooded the only two highways out of Wellington. Emergency crews eventually got one open, but this part of our drive was not fun.

After escaping Wellington, our drive went from not fun to awesome. Here we are traversing Remutaka Pass, a windy road that crosses the Rimutaka Range just north Wellington’s neighboring cities.

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Because it took us so long to leave Wellington, by the time we traveled through Remutaka Pass it was dark. And so here is our first campsite, and also our Nissan Pulsar rental car, not as fun as Inna’s Mazda3 but it did the trick.

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Our campsite was located next to this graveyard. In the campsite was us and one campervan. These were our first signs that camping in New Zealand would be very different than camping in the United States.

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The next morning we were back on the road, and it wasn’t long before we reached our turnoff for Egmont National Park.

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New Zealand is known for windy roads. We’ve already traversed a bunch in the Remutaka Pass, and then Egmont featured roads like this. Inna and I quickly learned that while New Zealand drives are amazing, you have to take them slow.

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And we’ve made it: Egmont National Park and its central feature, the dormant Mount Taranaki volcano. In addition to fertile volcano soil, Egmont also receives massive amounts of rain, resulting in the gorgeous rainforest pictured above. Today the rain also resulted in us not being able to see the volcano, just like when we visited Arenal in Costa Rica.

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We can’t see the volcano but that won’t stop us from exploring it! Here we are on a short little hike.

Our hike ended here, at the 50 foot Dawson Falls.

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We didn’t stay in Egmont long, one because it was raining, and two because Egmont is surrounded by miles of beautiful shoreline, shoreline we couldn’t wait to explore.

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The shoreline got so beautiful, we had to go down for a stroll.

We found so many cool things on this beach. Here are a few of them.

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These beaches were beautiful but they were also windy! Actually, all of New Zealand was , this country is one of the windiest places we’ve ever been. Wellington, whose nickname is Windy Wellington, is considered the windiest city in the world, even more than Chicago!

While traveling around Egmont, we found three historical Maori sites. The Maori are indigenous New Zealanders similar to Aboriginals in Australia and Native Americans in America. Unfortunately, these Maori sites were pathetically presented, just a sign or a plaque and nothing else. The plaque in the upper-right photograph is so bad that the land it commemorates is now a parking lot!

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That parking lot is part of New Plymouth, the largest city in the Taranaki region. “Taranaki – where family violence is NOT OKAY.” Because it is okay elsewhere?!?

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New Plymouth was a quaint but lackluster city. It didn’t help that it is a coastal community and we visited outside of their peak season.

New Plymouth featured some very creative public art, including a humongously bootied swimmer mural. Sir Mix-A-Lot would be proud.

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We didn’t spent too long in New Plymouth before we were back on the road, continuing north along the New Zealand coast.

We’re only on day two of our roadtrip and the drives have been so amazing; we can already tell they’re going to be the best part of our visit to New Zealand.

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We left Egmont through the Awakino Gorge, another windy and gorgeous mountain road. Some of the mountains in this gorge had wet and dry forests right next to each other; we’d never seen anything like it.

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Night fell shortly after we traversed Awakino Gorge, which meant it was time to camp again. Here I am sleeping in my more-comfortable-than-it-looks Italian military sleeping bag.

This brings us to the end of our first full day roadtripping in New Zealand. One national park, a hike, a waterfall, miles of shoreline, and some spectacular drives; I’d say it was a pretty good day. Up next, things get amazing, as we visit New Zealand’s glowworm caves!

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