Our journey back to Europe

Our journey started on the 28th of December to leave Australia. This time we would be heading to New Zealand for 3 weeks before heading towards Hong Kong, China and our destination of Berlin, Germany.

The planning had taken weeks for our travel and Drew and I were looking forward to seeing family and friends before we finally headed abroad again on a new adventure.

We arrived into Auckland and were welcomed with the tomokanga at the entrance to the airport. It is huge and is such a strong connection for me to come home to. I know that whenever I see this, I am home.

Once we arrived we were picked up by Drew's Dad and he took us to Denny's in Manukau. We had a bite to eat before he took us back to the bus station to wait for our bus to Waihi. We found our bus location and then waited for a while to continue our journey. We chose to go to Waihi by bus as we were lucky to be able to borrow a friends car for most of our journey.
We picked up cheap one way bus tickets ($17NZD for 2 adult tickets) from Manukau to Waihi and this worked out to be the cheapest way to get around without having to hire a car.

We went through Thames and passed Drew's Nana and Poppa's house and we couldn't wait to see them again. We arrived into Waihi later in the evening (2045) and were picked up by Drew's best mate, Jono. It was so good to see him again after so long. We piled our three large bags and our backpacks into the car and headed back to the cute little cabin that we were calling home for the next few days. It even came with a few friendly visitors!

The following day we jumped in the car and headed to see Drew's Mum. We picked her up and headed towards the Waihi Bakery. This is our tradition. We always stop by the bakery to get food at take it down to the local park (Gilmour Reserve) to eat and chat. It's such a peaceful place to relax and really unwind. 

After eating we headed towards Thames. The hour long journey was beautiful. The grass was a bit dry, but it was still greener than what we were used to over the past four years. I never really noticed the difference in the landscapes until we went home for a visit.

It was so good to see Nana and Poppa again! Our meeting was greeted with the now regular comment of "The wanderers have returned!" from Nana along with a cheeky smile. I love how Nana has welcomed me into the family and is always checking in to see if Drew is looking after me. She is truly a genuinely lovely person who cares for others. She always has food ready and is always busying herself to make sure we have drinks and that we don't need anything. We often spent the days chatting with Nana, Poppa (when he was awake), Irene and Jean. It was so good to be able to share our plans with them and to see them get excited for us to travel again. I know it must be hard for them to see us moving so far away again, but we didn't talk about it too much because I knew that I would get upset too if I thought about it too much.

We went back to Waihi in the evenings and I forgot how much I missed going through the Karangahake Gorge. Following the river as it wound around the bases of the mountains that surrounded it. Such a beautiful sight to see. I highly recommend taking your time as you drive through here if you are not sure of the roads as there are often large trucks that use this road frequently. Please take care! NZ roads are very dangerous and the death toll on roads is very high.

We went to see the mine and all of its glory in the middle of the town. It was interesting to see how much it has changed over time. It's a pretty big hole in the ground now and it appears it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. As you can see in the photo you can clearly see that one of the walls has collapsed so it will be interesting if they do decide to fill the hole to create a lake in the future...

We had New Years Eve at Jono's place and we sat around outside under the stars. It was so beautiful to be able to see the Milkyway and how bright it was in a town that was not a light polluted as where we were living in Australia. Jono had opened up his house to Cycle Tourists (https://www.warmshowers.org/) to be able to camp in the yard and use the shower so we got to know two couples that were amazing. We sat and talked about past travel experiences, and future experiences that we had planned. We saw in the new year and then proceeded to head to bed before our long drive to New Plymouth the following day.

An early rise so that we could pack away and hit the road to head further South. We were planning to visit and stay with family in New Plymouth from 1st of January for a couple of days so decided to stop by and see Amanda, Ricky and Roman on the way. We detoured towards Hamilton and stopped to get a cheeky Hawaiian BK Chicken burger with a side of onion rings along the way. Hahahaha! One of our traditions for visiting NZ is always foods that remind us of previous experiences. A Hawaiian BK chicken burger is definetly on the list of good foods.

Seeing Amanda and the crew was awesome and we only stayed for a little while as we were continuing our drive to New Plymouth. The "three hour" journey was a long one after stopping off at different places along the way and taking our time to take in the scenery. I started the drive and we came into Piopio where I saw a dairy. We stopped for an ice cream and I was instantly taken back to my childhood. Goody-Goody gumdrops is the best ice cream!

After eating my ice cream I realised just how tired I was. We continued a little way down the road and we saw a sign leading to a waterfall. We decided to make a 'quick' detour and go to check it out... So it turns out it was quite far off the main road, but I highly recommend going there if you can! It was so beautiful!

It says 146 steps, 10 minutes. It's definitely 10 minutes down,
but takes awhile longer to get back up them!

After getting back up the top of the steps and catching my breath I asked Drew to drive so that I could rest for a little while in the car. As we drove back down the road towards the main highway we noticed these really cool mountains next to us and then when we got back to the main road we noticed the signs that pointed to where we had just come from for the filming locations of Lord of the Rings. I thought it looked familiar... 

We continued to head further south and came across a beautiful west coast beach. We turned around and headed down a short one way road so that we could get closer to the water. Down this small track there was a beautiful little camping ground that would be so lovely to stay at one day. I felt so calm to be near the water again and watch the slow movement of the water for awhile. Because it was summer, the pohutukawa flowers were out just like when we were kids camping during the summertime. It was a great moment to reminisce of old times near the beach.

After our relax near the water we continued on towards NP. We stopped at a great fish and chip shop to get some dinner before arriving to my cousins house. Wow! I forgot how amazing New Zealand fish and chips are! I really miss the freshness of the fish straight from the ocean.

We arrived at my cousins house and it was great to just chill out and relax. We sat around talking and discussing past memories and our future travels. The following day we went out for lunch with the whole family and it was so lovely. We went to a place where Oma used to love to go and we sat near the windows and talked about everything and anything. It was lovely...

To. Be. Continued...