It was difficult to leave the peace and tranquility of the Moehau community (not to mention the delicious meals), but with the first of June just around the corner we knew we had to WOLO-on. As we drove down the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula we were both excited and disappointed to return to Auckland; happy to reunite with family, and yet so saddened because the end was near.
As the kilometers ticked away, the winding roads became straighter and the sweeping views over the Firth of Thames grew less frequent. By the time we made it to the city of Thames, we were back to “civilization”. To avoid the culture shock, and the reality of it all ending, we decided to put off Auckland; we just weren’t ready to return to the creature comforts our host family provided (despite our desperate need for a shower and our lack of clean clothes) and we weren’t ready to sell Blue Rhino (despite the fact that we had less than 2 weeks to find some buyers).
Essentially, we decided we needed to WOLO; we needed a few more days to soak up the fresh air, to dig our toes in the cool sand, to witness amazing sunsets and sunrises, to wine and dine (on some ‘Sweet As’ NZ spirits) under the stars, and, as luck would have it, to take one more freezing cold outdoor shower! We briefly considered going back to a few of the locations we loved in the Northland: Ruakaka Beach, the Tutukaka Coast, or even the Bay of Islands; however, we finally decided to head for the Waitakere Ranges (Wai-tak in local vernacular).
The forested ranges of the Waitack begin just to the west of the bustling city of Auckland and stretch all the way to the Tasman Sea. Trying to get away from it all, we headed for the remote and historic beach of Whatipu (fah-ti-poo); described by our guide book as “a beach for soul searching and retrospection”, which, in essence, was exactly what we were looking for (Cook, S. NZ Frenzy: The North Island’s Most Comprehensive Outdoors Guidebook”. 2013).
The end-of-the-road campground was empty when we arrived giving us all the space in the world to spread out in the sunshine, read in the grass, and jam to our favorite NZ radio station, ZM (pronounced ‘zed-m’). Our first day at Whatipu was spent in total solitude; we relaxed, “enjoyed” refreshingly cold showers, walked the black sand beach, and finally, snuggling under the blankets, gazed up at the stars through the moon roof.
Our second day was spent in the much of the same fashion albeit we did manage to squeeze in a short hike to the Whatipu (sea) Caves. This series of old sea caves were worth the short hike and exploration. During the timber milling age, the largest cave housed a formal dance floor; however, the floor is now buried in decades of sand!
Our last evening exploring the far corners of NZ ended in the most wonderful and unexpected way possible (even if we planned it, it wouldn’t have been that good). As we pulled out our cooking gear, steadied our table in the uneven field beneath us, and popped the cork of our last “on-the-road wine bottle”, a rainbow sliced its way through the white clouds above the Omanawanui Track. The Kiwi-rainbow seemed a reminder from the islands that our long, wonderful journey was ending. Like its brilliant colors, we knew that the four months of memories we compiled would surely and slowly fade; however, its high arc across the sky simultaneously confirmed that we were exactly where we were meant to be. As the sky began to twinkle with starlight, we sat down in our camp chairs for our final supper. We paid tribute to Blue Rhino (our trusty 1996 Toyota Estima), all of the days that lay behind us and the new chapter that lay before us!
– Go. Change your state of mind.
Next stop: Auckland
Song lyrics: One Republic “I Lived”