NEW ZEALAND

North Island
From Auckland to New Plymouth



Arriving in Auckland at 11pm, we picked up our car from Budget Rentals and off we went to New Plymouth.  It was a long drive, especially when we didn't get any sleep that night.  The roads are great though and after five hours of driving we finally reached our destination - Cape Egmont Lighthouse.  There is a small car park next to the lighthouse and to our surprise a few cars were already there with people sleeping inside.  We still had about an hour till first light, so we decided to have a short nap.  We were so tired, that we almost slept through the sunrise.  When we opened our eyes, the view was breathtaking.  We planned to take a few photos here but didn't know what the weather would be like and if we would be lucky enough to see Mt Egmont through the clouds at all.  Luckily, the peak of the volcano was peeking through the long clouds covered the middle of the volcano

 



At first light, we noticed that the beach on the other side was full of unusual boulders and they created a beautiful landscape for pictures.  It is really great to work in a pair as one of us could take pictures of the volcano and the other, the beautiful boulders and shoreline.  We also took a few pictures with our Lee Big Stopper both on the beach and the volcano.



Before we moved on, one very nice lady in a caravan asked us if we wanted to join her and her husband for a cup of coffee.  There are still beautiful people in this world.  We were really pleasantly surprised by her hospitality.

After that, we drove about 60 km to Dawson Falls while the morning light was still soft.  Unfortunately, when we travel, we can't take photos during the golden hours and be everywhere at the same time.  So we have to compromise and decide which places deserve those precious moments the most.  The drive around the volcano was scenic and very peaceful.  It was a work day and many kids were waiting for their school bus on the side of the road.  We stopped by one of the farmhouses and took a picture of the volcano from a distance.



It was absolute serenity at Dawson Falls with no tourists at all as it was still very early in the morning.  We were looking for the Goblin Forest as we were told that we could find it here.  The forest is not signposted and you don't really know which way to go to find it.  Just walk past the Visitor Centre and turn left right behind it.  This Goblin Forest is quite small and we thought we didn't even find it.  We took a few pictures of the moss trees and decided to drive to Stratford.  At the Visitor Centre in Stratford we were told that there is another goblin forest at the East Entrance of the National Park.  It is on the Kamahi walk which begins from the picnic area just above the Mountain House Motor Lodge.  The goblin forest is full of twisted Kamahi trunks covered with ferns and mosses. The track loops around and returns to Pembroke Road just below the Stratford Mountain House.  Walking through the moss-covered gnarled trees and trailing ferns was quite eerie but incredibly beautiful.  We had a feeling that time stopped here many years ago.

After the walk, we had one more stop to do before check-in at the Pukekura Lodge.  It was Lake Mangamahoe which is only 9km from the Lodge.   We wanted to check  out the location for our sunrise photos of Mt Egmont.  We were hoping to get a reflection of the volcano in the lake but unfortunately it was  windy that day so the lake wasn't as still as we would have wanted it.  Another problem was that the gate to the Lake opens at 7am which was late for us as the sun rose much earlier.  We had to park our car across the road and walk about a kilometre to our location which we chose the day before.

When we checked in to the Pukekura Lodge, we had one more mission to accomplish that day - The Three Sisters.  You can find these 25m rock formations in Tongaporutu, which is about 67km or an hour drive away from New Plymouth.  I was very lucky that Zdenko was driving as I couldn't even keep my eyes open anymore.  Normally I never sleep while he is driving, but I was so tired that I had to close my eyes for 10 minutes or so.  It really helped, and I felt refreshed again.  The best time to visit this place is during the outgoing tide as you can walk out towards the sea. Around the corner is a really nice beach walk and the "Three Sisters" now jokingly called the 2 1/2 sisters, because the sea has worn away one of the sisters. Further along is the Maori rock carvings and Elephant Rock, which, as you would expect, looks a lot like an elephant.



We were really lucky that the low tide was in the afternoon that day, otherwise we wouldn't be able to walk to the rock formations.  It started to drizzle a little bit so we had a small challenge on our hands as our lenses got constantly covered by rain drops.  Regardless, we took a few pictures from the beach and then headed for the great views of the Three Sisters.  You need to turn down Pilot Road, which is on the seaward side of State Highway 3 north of the Tongaporutu Bridge.  The tide was coming in, and the beach we walked on only few minutes ago, quickly became inundated with water.  The sun was setting and the rock formations began to glow a nice, soft golden colour.  The sunset itself was also spectacular. What a nice end to the day, standing on the cliff-top with a loved one and no one else as far as the eye can see, watching a beautiful sunset. Priceless...

We slept like babies at the Pukekura Lodge.  Mainly because it had been 48 hours since we last slept but also because this lodge is cosy, clean and the owner, Karen, welcomes you with an open heart.  We really liked the small features like soap in the bathroom, tea facilities and minibar which are normally found at the 4-5 star hotels. We really couldn't fault this beautiful lodge.  After a good night sleep, we had another 6 hours to drive to our next destination, Rotorua.

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