For the previous 6 days I have been roadtripping with Xin~ It is a fine way to get around to places you wouldn't ordinarily see and with great flexibility too, no need to plan more than a basic itinerary or list of wishes to be fulfilled.
The first destination was the town of my birth, Thames and the track leading to the Pinnacles. We camped overnight in the Kauaeranga Valley at a nice little campsite next to a river which rewards temperature-hardy people with swims. The climb was good till the hut which is a base for the '50 minute (one way)' summit climb. Due to time-restraints, only I raced to the top and back (in less than 60 minutes!).
The second was Te Aroha and its mineral spas. The weather precluded the chance of climbing Mount Te Aroha but it was a nice town to wander around and the YHA had a great kitchen which we should have taken better advantage of.
The third was Hamilton and its awesome gardens (I never throught a garden would be so interesting). It was also the site of my biggest memory slip up, leaving my razor, a tomato, a cucumber and some 'interesting' Te Aroha water. It could be worse, I almost left our umbrella behind at Kathmandu.
Then fourth was Cambridge with a gypsy fair and Blueberry French Toast. Berries of all kinds were plentiful between Cambridge and Hamilton and we scoffed strawberries, blueberries and some sour plums.
And finally through Te Awamutu to Mt Pirongia (south of Raglan), which we camped at for free before attempting a summit climb. The track could be said to be neverending. Starting at 9:06am, it was a gentle ascension but a long one. After almost 5 hours of boggy drudgery going up, and still being two peaks away from the highest peak, we called it a day so that we could descend safely. The peak we were on was only slightly shorter than the actual peak and the view would only get worse as the weather was foul for most of the day. We only got back to the car shortly before 7pm which meant that we were in motion for close to 10 hours. What was worse was that through another bit of Daniel magic I left the chocolate and pocket knife in the car for that time. So Pirongia lies in wait for me another day (and now that I know it better I can plan the execution better).
Particular joys were that the car was never stolen (something which we always expected), wandering amongst fields of lavender near Te Awamutu, doing amateur botany on the tracks (with insectivorous plants, fern pretenders) and entomology in our tent at night (the weevil that likes staying with Xin) and on the track (with the 'weevil flies', native ants and stick insects), mineral bathing in Te Aroha, swimming au naturel in the cool Kauaeranga River, a mouse circus in Cambridge, practising our Dutch, cooking the Blueberry French Toast, eating splendid meals in backpackers (when other people ate biscuits) and just spending time in a world out of the ordinary.
My only side-effect is a sore back which I am resting now, and a big clean-up job now.