Around the Island
Xin and I have just completed a 1970km journey covering a large portion of the North Island. Here is the route taken (all places we stayed are in red, places we did something in are in blue):
Kawhia (mmmmmmmm, ika mata! (raw fish)
New Plymouth (2 nights, tent)
Mount Taranaki (an ordeal, a wonder, a man-eating mountain)
Wanganui (1 night, hostel)
Bulls (quite believ-a-bull)
Palmerston North (loved the view of the wind farms)
Wellington (2 nights, expensive crappy hostel)
Lower Hutt (1 night, tent)
Waiouru (how cold was that, and the museum was cool too)
Turangi (1 night, YHA)
Taupo (township, where they had their multicultural festival)
Reporoa (where there is a Goudies Road!)
Rotorua (whose museum features a film clip with a Temuera Morrison tour-de-force)
Whakatane (1 night, cabin)
Ohope Beach (nice beach)
Te Puke (how sleepy can you get)
Tauranga (1 night, tent YHA)
Mount Maunganui (the township and the Mount)
Ngatea (small and insignificant, a model for all New Zealand towns)
By the end of it, I have many good experiences. Eating simple but delicious food at the Maori Food Festival. Seeing Mt Taranaki on a clear day was one such moment. Climbing it the following day, although it turned more hellish than I had imagined, was beyond excellent. Going to Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum, was astounding. It is SUCH a cool museum, I might make a habit of commuting down there to see it! Climbing Maunganui (Mauao) was awesome too, and capped off with seeing a sooty faced petrel and sea-gulls 'float' before our eyes. In general, going to all the cool sights at the side of the road, New Zealand roads have an endless variety of things to do on the main highways.
Learning where all the place names that I had heard of was lovely too: Waitara, Ratana, Kawhia, Paraparaumu, Lower Hutt, Waiouru (where potentially I could be working!), Feilding, Palmerston North, Whakatane, Te Puke etc. They were all just names before... And then major centres which I was embarrassed to say I had never been to or seen like New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Tauranga.
It was the furthest I have driven by a long way. Previously I had only gone as south as Te Awamutu (in the previous road trip), and also not liking the open road that much, to drive more than 100 kilometres in a single day had been extremely rare.
Along the way, I also learnt tonnes of things about New Zealand, Maori culture, geology, volcanoes and earthquakes, all good for pub quizzes. My Maori language was something I had focussed on too, so I have gained a large vocabulary and understanding of where different tribes live.
On the table are two separate follow-up voyages: To the North for a proper rediscovery and to the East Coast.