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  • Writer's picturek.laurent.artz

Minnesotans vs. Mountains

At the end of March, I had some visitors! My bffs from Minnesota, Hannah and Jo came and spent a week with me which was amazing! During the week, we hung out in Wellington and went to the beach, visited lots of cafes, and literally packed so much in such a short amount of time. To make it even better, we planned to do a “spring break round 2” trip to a hiking destination since we had a blast road tripping and hiking last spring break. We traveled to New Plymouth, located near Mount Egmont National Park which has a really cool mountain called Mt Taranaki. This was my first test at trip planning and I think it was a success!

Our hostel was pretty sweet, it was called the Sunflower Lounge so how can that not be wonderful? We got in on a late flight and had NZ McDonalds for dinner. They have something on the menu called a Kiwi Burger - highly questionable considering that that could mean the fruit, the bird, or the person. I played it safe and got fries and a hokey pokey milkshake which was basically the best thing I’ve bought here for 3NZD. I love hokey pokey and no, not the dance, the candy. It's a NZ classic! It’s like crunchy honeycomb usually with chocolate covering. Simply amazing.

On Friday, we took on Mt. Taranaki. Our shuttle driver Rob let us out for a photo of the volcano in the sunrise (and yes apparently mountain and volcano are interchangeable words in NZ). Once we got to the park, we got a map and decided on the Tahurangi Translator Tower Loop - a 4 hour loop which went up past the tree line a little over halfway up the mountain, across, and back down. It was unbelievably beautiful and quiet. It was so quiet, the only thing we could hear was the buzzing of flies which was kind of gross. There were no animals either, just flies and these huge bumble bees that really liked hannah’s yellow shorts.

Going up was intense but the rest of the track was unbelievable. Straight up Lord of the Rings. It got hot and the water from the rainforest around the mountain rose up and formed clouds around the mountain covering the peak (Rob explained this to us later, I know nothing about weather). There was so much moss everywhere on the rocks, the path, and the cliffs. There were lots of cool plants on the way down too, sometimes they were so thick you couldn’t see your ankles while walking. Thank god there’s no snakes in NZ, just loose rocks and those can be just as bad. I liked this hike a lot, it’s my favorite I’ve done so far in NZ!

We had lunch and did some smaller/more leisurely loops, one of which was through a moss covered forest. Literally everything was covered in moss and I didn’t think this level of creepy beauty was possible but I loved it.

On day two of the trip, we hung out in the city of New Plymouth. In the morning, we walked to Fitzroy Beach. It was once again great weather outside and we hung out on the black sand beach for a few hours. The ocean was pretty warm and the waves were big enough for people to surf which was really sweet to watch. There were also lots of dogs which was cool because I really haven’t seen many dogs in Wellington. Wellington is a cat city and there's even a cat that has his own facebook page because he's that cool. His name is Mittens.

After the black sand beach we got lunch at this place called The Market. The chef was a really cool guy and when he found out we were from MN, he told us about this one time he was backstage at a Prince concert. It’s always cool to talk to a local. We wanted a muffin for dessert and he gave us two for the price of one which is basically the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. Also, the strawberry shortcake muffin was the best muffin I’ve ever had in my life, so yeah it was a great day already. After this, we went to Pukepurki Park and watched some cricket. None of us knew the rules to cricket so we ended up just sitting there trying not to laugh because honestly, why cricket, just why? We walked around the park and then towards the end of the day, we started walking back towards the water.

We took the coastal walk trail to Puritutu Rock which is this huge obnoxious rock on the shore which we heard had a really nice view of Taranaki. It took us 20 minutes to climb up, and we were basically climbing up a straight cliff. In the beginning, there were stairs but after that, there was only bare, jagged rock with a metal chain linked through poles up to the top. It was really fun to climb! It made me want to try rock climbing, I feel like I would really like it.

At the top, we could see so much. The horizon was incredible and I know that sounds weird but I haven't seen that much blue ocean in contact with the sky before, it made me dizzy. We could see Taranaki so clearly and the beaches were incredible. It was sunset too so golden hour basically melted my heart. Also, this Kiwi as guy ahead of us climbed up without shoes. Bare feet are very socially acceptable here, it’s pretty cool but not for me.

Once we survived the descent down Puketutu, we had a 4.5 mile walk back to the hostel, FUN! The GPS estimated 1.5 hours for the walk, but we walk fast so I estimated an hour 15 minutes. So when you think about it, it’s just 5, 15 minute walks back to back, which isn’t so bad. We bought red wine and Tim Tams on the way back. We cooked dinner and polished off the bottle, and we were so exhausted. In the morning on Sunday, we walked to McDonalds to get coffee (and so the taxi ride to the airport was cheaper). This was definitely my favorite weekend trip in NZ so far and I want to go back to climb to the summit of Taranaki before I leave NZ! ALSO it was such a treat to adventure with my best friends in NZ, I’m so grateful for great friends and great times!

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