Courtesy of the Lonely Planet Best NZ Trips book, and a newfound friend at our hostel, my friend and I had inspiration on how to drive back from Raglan to Wellington. We were going to drive along the Surf Highway. We read about the stops we could take, attempting to plan a little route but agreeing we were happy to do whatever took our fancy as we drove. Our one definite was M’s promise that we would watch the sunset at the Cape Egmont lighthouse.
Our first road trip stop was only 15 minutes or so outside of Raglan – Bridal Veil Falls. As far as first stops go, it was pretty decent.
For the past few months, this little space I’ve made for myself online has essentially become a love letter to New Zealand, with each post becoming the latest draft. I have been absolutely smitten with this country since day one and driving through its winding roads never ceases to amaze me.
We had such a glorious day to drive, too. The clouds from the past couple of days were finally swept away and the gleaming countryside was painted in tranquil shades of blue and green. I had never quite understood the phrase ‘rolling hills’ until moving to New Zealand. The hills were so picturesque.
We stopped at a fruit farm for a smoothie, fresh strawberries and blueberries.
“This is something you can’t do when you get around on the Intercity bus,” I said, relishing a bite of a sweet, and particularly square, strawberry.
“I love it,” M said. Neither of us could stop smiling.
Of course, this was our road trip and it wasn’t going to be perfect. We were driving through the mountains and the clouds rolled in, like someone had just poured a bucket of them from the sky. It felt like something from a fairy tale, though perhaps a more fitting description would be something from Middle Earth.
We drove past a brown tourist road sign: The Three Sisters.
“Should we stop there?” M asked.
“Why not?” I replied. I was happy to stop anywhere, enjoying the total freedom a car gave us.
We walked along black sand, which I’d never seen before. We took our shoes off as the tide had gone out and the ground was still slick with sea water. It took a patient shuffle to get to the rock formation, but I would say it was worth it.
This cloudy day hadn’t encouraged many people to explore so the sweeping horizon of the place remained blissfully unoccupied.
“Wow,” I could heard M say as she walked along in front of me. The clouds didn’t dampen our spirits and we were happy to walk along the beach, admiring the views.
We were halfway through the day and we still had a fair few stops to make. We briefly stopped at New Plymouth and walked along the waterfront, but we weren’t there for long as we had a big priority waiting for us at Oakaru Bay: the world’s biggest surfboard.
According to the Lonely Planet book, this small beach town on the North Island of New Zealand was home of the world’s biggest surfboard. I had my doubts but good Lord I wanted to see it. As did M. Oakaru Bay was a very pretty little place to drive through, particularly its beach.
We drove around, safe with the assurance that we wouldn’t miss the world’s biggest surfboard. It would be hard to miss, right? It turned out to be harder than we thought and eventually we had to stop to ask a local. They pointed back the way we came and told it was just outside the petrol station. It turns out their mate had built it and they found it pretty funny we were looking for it.
Was it the world’s biggest surfboard? Probably not.
Did I care? No. I will tentatively tick it off “seeing the world’s biggest surfboard” off my bucket list.
We started off driving again, our sunset deadline playing in our minds. The grey clouds were still prominent and I had strong doubts as to whether we would actually see a sunset.
We drove to the lighthouse, orange light peeking through the clouds and I could feel my hopes gently climbing up my spine. We got to the lighthouse and were greeted by the most wonderfully picturesque sunset.
M said she had never seen me so excited before. I was acting like a little kid, with such a massive grin on my face.
“Look at it!” I would keep saying, my voice bursting with joy.
It felt magical and no one else was around. It was ours and ours alone to enjoy.
Then there was driving, coffee, and more driving. Once again, it was just the two of us in the car and the empty, winding roads. The fresh rolling green hills from the morning were tucked into the evening and their silhouettes were lit by the moon. It was a full moon, so bright and clear it gave a silver outline to the clouds that tried to cover it. When there were no clouds, there were stars. The evening was made out of inky black, dotted with silver and white. I didn’t realise the shadows of the night could be this serene.
I wound down the window slightly, letting the night air rush into the car, wanting to see the stars more clearly. The air was cold but refreshing, like turning over to the cold side of the pillow, and paired with the coffee I was wide awake; I was ready to stay up all night and fall in love with this country even more.