Today I turned 27 and not only was it the best birthday of my life but it might have been the best day of my life. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere so beautiful as where we went today. But for starters… Because the rugby players came in today Caroline decided to give us the day off and have us work tomorrow instead. Rugby players AND backpackers tomorrow. The whole lodge will be full of fifteen year old boys and dirty backpacking hippies. Woohoo! So we woke up around eight and had some breakfast. Then I got to talk to my lovely best friend before we headed out. We went to Adi for advice on where to go because she was raised in this area and always knows the best spots. The only downside with asking Adi for advice is that she generally takes an hour to tell you anything. However today she said something that made me smile. After having breakfast I finally got around to taking a shower and when we headed out to the lobby to take off Adi saw us and said, “your still here? I thought you’d left already! It’s after ten! Half the day is gone!” At that moment all I could think was, mom? This is the same thing she tells me if we sleep anywhere past seven! Haha! So anyways, we took off in the direction of the farewell spit. A spit is essentially a long sandbar. We wanted to go on it a few days earlier when we took Faith out but it would cost 150 bucks a piece so for obvious reasons, we decided we’d wing it. Our first stop after going back over the dreaded, sickening Takaka hill was the Pupu springs. Their name is misleading. The springs are one of the clearest in the world! The trail is mostly bridges that cross over rapids and small waterfalls through mossy green marshes until you reach a lake that looks like the bottom of a swimming pool. Humans are not allowed to touch it at all, but ducks can which seems largely unfair. I’m pretty sure I’m cleaner than a duck. Either way I controlled myself from touching the water and from letting Alex take 400 pictures of me so he could get the perfect birthday shot.
We hiked the springs for about thirty minutes and then continued northward. The highway, which is actually the only not dirt road in this region, hugs the coast line on one side and sits under the mountains on the other with every inch of space used up for farms. Sheep and cows here all grass fed and have acres upon acres to move around. Usually the property covers steep hobbit like hills, sometimes so steep you worry that the cow is about to fall off the side as they chew. Takes a lot of strength to move up those hills. Their calves probably have great calves (HA!). There were plenty of places to get some great views. This on even had an orange stand with another honesty box.
Eventually we made it to Puponga after being serenaded by the only station available that had decided to dedicate its self to nineties hits for the weekend. In case anyone was wondering, there is no reason to ever go back and listen to Jewel or Savage Garden. Somethings are better left preserved in your memories rather than relived. We were very ready to get out and hike. We started up towards a light house that was up a steep forty minute climb. I wish the light house had been one of those cute retro lighthouses but it was just a box with some solar panels. However everything else was fantastic. I thought it might have been the single prettiest place I had ever been (until we beat it later that day!). The green cliffs reminded me of Ireland but instead of the deep blue Atlantic it was surrounded by that light Pacific aqua water with the violent foaming waves crashing down. We didn’t linger too long, however, because on the way up Alex was hit with a violent hunger spell and I knew we had only about forty minutes to get him some calories.
We made our way quickly down the cliff and headed closer to the spit where they had a little café. It wasn’t as good as a view as up on the cliff but it really showed how strange the place looked. Kind of like a different planet. People can’t just hike on it because it is a nature sanctuary but that kind of adds to its strange feel. It is named the Farewell spit because this is the area that Captain Cook, the English discoverer departed from, to head off to Hawaii and be murdered (that might not be the correct time line but the events are true (probably)). But yeah the café… wonderful. Giant meaty burgers filled with onions and thick tomatoes. The beef here is so different but so good. Alex had his with bacon which is pretty much just ham here.
With food in our bellies we were ready to do some more exploring, and I was ready to take my first stab at driving. I have so far been refusing but we are about to take a ten hour trip to Queenstown and incase Alex needed some help I wanted to be a little familiar. I didn’t kill us but I am not sure Alex is going to let me have another go for a while.
So our plan was to head back in the same direction and get to the beach with those violent waves we had seen from above. I have never heard of this beach before and none of the tour buses or backpackers seem to go here and yet hands down this is the best beach and maybe even the best place I have ever been too. To get there you head down a gravel drive way for about twenty minutes until it dead ends into a parking lot with a real doozie of a banjo playing hotel house thing. The parking lot has a fence around it which is good because there is a peacock just roaming aimlessly, pecking at peoples cars and what not. Which got us thinking. What in the world was the evolutionary purpose behind a peacock? Its wings are so huge behind it that when the wind blew the peacock would get all turned around. Beautiful beasts but I just got to say I’m surprised they aren’t extinct. Where in the world did they come from?
Okay, so making our way past the peacock, we climbed over a fence that puts us right in a sheep pen. The trail is barely marked in some places, just a little arrow pointing you in a direction past sheep who just stare at you while you pass by, just chewing their grass and generally not caring about anything at all. So many little lamb sheep too. Probably the cutest animals ever until they of course remind you of Lambchop which of course puts “the song that never ends” into your head.
After the fields you climb another fence that puts you into a jungle. The cool thing about the west coast of New Zealand is that the trees have been blown on so hard they are so of blown in a sideways position, like a comb over, or Donald Trump’s hair. The trail becomes more and more sandy as you walk on it and then you burst out of the trees to the view of a river with baby seals showing off their tricks!
Then you move up a large hill, the path at this point being the softest sand making it so difficult you have to use your hands until you reach the top and boom. It feels like the entire world has just changed. It’s Planet of the Apes time. You’ve landed on the moon. You are somewhere that no one has ever been before. The sand looks like a zebra and feels like a giant mattress with tufts of strange plants poking through ever so often. The moon dust has been pushed into giant dunes that can only be conquered by surfing down them and then grasping your way back to the top.
And then past the dunes you reach a vast nothingness. Just you and the ocean ahead which is tossing ten foot waves over the cliffs and sending up the tides further and further over the flat surface. The waves crash around cliffs and carves them into arches or caves and creates pools for more baby seals. In fact in the middle there is an entire island which it seems the seals have claimed for their own. When we approached they all stared as if letting us know that they were in an elite seal gang, maybe the gang in which our famous Navy group was named for, and if we came one step closer they were going to put all six hundred pounds of their blubber behind their bitch slapping fin and knock us out into the waves to be pulled under. I wouldn’t mess too much with seals.
The place was magic. Our own personal playground for the day. And it was one of the reasons my birthday was absolutely wonderfully magically perfect. But the biggest reason was I got to spend it with this man right here.
We stopped at the grocery on the way back to get me a cake and by the time we made it to the other side of Mount Takaka a deep sea fog had swallowed the mountain. I think it’s called sea fog but it should be called cloud of dooming death doom because when we were above it, it looked so beautiful, like the ocean had came up into the sky. Then we realized it we had to drive through it and as soon as we entered it was night time and we couldn’t see more than three feet ahead of us. Exactly what you want to happen when you are winding down the side of the mountain with tons of cliffs that have no guard rails! It was terrifying. I wanted to pull over and live there until clouds didn’t exist anymore. But Alex handled it like a champ, and he even went so slow that I didn’t get car sick this time. And then we got back to the hostel and it was filled to the brim with puberty riddled rugby playing teenagers, a large number of whom were surprisingly comfortable just wearing their underwear as they walked around the hostel. But despite it all, the death cloud and an evening filled with 26 of the worse kind of people (I feel like teenage boys are just sub human sometimes) it was perfect. My cake was disgusting but Alex had the box o’ wine ready to go and we got drunk and listened to the waves roll in. My husband is the coolest cutest wonderfullest dude in the world and sharing this adventure together made this the best (birth)day I ever had.