Where to start? From my personal life to COVID and the lack of concert photography, the last year has been absolutely crazy. Sparing the details, I’ll just keep it brief by saying I needed to escape for a long break from life. So, I flew away to New Zealand.
Before I dive into the obvious forthcoming New Zealand travel photography, I’ll just preface this by saying we all have crazy dreams and “what-ifs” that go through our minds. I have always tried to live in a way that doesn’t let those “what-ifs” get in the way. You know, like that one quote goes, “It’s better to look back on life and say: ‘I can’t believe I did that. than to look back and say: “I wish I had done that.'”
When I get an idea in my head, I go for it, regardless of how crazy or unexpected it may seem. Being highly introverted and tending toward privacy means that few people see all the gears in my head working before I actually do something. But at the end of last year, I was eyeballs deep in self-wallow and without much to lose, I pulled the trigger on booking tickets to go to one of those places most people only ever dream of going.
So, on January 13th, I boarded the first of two planes. After nearly 24 hours worth of travel, I was approximately 8000 miles across the world.
I ended up staying in New Zealand for almost two months and did so much that I’m struggling to even know how to start this. I’ve only just now really been getting into bulk of the photos and feel like I have so much to share that I’ll probably end up posting even more photos with more in depth specifics for specific locations later on.
The first night of my trip was spent in Auckland and I didn’t actually do a lot of photo taking that day. This shot wasn’t even taken until leaving Auckland… Even then, it was only shot out of a car window as an afterthought because I thought I should probably have a photo of such a major city.
Every New Zealander – or Kiwi, as they refer to themselves – I’ve talked to after that seems to have little love for Auckland. And I sorta understand it. Why spend time in a fairly Americanized city with so much nature around to explore?
New Zealand seasons run opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, so I had actually arrived right in the midst of summer. Although… a Florida winter is not all that much different from a New Zealand summer. The temperature averaged around 75° on a daily basis and somehow I was convinced to get in the water for a snorkel swim at Goat Island on day two. I did my best to not whine about how cold I actually thought the water was that day. (Side note… bring a wet suit if you want to swim in New Zealand.)
Following the cold swim, we made a stop at Whangateau Reserve. After that, it was a 5 hour trek to the Taranaki region of New Zealand, which I’d call home for just short of two months.
Taranaki is on the western side of New Zealand’s North Island and is a location absolutely perfect for those who can’t decide whether they’d rather live at the mountains or the beach. No matter where you are in the area, you can always see the region’s namesake volcano, Mount Taranaki.
After this point in the trip, I don’t remember the order of much else I did. We often hopped in the car and ran off to a different beach to catch sunset or explore various places around the region.
With its massive stretches of sand between cliffs and a perfect view of sunset over the horizon, Opunake Beach became a favorite. We also became regulars at a nearby local Indian restaurant called Headland’s. I’d never eaten much Indian food prior to New Zealand, but that’s the majority type of restaurant they have to offer, and I wasn’t mad about it. If only I’d thought to take photos of the delicious Fish Malabari and blue Pina Coladas…
Ohawe was another beach we ended up at and were greeted by a rainbow, although not a very stunning one by New Zealand standards. It didn’t stick around long, but the cloud coverage made for a photogenic beach day.
Visiting the Wreck of Gairlock…
A cloudy day at Waihi Beach, Hawera.
A small waterfall at a place called the White Cliffs, which supposedly have a white shine on sunny days… I’m not quite seeing it…
Two local landmarks in some of the nearby towns. We climbed the Hawera Water Tower on the left for a very reasonable $5! By the time we got to the top of it, the cloud coverage took over and didn’t make for the prettiest view that day. On the right is the Stratford Clock Tower, which plays a scene from Romeo and Juliet when the clock strikes 12:00. The entire town of Stratford consists of names and references to everything Shakespeare.
But the reality is, you didn’t even have to leave the backyard to get stunning sunrises and sunsets.
And the night sky is more dazzling than anywhere else I’ve ever seen.
While in Taranaki, there was a particular photo I had seen show up in search result after search result related to the region. It was the only photo I truly didn’t want to leave without. After some research, I learned it was taken at a location called the Pouakai Tarn… which was a 2.5 hour hike up the Pouakai Mountain Ranges. And by hike, I mean you literally walk up stairs for the entire 2.5 hours. I’m not sure I’d recommend it for beginners or for the out of shape (ahem, self included). BUT I survived, and the views were worth every step.
My hike companions were kind enough to hang out with me until after sunset so I could get photos of that beautiful night sky with the ranges and mountain in the foreground. We hiked back in the dark (it takes about half as much time to get down as it does to get up!).
I have never had the opportunity to visit another country for more than around 10 days at a time before this trip. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I would do again in a heartbeat. Not only did I get to explore the sights of a such a naturally beautiful country and meet some of the most laid back and friendly people in the world, but I also got to learn about the rich culture, including Maori history and traditions. Experiences like that are one of a kind, something you don’t really gain an understanding of without being a part of.
I was born a wanderlust, and I will forever be seeking to learn every secret from every corner the world has to offer.