AES’EA – Stairmaster

We woke up somewhat on time, despite none of us setting an alarm. I ate a quick breakfast of cereal and toast (not photographed, was too quick) and we set out on the open road!

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Actually open roads. They were basically empty after the first few minutes of driving.

We stopped a small rest stop on the way to pick up some coffee and snacks. The attendant seemed very happy to see us, as we must have been the only people she’d seen all day.

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I wonder what NZ’s signature white varietal is…

We continued on our way to our first and main hike of the day at the Putangirua Pinnacles. For most of you that name won’t mean anything, nor should it. For some, particularly Lord of The Rings fans, it still won’t. Some sights, however, just might be familiar. See if you can figure out what LoTR scene this park was used for before I give it away. I didn’t recognize it until Aaron showed me the scene again yesterday.

The hike up was fairly rigorous – mostly stairs. The views, though, were fantastic.

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Clue 1 – Notice the sheer gray rock
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Clue 2 – The spiky, shear shafts of stone
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Lunch! Bread-PB-Apple-PB-Apple-PB-Bread sandwich!

Thanks for waiting, here’s your answer! The walk up is fairly true to the physical setting, and it’s really cool to say that I walked the same steps as Orlando Bloom.

Our next stop was Cape Palliser, the southern most point on the north island of New Zealand. Before getting there, we ran into some trouble – a flock of sheep blocking the road.

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That’s more sheep than people I’ve seen today. Just in that one herd.

After clearing the sheep and continuing onwards for a bit, we noticed something very strange and very worth checking out – black sand beaches.

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There was a decent amount of sunlight on the beach – it really is that dark

The beach is made of “sand” composed of extremely fine gravel. It feels like sand underfoot, but water interacts with it quite differently compared to the sand we know. The moisture line of where the most recent wave reached was extremely well defined. Whenever a powerful wave reached the shore, you could see the grains of sand flying up from the force of the wave. It was quite surreal, all told.

After the beach we drove a few more minutes down to the cape. We were greeted by very intimidating sight – a 261 step staircase up to the lighthouse.

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And we’re buying a stairway… to a lighthouse

 

Ethan challenged Aaron to run up all of them, which went predictably – Aaron made it halfway and lost feeling in his knees. Eventually we three made it up to find heavy wind and some extremely beautiful views.

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Damn, this is a beautiful country

After fully taking in the sights we started heading back, this time driving northwards to our second day stop in Palmerston North. We stopped in a small town along the way for dinner – Chinese food. While the asian food in Australia was cheaper and seemed more authentic, the Chinese food available in rural central New Zealand is comfortingly similar to that you can find in the US.

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Sweet & Sour Chicken – yep, it’s Chinese food

An hour of driving later and we reached the posh Econolodge – our first hotel of the visit. For two nights we get the unbelievable luxury of having private bends and bathrooms. And now, to go make use of it. Goodnight!

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