Today, we make the drive back to Wellington. We’re up bright and early to hop in the car, but with New Zealand being the spectacularly gorgeous country it is, I can’t say that I mind. We’re taking a different route back to Wellington than we took here, so while parts of it (i.e. the Shire-y parts) will be about the same, today will have a few new highlights.
Our first scenic overlook stops today are enough to blow anyone’s mind. The first is a view over all of Lake Taupo and its surrounding areas, and it’s like something out of a fairy tale.
What really blows me away, though, is Mt. Tongariro. Mt Tongariro is part of Tongariro National Park (which, as you may recall, is also the home base of Mordor and Sauron). We’re on the side of the park opposite of where we drove just a few short days ago, but we’d hardly know it if it weren’t for the signs. Gone is the apocalyptic fog and the ominous, desolated shrubs it clung to. Instead, standing stoically before us, is an enormous snow-capped mountain surrounded by swaying fields of golden grass. The sunlight falls warmly across the scene, lending a soft glow to the meadow and its watchful protector.
We have a ways to go back to Wellington so we’re forced to press on, but just a few minutes later, the view becomes too incredible to keep driving again. This time, the dry, gold grass has been replaced by lush green pastureland and the sun — now higher in the sky — lights up the world like it’s onstage.
The rest of the drive, though spectacular, struggles to live up to the mountain views of that first hour of the drive. New Zealand isn’t the type to leave one disappointed by any means, however, and still has one trick left up its sleeve to blow us away before we get to Wellington…
On a whim, Noel decides to turn off the highway and down a few side streets until we come to a big, sprawling beach. We get out to take pictures…
…before getting back in the car and cruising down the endless stretch of sand and sea with the windows down and the music bumping.
Every single time I think New Zealand has shown me the best of itself, it goes and tops what I’ve just seen. In just four days here I’ve seen sweeping panoramic mountain views, endless swaths of glowing green pastureland, rolling hills dotted with sheep and horses (and vineyards!), a lake large enough to be mistaken for a sea, and now a beach you can drive on…I’d say I can’t expect my next two days here to show me anything more incredible than what I’ve seen here already, but it’s New Zealand.
It’s not one to disappoint.