October 12

Sleeping in a car is certainly a new experience. It was quite comfortable and warm, at first. However, somewhere around 3 am it became unbearably cold and there is the issue of condensation fogging up every single window. We both woke up and I realized that I desperately needed to use the bathroom. The problem was that (because of quirks with Lindsay’s car) we had been forced to lock ourselves in and set the alarm. Needless to say, I couldn’t hold it any longer and we ended up setting off the car alarm in the middle of the night. Sorry to our campsite neighbors! I’m sure we upset some fellow travelers quite badly.

We woke up in the morning, sweltering hot, to someone knocking on our car window, demanding payment. It was quite an experience. However, the facilities were nice enough and the showers were clean, so we really couldn’t ask for more. This was the view from our “bedroom” window.

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The forest was actually lovely, there was a beautiful flowering tree next to us as well.

When we left the campsite we headed out northeast-ish on Route 2. We had generally planned to go tour a couple of wineries, but in the morning we decided a better use of our time would be to take a hike. We hadn’t been driving more than ten minutes when we saw a sign that said “Waiohine Gorge- 15 km.” Of course, since we are embracing the unplanned, we decided to take a detour to check it out. After about a half hour on winding, gravel roads we started to second guess ourselves. (It probably didn’t help that I was driving and I am the most cautious driver ever, so it was taking forever.) Finally, we agreed that we would drive a couple more minutes and if nothing materialized then we would head back. A minute or so later we saw a sign stating that we were at the base of the track up to the gorge.

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We were excited that the hike we had wanted popped up during our unexpected detour. We parked and walked about a half hour up to the gorge.

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The trees and plants were so strange. Many of them were gnarled and misshapen. Some of the trees had pieces that looked like cables, but they were rigid. It was very neat.

At the top there was a swingbridge and river access. We opted to go across the bridge first. It was extremely high up and, as you might have guessed, it swung in the wind. I had a brief panicked moment and then I went across. It had great views of the river below.

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We started out on one of the tracks on the other side of the gorge. After about fifteen minutes we decided to turn around because we had been walking straight up the mountain and we couldn’t take it anymore.

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The obvious reaction was to go back to the river access, strip down to our knickers (thank goodness there was no one else around), have a lengthy discussion about the different words for underwear in Britain versus the US, and then jump in, which we did. It was some of the coldest water I have ever dived into. It was crystal clear and absolutely beautiful though. The day was sunny and mostly warm.

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(Yes, the bridge that we went across really is that high up!)

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While we were drying on the rocks we decided to have a daily challenge during our roadtrip. Today’s was, the person who was able to stay in the river the longest had to buy the other one a sweet treat (Whittaker’s chocolate for me and cheesecake filling with gluten-free ginger cookies for Linds.) After less than two minutes (or seven or eight years, according to Lindsay) in the water, we decided to call it a draw. It felt like being stabbed with thousands of needles and when I started losing responsiveness in my fingers I decided winning wasn’t worth it. So we both won! (If anyone really won in this situation.) We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon nap in the sun while we dried off. The location is absolutely beautiful and there is a DOC (Department of Conservation, I believe) campsite right near the gorge. I wish we had known about it because we could’ve stayed there!

Afterwards we headed back down the mountain and decided we had meandered enough and should choose our next stop. We decided on Feilding, named the most beautiful town in New Zealand fourteen times! So we headed back out the gravel roads and past the farmland. There are so many cow farms in this country. Everywhere you look there are cows of all different colors, and also sheep, though not as many. On the way, we saw a sign for Stonehenge. Apparently they have one here as well, and we decided to check it out. (Yes, we took another detour.) It ended up being closed though. But because of Stonehenge we had to stop for gas and discovered the cheapest ice cream in the area! A double scoop for a dollar! It was a sign that we had to get some after our hike. We both tried new flavors of Tip Top (the brand of ice cream that is huge here); I had gold rush (I still have no idea what flavor it is) and Lindsay got one scoop of boysenberry and one of tiger flavor (some amazing ginger, coffee, chocolately wonderfulness).

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It was a great pit stop. Shortly afterwards, I stopped driving and Lindsay took over. I am proud to say that I drove for a few hours (and went through many roundabouts the correct way) without issue. I think I’m adjusting to all the driving differences here. As I expected, it didn’t take any time at all!

We decided to stop in Ashbury at a camp site, on our way to Feilding. We are currently the only people staying here. It is pitch black and slightly ominous, I think I will definitely be avoiding using the bathroom in the middle of the night here!

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