There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Today was our last full day in New Zealand. We woke up at 6, slightly earlier than our normal 6:30, just so we could get on the road to Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula that much earlier. We didn’t stick around for anything in Te Aroha but getting gas.

We took State Highway 25 north into the Coromandel Peninsula. It took us about one and a half hours to reach Hahei, the town where the hike to Cathedral Cove starts. We didn’t know what the expect of the roads, but in good Kiwi-fashion, the roads were just as winding and narrow as ever. SH 25A was actually some of the scariest NZ driving yet—and we thought we had put most of that behind us! However, we don’t know if this was due to being desensitized to the extra-precarious roads while on our journey up from Wellington. After all, much of the North Island had been much easier to navigate with more straighter roads, which are rare on the South Island. So perhaps it was just a shock again after a few days with less of those kinds of crazy roads.

Coromandel Peninsula is beautiful, too. To reiterate, most places here go without saying that. There are lots of ups and downs and interesting craggy rocks and shapes and green folds in the land. At one point we saw what looked like a face in the hills: brow, eyes, nose, lips, almost like one of those sculptures on Easter Island, but lying on its back. There are many bays and inlets and coves, with small towns nestled among the rocks and rolls in the land along the coast. It reminded William a bit of the over-dramatic Ireland. It was a very windy ride, with strong gusts beating against the campervan as we rolled up and down the hills.

Cathedral Cove

Our hike today was to Cathedral Cove. The bay on which it sits is reminiscent of the West Coast of the South Island, but with white rocks instead of black, and a bit less rain forest. The weather on this drive as remarkably sunnier, too. It took about 45 minutes to hike there.

Cathedral Cove was used in a scene from one of the Narnia movies. The Pevensie children are in a London Underground train tunnel that magically turns into the archway of Cathedral Cove that brings them back to Narnia.

The beach was bright and sandy, and it was fun to hear the ocean waves and sit in the sun, watching a very fast swallow go fly back and forth from its nest built on the underside of the hollowed out archway of rock. Lots of cairns had been built up on the beach.

A guy from Holland, Michigan, talked to us because he saw Philip’s Calvin College t-shirt. He told us he was doing some kind of work internship in New Zealand till May. That was the second time in two days that we met someone from Michigan, but he was the closest-to-home person we had met this whole trip. Interestingly, we had not run into a lot of other Americans, but a lot of Australians and South Africans. And it seems like you run into someone who at least recognizes Calvin College anywhere you go in the world.

We spent about an hour at the cove itself before making the hike back up to the parking lot, stopping at overlooks of Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay briefly on the way back up.

We had lunch back at the campervan, but heading on the road again two and a half hours to Miranda, which would be our last overnight stop of New Zealand.

The roads continued to be interesting to say the least. The road into Coromandel Town was perhaps the most “Rusty!” moment of them all. It had very tight winds and curves and was a quick descent. The views were incredible, but almost too hard to enjoy due to the fact that we we were gripping our seats in anxiety and laughing maniacally at just how crazy this experience was!

We didn’t want to arrive in Miranda too late in the day because we wanted to take the time to shower, clean, eat, and start repacking our suitcases before returning our campervan in Auckland the next day, though we were only an hour’s drive away from the Auckland Airport at this point. Nevertheless, the idea was to be as prepared as possible so the last day would be stress-free and less rushed than if we tried to cram that all in.

There seemed to be quite a bit of an aged population at the Miranda campground. It seems to be a popular resort for elderly people. The campground does include a nice hot mineral pool that seemed to be a draw for many of these folks. We did bring our swimsuits, but didn’t want to use them, especially since there wouldn’t be much time for them to dry off before packing our suitcases.

We bought Wi-Fi to share for one day so that we could be in touch with home in the final hours of our trip. We took turns helping each other pack our suitcases one at a time after our last nightly journaling session. Most of the cleaning of the campervan we could save till morning. Jessica and William made dinner in the holiday park kitchen, and we met a Māori woman and her cute daughter, and had a nice conversation about the USA and New Zealand.

In some ways we felt like we had been in New Zealand forever, but it all went by so fast at the same time. That’s the paradox of time while traveling. We wouldn’t necessarily miss living out of a campervan, but it was fun while it lasted. We also wouldn’t know if we’d ever have such an intense period of brotherly and sisterly bonding-time ever again in our lives—it may be the last time we do something this cool all together, but we hope not! Only God knows where our lives will lead after the trip was over, and it will definitely be a great memory and life-changing experience to look back upon. Did we ever fight or bicker or disagree on this trip? Yes, but only a small fraction. The trip wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t agree on most things. But that’s always the way it is with siblings. We each other so much, we couldn’t imagine doing this trip with anybody else. 99% of the time we enjoyed ourselves, and it helped that much of the time we were distracted with the chores of living out of and driving a campervan. We wouldn’t trade each other as siblings for anything—and our supportive parents had a big part in this trip. So the next day we would be off to Auckland, then back home, and like Bilbo, we will have been there and back again . . .

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