So, here in no particular order is the scenery we encountered in the Wairapa region this weekend. Luckily, the weather was ideal for the whole time, and the drive was only an hour long. By "only an hour long", however, my main point is not how lovely it is to be so near something so lovely, but rather that I could not have lasted a single minute longer on that twisting, winding, curling, and at times even death-defying so-called highway, which was little more than a ledge carved out of steep mountainsides. And of course, being a highway, all the local drivers would insist on carrying on at what seemed to us at speeds which appeared borderline insane. Luckily this harrowing part of the drive lasted only for the first half -- during the latter, we saw flat pastoral lands that would not have been out of place back on the prairies. But for the not-entirely-straight road, that is.
We headed to the coast first, as we had heard that there were wild seals to be seen there. At first we saw nothing, but decided to enjoy the coastline anyways. The beaches had black sand, made from the breaking down of volcanic rock. I had never seen it before, and it was an impressive sight. Huge waves breaking on the shore attracted several groups of surfers that we saw along the way. The black, volcanic rocks jutting out from the shore were also very neat -- they have a rough, pocked surface with sharp outcroppings that make the rocks perfect to climb. Shoes grip that kind of surface marvellously, but it is also a surface that you do NOT want to fall onto, lest you wish to be exfoliated like you've never been exfoliated before! ;-)
We got to the end of the road, and though we had been disappointed by not seeing any seals, the scenery was easily beautiful enough to deserve its own appreciation. There was a lighthouse atop a massive cliff with an endless set of stairs that I somehow got talked into visiting, and the first picture on this post is the results of that climb. (Once I had finished being dead of exhaustion and petrified of the height, that is.)
You'd better damn well appreciate it! ;-)
Also accompanying Dave and I on the trip was one of Dave's workmates, a Belgian named Wym. He was cool, and it was neat to have someone else along. One of the neat things about NZ is that there are all kinds of fellow foreigners around, so you get to learn quite a bit about where they're from. So much so, in fact, that a Maori fellow at work once said that he always wished to experience the rest of the world... but it seems, in New Zealand, that one can learn firsthand all about the rest of the world, as the rest of the world seems to always make its way here! This is not as much of an exaggeration as it may sound -- after four months in NZ, I now know more about Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, South Africa, China, the Phillipines, and even Alaska than I had known before. It's very neat.
On an unrelated note, New Zealand's english-dominance has one very pleasing side effect -- of all the people I've met, all the co-workers, friends, strangers, telemarketers, etc, NOT ONE has mispronounced my name. People in non-Manitoba Canada always had a great difficulty with it, which irked me to no end. But not here! Hooray!
Back to the trip itself, we finished up at the coast and left. But it's a terribly interesting thing, what things appear the moment you stop looking for them... more on that later. We went to lunch, then hit the last winery that was open for a tasting. Tirohana offered us a numer of delectable wines to try, and every last one was delicious. Two in particular stood out, one being the cafe-style Pinot Noir (not to be confused with the proper, much more intense Pinot Noir), as well as a dessert wine that absolutely blew my face off. It was sweet, but tart, and not at all syrup-y. Naturally, we bought a bottle of each, then headed to a nearby town, Greytown, for a nice Italian dinner.
After that we headed home. Strangely, the drive through curvy mountaintops alongside gaping abysses tends to be less stressful when the dark prevents one from seeing (and thus, fretting about) the abyss. ;-)