When a Dream Comes True... Magic New Zealand 2015 - Part I - North Island

Many years ago, I was already dreaming of far-away places... and New Zealand was surely on top of my wish list.  That old dream came true when I flew to Australia for work last August...

See a slideshow of all the best images of North Island... 

My base for work was in Jeffreys Bay, about 200 km south of Sydney. As I had a 3-week window between two work sessions, my plan was to explore Australia. Then, a few days before embarking on my discovery of the land of Oz, my old dream of visiting New Zealand popped up in my head...  At the same time I recalled that one of my best friends whom I had not seen for 13 years might still be living in Auckland.  So I tried to locate him and in less than 2 days my plans had changed completely and my ticket was booked to visit Leon and discover Kiwi land!

I met Leon Baard when I arrived in South Africa in 1998. We were very close but in 2002 he and his family moved to the UK. After a few years, we lost contact... But on the evening of August 15, my old friend Leon picked me up at Auckland airport and together we drove to his big family house located 60 km north in the small village of Kaukapakapa.  

Because we arrived after dark, I only discovered the scenery on the next morning from the window of my bedroom - typical kiwi farmland. This first encounter with New Zealand's landscape confirmed the picture that I had always had in my mind. My second encounter was with the country's number one sport - watching Leon coach kids' rugby.

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New Zealand has 15000 km of coastline, about a third of what Australia has - a country that is more than 11 times bigger in size! My first beach was the volcanic black sand of Muriwai where thousands of australasian gannets feed and breed on the cliffs. At just four months of age, the young birds fly to Australia, nearly 3000 km away. This is remarkable because they have never flown or even found food before!


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The absolute best way to travel in New Zealand is by motorhome. And I certainly do not regret the fact that I opted for a big diesel camper van (Ford Transit). In it I could easily stand up at the back and it was "self-contained" (i.e. had a toilet and grey water tank), which allows you to use all of New Zealand's "freedom camps" (many being free of charge). I got my camper from Affordable Motorhome which is a family business.  The cost per day was only about AU$33/day plus the diesel tax of about AU$70/1000km.

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You must also know that New Zealand is a rainy country...


Fortunately, when the sun shows up and pushes through the clouds, the scenery becomes pure magic!


The rolling green hills of the Coromandel Peninsula from Kereta to the little town of Coromandel were surely the highlight of my first day on my own...


... as was the scene of the few fishing boats in the little harbour of Coromandel, illuminated by the last rays of the sun setting over the hill.


The roads in New Zealand are often narrow and many bridges are only one lane, so you need to always be prepared to stop quickly! The speed limit is maximum 100 km/h - but with a slight tolerance of 10 km, for which I was grateful :). Anyway the countryside was so pretty and so green that it was never a problem to take it easy, even for a "fast" driver like me. ;)

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The highest peaks of North Island are Mt Ruapehu at 2997 m and its neighbour Mt Ngauruhoe at 2291 m. Although both volcanic mountains were under snow during my trip, Leon and I had talked about summiting Ruapehu (in spite of the fact that it is one of the world's most active volcanoes). We kept our eyes on the forecast and when we saw an opening for clear sky and no wind for 2 days, the plan was set in motion!



The ascent with crampons and 15 kg backpack was a bit strenuous but would have been worse had I not come to my senses at the last minute and left my heavier camera equipment behind... The strain, however minimised, was certainly worth the effort. And I will never forget our memorable night at -15 degrees Celcius in an extra small one-man tent (if only Leon had been a woman...). Then there was the 2 hours we needed to get our fingers and toes defrosted!

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Can you imagine the silence on the the top of Mt Ruapehu with no wind and a clear blue sky...?


The ice formations around the crater were absolutely amazing...  Some people call them cauliflowers!


There is a warm lake in the southern part of the crater, which would have helped to thaw our fingers and toes... Too bad it was too acidic for a swim!


More photos on the lightbox...

In general, there are a lot of lakes and water in (and around) New Zealand - it is everywhere! Yes, even often falling out of the sky...


The region of Waiotapu is well known as a thermal wonderland, especially around Rotorua where there are some incredible geysers, boiling mud and other geothermal features. Many of these are considered sacred sites by the Maori people. My time was unfortunately a bit short and I could only visit a few places.

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Nine days to visit North Island is definitely too short but at least I got a first glimpse of that beautiful country!


See you on South Island...

See a slideshow of all the best images of North Island... 

Published Date: 30 Oct 2015
Tags : travel, New Zealand, kiwi, landscape, photo, photography, photo safari

Danie Coetzee on 30 Oct 2015

Awesome Paul ...

Coby Van Der Mark on 30 Oct 2015

One word WOW

Paul Godard on 30 Oct 2015

Thank you #dcoetzee & #vdmark... I am working on part II...

Marc Peeters on 31 Oct 2015

Looks fantastic.
We will visit New Zealand from 19 December 2015 and stay there until 3 January 2015.
Can't wait.

Paul Godard on 02 Nov 2015

Thank you #marcpeeters.  Let me know if you want some advise to where to go...  How will you travel there?

Steph Gordon-Glassford on 04 Nov 2015

Forgive me, I felt compelled to write you, but this is nothing more than fan mail . I was searching for a travel buddy on HelpX because I am planning on island hopping the Philippines in Jan. and for some reason was drawn to your profile which then led me to your Soul Photography site and WOW...absolutely gorgeous. The Namib desert, Idaho, the colors, the forms, the abstraction. What a incredible natural talent you have....a unique eye. It's all so beautiful. I have an interest in photography myself along the same lines...travel, nature, abstract, macro and if I ever get to South Africa, I would love to contact you and possibly take a workshop. Can I inquire about the cameras you use or recommend? So, yes, I just wanted to tell you that your photos are amazing...and I am not easily impressed. Glad you finally got to New Zealand (I lived there for two years and found it to be stunning)...and of course your photos are testament. Look forward to seeing more of your work and perhaps we will meet someday....Cheers!

Guy Colpaert on 07 Nov 2015

Superbe tees belles photos.
Parfois on croit que c'est une peinture a l'huile.
Bons travail au filtre et très bonne connaissance de la prise de vue.

Uschi Stuart on 11 Nov 2015

Absolutely fantastic Paul, hope to see some prints!!!!!

Veronica Ryan on 12 Nov 2015

An Inspiration.

Kim McIntosh on 12 Nov 2015

Wondrous photographs...want to see more.. Craig told me you flew over to Hyams Australia to design a website.  I've read it...

Astrid Hoffmann on 12 Nov 2015

This is a breathtaking scenery, beautiful, that you could realize this dream.

Benita Wolfaardt on 13 Nov 2015

Ag Paul, what a delight to watch you photo's again....


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Paul Godard - Soul Photography, Cape Town - Windhoek