Capturing a glimpse of eden in everyday life

Wild & Lovely: The Coromandel

"The Coromandel: Good for your soul." This is the tagline you'll read on The Coromandel's tourism website, and after visitng the area, we can say that tagline is ridiculously accurate. Maybe it's because we had our first real glimpse of New Zealand here, but for some reason this area is totally ingrained in our minds. When we look back on our 23 days in NZ, the pureness and wildness of the Coromandel are at the forefront of our fondest memories. Some of the bluest water you've ever seen, soft sandy beaches, dramatic rock formations that cradle the coastline, tide pools teeming with the tiniest critters, wise old forests with trees a thousand years old- whatever you fancy, the wild and lovely Coromandel has it.

Hahei Beach looking picture perfect.

Hahei Beach looking picture perfect.

The renowned Cathedral Cove is a must-see for anyone visiting the Coromandel. As advised by the many reviews we read, we arrived early to avoid the crowds (thanks, TripAdvisor!). Parking in the main lot can be hard to come by, but we arrived around 8:30am on a Saturday in November and had no problem getting a prime spot! The 1.5- mile hike to the Cove begins on a wooden boardwalk handy to the car park. Stunning views of the rugged coast and turquoise water are first to greet you.

The beginning of the track to Cathedral Cove.

The beginning of the track to Cathedral Cove.

The track descends into native bush and pretty soon you'll see a sign for a quick jaunt to Gemstone Bay & Stingray Bay. We wandered on down to Stingray Bay and were delighted to feel the cool water and admire the old trees reaching out over the inlet.

Stingray Bay

Stingray Bay

We headed back to the main track and ascended through the forest high above the coast. After a climb through the trees, we came to an opening that revealed another beautiful perspective of the ocean.

The view just before the track descends to Cathedral Cove beach.

The view just before the track descends to Cathedral Cove beach.

From this point onward, the descent to Cathedral Cove beach is leisurely and gradual. We admired the tree ferns with their fronds unfurling in the springtime sun. Eventually you come to a set of stairs, which marks the last portion of the track down to the Cove. When you turn the corner to the left, the famous arch in the rock awaits!

View of the arch from the far end of the beach.

View of the arch from the far end of the beach.

The four of us in the arch! It's much larger than it looks initially from the outside.

The four of us in the arch! It's much larger than it looks initially from the outside.

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A took a time-lapse video from inside the arch (only the second one I had ever done) and I love the way it turned out! The amateur time-lapser in me didn't realize you needed so many photos to form a decent length video though, so the four quick seconds this video lasts have to be cherished! Ha! :) P.S. My time-lapse skills improved from there ;)

The arch from the other side of the beach. Love those trees thriving on the cliffside!

The arch from the other side of the beach. Love those trees thriving on the cliffside!

After spending a couple relaxing hours on the beach taking in the sights, we trekked back to our car. We headed into the nearby town of Hahei for lunch and had delicious pizzas at The Pour House Restaurant (a fitting, calorie-laden meal for our efforts in hiking earlier that day, right?). The rest of our day was spent exploring the area around our beloved yurt at Purangi Garden Accommodation. One of the dear owners, Susan, told us about a magnificent 1000-year-old tree just a short distance from the yurt, which (obviously) we could not pass up! Like many walks in New Zealand, this one began in a cow pasture.

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After crossing a few fences, we made our way down to the beach where we found them: The Ents. Trees so massive they make you question your very existence! Magnificent, marvelous, mind-blowing. Take your pick of adjectives- none will do justice to these old beasts.

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A tiny snail (one of thousands clinging to the weathered rocks along the beach) making the brave journey between rocks.

A tiny snail (one of thousands clinging to the weathered rocks along the beach) making the brave journey between rocks.

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We walked back up the hill along the pasture fence and eventually ran into the tree Susan had told us about. It was nestled humbly among the other flora, but we got close to take a better look. The moss-laden branches seemed never ending, winding skyward toward the late-afternoon sun. Tiny blue flowers grew quietly in the giant's shadow, but I made sure to notice them and snap their photo. Such beautiful whimsy in nature!

Surely a relative of the great Treebeard.

Surely a relative of the great Treebeard.

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We returned to our yurt and spent our final evening in the Coromandel enjoying the sounds of the bush from our porch as we munched on oranges picked from Susan's orchard right next door. If the Coromandel were a person, we would thank her for her most wonderful hospitality and welcoming us to New Zealand in true Kiwi style. It's safe to say we left a part of ourselves there, and that we will eventually return to her one day. Until then, we will remember her warm sunshiny embrace, deep blue skies and wild seascapes, and the delectable citrus fruits that we still dream about every day.

Aotearoa: The First Encounter

Aotearoa, the name given to the land of New Zealand by the native Maori people, means "land of the long white cloud." As we began planning for our trip, we got our first real taste of the Maori language (and suffered many mispronunciations along the way). Many of the towns and natural sites in New Zealand use Maori names, so it was unique and refreshing to see that the native culture has been so well preserved over the years.

A sign at the beginning of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (stay tuned for a blog about this hike) showcasing a few Maori names.

A sign at the beginning of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (stay tuned for a blog about this hike) showcasing a few Maori names.

New Zealand had been high on our must-see list since the dawning of the Lord of the Rings movies. When we learned that the landscapes in LOTR were actually REAL, we knew we had to witness this magical land with our own eyes. After a couple years of saving up our money & vacation time from work, we were able to make the dream a reality! Along with our partners in crime (my cousin, Katie, and her husband, Ethan), after spending countless hours researching and putting an itinerary together, we finally booked our 23 day adventure in NZ. It was almost too good to be true... none of us felt like it was actually real until we set foot in Auckland, NZ on November 4, 2016. From that point on, we were smitten.

Our first encounter with the Kiwi lifestyle was driving... on the left side of the road. (The people of NZ are called "Kiwis" in case you haven't heard that term before). Ethan bravely took the wheel and drove us 2 hours from the airport to our first destination, the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula (and we arrived safely and without a scratch!).

Excited (and maybe slightly terrified) for our first driving experience in NZ!

Excited (and maybe slightly terrified) for our first driving experience in NZ!

As a side note, our rental car (a Mahindra XUV 500) was AWESOME! Turns out that Mahindra doesn't just make tractors, they make cars too! When we Googled the model, it said it was designed with an "intimidating cheetah-inspired exterior," and our car was known from that moment on as "The Sexy Cheetah."

Pretty sexy, eh?

Pretty sexy, eh?

Our first two nights in NZ were spent near Hahei at the Purangi Garden Accommodation, which ended up being high on the list of "best places we stayed while in NZ". First of all, we stayed in a yurt, which was lovely and wonderful in itself. Secondly, THE FRUIT. THE GARDENS. THE BIRDS. THE STARS. THE VIEWS. Everything about the place was perfect, including Susan, the owner, who made sure we felt right at home. She took us on a tour of the expansive organic gardens & orchards she wholeheartedly tends to AND she sent us on our way with a HUGE bag of amazing fruit & "avos" (avocados) when we departed. She's the sweetest, and we will surely be visiting her and the yurt again on our next trip :)

Our beloved yurt.

Our beloved yurt.

First day's sunset- a stunner.

First day's sunset- a stunner.

By the end of our first day we were pretty much zombies from the long hours of traveling. NZ is 18 hours ahead of East Coast US time, which means that we left home (Pittsburgh) on November 2nd and landed in Auckland on November 4th. Helloooo time travel! Our flight to Auckland was 13 hours from Los Angeles, and we had already flown 5+ hours to get to LA from Pittsburgh. Needless to say, that kicked our butts. Although I must mention, Air New Zealand was fantastic and we were very well cared for on our long flight! Still, we legitimately struggled to stay awake until an "acceptable" bedtime, and we were all asleep by 8pm the first night. Early to bed means early to rise, though, which turned out to be a real blessing when I woke up at 5am the next morning to the sounds of the native birds. Check out the video below (be sure to turn your sound up)!

If New Zealand isn't on your must-see list, it will be by the end of this blog series! Until next time, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

-Alyssa

OH HEY THERE, TRAVEL BLOG!

Hey y'all! Welcome to our travel blog!

For our first blog post, I thought it'd be appropriate to give you a little bit of background about the faces behind the blog. We're Alyssa & Justin, and we're so glad you're investing the time to follow us in our new adventure of travel blogging :)

October 2014 @ Coopers Rock State Forest. Photo cred: T&S Hughes Photography

October 2014 @ Coopers Rock State Forest. Photo cred: T&S Hughes Photography

As of today, Feb. 20, 2017, Justin & I have been together for 10 years, 2 months, and 4 days (but who's counting, right?). We're high school sweethearts who met at the ages of 14 & 15, which means we were blessed to essentially "grow up" in our relationship together. We know each others' strengths and downfalls, and we love each other through it all. After 10+ years together we'd like to think we know one another pretty well, but there's one thing that always helps us grow and learn more about ourselves and our relationship, and that's traveling!

We're natives of the beautiful rolling hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania, but over the years we've traveled to many places around the globe: the Great American West (Wyoming, Idaho, Montana), the Pacific Northwest, Ecuador, Mexico, and our latest adventure took us the whole way to New Zealand! What places are still on our "bucket list," you ask? The Canadian Rockies, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland, Chile, and Peru- just to name a few. What really gets us going? John Muir's famous quote sums it up well: "The mountains are calling and I must go."

Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand- November 2016.

Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand- November 2016.

In this new endeavor we hope to accomplish two things. The first one is for us: that we will reflect on and genuinely savor the moments we've spent (and will spend) in some of the world's most amazing places. The second is for our followers: we hope that through our photographs & stories, you will be transported to these amazing places and witness the raw, unbelievable beauty this Earth has to offer. If we're lucky, we'll even stir up that little travel bug inside you so you can go experience these places for yourself! This is an amazing world we're blessed to live in, y'all. We aim to see & experience the things that exist beyond our bubbles of comfort and also take the time to really soak in life's blessings. We hope our blog will inspire you to do the same!

Our 3.5 week trip to the awe-inspiring Aotearoa, "the land of the long white cloud" (AKA: New Zealand) will be our first location of focus in the coming weeks. We hope you'll follow along and join us in our adventures all over God's wonder-filled green Earth!

As always, feel free to comment & catch us on Instagram @chasingedentravels and Facebook!

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." -Confucius