When first researching all of the places I wanted to go during my time in New Zealand, I was overwhelmed by the amount of beautiful places there were to choose from. But, it turns out that even the places that aren't commonly advertised as must-see spots in New Zealand are still just as amazing.
I found this to be true when taking a day trip to Kaitoke Regional Park in the very small town of Kaitoke, New Zealand. The day started with the bus dropping my friends and me an hour's walk away from where we intended to go, but even our trek to get to the beginning of the trail was beautiful. The hike was strenuous and almost completely uphill but the time passed so quickly because we were constantly coming across the coolest views. When we weren't able to see out over the landscape, we were walking through a rain forest so thick that it was easy to forget we were only a few miles away from town. The hike took about 3 hours and ended at a small lake that had some of the clearest water I've ever seen. Also close by was "Rivendell", one of the sites where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.
But, we got so caught up in the beauty of the hike that we were almost too late to catch the last bus back to Wellington that day. At this point, we had hiked so far that it would take us over 4 hours of walking just to get to the bus stop where we started. We realised then that our options were limited, and considering none of us had ever hitchhiked before, we weren't very keen on asking a random stranger for a ride. But, it was our only choice unless we wanted to spend the night in the park with no food or camping equipment.
Fortunately, it turns out that these kinds of situations really do make for the best stories, and the very first car we asked to give us a ride was glad to help. The two people in the car let all 5 of us hop in the back and took us exactly where we needed to go without hesitation.
In between thanking our driver over and over again for saving us from a cold night in the woods and showing them how to get to our bus stop, I realised that I had just had one of my favorite days in New Zealand so far. If this is how rewarding and beautiful a day in New Zealand can be when I am only an hour outside of Wellington, I can only imagine what else the country has to offer.