01/02/2015 – 547 days/48829 miles

For Christmas and New Years, I headed back up to the north island to spend the holidays with some friends that I’d met earlier on in New Zealand.

On the way north, I stopped just past Kaikoura, where there is yet another place to see seals. But at this one, there were loads of baby seals learning how to walk and swim.
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Over Christmas, I was in Raglan, a quiet little surf town. But on the 26th, things weren’t so quiet…I was sitting in the hostel lounge with a few friends when we heard a really loud engine that sounded like it was having issues, and within a couple seconds it sputtered and went out. I just assumed it was some old truck driving by…no big deal. Then the guy sitting across from me saw a plane descending far to quickly behind our guesthouse. We ran outside seconds after the plane had crashed into the bay. Apparently it had just taken off from the nearby airport when the engine died. The pilot was able to ease the plane down, but as soon as the wheels hit the water, it tipped up vertically on it’s nose, right in front of a crowded beach. It took less than 30 seconds for the plane to tip over onto it’s roof, and all the while, people on the beach were either in shock, panicking, or swimming out to the plane to see if they could help.
There were three people in the plane, the pilot, his wife, and brother-in-law (or maybe it was his brother and sister-in-law…I can’t remember for sure). The two guys had minor injuries and were able to escape the plane on their own.
My friend Sigve, who was staying at the same guesthouse as me happened to be on the beach at the time of the crash. He immediately dove in the water to try and help, and this heroic Norwegian Viking made it out to the just sunken plane, pried open the door and pulled out the unconscious woman and got her onto a fishing boat that had pulled alongside to help.
Needless to say, this shook up the small town of Raglan quite a bit.
Later in the day, when the tide was out, you could see a bit of the plane shortly before a crew came to drag it out.
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In between Christmas and New Years, I hiked the Tongariro Crossing, which is said to be the most popular hike in New Zealand, and based on the crowds, I agree with that statement.
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Early on in my time here, I’d tried to do the hike, but when I was in the area, it was shut down for a long stretch due to bad weather, so it was nice to have a fairly clear day this time so that I could check it out before leaving.
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It didn’t take very long to realize why it is such a popular hike. Although all the others places I’ve been in New Zealand have been beautiful, this area is just so unique.
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And now, its back to the South Island to check out a few spots I missed before. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years!

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