So far, the most difficult part of traveling has been making decisions. How can 10 weeks feel like forever and nothing at the same time? At the last minute we decided to rent a car from Auckland and drive it to Wellington, before flying to the South Island. We had two weeks free to explore–minus a 4-day pre-booked tramp on the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Deciding what to do with our precious time in the North Island was a nightmare, but at long last we landed on our first destination: Kauaeranga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula. Several local Kiwis (as New Zealanders call themselves) had recommended we visit Coromandel. So heeding the local advice, we drove straight to Catley Campground on the Kauaeranga Valley Road for a quick jaunt up to the Pinnacles–the most popular trek in the region. And by quick jaunt I mean long haul. We arrived at the trailhead at 3pm, after pitching our tent in the “beautiful riverside” campground (lies) and driving to where the KV road ends. The DOC signage suggested that trekking up to the Pinnacles and back would take 6-7 hours. But we fast, and did it in less than five. The path up to the Pinnacles leads you through miles of dense forest, still regenerating from a damming project that destroyed the area nearly a century ago. Not far into the hike the path begins following the stone steps, constructed by the original dam laborers, and continues to climb this natural looking staircase until the Pinnacle Hut. For some reason unbeknownst to me, trail signs in NZ tend to give you time rather than distance between points. From the Pinnacles Hut the sign read “50 minutes”, which turned out to be 30 minutes of butt-burning stairs and ladders all the way to the tippy top. Since this was to be our one and only day inland on the Peninsula, the Pinnacles Hike proved itself well worthwhile. From the peak, we were offered views of the entire Coromandel range and its western coastline. The next day, we drove northeast toward the Cathedral Cove beaches and then down along the east side of the peninsula to the stinky town of Rotorua.