23.08.2013 The destination + the journey

I've long held the belief that travel is equally about journeys as it is about destinations. A recent trip through New Zealand's picturesque North Island stands out as a case in point. I had found myself in Auckland after spending a week travelling through the country for work. With no commitments for the weekend, the opportunity for a weekend getaway presented itself. I've always wanted to visit New Zealand's renowned volcanic mountain ranges and this was my chance to catch a glimpse of them.

Our destination for the weekend is the Tongariro National Park. We would be staying just outside Whakapapa, a village perched on the side of Tongariro's Mt Ruapehu. We had chosen this destination based on its reputation for spectacular scenery and quality hiking tracks. In order to reach our destination we would need to cover the 350km to Whakapapa by nightfall. The journey promised spectacular scenery and demanding roads.

Our vehicle is a white BMW 320d. With our route set, we head straight for the mountains. I grip the wheel impatiently as I steer the car out through Auckland's city streets and flyovers. I'm keen to reach Whakapapa in time for sunset and there have been few chances for the 320d to stretch its legs. Soon, however, we pass into the North Island's rural countryside. Heading south, the motorway melts into to winding country roads and the scenery becomes increasingly beautiful. This is where the car starts to shine.

Climbing up through the hills towards Whakapapa is exhilarating. Now clear of the city, the 320d hunkers down and grips tenaciously through every bend. It growls with a deep resonance as we wind our way upwards. Reaching higher into the mountains, new landscapes unfold with every bend in the road. The late afternoon sun casts a warm light over the hills and the views are simply breathtaking.

Just as the sun is setting Mt Ruapehu comes into sight. Snow-capped and surrounding by pink sky, it's a breathtaking end to the day. We spend the following day hiking on the trails in the National Park. Reflecting upon the experience, the destination was definitely spectacular. But the journey to get there was just as good.