New Zealand: North Island

Well, my journey to New Zealand hasn’t been the smoothest to say the least.

For dramatic effect, here is a video describing the debacle, featuring a filter with cute yet extremely relevant tears.

I probably manifested this as I was saying just the other day how good it would have been to study a trade. We’ll see how the first mosaic wall goes, but maybe this is my way in.

All in a days work

Believe it or not, many people have commented on the video saying I’ve picked up an Australian accent? I disagree and am blaming the temporary rise in intonation on stress/my innate desire to make everything sarcastic.

Honestly don’t get where they’re coming from x

Truthfully, I wasn’t too worried about the ETA sitch as I was in a bit of disbelief it was even happening, plus they let me check in so surely that was a good sign. I also took great comfort in the fact that if my luck carried on the way it was going, at least I was sat behind the wing on the plane.

Upon landing and having had Sydney make out like I’d be imprisoned in Auckland airport forever, I didn’t even need the ETA! What a jip.

The woman at the check in desk and the ETA advisor after successfully swindling me out of $50

Upon arriving at my hostel, I discovered there had been a fire in Auckland CBD nearby (allegedly a guy left a blowtorch on while he was making his sandwich/crème brûlée). As a result, we were advised to stay indoors due to the smoke and toxic fumes in the air.

Therefore, I saw no alternative but to pass the time playing Bingo at the hostel- OF COURSE I didn’t win anything, however I did make some friends in the right places and woke up the following morning to this…

It’s not what you know x

Considering the last surprise I woke up to at a hostel was a stranger laying a blanket over me and asking if I felt him touch me whilst I slept, this was a welcome change.

Claimed my prize as one of my activities for the tour- I can’t wait to get started now. There’s so much to look forward to!

Bay of Islands, Paihia

We have arrived! Took about 3 hours to get here from Auckland, with a few stops along the way. The scenery was so beautiful and green- it really reminded me of the Lake District.

One of the main things that caught my eye, however, was the amount of houses built precariously close to hills/cliffs, held up by just a few stilts. It appears Aunt Josephine didn’t get eaten by leeches after all and in fact fled to New Zealand to become an architect.

Tough gig for her really considering her fear of realtors, but a girl’s gotta eat*.

*and then wait at least 1 hour before swimming, RIP Ike x

Our first activity for the day was sandboarding. I had already done this in Australia, however the wipeouts were a lot more entertaining this time round with the water at the bottom.

We then went on to Cape Reinga; a beautiful view point with an old fashioned lighthouse, overlooking the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. I won’t lie to you; I couldn’t differentiate between the two but then again, oceans aren’t my forté.

Super pretty views and we were very lucky with the weather, despite the severe wind.

On the way back we went to a Kauri tree forest/store. The Kauri tree is sacred to the people of New Zealand and it’s actually illegal to cut any living ones down. Rumour has it that their strong spiritual presence is what inspired James Cameron for the Tree of Souls in Avatar (2nd one coming thru in 2020- haven’t forgotten about you x).

The store sold furniture made from preserved Kauri’s found buried underground from a tsunami 45,000 years ago. Very impressive craftsmanship actually and for a cool $50,000, you could have your very own Kauri dinner table.

Alternatively, if money’s a bit tight (as it so often is these days), how about a garlic bread board and knife set for a very reasonable $70? An integral part of any self respecting kitchen; as I’m sure you’re aware.

Very niche

Hahei

After a brief overnight stop back in Auckland, we headed down to Hahei- a cute little beach town about 3 hours away.

We are staying in a holiday park right by the sea and in all fairness, it’s actually very nice.

Probably the best accommodation I’ve stayed in on my travels so far, minus having to listen to one of the lads in the group play his screamo in the shower.

It is very quiet here so it’s a good place to get your hikes in. We walked to Cathedral Cove, which was featured in the Narnia films. Good TB films, but James Mcavoy as Mr. Tumnus still freaks me out a little…

Me asking someone I barely know to put suncream on my back

Spent the evening in the pub watching the England Vs New Zealand match. Considering I don’t fully understand the rules of rugby other than throwing the ball backwards, I got very much into it and was probably the most patriotic I’ve ever been (bar Summer ’18 where it very almost came home).

The tension was high as you can imagine, and having me in the back doing the classic England chants probably didn’t help the situation. One of the Kiwi lads bet his special edition All Blacks jersey on the fact England would lose… sorry mate, $200 down the drain x

The following day we went to Hot Water Beach. You basically dig a hole in the sand and as it’s close to the Earth’s Crust, the water filling the hole is super hot and you have your own little jacuzzi.

A nice concept, however the reality was hundreds of people digging and flicking sand into each others holes and then finding the water too hot to sit in. Fully get why X-ray wasn’t happy with Zero helping Stanley out- digging is hard graft.

Me watching the others dig after my turn being only 2 mins 🙂

Afterwards, we had a walk along Hahei Beach and the woodland around it.

My only thought when describing New Zealand

Caught the sunrise before we move on to our next stop. Thankfully, it was worth the early start as pre-8am just isn’t me x

Raglan

I decided to take a brief detour through Raglan to experience the Glow worm caves in Waikato. We passed through a lot of farmland to get there and the views were genuinely stunning.

Absolutely everything here looks like something off a postcard!

We weren’t allowed to take our GoPro’s *other versatile action camera brands are available* into the cave, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of it. Floating down an underground stream in a rubber ring and looking up at the glow worms was really cool, however I wouldn’t overly recommend this activity, to be honest.

You only actually see the glow worms for about 10 minutes- the rest of the 3 hours are spent climbing though a v treacherous cave in/out of water, concentrating on your footing so you don’t fall and break yourself.

It’s very beautiful, and very cold; and you’re not allowed to touch anything (the oils from our skin stop the minerals from growing, apparently).

I was so focused on getting through in one piece that I couldn’t really appreciate the fact I was in an underground cave- I just wanted it to be over ASAP 😂

How I honestly thought I’d end up. ‘2 hours, 50 minutes’ doesn’t sound as impressive, though…

However, if scaling caves is your thing, Waikato has something for you. I did see a nice waterfall and sunset though, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.

Rotorua

After our little stop, we continued on to Rotorua. This is where I had my first exciting activity booked- White Water Rafting. It included a 7m vertical drop down a waterfall, which was as cool (and scary) as it sounds.

Clearly very thrilled to have survived the drop. Kiki smiling through the water at the front of the raft kills me 😭

Unfortunately I managed to have my head down in 99% of the shots, so my helmet and orange life jacket made it look like BB-8 had joined us for the day.

Water probably wouldn’t be the best mix for him I’d imagine, however given how disappointing the recent films have been, I wouldn’t be surprised at that state of mind.

The pictures speak for themselves really, but it was great craic. Shoutout to the staff at Kaitiaki Adventures for the memz and for being absolute slices- miss u x

The following night, I went on the Tamaki Mauri experience- a cultural activity to learn about the Mauri; the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. It was really interesting and I would highly recommend going if you ever find yourself here.

They showed you how the Mauri would weave baskets, clothes and other items out of plants, explained the meanings behind the tribal tattoos on their faces and showed you how they would have hunted and cooked our dinner (nothing impressive for my vegetable samosa though, cos vegetarian).

The men were taught how to do the Haka (the dance/chant the All Blacks perform before every Rugby game- not that it helped them this time, though x), and the women were taught how to dance with stones and ropes. OF COURSE I was chosen to demonstrate, which really wasn’t ideal I have very limited depth perception/hand-eye coordination/any basic level of skill whatsoever. Naturally I made a pigs ear of it, but God loves a trier.

My last day in Rotorua was spent cramming as much in as possible. I started with the Geothermal Pools and natural hot springs.

The pools were actually pretty cool, even though the Sulphur made it smell like rotten eggs 😦

After the pools, I headed off to Hobbiton. Not gonna lie to you, I don’t rate the films AT ALL. I like the idea a lot and the scenery & sets are unreal, however I find the whole thing so cringe and terrible that a little piece of my soul dies every time I try to watch it.

Case and point: Saruman forcing Gandalf to breakdance mid argument.

Me asking Sir Peter Jackson where it all went wrong

Don’t get it twisted- if there was a remake with a whole new cast (Ian McKellen could re-audition), I would be all for it. That being said, I still wanted to go as I’d heard great things about the tour and I wasn’t disappointed; the detail of the set was amazing and the surrounding farmland was beautiful.

Couldn’t get the ring on properly to disappear fully :/

Playin knock door run

To my surprise, we even got a free beer at The Green Dragon, which was a lovely touch.

Hobbiton overall rating: 7.5/10. Fun for all ages and definitely worth seeing, regardless of liking the films or not.

Blue Duck Station

For our next stop, we stayed in and explored a National park for a few days. It was in the middle of nowhere, with rolling hills and livestock as far as the eye can see. Super peaceful and, of course, very green.

Reminiscent of the Charles Manson village in Once upon a time in Hollywood, but remarkably cult free

There was a few activities we could choose to do, from kayaking to hunting “pests”. In my naivety I assumed pests meant rats or mice (still cute and never a pest in my books), however it soon dawned on me that you’d need to be sniper level 100 to shoot a mouse from long range.

He is in there…

You actually shoot, skin and butcher goats ☹️ GRAPHIC CONTENT!!! but they found out one of the goats was actually pregnant with an almost full grown baby once they’d butchered her ☹️ definitely not for me, so I opted for the horse riding trek.

Important to note; I have never ridden a horse in my life. They actually stress me a little, as you never know what mood they’re going to be in.

Not today x What a throwback classic though!

The horses were absolutely huge and had cool, impressive names like Courageous, Akashi and Joe. Guess which one mine was…

He was a very handsome boy and he did very well up the big hills with me on his back, despite him constantly sounding like he was about to keel over.

After many words of encouragement and a few supportive strokes, we got to the top. The view was unreal!

Joe and I made a great team. He was a very good and obedient boy, and I let him have a sneaky chew on the nice grass when the others weren’t looking.

Unbelievable obeying

The following day, I decided to brave the Tongariro crossing; featured in Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom in Mordor (so they tell me).

I have never hiked before in my life. Why choose a 13 mile snow covered volcano on a 30 degree day for your first one and pay $100 for the privilege, you may ask? I don’t know why. Do I hate myself for it? Completely.

Me the entire way

Yes, the view was pretty. But was all 20 minutes of it worth 7 hours of hiking through snow and on loose rocks up and down a volcano in 30 degree heat? Was it worth the complete loss of function in my knees and ankles for the next 3 days? Was all of this worth 165 beats per minute and $100??

Well, maybe. Ask me again in a few days once I’m able to reflect more objectively.

It was worth it.