Last day in New Zealand :/

Last day in New Zealand :/

I had packed so much action into my first few days in Queenstown, so I wanted my last few days to be laid back. I went out one night with two of my roommates, John and David from the US. We went to the pizza joint called Winnie’s that apparently turns into a club at night. It did not disappoint! Music was great and everyone was dancing on the floor and tables. They had a contest for “couples” so John and I pretended we were together so we could enter. It was the most hilarious game ever! You had to either hold the guy on your back, he holds you like a baby or you had to sit on his back. We were beating everyone but in the last round John didn’t listen to the cue and suddenly we were out :/ He takes full blame. lol. There was a “pub crawl” at Winnie’s and they were about to leave so we just followed them, figured they knew the fun spots. We made it into the next bar with them before we got caught. They said we could still join them, but just couldn’t participate in the free drinks. Fair enough.

The next day I hung out by the beach and then walked around some of the art galleries. I also had a day where I hiked the Ben Lommand trail, eight hours round trip. I ended up turning around early because it was way too hot and my knees were killing me, so it only took me four. After that, I took a nap and had some fish & chips. I don’t usually order fish because sometimes I don’t like it, but I ate the whole thing! I was planning on doing another hike the next day but was way too sore. In order to avoid using my legs I rented a scooter and went to an old gold mining town called Arrowtown. They converted all of the old mining homes to little shops and hotels. I walked down the stream where they used to pan for gold but didn’t have any luck. There was one false alarm, but it was just the gold polish on my fingernails.

Highlight: Bungy Jump in Queenstown and Piha Beach in Auckland.

Lowlight: No actual lowlight.

Things I learned: Queenstown is very expensive, looking forward to exchange rates in Bali. I also think I may like mountains better than oceans. Or maybe I just like both equally. I learned that adrenaline is addicting. I learned that renting a car is a great way to get around but not knowing the rules makes you 16 again.

Things I wish I had: A couch. Sitting in my bed gets old! Another pair of shorts. And a second pillow. I could list a lot of things here, but none of them I actually am missing that bad. Its funny how you can get by with so much less.

Missed opportunity: Probably not seeing one more city, like Wellington or planning a overnight hike.

Would I come back: 100%. I’d love to come back here on a trip that was just to go hiking here and then end the trip with the Nevis bungy. I’d also love to come back with family and friends as I think they need to visit here.

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Up Next: Bali

Milford Sound (Fjord)

Milford Sound (Fjord)

Milford Sound, really a fjord in geographical terms, but they have never renamed it. I had gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to visit the Sound. It was supposedly a must see, but it also required a 5 hour bus ride there and back! Then, I met a gal who had flown there. A 40 minute flight AND scenic views? It sounded like a plan. I was picked up from my hostel and driven to the airport. There, our pilot Ben, me and five others walked over to a small single engine plane. Ben happens to be an Eagles fan despite being from New Zealand He enjoyed giving me some BS about the last game.

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Ben asked if anyone wanted to ride co-pilot. My hand shot up a little too quickly. In my defense, there were no kids and I was told he would ask this question. So, we boarded the plane, me in the co-pilot seat. He told us to get our cameras ready and take as many pictures as we want. Therefore making it sociably acceptable to ask the guy behind me to take my picture practicing as my new role, co-pilot.

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We set off, it was a very smooth ride, the weather was ideal. Well, for flying. I took clothing suggestions from some friends who had done the bus tour. The group who arrives 5 hours after me when the sun is hot. This is a time where I actually would have bought a sweatshirt from a gift shop that said Milford Sound on it. Oh well!

The views from above…amazing! You fly SO close to all of the mountain peaks and can observe all the different changes in landscape. Slowly creeping from dry, to cold to green. I looked all around and took in the views and occasionally snapped a photo.

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We arrived at a small airport and I successfully landed the plane. Kidding, just seeing if anyone read this far. Our group boarded a ferry and promptly ate a large breakfast before heading to the open top deck. It was an hour cruise down the sound and an hour back. On the way we saw large rock formations covered in greenery on either side of us. They were covered in small and sometimes large waterfalls with rainbows reflecting off the water. There were deep cracks in the mountains made from fault lines. Occasionally, we saw seals sun bathing on the rocks’ edge.  We reached the end of the sound, where the water path opens up to the sea. Normally its very uneven water but it was perfectly still. If you turn a back around you almost don’t notice that it opens up to a connecting path. It was actually missed twice by discoverers who thought it was just a bay that didn’t connect to anything.

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The trip was beautiful, but I must admit I’m glad I took the flight option. It would have been a long day for a short cruise down the sound. However, if you’ve never seen a fjord before, than it absolutely would have been worth it.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? FIRST BUNGY!

Great question (and great song btw: Last Time by Darius Rucker).

Well, for me, it was today! I did my first ever bungy jump at the world’s first bungy jump experience, Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand.

Their motto is, you’re crazy if you do and you’re crazy if you don’t. It couldn’t be more spot on. It was one of the more scary things I’ve done, but I would recommend that everyone at least try it once.

When asking which is scarier, skydiving or bungy, so far has said bungy. I disagree, but only because I’ve done static line sky diving (where you jump alone). That was about equally the same level of fear (fear less, live more. is their other motto). Despite the fear, you just have to jump because the longer you wait the more you psych yourself out and the worse it will become. The classic close your eyes, stop thinking about it and just jump sort of mentality. Or, maybe the waterfall jumps yesterday truly did help prepare me.

If you watch the video below, albeit not flattering, you’ll hear me gut laugh and you can’t make that stuff up. I was genuinely high afterwards. I felt like I could take on the world. I  ran up the stairs to the top of the bridge and could have kept running. I had an amazing amount of energy, I imagine it’s like being a kid again.

I went and found two guys who I had made friends with before and we all high-fived and talked about how great it was! Of course we also shared a drink to celebrate the achievement. We then could relax and watch others make the leap as well.

While this certainly wasn’t my only “first” on this trip, and it won’t be the last, it was definitely a big one that I had been looking forward to and I do feel a sense of relief that  the day has come.

Will I do it again? To be determined but most likely yes if the time and place is right.

Canyoning, so what’s it like?

I don’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie, but maybe I’m becoming one? I went canyoning today and it gave me energy.  After gearing up and hiking 30 minutes (in full gear, woof.) to the entrance we gladly jumped in the ice cold water to cool off. The guides wasted no time and had the first person sit at the end of a cliff that leads into a waterfall pool. “Ok”, they tell her, “Cross your arms over you chest and keep your knees up and just slide down”. The next thing I know she was gone from sight and I hear a splash below. It was my turn next. I ask him if he’s sure I won’t hit the rocks on the way down. He said I wouldn’t and asked if I was ready. I guess so? The next thing you know it’s me thats gone and I end up in the pool below, perfectly safe and sound…and with a lot of water up my nose. Noted, for the next one.

It became a mix of hiking up rocks and waterfalls using ropes, repelling down other areas still using the ropes, sliding down the canyons where the water and slime rocks made a shoot, jumping off the top of the falls onto our feet or backs, and occasionally zip-lining if the water was too low. I could describe it in detail, but they let us bring a Go-Pro so I’ll let the videos do the talking 🙂

**Uploading from a Starbucks because of their high-speed wifi, something I appreciate more now (and their cold brew with sweet cream).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobbiton & Waitomo Glow Worm Cave Tour

Hobbiton & Waitomo Glow Worm Cave Tour

I’m not a Lord of the Rings super fan, but I did enjoy the movies and I can do a decent schmiegel impression. I like activities that cannot be replicated elsewhere. So, I decided to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set. The problem was it is a two hour drive away, and the tour itself only lasts two hours. That’s a long drive for a short visit. In order to make it more worthwhile, I paired the tour with a visit to the Glow Worm Caves in Waitomo.

Admittedly, I missed much of the landscape on the journey there because I slept most of the way, due to a 6am start time. I awoke near the final destination and the landscape was magical. Rolling hills, white specks of sheep every 100 meters or so, and cows just as often. The fog was slowly lifting between the valleys and allowing me to see even more.

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Can you imagine being the farmer who was sitting watching a Rugby match on a Sunday afternoon and answered the knock on the door which would change his life? He received millions to let them build the movie set on his land.  How genius was it to keep it and turn it into a tourist attraction..why don’t they do that more?! Fun fact: they almost ignored the knock on the door because they were super into the Rugby match.

Have you ever been anywhere and thought, this is so cute it looks fake! Well, that is exactly the feeling I had there. It was all real, but so perfect it looked fake (actually there were a few fake things such as trees). They take you on a bus with the LOTR music playing and it sets the scene perfectly. You step out of the bus and make your way to a winding footpath that eventually opens up to a garden. The most charming and perfect garden you’ve ever seen. Everything is well maintained, and the flowers and vegetables are blooming. An extra large pumpkin sits on the ground surrounded by cucumbers. Monarchs land softly on the flowers. The first Hobbit hole is to your left.

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The hobbit holes are different heights which is a television trick called forced perspective. The bigger doors will actually make the actors look smaller and more hobbit-like. Every bit of detail was considered, and no two were the same. Trinkets sit in the windows, letters pop out of the mailbox, chickens lay eggs in the front yard, shirts are being hung to dry and many more touches were added to reflect everyday living.

As I mentioned, most things are real, but if Sir Peter Jackson (the director) didn’t fancy something, he would go as far as building a fake tree and hand painting thousands of leaves on it. Of course, he wasn’t he one doing the painting 😉

You guys… I want to move here! I feel like this would be the most peaceful place to live! Birds are chirping, sheep graze in the distance, all life is thriving, and nothing lacks color or charm. Sure, the houses may be a bit small, but I’ve become accustomed to less this trip, that’s for sure! They even have an inn where you can get a pint to drink, the Green Dragon Inn. I feel like I would wake up, feed the chickens, skip and whistle down the path while greeting my neighbors, sit by the lake and paint it, then go fishing in it, followed by a drink and dinner at the inn during sunset and finally sing and dance in courtyard until it’s time for bed. Then repeat. Unfortunately they keeps a hawks eye on you, and they’d notice if I’d snuck off. I’m wondering now though…why hasn’t anyone built a similar place as a bed and breakfast. Shotgun rights to that.

Following the Hobbiton tour, we went to the Glow Worm Caves. We couldn’t take any pictures there which was too bad. They do a quick tour of the caves- educating us on stalagmites, stalagtites, cathedrals, columns, etc. Then we hop into a boat where we float into a dark abyss. I felt like I was entering the river boat scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That, or escaping from jail in an Indiana Jones movie on a far away island. You see, you have to be completely silent in the pitch black, otherwise you risk the worms getting nervous and turning off their glow for protection. We stealthily made our way down some stairs and loaded into a boat… drifting off into what we only hoped wasn’t a waterfall.

Then, I looked up. It was as if I had drifted outside at nighttime! The glow worms were by the thousands and looked like little constellations in the sky. We drifted through and I just looked up in awe. It was a serene moment that made me appreciate all of the life that lives on the planet, some that we often never see!

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Photo Credit: Didactic Encyclopedia – Blogspot glowworm-caves-waitom-1
 We headed back (oh by the way, my group consisted of Canadians, Texans, Australians originally from Thailand, and our British guide) and stopped at this placed call Giapo for crazy style ice cream. There as this one “selfie cone” that had a gold frame stuck to the cone via chocolate. I really wanted to get it but couldn’t justify spending $35 on an ice cream cone. Instead, I went for the $15 cone :p

Tonight I had to sleep in an 11 person dorm room because I forgot to book an additional day. It was surprisingly quiet, and the only downside was the limited space for you stuff. I found a corner for my bag and tried to keep everything consolidated in it.

Oz-ta La Vista!

Oz-ta La Vista!

So long Australia! (Oops I’ve been gone for 6 days but this never posted). It has been wonderful but I can’t say I’m not looking forward to getting my adventure on in New Zealand!

What a great day to end on yesterday… I ventured over to Burleigh Beach yesterday with a new friend, Michael. We were going surfing together and I borrowed one of his boards. I tried to hide my fear when I saw he didn’t have a soft foam board. I’ve never used one of the harder surfboards before, and I know they are more difficult. The benefit of this board is that it weighs way less, which especially paid off while push-biking to the beach with a surfboard under one arm. I laughed the whole way as it was one of the more challenging things I’ve done and I struggled.

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Soooo I may have oversold my skills… as the first beach we went to had very big waves and a strong swell. After a few failed attempts we moved to a beach where the waves are easier. Much better. I was able to paddle out, catch my own waves, and stand for a bit. It was harder to stay up on this new smaller board, but it’s about time I took my training wheels off. Afterwards, we had a much deserved lunch. With newfound energy, we took our bikes over to a creek where I could practice for my upcoming bungee jump. Standing up on the bridge looking down at the water made me question what I was getting myself into next week. You think it’s all good until it actually comes time to jump. I’ve learned it’s just a matter of just turning off my brain (which is always over thinking) and going for it. Which I did, and was worth it, of course! We swam around a bit in the creek which had really cool sand banks.

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After catching the rainbow sunset with some Sauv Blanc, exchanging good stories, making up new slang and listening to tunes via the classic phone in cup speaker, we met up with Becky (my German roomie) and hit up a local bar to play some pool. I’m glad I had a few drinks in me because my hostel doubles as a hotel and night club and they sure turn up on weekends. I  remember dozing off to the latest Cardi B song and had dreams I was in an Australian rap video.

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The next morning I had a panic moment while mid sip of my coffee down the street. I looked at my calendar to see that my flight was in 40 minutes. I started running back to grab my luggage whilst calling an uber. How did I miss this?! There is NO way I’m going to make it. About 10 f-bombs muttered to myself later, I realized that the calendar flight notification said Cairns to Gold Coast. Thank goodness. That was my flight that I originally had for today but moved a few days earlier and just never deleted. Approximately 4 hours later I actually headed to the airport…with plenty of time to spare.

Australian Summary:

Highlight: Figure 8 pools.

Lowlight: Surfer’s Paraside.

Things I learned: Don’t be so quick to book a flight without looking at weather, give yourself a private room every few weeks, and ask what’s in coffee before ordering.

Things I wish I had: Heels. Just a small wedge. This probably won’t be relevant in my next few countries but would have been nice in Bondi.

Missed opportunity: Everyone said Byron was their favorite, I wish I would have made time for that. Melbourne probably would have been next. All in all, I liked my itinerary!

Would I come back: This may seem a bit backwards, but I wouldn’t come back to just holiday. I would come back to live here though. It is a great vacation spot– lovely beaches, good weather etc., BUT I can get that in other places for much less and closer to home. That said, it was such an easy transition because everyone speaks English here. So, I think I would live in a big city or in a nice surf town.

“Backpacking” in your late 20’s

“Backpacking” in your late 20’s

I really think “gap year” travelers need to rethink the timing. They typically do it right before college so around 18 and 19. This means they are on a tight budget and in return try to save money (hostels, homemade meals, shared transportation). While it can be fun to cook in the communal kitchen, it’s a lot more fun to indulge your tastebuds in the local cuisine. Sure, it can add up (in Australia especially) but when I’m paying $30 a night for lodging, a few nice meals out isn’t so bad. Shoutout to my work fam and my real fam who both gave me cash in order to treat myself to a nice meal. Well, I’m happy to inform you (in hopes that you are reading) that I have! I’ve had a lot of  mexican, Avo toast, noodles, ice cream and Acai Bowls. I’ve also had a lot of coffee and a moderate amount of cocktails or wine.

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Extreme Burrito + Margarita

 

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Taco Bowl
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“Piefee” Coffee in a Pie
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Avocado Ice Cream in a Gold Dipped Cone (with sesame and walnuts on top)

The other benefit is the ability to just see and do more. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do some pretty great tours. They are reasonably priced, but again, can add up quickly! However, to travel all the way around the world and not tour anything is a waste of time and money IMO. I have met a few people where I’ve asked what they have been up to an they said hanging out on the beach and hitting the bars at night. I think looking back they’ll regret that. Or maybe not? I’m also not keen on doing something every day. While the rain in Cairns was disappointing, it did allow for some much needed R&R. I hit up a gym, read my book and chilled watching some Netflix. Hey Netflix- if you could play Criminal Minds on your Australian server that would be much appreciated. Thank goodness you can still get Riverdale here 😉

The one thing I haven’t really spent money on is shopping. I cut back on the shopping habit about a year ago as I began to save up for this trip. It also helps that I don’t have room in my backpack, nor do I want any more weight. I did buy a swimsuit that I have been searching for forever and a pair of Quay sunglasses because they are made in Australia (seen in Açai Bowl photo above).

My last thought about age is to address the stigma that all backpackers are young. Sure, there are definitely a lot of younger ones. However, there are also a lot of older ones, even some that are in their late 30’s.  I would say it’s just like any workplace. Naturally, you are drawn to people your own age, but if no one is, you find common ground with those whether older or younger. If you’re having trouble meeting mates along the way, I’m sorry to say you might find it challenging wherever you are in life, as these hostels are the most social thing I’ve been a part of. Think of it like this, you always have an opener. Where are you from?  If that opener doesn’t work, you can always pretend that all the other chairs are wet and the only dry one is next to the people you want to talk to. That worked for this guy Tristan LOL. PS there have been very few Americans traveling.

All this said, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter when, where or how you travel…just as long as you do 🙂