6 weeks ago, I opened an email from Travelzoo. That email contained a $900 RT ticket from SF to Auckland, New Zealand.
30 minutes later, I booked that ticket.
6 weeks later, the day is here, and the trip is happening!
16 hours later, I land in Auckland and a few note-worthy things happen:
- I matched on Tinder! #travelingsolo #gottamakefriends
- Britney Spears was playing on the airport bus into the city. First sign I’m going to like New Zealand.
- I made several hostel faux paus. First, I walked into the men’s bathroom (@Sreetham, remember when I showed in the men’s bathroom in Barcelona? #historyrepeats). Then, I set up shop in the wrong dorm room and a freshly showered, mostly naked girl and her boyfriend walk in on me, in what looks like a burglary. Oops!
In the morning, I spend a few minutes talking to the hostel staff, getting city tips from them and proceeding to do exactly none of them and instead heading to Rangitoto Island, one of Auckland’s youngest volcanos turned island. I wander around by myself for a bit and then meet Mark, who is traveling NZ for several months and on day 2 of his journey! We spend the rest of the day together exploring this beautiful island:
After exploring Rangitoto, I meet Kristen, who is college BFFs with my SF friend Jesse, who introduced us when she heard I was traveling to NZ! I spend the night at Kristen’s and the next day, we pick up a rental car, and drive into the bush! Destination: Coromandel Peninsula.
We begin our adventure into the bush by getting lost out of Auckland, and then eating the classic New Zealand dish…hot pie!
We then head to Hot Water beach, where volcanic activity creates a natural hot spring beneath the sand…but you have to work for it:
After Hot Water Beach, we head to the famous Cathedral Cove, one of the highlights of the North Island of NZ.
Post Cathedral Cove, I realized how hungry/thirsty I was and promptly bought a $24 Guinness (and I don’t even like Guinness) and what I thought was chicken and bacon pizza…but turns out “bacon” means ham, which is literally the one food I don’t eat.
Culinary mistakes aside, the fabulous day turned into a lovely night full of birds and an adorable little terrier! We spent the night in a cabin at a bird and animal sanctuary, where we were greeted by:
a) parrots saying “Hello” in a Kiwi accent:
b) the owner, who made one bed for Kristen and I because she”just assumed we were lesbians”
c) this beautiful peacock:
We wake up bright and early, to prepare for our 11k (but uphill both ways, in the snow) hike: The Pinnacles. Within 15 minutes of the hike, I ask Kristen “Did I lock the car?” No idea, so I head back to the carpark to double check. I get back to Kristen and ask “Wait, did I close the garage door? Turn off the coffee pot?” We brushed those off and continued on our way. It then drizzled on and off the entire hike, but was so worth it for these epic views:
Post hike completion, we head to the farmhouse we’ve booked through airbnb. It’s a bit off into the booney (as farms tend to be), but like the hike, SO worth it. The home is beautiful, has two dogs, and after a hot shower, our hostess greets us with homemade Shepard Pie. #thebest.
We sleep super soundly (until 5 am when the birds start singing; not the worst way to wake up), and arrive to THE BEST BREAKFAST ever. I love farms. And our farm family. They make us porridge, which even I thought was AMAZING and I hate oatmeal (b/c I used to love it and ate it everyday for 6 months). This porridge though…organic raw oats, soaked overnight with yogurt, cooked with banana, walnut, organic cream, and coconut sugar…y’all…so good. THEN THAT WAS THE FIRST COURSE. Second course was poached egg over (organic, farm grown) buttered toast with bacon. BAH. SO GOOD.
As we’re finishing breakfast, our host family asks me what I want for tea. I say “No thanks, I have coffee”, which really confuses them. They repeat “but what do you want for tea?” and I repeat “Nothing, I’ve got coffee” and show them my coffee cup.
Turns out Kiwis call dinner “tea”. Also, I love they are already asking about dinner while we’re eating breakfast. My kind of people.
Post amazing breakfast, we head out into the pouring rain, figuring it’ll stop, for the Hauraki Rail Trail; a biking adventure along an old mining town, through the Karangahake Gorge. As we’re renting bikes, one of the shop employees tells us if we get into any trouble in the rain, they’ll pick us up. The other shop employee overhears and mutters “Yea, if you’re soft!” #Kiwihumor. I think of his words several time throughout the next 6 hours…
Within an hour, we’re soaked to the bone (save my dry core, thanks to Jesse’s gortex jacket…thanks, Jesse!) and Kristen has already taken a bit of a tumble. We also get lost multiple times despite the brochure’s description of the bike trail “as highly unlikely to lose the trail”.
We eventually run into a few other cyclists braving the weather, and follow them into the eerie, glowing orange light of the 1km tunnel leading to the mining town.
Next thing I know, I’ve lost Kristen, and I find her an hour later with her bike, on a hiking trail. How did you get there, Kristen?! #mystery
Luckily, this is an AWESOME hiking trail through super creepy old mining tunnels that end in a window overlooking the gorge.
As we’re wrapping up the bike ride, we see a McD’s and I am immediately overcome with hunger.
We head into McDs for a snack, and I actually feel bad for McDonalds (said no one ever). We are dripping wet, and proceed to drop dirt and water on every square inch of surface we touch. I then notice the brownie our airbnb hostess (with the mostess) packed for us has exploded in my backpack. I can hardly tell it apart from the dirt (but do we eat it? of course), which creates another scene in McDs as I try to clean this all up.
As we leave McDs, we notice the rain has stopped. WHAT. 6 hours of biking in pouring rain and the minute we stop riding the sun comes out?! That is some BULLSHIT. Although gotta say the rain really made the adventure.
After a warm shower, I contemplate how I want to spend my last day in the North Island. Our airbnb hosts recommend white water rafting and ziplining. I immediately think back to my previous two white water rafting experiences, and remember how bored and not scared I was. As I reply “Meeeh” to the idea of rafting, she shows me the pics of the class 5 (out of 5) rapids. These crazy Kiwis are legit rafting down waterfalls! In fact, it’s the largest commercially rafting waterfall in the world:
And, booked. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Do one thing everyday that scares you”.
In the morning, we once again eat THE BEST BREAKFAST EVER, and drive to Rotorua for the epic rafting/ziplining adventure, picking up Marc (the Dutch friend I met on Day 1 in Auckland!) along the way.
I will say I was mildly disappointed in the level of thrill I felt going down the waterfall. For once, this is an activity that is much easier done than said. Nonetheless it was a very good time, as was ziplining through the trees (albeit, not very scary, even when I ziplined upside down).
Mark, Kristen and I wrap up our day in Rotorua with geo-thermal baths (feels SO good on those sore hiking/biking muscles) and head back to Auckland.
North Island: done and done.
Next up: South Island, for 9 days. More specifically, Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of the World!! Itin: Glacier hike, skydiving, canyoning, zorbing, swinging, and whatever else I can get my hands on. LET’S DO THIS SOUTH ISLAND.