travel

Queenstown, Queen of Towns…

I fell in love with this town the minute I stepped foot in it three years ago and it is a love, that like my love for Prince Harry has lasted. So it was with a excited hysteria that I finally arrived back into the town on a sunny Sunday evening. Flying high from having successfully scaled Roy’s peak, overexcited about not sleeping in a car for a couple of nights and giddy from the first wine had in ages I was ecstatic to be back. And through a few twists of fate those few days turned into eight glorious weeks of calling this place my home.

Yes, as you’ve probably been told, it is touristy and man is it expensive but it is also awesome. So as I haven’t done a list for a little while and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms here’s one for ya, all the reasons you can fall in love with Queenstown.

1. The Views. Sitting on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by seriously dramatic mountains Queenstown is beautiful. I’ve been living and working on the edges in Frankton and when I get to wake up and come home to this view everyday you really can’t complain, even if I am still sleeping in the car!

(Never getting over this view right on my doorstop)

2. It is adrenaline headquarters. People come here for the thrills and they get them. You have your pick of the bungee jumps here and if you’re not quite as up for it then the canyon swings are also pretty terrifying. For me I absolutely hate the whole upside down thing, it’s really a chore to get me on a rollercoaster. So we opted for the Nevis Swing, although the morning of it I was seriously questioning why. Just the drive up the dusty road on the edge of a cliff got me sweating let alone the bridge across the canyon out to the jump point or the swing itself. But the heart stopping fear of dangling over a canyon and suddenly being dropped down into it is what makes it all the more exhilarating.

(That’s us just freefalling in to the canyon and not screaming at all!)

3. The lake. As mentioned in point number one it is stunning but it’s also great to get out on to. A lake cruise makes for a pretty gorgeous afternoon, especially if the weather is good, because as I also mentioned in point one the views!!! Or for a little more adrenaline the jet boats down the Shotover river are the most fun way to see the scenery, whizzing down the river at 80km an hour, doing 360 spins and getting so many knots in my hair it took me a whole 45 minutes in the shower to get them all out, is my new favourite way to sightsee.

(Fun fact I won this K Jet trip in a pub quiz way back when I first arrived in Auckland and drank solidly for several days straight, worth it though!)

4. It is a great base for day trips. Although it makes for a very long day with an eight hour round drive, Queenstown is the perfect place for a trip to the beautiful Milford Sound. Top of my list as last time I was in the country I was done in by travel sickness and couldn’t face yet another long coach journey, a decision I regretted so badly afterwards, BUT it turned out great, because the day we went it was magical. With my aunt and cousin in town for a couple of days the beautiful sunny weather gave in and torrential rain hit the south, turns out though when it rains Milford is at its best with hundreds of waterfalls pouring down the mountain sides. Driving in was without doubt the most spectacular drive of the South Island (which trust me is saying something). Ok so the rain did almost threaten the boat ride with cancellation and turned the normally blue waters dark and choppy as anything, but I can’t even begin to describe quite how spectacular it was.

(Milford is a seriously, seriously magical place)

5. Arrowtown. This little town is only 30 minutes down the road and it is so so pretty. It is a little trip into the past with the remnants of an early Chinese gold miners settlement and super quaint high street. And a sunny day wandering around the town is a perfect day off.

(How could you not get a crush looking at this cute little high street?)

6. The food! Namely Fergburger, incredibly hyped and always always with a queue but man is it a good burger. And don’t just go for the classic, the cock a doodle oink is an insanely good chicken burger and for breakfast (or any time of the day really) the morning glory gives breakfast burgers world over a run for their money. Aside from Fergburger the town is teeming with restaurants, most of which my broke ass tried not to sample, but Red Rock with it’s $10 full breakfast and Fat Badger with its supersized pizzas needed to be sampled, and I have no regrets!

(Yes baby a beautiful dinner with a beautiful view!)

7. The Luge. Another top Queenstown activity is to take the gondala up the hill and go for a few runs on the stupidly fun luge track. Racing down the hillside on little carts was a great way to indulge my inner kid, although my ten year old cousin kicked my ass good and proper. And it goes without saying really but the views are spectacular.

8. The nightlife. Queenstown is a good party. There are a whole heap of bars and clubs, some of which are surprisingly cheap, like 1876 with the cheapest beer in town. And as we were there for my friends birthday we definitely indulged. I’m not going to go into details but safe to say there were a lot of regrets the next day, and a complete refusal to move from our beds except to fetch a McDonald’s!

(Cowboys bar has beers as big as your face for $15 as well as a mechanical bull you can attempt to ride very very badly!)

So yes this place is going to sap you of money and probably energy, but it’s also exciting as hell and every day here I thanked all the stars that I got to live and play in this queen of towns!

travel

Let’s talk about homesickness…

Do you ever get that slightly off kilter feeling? That feeling that everything’s not quite right. It’s the kind of Sunday night feeling that you just don’t want to be in this place and time?

Don’t get me wrong I completely and utterly adore New Zealand. Every corner you turn there’s yet another beautiful sight. I have had some of the best belly ache laughs in the best company and seen spectacular sights, and believe me, I know how insanely lucky I am to be having this non stop adventure, but very occasionally, I want to go home.

Inevitably homesickness is a part of travelling. Going off to explore new places and meet new people means leaving the familiar places and people behind and that’s sad, there’s no point pretending it isn’t. Yet in this day of internet and data and WiFi I can talk to my family every week, I can message my sister and my friends almost everyday, I can constantly see updates of what’s happening at home and if I’m really lucky I can get a care package of twiglets and Yorkshire teabags sent out to me. Life on the other side of the world isn’t so far away as it once was.

Homesickness is a weird and complicated one for me, I don’t particularly have a home. After my mummy died and we sold our childhood home, going home for me is either staying with a friend for a few days in Yorkshire or staying at my grandparents house. And the homesickness that hits is for a home that doesn’t exist and that can pack a pretty powerful punch, even when surrounded by great new friends in a place I love. I found myself mid ski season ridiculously ill, and I mean running a high fever, ill enough to call into work for only the fifth time in my fourteen years of working, howling on the floor of my room at the lodge and very much miserably home sick. And then one of those great new friends rocked up and with a drive to town for lemsip supplies and McDonald’s and some good company, I was reminded how much I’d rather be there with him, sick as I was, than back in England because for that moment in time that was my home. For me I suppose, until I decide to put down roots, travelling is my home and I may need a little reminding sometimes and a little help being picked back up of the floor, but I freaking love it.

So I can take a few wobbly moments and the occasional tearful outburst and the overwhelming longing for my gran’s spaghetti bolagnaise if it means I get to live this adventure. If I get to meet these people. If I get to have these experiences. If I get to make temporary homes all over the globe. There will always always be rough patches, that’s life generally I guess. As amazing as it may seem on Instagram travelling ain’t always that rosey but it is fucking fantastic.

So my friends however hard it hits you and in whichever way shape or form it comes, ride that homesickness through because as quick as it comes it will go, and then just fucking enjoy the adventure!

travel

A whole lot of National Parks and Hikes…

The South of New Zealand is one glorious National Park after another and if you’re on a backpacker budget the best way to see all the beautiful NZ scenery is by hiking, lots and lots of hiking!

I should, having climbed Kilimanjaro (did I ever mention that before?!) be able to take on a hike or two reasonably easily but apparently I cannot and whilst every walk we did was worth it, I still seem to be the same unfit person I have always been. After the cruisey coastal walks in Abel Tasman and Kaikoura and a day or two wandering around Christchurch we headed off cross country to Arthur’s Pass and the hiking commenced.

The drive cross country through the pass is another of New Zealand’s idyllic routes (she just keeps chucking them at us)! And from here on it out it really got wild, showers of any kind were a thing of the past, my painted nails abandoned and for most of the west coast, phone signal is not a thing and WiFi hard to find. We were truly disconnected and at some points quite literally in the wilderness. Our first campsite at Arthur’s Pass was 6km down a gravel track in the middle of nowhere, there were perhaps 4 other campers there and a toilet shack that looked like something from a horror film. For a night there, I really thought we might be murdered!

(Creepy as hell but you can’t beat a bed with a sunset view)

But who cares about being murdered (!) because Arthur’s Pass is beautiful and full of hikes of all lengths. Whilst we didn’t take on the hardest we spent the day (after spending our first day in the car hiding from the rain) trekking our way through the pass to see great waterfalls and of course stunning views!

(And to be those cliche instagramming travellers who take this bloody travel photo!)

Once we hit the west coast Franz Josef was our first stop. And if you can’t quite splash out on the helicopter rides up onto the glacier you can take a 45 minute walk up to the face, or if you fancy a five hour hike up to Roberts Point for an even closer view. The sign heading into the hike warns that it is for experienced hikers only (which I’m not so sure I can be classed as) and I ended up taking this one on solo.

(This sign’s not daunting at all)

It was without a doubt the most fun of all the hikes. Crossing huge swing bridges and rivers, scrambling up rocks and taking on a narrow wooden staircase hanging on the side of a cliff is all part of the fun. And yes I was a little terrified that I was going to slip and smash all my bones but did I love every second of it? Hell yes I did! The walk ends at a platform which gives you a fantastic view of the glacier and you can eat lunch watching all the helicopters landing and taking off from the glacier as the slightly richer tourists go play on it. Absolutely killer and my legs paid the price, but absolutely recommend!

(So many fun swing bridges and rickety stairways)

As we made our way down the West Coast there were so many places to stop and take on a little hike. First up was Lake Matheson where you can walk around the lake and if you’re lucky get a perfect mirrored reflection of Mount Cook (we were not) but we did get some pretty good views of the mountain and the Fox Glacier. From there we made our way down the coast stopping at a few stunning beach walks along the way.

(I definitely recommend Ship Creek, just look how pretty it is)

Then we were heading through the Haast Pass which is waterfall paradise. Every few minutes we were stopping and making our way along little trails to view waterfalls and probably the bluest river I have ever seen!

(Seriously the most insanely blue, although a little freezing, water ever seen)

We took a little detour further down to Cromwell for a couple of days and found ourselves some more hills to climb, and a particular favourite stop of mine Bendigo ghost town. An abandoned gold mining town up the hairiest steep, winding dust track of a road that gave me a minor heart attack, but nearly deserted by all but us and a group of nudists we stumbled upon (New Zealand is just one fun story after another)! There are heaps of walking tracks up here and walking around this ghostly town was a great afternoon adventure not to mention the of course great views.

(Just hanging around on top of a hill as per usual)

Then we hit up Wanaka and with it Roy’s Peak which was the big one. It is at the top of the list of hikes to hit in New Zealand and you can see why. The highest peak in the area you can literally see for miles and miles, but it is HARD. A constant uphill slog and it was hot hot hot! Too in love with our sleep to try and a climb for sunrise and miss the heat of the day we started climbing mid morning and boy did we sweat! We took four litres of water each along with a speaker pounding out the motivational tunes, and I am so very glad we did, because we needed it. Reaching the top though I probably felt the most accomplished I had in the whole time I’d been in New Zealand! And that combined with the very welcome breeze and the killer views put it at the top of my list of recommendations.

(New Zealand just chucking them stunner views at us)

And thus ended our weeks of walking as we headed for Queenstown and all the thrills, food and alcohol it offers (seriously we deserve it)!

(Our happy hands atop Roy’s Peak for no more hikes)

Till next time xxx

travel

Welcome to the South Island… Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman to Kaikoura

Gloriously sun drenched. Is exactly how I would describe my first couple of weeks in the South. My tan has been well and truly topped up, my hair has been bleached by the sun and sea water, my shower has been either a lake or the sea and everything is covered in sand. Welcome to the sunniest place in New Zealand!

(Just look how awesome my bath is!)

Granted when we first drove off the ferry the sky was looking a bit cloudy and we spent our first night in a campsite getting poured on and our first morning dodging the rain in the centre of Nelson. It wasn’t looking promising. But then as we pulled up in our camp, which was in fact a car park (welcome to freedom camping) the sun did a beautiful thing and came out. Then, not to be cheesy but, it just didn’t stop shining.

(Car parks = Freedom Camping at its finest)

From the car park we headed slightly inland to Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, home to the most picturesque jetty for all your instagram needs! Fair warning however underneath the pretty jetty several rather large eels reside. So after dramatically and photogenically jumping into it some fast swimming is required to swim as far away from the eels as physically possible.

(I may have jumped in a few times to get the perfect shot. There was a lot of fast swimming away from eels)

We camped out here a night in one of the doc sites and it was so incredibly nice to be out of a packed car park and surrounded by nature. Not so incredibly nice though was our introduction to sand flies! These little bastards turn out to be everywhere during the New Zealand summer, and they bite like crazy. I now have some very scarred up ankles and feet to go along with my tanned beach life look. Life on the road turns out has its down sides.

Long drop toilets are another of the less appealing sides to the New Zealand roadie. And we got our first South Island one at our next campsite. But holding your breath whilst going for a pee was worth it because for a mere $5 a night we got a bed on the beach!

(Look at that view with my morning cup of coffee)

Just outside Abel Tasman National Park we found this cute little campsite owned by the loveliest of ladies and from here we spent our days venturing off into the National Park. Abel Tasman is all about the yellow sand beaches and the blue blue sea and oh my goodness did I fall in love with it, you can see easily see why the place is swarming with tourists.

Most of the National Park is accessible only by boat and from Kaiteriteri we took the water taxi to trek some of the coastal walk. Away from the township the crowds thinned out and it was idyllic walking the leafy track passing little near empty beaches along the way and getting some pretty cracking views of the National Park. We were living the dream people. Living the Dream!

(D.R.E.A.M.Y)

Heading off from Abel Tasman we took perhaps the longer and less economic, but so worth it route, of cris crossing across the country and drove ourselves over to stop number three Kaikoura on the east coast. This place was number one on my hit list because Dolphins!

They say Kaikoura is a haven for sea life and guys it really really is. As we drove along the coast line towards the town I may have done a little squealing as I spotted the seal colony living along the rocky shore. A whole stretch of rocks dotted with furry seals and their babies swimming, playing and mostly sleeping. Seals can also be spotted at the Kaikoura Peninsula, which you can walk around in a couple of hours, spy the seals, see some great views out across the ocean and spot heaps of native birds which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of. But it’s definitely a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Although the seals were cute and exciting, and the albatross sightings thrilling news for my sister who has some obsession with them, the real (and very expensive) reason we were here was for the dolphins! So on a bright sunny morning we took to the sea geared up in wetsuits, flippers and snorkels to swim alongside the dolphins. And when I say dolphins I mean first there was one, then five, then twenty, then hundreds! At one point I was looking down through the snorkel at the two swimming in circles underneath me, glanced up and was surrounded by fins. We were lucky enough to be swimming alongside a pod of up to 400 dolphins and I have never seen anything like it. Back on the boat we were supplied with cuppa soup and ginger biscuits, and could watch the dolphins swimming and flipping about all around us. It without doubt classifies as a best day ever.

Despite the mild sea sickness and the fact I lost my sunglasses (the third pair of those exact ones) it was worth every penny. And staying in a car park for free kind of made up the money lost (or so we told ourselves).

The other thing about Kaikoura was that it was hot. We quite literally melted on some days and the stony beaches (alas no more yellow sandy beaches of Abel Tasman) were like walking on fire to get to the refreshing sea. Turns out the best place to take refuge was in the pubs where a nice cold beer or even a pint of icy coke helped us to cool down. The strawberry tree was a particular favourite, a crooked old fashioned pub with a really delicious beer that goes by the same name.

Besides frequenting the pubs, some serious day drinking, befriending the local sea life and melting in the sunshine, Importantly this was the place I learnt how to successfully jump start my car. Having burnt the battery out charging our phones I awkwardly asked some, very young looking, German boys for a hand jump starting it and rapidly googled the instructions so I wouldn’t look quite so clueless! Nevertheless I did it and to celebrate my successful adulting headed out to take some photos of myself creeping at the nearby lavender farm.

(Tried to take the perfect insta pic just turned creepy)

With these three fantastic first stops South Island was well and truly off to a truly beautiful start and I could only imagine the good times to keep on coming. Stay tuned for more updates. I bloody love this country!

travel

New Zealand… Best of the North

In the last few months we have driven up and down and round and round and zig zagged our way across the entire North Island and I think we can say that we have well and truly seen it.

As we embark on our tour of the South I figured I’d look back and make a little (or very long) list of the best of the North.

1) The Northlands. People tend to miss this as they head south out of Auckland but it really is a stunning part of the country.

(Think that proves my point!)

Paihia makes for a great base in the Bay of Islands. From here you can take the ferry over to pretty Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, and lounge on the beautiful beaches, go for a morning parasail, visit Waitangi, the site of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, take a walk up the Opua forest lookout track or take a drive to Keri Keri where you can find New Zealand’s oldest building and then wander along the river to Rainbow Falls. Paihia is full of countless fun activities and at the weekend a couple of fun bars as well. It was here I made one of my best friends for the season when we bonded over heavy drinking in the backpackers Pipi Patch bar!

The northern most point of New Zealand is Cape Reinga. A lighthouse stands at the tip, from which you can view the place where two seas merge, and also see quite how far you are from home!

Although it’s a long journey all the way up north it’s also a fun one. The designated state highway from Cape Reinga along the top part of the west coast is Ninety mile beach, though you will need a four wheel drive for it, as my friends found out when they tried to drive down it in a dodgy Honda Odyssey and ended up getting towed off the beach by a tractor! There are also some impressive sand dunes to stop at on the way which armed with a boogie board I sandboarded down at a slightly alarming speed! Super hard work to climb up but super fun to come down.

Heading back towards Auckland we made a kind of accidental stop near Matakana for a few days, and despite it being an off plan stay I would definitely recommend a visit. This area is home to a fair amount of wineries, which we of course sampled but most importantly here you can find the best cinnamon bun I have ever tasted, at The Farmer’s Daughter!

(Seriously I still dream about this tasty bit of deliciousness)

2) Auckland is my least favourite of places, every time I wound up there I ended up getting drunk and getting sick. But if you do end up spending time there Waiheke Island is the place to be. This is the island of beaches and wineries. If you get yourself a hop on hop off bus pass you can crawl your way from one winery to the next, tasting some awesome New Zealand wines in the sunshine and then go and drunkenly flop onto a beach. My idea of a perfect day.

3) Coromandel. Everyone says to go there, and there is good reason! My god it is Pretty! And of course full of tourists. Hot Water Beach which at low tide is packed with people as everyone tries to find the best spot to dig a hole and relax in the warm water, and Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous tucked away beach, that was used for filming one of the Narnia films, are as touristy as it gets but still need to be paid a visit. My favourite part of the Coromandel though, is the drive along the coast from Thames up to the Coromandel Peninsula, it is the most beautiful drive I have so far done in New Zealand, and trust me I’ve done a lot of beautiful drives. In the afternoon sunshine with the windows down and a little bit of Oasis on the stereo, it is a dream road trip. And just make sure you arrive up there in time for sunset!

(I do love a good sunset me)

4) Coming down the east coast you reach the port city of Tauranga where the main attraction is a quick yet painful climb up Mount Maunganui. It’s worth the pain though for the stunning views and once down there’s a beauty of a beach to go for a cooling off swim!

Driving down the coast is pretty spectacular as you follow the seafront along. There’s a fair few camping spots here practically on the beach, which in good weather, would make for a pretty sweet stop off, we however just spent our night on the coast sheltering from non-stop rain under a makeshift tarpaulin shelter cooking soup and cheese toasties on our trusty camp stove!

Further down is Gisborne, which proudly proclaims itself the first place in the world to see the sun rise. Again in good weather it is a sight to be seen, we unfortunately missed out with rain, rain and more rain! In the shitty weather, Sunshine Brewery is a great place to spend the arvo, and ‘In There Like Swimwear’ is to date the best beer I’ve drunk in New Zealand. Gisborne’s other claim to fame is as the landing place of Captain Cook and there’s plenty of landmarks and statues to show you where to walk in their footsteps.

Another few hours south and you hit Napier. Perhaps my favourite spot of the North Island trip, it is the Art Deco city and I could quite happily spend hours wandering around looking at all the pretty buildings and playing Art Deco dress up in the free museum.

(Anyone else thinking Gatsby?!)

We spent a while near Napier as we were working on a farm for a few weeks and as one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand it offers up plenty of nearby beaches, harbour side bars and cycle routes along the sea front.

5) Heading in land and Rotorua is top of the list. Full of geothermal activity, the town smells like rotten eggs from all the sulphur and every so often you get a very potent whiff. I have returned to Rotorua a few times and still couldn’t get bored. The main draw of course are the thermal parks with their bubbling mud, multi coloured hot springs and dramatic geysers.

(And eeery mesmerising rivers)

The geothermal activity in the area was a draw for many Maori tribes, as they use the hot springs for bathing, heating and cooking, and there are several Maori villages here that have become tourist attractions. We went to Whakarewarewa (try saying that five times fast, in fact try saying it at all) and although not the most popular, definitely the most authentic as a village still very much in use.

(No she’s not fishing just cooking some corn)

Rotorua is also home to a whole host of other attractions. There’s the Thursday night street market and Eat Street for food and drink and we also occupied ourselves paying a visit to the cat cafe for coffee and cuddles. There’s Rotorua lake and the green lake and the blue lake and the Redwoods is a great place to undertake our favourite of all activities and go for a wander.

If you were made of money there’s a whole heap to do here and as long as you don’t mind the smell you could quite happily fill your days in this interesting city.

6) I’m a little biased but Tongariro National Park is amazing. This is where I lived and worked for five months on the ski field and although occasionally cabin fever would set in I just couldn’t tire of it. In the winter Whakapapa Ski Field is where it’s at and I could wax lyrical about how to fill a winter in the area, but I think I’ve already done that (A Ski Season in New Zealand’s North Island…) In summertime though it’s just as good, and the best way to see the beauty is to undertake the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not short at 19.4km long with a devil of a climb but the pretty pretty view more than makes up for the pain.

It may be a little middle of nowhere but I love this place, and the fact I was basically living in Mordor (many scenes were filmed on Mount Ruapehu) and driving past Mount Doom every day (Mount Ngaruhoe was used as Mount Doom) was my thirteen year old self’s dream come true! I unashamedly have and always will be a huge Lord of the Rings fan!

(See still loving the sunset)

7) Speaking of Lord of the Rings, any fan cannot go to New Zealand without a visit to Hobbiton! Yes it is touristy and a little expensive but it is magical, I may have even gotten a little misty eyed as the bus drove us across to the set with music from the film playing us in. It’s cute and whimsy and the whole damn reason I ever wanted to come to New Zealand!

8) On the west coast of the island sits Raglan, the Byron Bay of New Zealand. I have a soft spot for this surf town, it was the first stop of our road trip after we left the ski field and the place where I celebrated my 28th birthday with a bloody good bunch of friends. (Yes I’m that old now.) Raglan is the place to surf, if that’s what takes your fancy. Or you can, if you’re me, accept that your surfing skills have peaked at standing up once, and instead just go along, watch all the more accomplished surfers, laugh as your friend falls fully clothed into the sea and horrendously sunburn your face and arms. There are other water sports on offer as well, we took to the estuary with our kayaks and despite a little rain had a jolly good time of it so we did! On land we hired bikes and cycled our way down to the wharf where Raglan Fish does some really excellent freshly caught “fush ‘n chips”! And then ditched the bikes and drove our lazy asses to Bridal Veil Falls. Where you can dick around and take photos like this.

I don’t know if I’m looking at Raglan through rose tinted glasses because of the great company and the many laughs and the fact this is the place I lost my skinny dipping virginity. But I really do love this hippy surf town and it’s black sand beaches and it’s grungy bar where bad drunken decisions are made in dark corners!

(And another sunset)

9) Last but not least is Wellington!

I love this little city a whole lot and if I could stay and work I probably would. It’s a quirky capital with plenty of vintage shops, dreamy houses and fun bars. It was here we let our drunkenness loose, celebrated Christmas with several shots and a horrific hangover and bar crawled our way into 2019. When we did let our livers rest we wandered around leisurely exploring the city. For a capital it’s quite compact and you can easily walk your way around it. The waterfront is the obvious place to start, heading from the city centre down to Oriental Parade is a great stroll in the sunshine and the little beaches along the front are always popular. There’s also a jumping platform where the crazy people can jump into the docks and the not so crazy just chill and watch. This is the home of Te Papa and if you go to one museum in New Zealand, make it this one, completely free and full of interesting exhibitions, for me it was the first place to hit. The cable car is iconic in Wellington and a mere $5 we took a ride up to Kelburn, from here we browsed around the cable car museum (it really is an icon of the city) and then made our way back down to the city through the botanical gardens.

As well as wandering our way around we also took the car a little further afield, and let me tell you fellow Lord of the Rings fans, you will love this place! All around Wellington are places used for filming, just North in Upper Hutt is Rivendell, we practically camped on the site of the Battle of Helms Deep and of course there is the Weta Workshop where most of the props were made and where you can make friends with some lovely trolls at the entrance.

This friendly city makes a great home for a couple of weeks and an ideal last stop in the North Island. And really, watching the sun set over the city from Mount Victoria could not have been a more perfect last evening in the North.

(I told you I really do love a sunset)

And there you have it in a (very big) nutshell, New Zealand’s North Island. There are of course countless other places and sights that I could ramble on about, and of course plenty of places I haven’t had the fortune to see but then we could be here all year and I’ve got a whole other island to be seeing! So I’ll be seeing ya on the other side folks xxx

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2018 in Retrospect…

I suppose it’s that time of year again. Time to look back on the year that has yet again flown by way way too quickly. And a year that has once again changed my life.

Strange to think that when the bells of 2018 rang in and I raised that glass of bubbly to the New Year I had no intentions of moving myself to the other side of the world and I don’t think I could have even have begun to imagine the year I’ve had. Because bloody hell has it been a good one!

Last year I wrote a list of things I had discovered and they very much still ring true…

1) I do have the best of friends, moving away proved that the ones I loved the most would still love me wherever the hell I was in the world. And the new ones I met, even if they were just in my life for a few months proved pretty damn awesome and never to forgotten.

2) Technically my heart didn’t get broken this year though it got a little bruised around the edges. But I still maintain that the most heartbreaking of situations can be the most healing. Looking back at all my heart break from last year if none of that had happened I wouldn’t be where or who I am today and I wouldn’t miss out on that for anyone.

3) You may have the biggest butterflies fluttering around your stomach but willpower will get you through anything. I sat on the tiniest little propeller plane on the journey from Australia to New Zealand feeling sick to my stomach with nerves at the prospect of being on the other side of the world alone for god knows how long, but it was a dream that I wanted to follow so I pushed on through. Same way I pushed on through the stress and anxiety of the first few weeks of work and pushed through the little voice in my head telling me there was no way in hell I was skiing down that steep icy slope! With a little willpower there’s no end to what you can achieve.

4) You are never too old to change your opinion or learn a new skill or make a new friend. Heck you’re never too old for anything. You never know where life is going to take you if you have an open mind.

5) Indulge your passions. Hell fucking yeah. That is exactly what I did the last seven months and let’s just say boy was it worth it.

6) Life is too short. Seriously I swear the years are going by quicker and quicker. And all good things come to an end far far quicker than you expect or want them to.

I was wallowing badly at the beginning of last year not knowing what the hell I was doing with my life and then on a random evening late January I made the impulsive decision to follow a dream I’d had for a while and move my ass to New Zealand. I still may not know what the hell I’m doing with my life, I still stumble around from adventure to adventure, drinking far too much than is good for me and making mistakes. I still fall in love with guys that don’t want me or move to the other side of the world before I get up the guts to tell them I love them. but I also cross oceans and see sights that take my breath away and I fly.

I have never been so happy in myself, I even like the messy bits, and although life keeps going by at an alarming rate it just keeps getting better and better.

So this year I stumbled and fell and flew, let’s keep doing it all over again in 2019

travel

A backpackers Christmas…

Christmas Day was the first time I felt homesick since my first month in New Zealand, and it was definitely the first time this trip that I’d felt the urge to go home. Because, Christmas for me is really just about family.

Yes there were no presents or stockings to open, but I didn’t really need them especially not when my family had still been so generous as to send me money to my account. And yes there was no traditional Christmas dinner, but we had a pie lunch and snacks and chocolates aplenty. We spent the day as most people do lounging around, watching Christmas movies, playing games and eating junk. We had Christmas hats to wear and we listened to Christmas music. I’d still in the build up had the stress of getting presents for everyone back home, even if it was done over the internet, and I still had an advent calendar to open everyday (courtesy of my Gran being insanely organised and sending one over in September)! There was a whole lot of Christmas still around. But there is something especially lonely about a hostel Christmas, even when you’re not the only one and even when you’re with a friend.

Don’t get me wrong this was not my first rodeo, I spent a Christmas in Sydney three years ago, but then I had my sister and then boyfriend to stave off the homesickness. And at 19 I was in Canada doing a ski season but at that giddy age there was something exciting about being away from home with all your friends, cooking Christmas dinner together and having a proper white Christmas.

I guess now I appreciate my family a whole lot more. As you lose people, the ones you have become even more important, and I suppose Christmas is always that time when you think of them the most. And we really do have the best of Christmas’s, full of traditions and happiness and lots and lots of cheese. So to find myself on the other side of the world with no family (or cheese) around and a kickass hangover making everything feel worse, gave me a pretty hefty dollop of homesickness.

BUT I am on the other side of the world living out a dream, that a year ago I didn’t think I would. I am young and free and travelling the world and there are a whole lot of people not nearly so lucky so I guess I can take a Christmas away from home and a little bit of homesickness in return for that.

I suppose what I’m trying to say, after all the moaning, fellow backpackers is that it’s all just a part of the adventure. that despite the less than homely feel of the holidays spent in a hostel, there will be drinks and company aplenty if desired, and it is just one after all just one day. So we must suck up the homesickness, maybe Skype our families and eagerly anticipate the next day when Christmas will be over, the city alive again and the adventuring will continue.

travel

How to (or not to) camp your way around New Zealand…

With the season over at the ski slope and a few dollars in the bank it was time to leave the mountain behind and head off exploring New Zealand and the best way to do that? A roadie!

I successfully exploited the fact that my birthday was rolling around to convince my remaining friends in the country that they needed to accompany me to the first stop at least. And two days after the ski slopes closed on a bright, sunny spring morning with a car full to the brim of stuff and three of us somehow cramped in we set off on the longest most roundabout route to stop one; Raglan, via the forgotten highway and, of course to make it a proper road trip, Mcdonald’s for breakfast!

Top tip number one New Zealand roads are (like the weather) very variable and you will often find yourself on a gravel road as we did on our very first day. They are, however, also very stunning. And the Forgotten Highway is one of these stunners, it’s a beautiful, remote drive through rolling hills, forested gorges, mysterious tunnels and you can even get your passport stamped at the self-declared Republic of Whangamomona! It is everything I wanted New Zealand to be and that first day I really felt as though I’d stepped right into Lord of the Rings. Just brace yourself for a bit of a rough ride.

(An actual passport stamp from the Republic of Whangamomona’s passport office aka the pub)

Top tip number two springtime will still be a wee bit chilly so it may not be wise to down a load of beers go skinny dipping and jump into bed soaking wet. Our roadie (and my birthday celebrations) started true to form with a few drinks. After succeeding in putting up the tent for the first time the beer was cracked open and giddy on the high of freedom from our jobs and a new adventure we got “a little bit lairy!” And in the spirit of a new adventure I decided that it was the time to tick another item off the bucket list and take a dip in the, pardon my French, fucking freezing sea at midnight. As exhilarating and hilarious (we may have had to climb over the very tall locked gate to get back into the campsite and I am very not tall) as the experience was, once the excitement and the alcohol coat disappeared boy did we feel the cold. Just one word when you’re camping people, Layers! And lots of them.

Top tip number three get an air mattress that does not deflate. As well as dealing with the sudden shock of not being in a warm bed we also woke up to the realisation that we were sleeping on the floor, it turns out our air bed had a very well hidden hole in it. Within one night we had gone from a warm comfy bed to sleeping on the floor in the cold, and we had a whole six months of this to look forward to!

Top tip number four get used to the fact that complete cleanliness is not a thing. To be honest I always feel a little bit grubby. Camping by beaches, everything very quickly gets full of sand and even if the nights were cold to start with, the morning sun is hot especially the closer summer gets, and it gets sweaty fast (sorry gross I know). If it isn’t sunny it is raining and then, well then, everything is damp.

(It takes a little ingenuity to try and keep as dry as possible. And to make sure the coffee gets made!)

After our first four nights of camping topped off with 24 hours of rain, we’d had enough and convinced ourselves that economically it was better to get an air b&b during our time in Auckland and treat ourselves to some luxury. But alas when you’re on a backpacker’s budget Air b&bs are a one off luxury and despite a few days of living it up once our numbers dwindled we were back to the good old camping.

Top tip number five campsites come in all shapes and sizes. There are the more luxury holiday parks and there are the more wallet friendly DOC sites. The department of conservation campsites are cheap and varied, some have a wide range of facilities, some just have taps and drop toliets and some have nothing! But when they’re $10 a night and when you can go to sleep with views like these do you really care? Plus the lake makes for a pretty good bath in the morning and well, it’s all part of the adventure!

Top tip number six make sure your car is fully equipped. By this I mean it is probably a good idea to make sure you have a full puncture kit, some oil, water, perhaps even road side assistance. Because if by some chance you’re driving along a particularly bumpy gravel road and you get two flat tyres and then discover you have no tools to change the tyres anyway you can very quickly (or actually slowly) find your car on a tow truck and a hefty price to pay!

(My poor baby)

Top tip number seven if you don’t like the tent you can always sleep in the car. Just under one month into our travels and we were down to just the two of us and this meant we could set up the car and make it our home. It may be a little on the cosy side but as both of us are short we make it work. Bonus it saves time on setting up, all we need to do us pull up at our spot for the night, shift the bags into the front seat and settle in for the evening. Sure it may not be a fancy jucy camper but we’re on a budget. And let’s be honest the zombie repeller makes for a pretty cool home for the summer!

(Home, cat unfortunately not included)

Top tip number eight try and make a little bit of a plan. Yes it is awesome to just go where the wind takes you, to change plans and directions depending on what you fancy and who you meet but it is probably best to have rough idea of where you want to visit and what you want to do otherwise you can very easily find yourself aimlessly cruising down the coast, dodging the rain and wandering around townships spending your money on coffee and pointless purchases. And times like these will make you miss home and all its comforts and have you wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life BUT…

Top tip number nine roadies are fun! You may wind up soaked to the skin, burnt to the crisp, sweaty, dirty and with chronic back pain. You may sometimes get sick of the endless wandering, particularly when the weather is crap. You may run into troubles and you may end up in some weird ass places. But you will also end up in the most beautiful places, go on the most ridiculous adventures and have some of the best experiences of your life. Could there be a better way to see New Zealand? I don’t think so!

travel

A Ski Season in New Zealand’s North Island…

Hey all, sorry for the complete lack of posting the last few months, I’ve been busy living, working and playing at New Zealand’s largest ski area Mount Ruapehu. If you’ve ever done a ski season you’ll probably know how ridiculously intense, crazy and awesome it is. If you haven’t you should really fucking do one!

To be fair I went in with a little bit of trepidation to say the least. The day I arrived it was pissing down with rain as I, quite literally, drove through Mordor to the lodge in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere that was to be my home and I panicked. Big time. I really worried for those first couple of days what the hell I had got myself in to.

But although National Park is pretty tiny and Slalom Lodge, my home, was 5km outside, it turned out to be the best of places, full of crazy beautiful people and weird, weird happenings.

It took a week or so but as the lodge filled up for the season, the work kicked in and the snow came to the slopes I fell head over heels in love with the mountain.

Customer Services it turns out is not for the faint of heart. Three weeks into the job the crazy busy school holidays hit us and I found myself working all the hours, seeing very little of the snow or my skis and sobbing into my housemates shoulder after one too many beers at the stress of it all. Because, don’t ya know, everything and I mean everything is customer services fault, the busy queues, the ticket prices, the bad weather, the car parks being full… literally everything. Even without the mania of the school holidays there were some rough days to be had. Turoa, the ski field on the other side of the mountain lost their highest chairlift due to an avalanche and that bought a ton more customers to our side of the mountain and on busy days we were getting at least 2000 more customers than we were equipped to deal with. It became all hands on deck and after getting the 5.45am bus up the mountain, dealing with the epic queues and yelling guests for the first half of the day, I spent afternoons up at the schuss bar helping run food and make margaritas, and getting bought down the mountain by the cats after all the lifts had closed off to get the very last of the buses home.

Honestly work was chaotic. But we still had our fun. After one particularly hectic weekend the big bosses gathered us all after the slopes had closed and dished out beers. On another morning mid crazy school holidays we were all greeted off the bus at 6.30 am with breakfast burgers. We had staff appreciation every month which varied from beers and burgers to sledging on the beginner slopes, to night skiing, to full blown parties at Tussocks pub. We had our lows (and they got pretty damn low) but at the end of it all they just made the highs all the more sweeter and despite the chaos and frustration there were oh so many highs!

When we did get the days off it turned out that even though we seemingly lived in the middle of nowhere there is heaps to be doing. First and foremost there is of course the skiing, and with Mount Ruapehu having the best snow in years there was some epic fun to be had. Here you can “Ride the Maunga” and ski on an active volcano! Bonus there are two sides of the mountain to enjoy. Whakapapa, where I worked, which is obviously the best, has a wider range of runs and gullies whereas Turoa is amazingly wide and open and cruisey. Enough fun to satisfy any skier.

I was lucky enough to be living with some bloody lovely ski instructors who put up skiing with me and my rusty skills and one of whom was kind enough to even let me wangle myself a private ski lesson with him. As a result my skiing got to improve crazy amounts after a nearly five year gap off the skis. Even without the instructor friends, the mountain offered free group lessons to all staff which meant I got to spend a fun afternoon mostly on my ass attempting to learn snowboarding and eventually discovering that I am most definitely a skier!

Off the mountain there was, with a little help from the car, plenty to fill the closed mountain days (and the days when you just needed a break from the slopes) with. This area is packed full of adventures, there are glow worms, hikes, waterfalls, an alpaca farm, carrot town (or to give it’s real name Ohakune) which has a giant carrot and a carrot park that provided us with far more entertainment than was normal! There’s a pretty challenging golf course to be taken on in National Park village as well as a climbing wall that thoroughly defeated me and my lack of upper body strength!

For the nights, Schnapps it turns out is where it’s at, and tight ass Tuesday is the night to gather and drink and eat cheap ribs! And, as there always is with ski seasons, there was a fair few house parties to be attended.

Richard, the owner of our lodge turned out to be quite the legend and he threw us some pretty epic events, including but not limited to a seventies themed party with insane amounts of jelly shots and a snow jam where we literally had a ski jump off the roof of the lodge! As I sat one night around a banquet table full of roast dinner pissed off my face on whisky shots, cheering to Slalom lodge’s greatness and planned storming of National Park and surrounded by some of the loveliest (and craziest) people I’ve had the luck to call friends, I knew I got it pretty damn good.

By far the biggest downside of doing a ski season is the heartbreak when it all comes to an end. And true to form a whole heap of tears were shed as all the goodbyes were said. Because we really did get the best bunch of weirdos. A crazy whanau and a crazy season that despite all the emotional meltdowns I would do all over again in a heartbeat.

Seriously guys if you’re thinking of taking some time out, go do a ski season! You’ll learn some new skills, make some wonderful friends, have a whole heap of insane fun and maybe kill your liver a little in the process! And if you do decide to do a season, try New Zealand on for size trust me you won’t regret it!

travel

What to do when you first move to New Zealand (besides killing your liver)…

If I’m quite honest with you I spent the first couple of weeks of my adventure, in Auckland consuming a whole lot of alcohol. So besides being able to tell you the best backpacker bar to hit up each night of the week I can’t really give you a very great guide to Auckland! What I can do though is tell you all about the actual process of getting ready to start work in New Zealand.

First things first, step off the plane and take a moment to breath. I was completely knackered, and insanely stressed from a ridiculous propeller plane ride across from Tasmania to mainland Australia in the early hours of the morning! After surviving that, my connecting flight to Auckland, the nerves of passport control (where I inexplicably was convinced they were going to tell me my visa was fake), the bus ride into the city and dragging my insane bags to the hostel I was just about ready to collapse and or cry. See Perth and Tasmania had kind of just been holidays and this, this was the big move. So I needed to gather myself for a moment, venture out into the city and get my bearings, find a McDonald’s and stuff my face with comfort food. Never, I have now discovered, underestimate the need for a breather.

I threw myself into Auckland pretty hard and fast. Night one after my McDonald’s I wound up in the hostel bar drinking beers and playing inappropriate bingo (yes this is hostel life), Day two hungover and soaked through from torrential rain I went to orientation where my travel company threw a whole heap of information at me and then gripping my piles of papers and leaflets I took myself off to see the city. Day three I desperately searched the city for a car to buy, took on the glass floor up the Sky Tower and drank all the alcohol on a pub crawl. Day four with a killer hangover I tackled early morning bank appointments and a ton of car paperwork, then again took to the alcohol and headed out to a silent disco. Day five… yeah you get the picture. I didn’t really stop or sleep which is how I found myself 10 days later horribly homesick curled up in the corner of Starbucks sobbing into my English breakfast tea! Seriously make sure you give yourself space for a breather!

On the practical side there a couple of absolute musts when you first land in the country. Number one get a bank appointment, they’ll set you up with your account, online banking, give you your card and it’ll be active within 15 minutes. It’s all pretty simple just take in copies of your documents and maybe don’t go with a horrific hangover! Once this is done you can transfer money across from your home account. Top tip guys use TransferWise, I love them, it takes a few hours for the money to transfer but they give you the best rates and you can transfer so easily via the app. You don’t have to do this of course, but it’s cheaper to pay with your NZ card of course, plus you need a few transactions on your account to get a bank statement to get your IRD number. This is number two of the musts. Again it’s all pretty easy you need your visa, passport, NZ bank statement and national insurance number and you can just apply online. It’s super quick, I had mine emailed to me within a couple of days, and once that’s through you’re all set to work yey!

The other big thing I had to sort was buying a car. This isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of bus companies that’ll take you all around New Zealand, but given that I was going to be working and living in a pretty isolated location for the winter I wanted a car for the first 6 months at least. So maybe for you it’ll be easier to just head into a travel company and buy yourself a travel pass. But if you do want to buy a car here’s the how to. Firstly I am not at all mechanical so I read every single thing I could find about what to look at when viewing a car because I’m really not so good at coping with a breakdown! Then I headed online there’s plenty of backpacker sites where people post cars and campers for sale so somewhere like backpackerboard is your best bet. I messaged a few posts and then trawled around the city checking them out until I found a cheap and pretty beat up car but one that was running well and most importantly had a valid warrant of fitness for another 6 months woohoo! Once you’ve found a car you need to do all the paperwork. It’s pretty simple but again best not to do it with a horrific hangover! Three things to do here. One; you and the person you’re buying it from need to fill out change of ownership forms. Head to a post office they have all the forms and you can hand them in and make the payments there on the spot. Two; whilst you’re at the post office get the car registered, this is essentially the road tax and crazy cheap. The forms are at the post office, pick how many months you want to register it for, pay your money and get the car registered straight away. Three; the car needs to have a valid warrant of fitness, depending on the age of the car it either needs to renewed every 6 months or every year. Luckily mine isn’t due for a while so I don’t need to worry about it for a few months (unless the car breaks down) and the magic car people helpfully send you a letter when it’s due. When it is due just take it to any garage and they’ll sort it for you pretty much like your standard MOT. And there you have it your car.

So with the paperwork out of the way and your transport around the country sorted grab your bags and get out of Auckland. It’s a great city for a day or two but it’s not New Zealand. (Plus it’ll give you a pretty wretched and constant hangover!) There’s a whole wide and beautiful country to explore so head off into it and get exploring!