These are just a few of the awesome things there are to do in New Zealand. I would go back in an instant if given the opportunity. There are endless natural wonders, and spontaneous adventures in places like this are often the most fun and exciting of them all.
Woke up at 3:30am NZ time, 1:30am AU time for our 6am flight to Sydney. The flight was about 4-5 hours. Once we got to Sydney, we had to wait in the airport for 7 hours for our 3:30pm flight to Canberra. We got some ice cream with Oreos from Hungry Jacks which is what they call Burger King here. At this point, we would've rather been anywhere but the airport. But, we were excited to make Canberra our new home. The time is now. We were so excited to be in one place and get back into a routine, but we’re also so thankful for the time we got to spend in New Zealand. It was an incredible experience with astounding scenery and culture. I can’t wait for the adventures to come. Wish us luck!
We woke up around 7:30 to walk along the lake and the Queenstown Gardens again and make the most of the morning. After another lovely walk around to explore and take in the views, we went back to Mrs. Ferg’s Pantry where Kiley got a breakfast bowl. We went to the ledge by the lake again, and I ate some stuff I brought with me. After trying to soak in Queenstown as much as possible, we walked back to the hostel to pack everything up. We walked to the bus stop in town to get to the airport. We flew to Auckland after being delayed and enjoying one last look at the Remarkables on our walk to the plane.
We arrived in the Auckland airport for the 4th time, so we knew it pretty well by then. We took a bus to Ibis Budget Hotel from the airport. Some of the lights didn’t work, it was small, and we had to go to the lobby to get wifi. However, it was nice to have our own room and bathroom. We showered and headed to the lobby to get wifi. I had to Skype Virgin Australia about adding a checked bag to a flight. Man, that was a process. I’m not going to say much more about that other than I hope that doesn’t happen again. We went to bed early after packing while watching music videos on TV.
A day in Queenstown. No busses. No planes. No travel except by foot. What a lovely thing that is. Queenstown was our favorite city by far. It’s like “Winter Park on steroids” as Kiley puts it. “The Remarkables” mountains are truly remarkable, and we could see them from outside our hostel along the lake or in the middle of the city. They’re very unique in their snow-covered ruggedness. This lake was similar to Lake Te Anau because they were both formed from glaciers, they're over 1000ft deep, and they contain crystal clear water. It was hypnotizing to take in the views and listen to the water gently rolling into shore.
We walked to some nearby hiking trails and decided to go up the One Mile Creek hike and come down on the Tiki Trail. It was hard to follow the trail for most of the way up, but we were reminded we were on the trail fairly often. It got pretty steep, and at times it was more similar to rock climbing than hiking. It was so fun! It seemed really dark because of all the foliage and where the sun was coming up. We got to a lookout where you could see the lake and mountains pretty well and then kept climbing. We got to a clearing and started down the Tiki Trail. On the way down was where we found the best view of Queenstown. We could see all of Queenstown, the lake, and the Remarkables in the background. We had to take a moment to enjoy the beautiful scenery in front of us. The way down was rocky and slippery, but you’ve got to love a little challenge. We ended at the bottom of the Skyline where we were supposed to go star gazing that night and walked from there through town to the Queenstown Gardens.
We walked on a path along the lake that was amazing and went along the shoreline of one of the peninsulas. It was a peaceful, lovely little walk. The gardens also had a pond, tennis court, and a bowling club; there were several bowling clubs through all of New Zealand. After our walk around the park, we decided to check out the ice cream and gelato shops. We treated ourselves to some gelato at Mrs. Ferg’s which is the neighbor to the famous Fergburger. We both chose Peanut Butter Banana and Cookies and Cream. We walked back to the lakeside to eat our gelato on a ledge in front of the beach. It was one of those picture perfect moments enjoying so many great things at once your senses can hardly take it. The sights of the mountains. The sound of the water and people passing. The feeling of sunshine, a slight breeze, and the gelato slowly freezing your hand. Last but not least, the taste of sweet gelato in the most scrumptious of flavors. After we slowly finished our gelato, we ventured back into town to get some souvenirs.
There were heaps of little shops, so we tried to find the best deals. We each got some cheap hats and our traditional key chain for every place we go. It was fun exploring and going up and down the streets. We found a Skyline center in a shopping center, so we stopped and asked about the possibility of our star gazing being cancelled. It had been cloudy and raining on and off all day. The girl we talked to said we would get a refund if they cancelled it. We ended up talking to her for a little while because she was from the US and had lived in Sydney for a year and a half before moving to Queenstown 3 months earlier. She told us a few places we should go in and around Sydney, so that was nice. It’s always fun to run into someone who is living the kind of life you hope to live after college. One of my dreams is the live and work abroad for a few years out of college to see more of the world and experience even more new things.
We left the mall and looked for some dinner. We ate at a place called London’s. Kiley got pesto penne, and I got lasagna. My meal came in a square dish it was cooked in with sizzling cheese holding all the heat in. It was warm, delicious, and hearty. We enjoyed our meal and the rugby that was playing inside. We walked back to our hostel from there in the rain and got ready to head to the Skyline. The walk was wet and cold. When we got there, they gave us a refund because it was cancelled. We walked back to change and cuddle up in warm clothes. I read a little in my bed before going to bed early. We were sad to miss our star gazing, but the day was pretty awesome otherwise.
Our bus left for Milford Sound that morning at 8:45. The landscape was gorgeous; there were mountains, lakes, creeks, forests, waterfalls, and more. Our bus driver and guide talked the whole way there about the land, conservation, and history. We took a few stops for shorts walks or Kodak moments. Our first stop was in a valley with a beautiful view of surrounding mountains. We also stopped by a chasm with churning waters flowing through. It was pretty cool to see how deep and fast the water was as it flowed under the bridge. Mirror Lake was our next break to see how the lake reflected the mountains behind it. It was somewhat windy at first, so the reflection wasn’t the best, but we went to a different part of the lake and saw an awesome reflection. It was crazy how much it looked real. It reminded me of a Bob Ross painting. The road to Milford Sound had recently been closed, so we got pretty lucky we got there safely despite the “Avalanche Zone” and “Black Ice” signs. When we arrived, we got our tickets and lunch vouchers and headed for the ship.
We went straight to the top of the boat to see an incredible view. There were huge mountains everywhere and a big waterfall. We could see down the fiord towards the ocean. Once we left the dock, it surprised me how fast we were moving through the water. One of the first things that happened was we saw a pod of dolphins not far away. They drove the boat towards them, and the dolphins must’ve liked our boat because they stuck around for a while. We were on the front of the boat looking over the railing at the dolphins swimming at the same speed as the boat. They were jumping out of the water at us for quite a while. It was crazy, and it reminded me again of why I like dolphins so much. They’re so majestic, graceful, social, and playful. It looked like they were having a great time showing off for us. There were more swimming along the side of the boat. I thought I got a video, but turns out it didn’t work L. Next, we headed from the lake part to the river part of the fiord. We went down one side and back closer to the other. The mountains were really steep because of the glaciers that formed them. It’s hard for me to describe the feeling I had being surrounded by that immense amount of beauty that God has created. It was intense and hard to take it all in. I hope to remember that feeling forever and experience it again.
The views the whole time were amazing. Once we got to the ocean, we turned around to go back. The turn was pretty rough from the waves since it was the open ocean beyond. The view of Milford Sound from the ocean was really unique and awe-striking. By this point, however, Kiley and I were extremely cold. We decided to head inside to get our lunches from Pita Pit. Our wraps were good and filling. We could see well from the inside but decided to go back outside when we got close to the waterfall. We could feel the mist and were almost under the falls at one point. Nearby, we went past some seal pups sunning themselves on some rocks, and they were adorable. The whole cruise was breathtaking.
When we got back, we boarded the bus for the ride back to Te Anau. We stopped by a lake to see the misty mountains and crystal clear water. We also rested at a creek so people could fill their water bottles with glacier water. Everyone got pretty sleepy on the ride back. Constant transportation has a way of making even the most well rested, alert people really tired. We got back to our hostel with about an hour until our bus ride to Queenstown. This bus ride was in the dark, so there wasn’t much to see. We got to the middle of town and got wrong directions to our hostel from our driver. However, we got the right directions from the wrong hostel. It was about a 20 minute walk in the rain with our stuff to YHA Lakefront Hostel.
We got to our hostel tired and a little wet, but we were glad to be settled. We headed to a lounge area with bean bags to figure out what to do the next day. We knew it had to be something more affordable since we had spent unexpected money on the cruise that day. We looked for some good hiking trails in the winter and found a few short hikes along with the Queenstown Gardens. We made a general plan for part of the day and tried to get some sleep despite our roommates coming in late and leaving early to hit the slopes for some skiing and snowboarding.
P.S. sorry about my glove in lots of the Go Pro videos...still getting the hang of that thing ;)
We got up at 6:30 for our flight to Queenstown on the south island. We landed around 11:15 and caught a shuttle to the city where we got on our Naked Bus to Te Anau. We walked around a little and got some minimal groceries to make our meals cheaper. We also got some sandwiches from a bakery for lunch. We knew we’d like Queenstown from the moment we got there. On our 2 hour drive to Te Anau, we saw beautiful landscapes with snow, mountains, lakes, and countryside. It all reminded me a lot of Lord of the Rings. Although we didn’t go on a tour to see exactly where it was filmed, I’m sure we saw some of the same scenery.
When we arrived, we walked to our hostel and left our stuff there so we could walk along the lake. Lake Te Anau is super clear so we could see the pebbles on the bottom. It was super blue, and there were mountains along the whole other side of the lake. The sun was going down behind the mountains, so the view was really great.
We went back to our hostel and talked to the guy working at the front desk about suggestions for the next day. We were originally planning to hike around Te Anau, but we found out there aren’t many trails that are good in the winter. Instead, he suggested that we go on a cruise in Milford Sound. We signed up online that night for the cheapest cruise package including the bus ride there and back. We headed to bed pretty early again so we could enjoy the next day a lot.
First stop: breakfast at a café right by our hotel. My mom and I shared a delicious orange and mango smoothie along with a tasty sandwich. We all enjoyed our brekky quite a bit. We left from there to go to Mount Manganui to hike to the summit. It was really windy and rain was blowing in our faces at the beginning, so my parents stopped to wait for Kiley and I to finish it. There were several awesome lookout points throughout the hike, and the weather got steadily better. At the top, we could see in every direction; we saw oceans, a bay, and the city we started from. It was really pretty and full of blues and greens everywhere. While on top of the mountain, someone noticed our ISU shirts and asked why we left Iowa in the middle of summer (good question! ;) On our way down, we met my parents who had climbed up farther since the weather got better. We all walked down together and left for hot water beach.
The drive was curvy but beautiful and sunny the whole way until we got to the beach. Then, it started to get windy and rain. We decided to go to Cathedral Cove and walk that hike to see the beaches there instead of doing the hot water beach because it was pretty chilly. We went through the rainforest with views of the ocean most of the way. There were some nearby islands that made for some great scenery. The cove was hands down amazing. We took some awesome pictures with the cove, rocks, the beach, and waterfalls. The whole time on the beach I felt like I was on a paradise island. On the way back, we got pretty close to some mountain goats that were quite curious and photogenic.
From there, we left for Auckland where our hotel was. My dad was trying to hurry so we could get the car back to the rental place before it closed, so you can imagine how the drive was. We were all pretty hungry, so we ordered some room service. While waiting for our food, my mom, Kiley, and I used some of the mud masks. They felt funny as they dried, but I guess they're good for your skin. We thought about going to the pool but decided to relax and go to bed early since we all had to catch early flights the next day. We said our goodbyes to my parents until we would see them later in Canberra, Australia.
First stop of the day: some natural hot springs leading into a nearby river. We walked down to the pools wearing a variety of interesting clothing. There were definitely some stares as we got ready to get in the water. I’m assuming that most people don’t go to the hot springs in the middle of winter considering everyone walking by was wearing winter coats and pants. Nevertheless, we had a great time enjoying the hot water. There was a little waterfall that fed into the pool, and it was very peaceful and refreshing. We felt more relaxed and calm that day, but it started to rain while we were in the spring, so we had to get out one at a time and try to put on our clothes before running back to the car in the rain.
When we got back to the hotel, we spent some more time in the hot pool there to enjoy it. We left for a café nearby and had a wonderful meal. I had caramel pancakes, mom got a bagel with pesto and all kinds of good stuff, Kiley got a frittata, and dad got a yummy plate of nachos. Next, we left to see Huka Falls. It was more of a passage than a waterfall, but it was mesmerizing. There was so much water crashing against rocks and splashing around. It was pretty sweet. We went to see Aratiatia Rapids after that to see flood gates open and release water through a channel. It fills up and gets more aggressive as more water is released.
After the rapids. We stopped by the Lava Glass studio on our way to Rotorua. The studio was incredible. They put some of their pieces in a solution to eliminate the glossy finish and reveal a matte finish. Several of them symbolized landmarks or landscapes in New Zealand and looked even more vibrant when filled with light. They also wrap layers around their pieces to add originality. On our drive to Rotorua, we also stopped by some mud pools. They smelled, sounded, and looked disgusting. It was all gross, and yet we kept watching the bubbles explode. We saw another awesome rainbow which was an almost daily occurrence while in NZ. We arrived at the Redwood forest and found some incredibly tall, thick, red trees. We took a walk through the forest. The sun shining through the trees was lovely. We booked tickets to a Maori cultural show at a place called Te Puia for that evening.
For more information on the Maori show, see my blog post called "Te Puia: Maori experience." It deserves it's own post because it was pretty awesome. After the show, we drove to Tauranga where our hotel was for the night. We all got pretty sleepy on the drive but arrived safely and fell into bed around 11:30pm.
“Wake up! Wake up!” yelled our alarm that morning at 4:20am. It was time to get ready to go to the Kerikeri airport. We got there around 5:10 for our 6:45 flight thinking we weren’t that early, but check in wasn’t even open until 6am. It was a tiny airport, and our plane had propellers instead of engines. We arrived in Auckland around 7:40am to meet my parents. They picked us up to rent a car, and we left for the Waitomo Caves.
We took a tour through the caves and learned about the glow worms before getting in the boat and seeing the worms. We saw some cool stalactites and stalagmites. We learned that glow worms lay around 120 eggs, but only the first one to hatch survives because they eat all their brothers and sisters so they don’t starve. Then, they grow and hang down from all these sticky strings that catch bugs so that they can eat them. Since they glow, bugs fly up to the worms thinking they’re stars in the sky at night. Then, the glow worms go into a cocoon and emerge without a mouth or stomach, so they soon die after laying their eggs. The sight of the worms was breathtaking. They were beautiful blue/green/white colored lights shining in the midst of total darkness. My eyes could never fully focus on the worms because they were constantly swaying back and forth. It was quite an experience to sit in total silence and be awestruck by the sight of those tiny worms. It’s amazing to see the things that God has created. Oh and sorry if you were expecting photos, but you have to go there to see the glow worms...no pictures allowed.
After the Waitomo Caves, we ate lunch at a pizzeria and headed for the Marokopa Falls. The winding road was full of great views. The falls were roaring, steep, and surrounded by luscious rain forest. It was like a sight into another world. On our way back, we stopped by a “natural bridge” which was formed from an old cave that fell into a gorge everywhere but that spot. We went on a different path back to the car hoping to find some giant oyster that a sign talked about, but instead we got more views filled with rolling hills of unlimited shades of green.
The drive to Taupo was pretty interesting with my dad driving…on the wrong side of the road…in a rental car. We made it though. We ordered some food in and went to the pool. It was naturally heated because the ground in Taupo is thermal. It was like swimming in a giant hot tub even though it was pretty chilly outside. After our wonderful, relaxing swim, we went back up to our room to eat dinner and head to bed.
P.S. No pictures from me today, I let my rents take them all and left my phone in the car.
Time to parasail! It was the only thing I could say to myself that convinced me to get out of bed that morning. We walked around the dock/pier area on the water until the Flying Kiwi Parasail got back from their last trip. It wasn’t windy, and it was a lovely sunny day. I had my go pro on under my helmet and videotaped the whole thing. The takeoff was a crazy feeling because the rainbow parasail blew up hugely with air and took us up high pretty fast. Naturally, once we got up, we had to sing “I believe I can fly” because, well, we were flying! It was an awesome view of the bay and the country in the distance. It was a great experience, and it felt like we were floating high in the sky.
After our parasailing, we walked about half an hour to get to the Coastal Kayakers shack only to find out that there was no one there. We emailed them and got a response a few hours later saying they had rejected our booking since they were full, but we had already received a confirmation email. The plan had been to kayak to the Haruru Falls, so we decided to hike there instead.
The hike was about 4 hours to get to the waterfall and back. Once we got to the trail, we had to go through a jenky gate to get to the walk through the rain forest. It was full of green foliage with awesome lookout spots on the way. We also walked on a raised path through an area of the forest with thick mud full of holes and sticks coming up. The trees drop seeds which grow into short sticks in the mud. It was a crazy thing to see that I never knew existed. We heard the falls long before we saw them, and they were amazing. I always love seeing new waterfalls because they’re all incredibly unique. A rainbow appeared out of the mist from the falls. The walk back was faster, and Kiley and I had deep life talks. Those tend to be a trend when you’re traveling and seeing new things a lot. It opens up the imagination and possibilities for the future.
On our walk back to Paihia, we stopped by a cultural building where we realized we could’ve attended a performance if it hadn’t been for the mix up with the kayaking company. However, we were pretty happy about how our day turned out. We walked along the beach which was covered in shells, so we had to pick a few out. I also spotted some of my favorite flowers called "Birds of Paradise," so I had to take a selfie. Then, we ate dinner at a place called “Sauce,” and we each got some pasta. We headed back to the hostel for another early night after being exhausted from jet lag.