Wow, what a weekend! As I mentioned earlier, I spent this past weekend travelling around the North Island of New Zealand. I went with 7 other people; 5 of whom I only just met a week ago. It was such an incredible experience. We accomplished SO much in just 3 short days. I will just warn you now.. This post is going to be very, very long simply because of the shear amount of stuff we did this weekend.
SO, it goes like this. Our group met downstairs to leave Wellington at 5:30 am on Friday morning. We rented a van to fit all of us, but add all of our luggage and it was a bit of a squeeze. We first set off for Rotorua- about a 5.5 or 6 hour drive. Keep in mind.. this was the first time any of us had driven on the left side of the road. The actually driving on a straight road on the left wasn’t hard at all; but turning really just confused the heck out of me and it took me a while to get used to it. Thankfully, Jordan (our driver) was much quicker at learning than me and we made it relatively safely. We hadn’t even gotten close to Rotorua before we had to stop a couple times; not for bathroom breaks or snacks or anything like that. But because the scenery at times was just so freaking spectacular. What’s crazy is that we would be completely in the middle of nowhere and come across something like this:
That is Lake Taupo, where we will spend an entire weekend in two weeks. It was an alright pit stop too, I guess. Anyways, as we got into Rotorua we stopped at the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland and got to see some fascinating (but really, really stinky) geological phenomena like geysers and mud pools.
Next, we drove into the city center of Rotorua to find our hostel. This was my first time staying in a hostel and I really had no idea of what to expect except for hoping it was different from the movie. I forgot to take pictures of it but it was actually pretty cool. The rooms were pretty nice, every other person staying there were also backpacking through NZ, and it was super cheap. Like less than $20NZ per night. The only real complaint I have is that the showers were cold. Once we checked in, we spent hours just walking around the city, playing on every playground we came across, and enjoying the awesome weather. It was actually a consistent theme throughout the weekend for Asian tourists to take our picture.. This happened on multiple occasions. I’m not sure what makes us so fascinating, but hey why not entertain a bus full of Asian senior adults laughing and taking our picture? The rest of the evening was pretty relaxed; we were all so tired from getting up so early and walking all through the geothermal park.
Saturday morning we woke up from 7:30 am, showered, and headed out to the Redwoods for about a 3 hour hike. It was my first time doing a “real” hike, even though a lot of it turned out to be paved. I still really enjoyed the challenge and the reward once getting to the top.
Around 12:30 pm, we had a quick lunch and booked it to catch a quick glimpse o the Bay of Plenty. Once again, the drive was half of the fun and absolutely gorgeous. About five minutes from the beach, we ran across this strawberry field where you can pick your own strawberries and take them with you. It wasn’t advertised at all; just a little sign on the side of the road with rows and rows of the best-looking strawberries you’ve ever seen. It took about .4 seconds for us to realize that this was the BEST beach snack ever and got a ton of them. And man, were they good. We got to the beach (which was of course beautiful), swam a little, then spent the rest of the time eating freshly-picked strawberries laying on a beach that looked like this:
We weren’t able to stay too long though because we were off on another excursion to many people’s favorite.. The Hobbiton Movie Set. I got suckered into this because the rest of my group wanted to do it. I haven’t seen any LOTR so I was kinda lost the whole time.. But it was cool to see how much detail was put into everything on the set and we got a free beer at the end. So I won’t complain too much.
Seeing as how all of this happened in one day, it’d be pretty smart to assume it ended there right? Fortunately for us, that assumption would be 100% wrong. As we had plans to stay in another hostel in Hamilton that night, we piled back in the car to make another drive. We were driving along when all of a sudden, Jordan pulled onto this random road where we literally stumbled upon this dock on a river with the sun about to set. And because we were really brilliant/lucky, we had already packed a picnic dinner in the car. So we ate PB&J, chicken-flavored chips, and rock-hard gingersnaps while skipping rocks and watching the sun set in the middle of nowhere on a river. Like what? So not real life.
We stayed for a while before it became time to drive the rest of the way to Hamilton, check in to our hostel, and stay awake only long enough to shower. It was an incredible, action-packed day and lends to my realization that I’m SO blessed.
Sunday morning, we woke up again at the crack of dawn to make our way to the last big stop of the weekend: the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take my camera down into the cave with me, but it was a pretty insane venture. I won’t lie, I was pretty terrified before we started. We had full on wet suits and helmets with headlights. It was a three-hour event with two waterfall jumps, two eel sightings, and about a billion glowworms (er, actually, bio-luminescent larvae). The caving excursion ended with our instructors playing a game with us. “Turn off your headlights and find your way out of the cave. Don’t turn on your headlight unless its an emergency, and being scared isn’t an emergency.” Said in only the best NZ accent, of course. Needless to say, that part was really awesome for some people. I, however, was not one of those people. I pretty much figured out that I am in fact, the reason that they make everyone wear helmets. Go figure. Regardless, it was super awesome and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that will ever be in New Zealand. Just be prepared for small spaces and the dark. (Aka not you, Mom)
This weekend was without a doubt one of the best times of my life. There was more than one occasion that I was almost overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have this opportunity. What’s absolutely nuts to me is that we have only been here a week and have already had the chance to do all this stuff. One thought has been pretty consistent in my head the entire week: God is so good. He created all of these unbelievable stuff just by thinking it and I have only begun to scratch the surface! I’m really excited to see what else He reveals to me in the next few months. Sorry this post was so long; I just felt like the weekend deserved all the details I gave about it and more. Next weekend is Abel Tasman, so I will be spending the next four days recovering and gearing up to do it all again… Oh, and going to classes too, I guess.