Travel

New Zealand: Final Days

Alright, friends! My last New Zealand post Finally! I believe it is finally time I finish these posts from my last ultimate trip! So, let’s get started!

The second morning in Lake Taupo we rented bikes from our hostel, The Tiki Lodge, for $15 NZ cash and road along by the lake and just enjoyed the sunshine and view. Slow mornings are important when you’ve been constantly moving from one place to another. It definitely helped prepare us for the afternoon’s activity of choice by decompressing for awhile.

Rapids Jets

Since I got to pick the excursion in Rotorua, Analeise picked one in Lake Taupo! When we were at Huka Falls we saw these high speed jet boats roaring back and forth near the falls so we looked it up and picked a company near us: Rapids Jets! It’s the only white water jet boat ride! It was tons of fun- an absolute blast holding on as the jet boat did high speed turns which got us soaked as it got off the ground! It had us laughing so loudly! Just look at the photos! Overall, my review of this excursion is evenly split. It was a great experience, just a little pricey for what it was! It was about a 35 minute ride and cost $60 USD. Photos were extra but we split them like last time. In a nutshell: I’m glad I did it in New Zealand as jet boats were designed by a New Zealander (Bill Hamilton). Plus, the scenery was absolutely beautiful!

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After this we just lounged around Lake Taupo, ate some $5 chili provided at a sister hostel, and just hung around and enjoyed the sunset with a couple of cold ones.
Not a bad way to end an exciting day. Also, not a bad way to prepare for an equally amazing one!
Spellbound
We’re nearing the end of our trip by this point! We started our drive to Auckland, our last destination, but not before seeing these famous Glowworms I’ve heard so much about! In the Waitomo Valley we chose to go through the company Spellbound and I cannot explain how thrilled I am that we chose so well for this! First of all the specifics: it was $54.57 for 3 1/2 hours in two different caves. The first one is the walking part where the guide shows you the ins and outs of cave formation- stalagmites and that sorta stuff. Then you take a little break, eat a little pastry with coffee or tea, and as soon as you’re finished the real show begins.

 
You board this little boat (there’s no more than 12 of you plus the guide who stands in the back). Slowly your eyes begin to adjust. This is an easy process as no phones, cameras, or lights are allowed while on the boat. It’s just you, what your eyes can see, and your memory. Soon enough, you see them. You see these radiantly glowing hanging..things. Well, they’re actually insect larvae that are glowing due to their bioluminescent traits. (Neat info: this is actually how they eat! Insects are attracted to their light and then get stuck on their sticky lines that hang off of them!)

 
And suddenly…they are everywhere. Everywhere. They are all around you, innocently glowing, living, and being. The only sounds within the cave are your own breathing and the gentle pulling of rope as the boat drifts further in to the cave. The further you get, the brighter it all seems. Even now, months after this moment, I can still see the brightness caused by creatures so unaware of how beautiful they truly are when united.

So this is how they look times 1000000, trust me.

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The ooooonly downside of this tour, I will say, is that they didn’t give us enough time to even attempt to photograph them. I was a bit disgruntled when the guide hurried us into the boat, but at the end he slowed down and offered us/me an opportunity to try. He even gave me specific settings to put my camera in. In the end, my photos didn’t come out great and maybe one day I’d like to do the photographers version of the tour where they give you much more time inside the cave (for much more money). For now, though, I’m fully spellbound with this experience.

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Auckland!DSC07280

And suddenly, we made it full circle! From Coromandel to Hobbitton to Rotorua to Lake Taupo and now Auckland! As this was the only real city we visited on this trip we gave it the least time since we weren’t really too excited by big buildings and shopping districts. We stayed at the enormous Base Hostel and….I don’t recommend it. Well, if you’re still in college and looking to be surrounded by noise and a party scene, that yeah- do it! But we were just looking for somewhere to stay so this placed seemed a little over the top for us. It was $29.07 USD plus $4.60 for the wifi for one night. They did provide us with toiletries, a towel, and a drink voucher at the connecting bar because we paid for the all female room. The bar next door was a funny experience, it seemed like everyone in it was just turning 21 and I’m not accustomed to feeling…old?

But anyway, our last morning. 208a3e80-842f-4e28-8c32-829bdcb5a028

We ate a delicious breakfast at “Scarecrow” and then proceeded to find a park to enjoy the beautiful weather in. Then we found our way to the Skytower ($21.18) which also provides thrill-seekers the opportunity to dive from the highest point of the tower. If you’re interested book ahead of time as spots definitely fill up. I just know Analeise is going to do it one day!

 

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Before heading off to the airport we made one last spontaneous decision to hike up Mount Eden. This was certainly my favorite part of visiting Auckland. It has remarkable 360 views of the land and it’s all quite picturesque.


Learn from our mistake, however, and give yourself plenty of time to actually get down from the hike. We unfortunately were rushed to get to the airport in time and couldn’t find gas stations (seriously, how hard can they be to find?!) so…yeah, let’s just say we weren’t very happy at this point. Oh well, you live and you learn, right?

In the end…our trip was over. Just as quickly as it had gotten here, our 8 day long trip through the North Island was over. We hiked, adventured, drove through windy roads, spent time amongst Hobbits, biked, swam- really everything I could have imagined for my first visit to New Zealand was accomplished. And it was accomplished beautifully. I have some incredible memories of traveling with Analeise- from Tulum to Peru to New Zealand. And this isn’t the end of our travels together- I’m sure there will be more someday! This was a remarkable, spontaneous trip full of enchanting moments that came about thanks to one random Cyber Monday sale.

Last but not least, I am so happy to have a platform that I can share these memories on. If you’re reading this and have read my other posts- a sincere thank you for following me along on this journey. I know I’m not the most consistent blogger, but thank you for sticking with me.

Until next time, friends!

Mary A.

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Travel

New Zealand- Part One

Alright- New Zealand: so high on my bucket list I didn’t think I’d make it this early on. And yet, it was on one Cyber Monday in the early hour of 1 AM that the “Escape Houston” tweet notified me of the tremendous sale: Houston to Auckland, nonstop, on United operated through Air New Zealand for $495. I quickly sent this to Analeise, who you all know as my travel partner in crime and within the next hour we had our tickets booked for March.

March came quickly. Between long weeks of busy flying schedules, little rest at home, the day came to prepare for our 8 day trip (that’s all we could manage with our off days at the time). Now, I won’t lie. I wasn’t actually the most enthused person when the evening finally came to leave to the airport. Being go-go-go can get a little wearing on a body and I, honestly, wished the trip had been planned for a little further down the line. Still, as I settled into that economy seat for a 13 1/2 hour overnight flight excitement started to seep in. The long flight quickly came to an end and there I was…in New Zealand.

Now what to do?

I guessed there would be a lot to do in New Zealand, but I truly underestimated how much there is to see on just the North Island. Therefore, we quickly realized there wouldn’t be enough time to fly on over to the South Island as much as we wanted to. Shoot, there also wasn’t enough time to do everything on the mock itinerary I had planned. I’ll include that one on the last New Zealand post just in-case anyone has more time than we did. I would truly recommend way more than eight days/two weeks/a month. I would say minimum a month each. But, when a deal as good as Cyber Monday’s hits you take what you can get! The rest will have to wait for my next trip over and trust me, there will be a next trip (Right, Kevin?!)

As with Peru I will be writing a couple different posts on this trip including itinerary, costs, specifications, and a photo diary!

So let’s begin!

Day One: Landing in Auckland, Rental Car, and The Coromandel Peninsula 

Analeise handled the rental car for this trip (I’m still not 25 years old). After some debate we decided the medium tier insurance (about $25 USD a day) would be best as 1) we were driving on the other side of the car and 2) we were driving on the other side of the road and 3) it was just the smartest option “just in case”. By the end with fees it came out to $212 per person for 7 days. It could have come out cheaper had we booked the car earlier and booked the insurance before as well, but hey, you live and you learn. We learned.

Driving on the opposite everything from the U.S. sounded scary at first, but I have to admit, it wasn’t horrible. The hardest parts were finding the blinkers, roundabouts, and just rediscovering general distance perception.

On the drive to Coromandel we stopped first for gas station breakfast. Sounds strange but pot pies are so popular here and they are so delicious! ($7.50 USD) We were on the look out for scenic viewpoints and came across this incredible view after a slippery walk up a muddy path. My first “holy jeez I’m in New Zealand” moment occurred at this viewpoint.

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In Coromandel we stayed at the Tatahi Backpackers for $28 USD/NZ39 a night (a person) for a four bed mixed dorm in Hahei. The hostel itself was…adequate. The main area which includes the dining room, kitchen, and sitting area has a cabin-esque feel; the dorm rooms were warm at night and had only two outlets so we had to choose between the fan or charging our electronics. Overall, it was fine for one night. Coromandel is a quiet area, easily walkable, and a lovely beach town.

We arrived too early for check in so we switched into our swimsuits and tennis and headed out to Cathedral Cove. Just the view of the coastline from above is astonishing. Breathtaking. Quickly, the dreamy scenery that I’ve longingly seen in photographs was right in front of me.

LRG_DSC06328LRG_DSC06331LRG_DSC06348DSC06323DSC06336DSC06326DSC06354DSC06358LRG_DSC06400DSC06369DSC06382There are quite a few options for other walks that offer different viewpoints along the trail. We had the scenic point to ourselves for a little while. DSC06474DSC06493DSC06522DSC06421DSC06411lrg_dsc06324lrg_dsc06341DSC06345DSC06343

 

 

We had lunch at the restaurant/bar right next to our hostel called The Pour House. I had the ribs for $21 USD and holy jeez they were good! Pricey but worth it after a long afternoon in the sun!

Then we loaded up on supplies at the only store in town. Also extremely pricey but I managed $15 USD worth of breakfast bars, fruit, tuna, and toothpaste (security at IAH took mine). Once we were stocked up for the rest of the trip we headed towards the beach.

Hot Water Beach

I didn’t want to leave Coromandel without experiencing hot water beach! How often would I get the opportunity to dig myself my own little jacuzzi? The best time to go is the two hours on either side of low tide so we chose the latter. However I didn’t realize three things until I got there:

1) You may dig a hole only to have it be cold water

2) Or you can dig a hole that is scalding water. I mean an unbearable, painful temperature.

3) Digging a big enough hole to fit inside is actually harder than it sounds!

Therefore, we bounced between areas, tested the water, and finally settled on a previously made hole to lounge in.

I didn’t take many photos because my hands were sandy and I was trying to not scald myself the entire time. Overall it was a fun experience! I’m glad I checked it off my list! Oh! And aside from the shovels (we borrowed ours from the hostel) and parking, it’s free!

Overall I spent roughly $28.53 USD and $17 NZ cash (I withdrew $400 NZ which was about $311.99 USD at the airport) the first day, not including the hotel.

 

 

That’s all for now, friends!

If you have any questions about my first full day just comment below!

Until next time!

Up next: From Coromandel to Hobbiton!

-Mary A.

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Travel

Peru 8 Day Itinerary

HIMG_4878ello again, all!

I have been asked a few times for my Peru itinerary so below I have included all I could: costs, times, and some extra information for anyone that may not travel as often. When Analeise and I planned this trip, and as we went through it, we balanced out the cheaper “backpacking” lifestyle while allowing ourselves the occasional splurge for enjoyment. I included as close to the exact costs and conversions in soles as possible, but remember currency is constantly changing and, of course, often negotiable while traveling.

For starters, the biggest monetary savings that we accomplished was booking our round-trip tickets with United miles. It cost me 30K miles and $95 to go from Houston to Cusco (with a connection in Bogota) and back to Houston from Lima. Therefore, it was necessary to purchase an extra commuter flight from Cusco to Lima, which thankfully are frequent and affordable ($90).

Click the “Read More” for the complete itinerary!

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