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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New Zealand: Rotorua

Hello again, friends!

So! So far we have been through a crazy Cyber Monday sale to the Coromandel Peninsula and then through The Shire! Now on to day three!

After Hobbiton we continued the drive to Rotorua where we stayed at the Crash Palace Hostel! This was my favorite hostel from the trip. We stayed in a two bunk, four person dorm for ($28 a night). Our roommates were two other female travelers that I secretly wanted to be friends with really badly, but never got the courage to exchange information with. (I’m not always so outgoing). The hostel holds events every evening so we played beer pong (sorry, mom!) the first night and then went to their free dinner and watched LOTR in the living room with some other travelers the second night. It is true what all of the city’s reviews say: the area does smell overwhelmingly like sulfur! Despite the rotten egg smell the town has so many things to offer: tours, cafes, and yummy restaurants. We even got to experience one of their evening markets that had a plethora of food stands up and down the strip!

There are so many activities that start off in Rotorua. I wish we had done something more cultural like Whakarewarewa- The living Maori Village. (Next time!) Instead of listing out everything the area has to offer I’ll just include their website’s link: http://www.rotoruanz.com/visit/to-do/

So now for what we did!

 

The morning of our third day we decided we needed to witness active geothermal activity as there are quite a few spots in New Zealand. One of the most popular is Wai-O-Tapu near Rotorua. It costs $20 USD to get in and takes about 1-2 hours to walk depending on your speed and how often you stop to take photos. There are also three different walks you can choose from that take you throughout the Thermal Wonderland.

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Before we start and instead of me trying to explain the science behind why they are the color that they are, I’ll just share this photo with you first.

 

 

So every color that we see is due to specific mineral deposits! I took so many photos while walking around, especially at the “Champagne Pool” for obvious reasons- I mean, just look at it!

DSC06866DSC06870DSC06874DSC06986DSC06978DSC06977So I did just learn that it’s called Champagne Pool because of the efflux of carbon dioxide, which is just like Champagne! Neat!DSC06969

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DSC06934DSC06912DSC06905Another popular spot in this Geothermal Wonderland is “Devil’s Bath” which gets its color from deposits of sulphur that sit on top of the water.DSC07013DSC07027DSC07044DSC07049

Wai-O-Tapu was an easy, education visit that was also a lot of fun! There are other mud pools and geothermal activity spots in Rotorua that you can visit as well!

On to the next activity

We continued our day that late afternoon by rolling down hills in giant hamster balls. That’s right- we went zorbing! For those that don’t know what zorbing is, it’s basically just rolling downhill in big plastic balls called orbs. It was first played in Rotorua so you just know we had to try it, too! Here’s the video I made! Now this is the first video I’ve ever made from my travels so please be gentle! I’m hoping to get more into video-editing in the future!

We went zorbing through “OGO Rotorua” and paid $88 USD for three different routes: a steep, rapid ride, a quick, windy ride, and an individual downhill that we treated as a race (Analeise won!). It’s definitely a little pricey but I found it so worth it. But you can choose to do just one if you’d like! Here’s their website with all their info: https://ogo.co.nz/ They also have a photographer that takes photos of you after your rides so we purchased those also for about $20 NZ cash each.

I have to say, this was one of my favorite activities that we did- maybe even my most favorite! I have been wanting to do this since seeing it on “No Tomorrow” on Netflix (such a good show- such a shame it only had one season!) and it was on my bucket list so…check! Overall, I would highly recommend it just for the fun experience!

So in a nutshell my expenses included:

  • $22 USD entry fee for Wai-O-Tapu
  • $18.50 NZ cash lunch at this Thai restaurant in Rotorua’s center
  • $88 USD three route Zorbing fee
  • ~$20 NZ cash Zorbing photo purchase (each)

My notes seem a little shaky now that I’m rereading them but this day’s total was a rough estimate of $108 USD and $43.50 NZ cash for Wai-O-Tapu, Zorbing, photos, lunch, and a towel fee at the hostel. This is also the night we had free dinner at Crash Palace Hostel which helped with the expenses a little.

Alright, yall! This is all for now! Stay tuned for day four where take a dip in some hot water and witness the power of the falls.

Until next time,

Mary A.

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New Zealand: Hobbiton

So many little hobbit holes! That’s what you’ll find within this blog post because I made it to Hobbiton!

When we started planning New Zealand this was the first thing on my “need to see!” list. Basic information: Tickets are $85 NZ or $58 USD and you book your tours on the Hobbiton Tours website! They run frequently but, of course, make sure you book in advance! They make it easy enough with three pick up locations in Matamata, the LOTR-esque town, and Rotorua. On the drive through the bountiful hills which is the Alexander family’s sheep farm the driver shows informational videos and offers insight into the discovery of the area. And finally, you’re there. In Hobbiton.

Well, Hobbiton was…wet! As soon as we stepped off of the tour bus it started raining all over the lush green hills and studio set. Thankfully the tour is prepared for this and has a fully stocked umbrella area ready for the occasion. In a way, once it calmed down it almost made the set a little dreamier.

Besides the weather upon arrival and the crowds (as it gets extremely busy), it was a perfect wander through the Shire. It was exactly how I always pictured it: a tranquil landscape with pops of color, beautiful vegetation, and intricate details surrounded by New Zealand’s enormous lush topography.

DSC06590DSC06594DSC06596DSC06615DSC06618DSC06636DSC06659The area is full of so many tiny perfectly situated details entailed to ensure individuality for every hobbit home as, of course, every hobbit is different.

DSC06667DSC06674No admittance! Bilbo and Frodo’s home in all it’s glory!

The tour winds its way up and through the hills of Hobbiton and through the Green Dragon for a complimentary “Southfarthing” adult beverage. DSC06757.jpgDSC06765DSC06769

Alright so the specifics!

On our way from Coromandel to Rotorua we stopped at Matamata for the tour. This is what I spent for the entire second day on our trip:

  • $19.94 breakfast (at the delicious cafe right next to the Tatahai Backpackers)
  • $6.89 snack
  • $10.51 lunch
  • $ 57.29 Hobbiton ticket
  • $~20 NZ drinks at hostel

So USD total: $94.63 and about $20 NZ cash (give or take a few bucks for a magnet or two)

Also here’s me looking really big, frizzy, and dorky in front of the first hobbit hole that I saw.

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From the Shire we continued our journey to our next destination of Rotorua where we visited some roaring falls and rolled down a hill in a hamster ball! Stay tuned!

Until next time, friends!

 

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Revisiting White Sands, New Mexico

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Hello again, friends!

This is one of my favorite places on this planet. I can only describe the aura of White Sands, New Mexico as filling. I feel full when I’m there.

As soon as I stepped out of our rented family van and started walking up the dunes it didn’t even matter that it was a popular day for the park. It doesn’t matter if it is busy at all because if you just continue walking, and if you get far enough away, it will feel as if you are completely alone there. Suddenly you don’t see any streets nor hear any vehicles in the distance. It is just you and the dunes. Oh, and a sled. Continue reading

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Peru- Peru Rail and Salineras de Maras

IMG_5044-RecoveredAlas, everyone! The third post of my Peru series. I would like to blame this ridiculous delay on my current one hand situation I seem to be in. About two weeks ago I fell and broke my wrist in two places and have been on the mend ever since. Pretty much that means I’m slow to accomplish anything from things like washing my fair to typing on the computer. I apologize for any typos I don’t catch, as typing with one hand isn’t very easy and I keep making tons of mistakes.

But here I am! Alive and intact (for the most part) and ready to share with you the last huge chuck of my Peru trip. Warning: this post is very long.

After our fears of a rainy Machu Picchu came true we stayed one more night at EcoPackers ($14). What I forgot to mention on my last post of Aguascalientes is that both Analeise and I found our llama sweaters here! Success! It is so cozy and I will always cherish it! The next morning we gathered our small packs and made our way to the train station. Somehow in the process of getting to the station I managed to lose my phone without my knowledge until I was sitting at the station. After checking the restrooms and asking around I stormed off back to the only stop we made: a small currency exchange that Analeise bought water and I bought a magnet in. Would you believe it but right on the counter where I left it was my phone, in plain daylight, with no one around. Grabbing it, I bolted off once again in fear of missing my train. The thing is, I’m already out of shape and running at that altitude (Google says it’s 6,693 feet) was no easy task. I arrived huffing and puffing but successfully holding my phone with time to spare.

Analeise and I both feel we had the perfect amount of both money-pinching and splurging on this trip. After the hydroelectrica trek and mountain hike, we were so excited to sit comfortably on Peru Rail for a couple of hours. The train ride was remarkable: free snacks and beverages and the beautiful Peruvian countryside. My favorite part of the journey was seeing this very old lady standing outside the train tracks waving to us as it went by. It helped me be reminded that simple friendliness goes a long, long way.

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IMG_4742Hello, all!

After the difficult hike up to Humantay Lake, we had to make the decision on how we would reach AguasCalientes. Originally we were determined to complete the entire process on our own with only means of transportation being collectivos and a lot of walking. After the first hike kicked our bus we settled on a decision to compromise: we would take a bus to Hydroelectica and then hike to AguasCalientes. Through our hostel (Pariwana Hostel) we booked the shuttle ($15), rode for 5 hours over the steep cliffs along the Urubamba river, ate lunch, and then began the hike along the train track and river for 3 hours with a group of Mexican girls and one French girl. Remember it is an active train track so don’t get too close to it as it passes by (as Analeise learned when she tried taking a photo of the train and it briefly missed her). By the end of it, Analeise, Ana (the French girl), and myself were the only ones left after taking our time, stopping for snack and water breaks, and taking so many photos.

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Peru- Hidroelectrica Trek and Machu Picchu

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IMG_4695Peru, Peru, Peru. I am not sure how I’m going to explain this trip. Sure, I can write out the details: the places we went, the things I saw, so on, so forth. But how do I begin to explain what it meant to me? I’ve decided to break this trip up to several parts- trying to cram it all into one post would get extremely lengthy and we would all lose focus halfway through. Somehow I’ll try to fit into words how awing this time was for me. And if in the scenario I do not fulfill that duty then I hope my photos will. Continue reading

Travel

Peru- Cusco and Humantay Lake

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