Travel

Don’t Stop Belize’n!

Well, welcome back, friends!

Alright, so Belize. A place that has been on my bucket list since university. Back when I was a freshman the leadership organization I was in took a spring break trip to Belize and I was heartbroken that my parents wouldn’t let me go. Finally years later I found my way there and with a good looking guy with me 😉

Belize was both everything I expected and not what I expected. Let me just get it out of the way that this was my most expensive trip outta the recent ones (New Zealand, Peru, Tulum included). It was the most expensive, however, because of the lifestyle we chose to indulge in. We wanted a vacation. A spoiled, resort-living kinda relaxation with some rough outside adventure planned. We got just that!

Unlike my normal routine of waiting for Escape Houston or Scott’s Cheap Flight deals to pop up, this time we booked our tickets the usual way: by just looking them up on Expedia.

We prepared for this trip in different ways: Kevin stocked up on Amazon approved snorkels and bug spray and I bought a new pair of swimmies. We both made sure the sunblock we picked was eco friendly as we all know that certain sunscreens contain chemicals that are killing our reef! We chose SunBum after Kevin read many reviews online as he always does.

Soon, it was time to go!

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Day One

San Ignacio

After researching every mode of transportation, including the cheapest options (my norm), I learned there are a couple options for getting to San Ignacio (a two and a half hour drive). First, you could take a taxi which will run you a pretty penny. Secondly, you could take a taxi to the bus terminal and then take the old school yellow school buses with no air conditioning the rest of the way. This is the cheapest option, but seemed a little too uncomfortable for our vacation this time. And thirdly, you can book a shuttle/private shuttle.

Before arriving at the airport I pre-booked a shuttle to San Ignacio with William Hofman. His email confirmation had so much valuable information on what to expect for our trip to Belize. This is the website if you’re interested: Shuttle It was $100 for both of us so definitely pricey but we both agreed that it was completely worth it for the long drive.

We chatted the whole time with our driver, a local, who informed us all about his country. One of my favorite parts about Belize is hearing their people talk about Belize. It’s beautiful and heartwarming. Once we got into the town he pointed out all the places we needed to know: which ATM to use, where to catch a bus, and especially every place we should eat at.

I jotted down a few of the names: Han-nahs, Pops, and Martha’s kitchen.

“You can go everywhere in Belize and eat ride and beans and it will taste different- it makes it unique.”

So we arrived safely and comfortable at Rumors Resort ($74 a night). I chose this hotel because it wasn’t in San Ignacios center but more in the jungle. That way we could escape the noise and just relax.

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Reviews:

(Talking to him as I write this) Kevin originally rated this hotel a 5/7. He both liked and disliked the service. He said that food took so long (we had to take breakfast to go once even though we ordered so early), but that the flapjacks were so good.

My review: overall, I would probably rate it about the same. It was more of a simple hotel than a “resort”. The front desk and bartender were ridiculously nice and caring. One night they even checked in on if we were eating dinner before the restaurant closed. So sweet! The rooms were a bit outdated and the air conditioning took forever to get cold, but I mean, you’re in another country and in the jungle- probably expected. Also, holy jeez, the flapjacks here were mind blowing. I’d go back just for them.

The first day when we arrived we explored the grounds, grabbed a few drinks, and played in the pool. And I mean, we definitely played around in the pool. We threw beach balls at each other, chased each other, flopped around. It was just like we were kids again.

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That night we were scrambling for last minute plans for the infamous ATM caves. I’ve learned to trust Kevin with his searches and instinct on these kinds of things and I’m so glad that I did.

Day Two

Carlos the Caveman Actun Tunichil Muknal Excursion (~$100)

“Hauntingly beautiful,” Kevin and I would say to each other within the cave as we carefully stepped over slippery rocks with only our white headlamps and tour leader, Eric, guiding us.

As we booked last minute we were the only two guests on this tour! Eric, our guide, and our driver picked us up at Rumors and we started our drive. We stopped at a small store on the way and they even purchased us a couple of Belizean beers for afterward!

The drive was…rough. It was bumpy and long but once you’re there you’re too excited for what’s to come to be sick. If you don’t know what the ATM cave let me quickly explain (a very simplified version in my own way).

SO. This was once a central key to the Mayan world. Picture this: you’re living, thriving as part of a civilization. You give blessings to your Gods in forms of rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies. Everything is going well…until the rain stops. So you begin giving more blessings to your Gods within this cave. You pray around special ceramic pots mixed with special contents: blood, chocolate. Then you set it on fire or you break it. It doesn’t work. So you try again, this time a little further into the cave. Again, it doesn’t work. You explore further. You sacrifice those deemed worthy, the younger the more pure. But the cave is telling you things- you see things amongst the shadows made from your torch. The further you get the darker it is within this cave, but the fire is showing you images of the Gods and you hear them. You keep these rituals praying for the drought to end and for fertility to the land. You do this until you stop exploring further into the cave. And then one day…it all stops.

As we were the only two on this tour that meant we got to move fast before the other big groups started. I am so thankful for this as we saw these big groups on our way out and directions would have been hard to hear. Instead it was Eric, Kevin, and myself.

To get to the cave you have to first walk until you reach two parts of the river. There’s a rope to hold onto as you swim across the refreshing water. Then once you are at the entrance of the cave you jump in once again and begin swimming further in. I have to say, by this point this was already one of my favorite excursions ever. It was adventurous, educational, awing. I don’t think I will able to fully explain how hauntingly beautiful the whole experience was.

Because suddenly you’re standing there- in front of broken ceramic pots and next to pieces of bone left over from so long ago. You are standing next to sacrificing spots, prayer spots, and spots of exploration. Eric was so knowledgeable about every single thing in this cave and he really made sure we understood everything before moving on to the next fascinating sight.

There are many parts of the tour that leave you breathless and I don’t just mean because of the rock climbing or swimming you have to do. Or even because of the tight squeezes along sharp rock formations that you carefully navigate through. But the parts that you suddenly can imagine “Holy shit, this is what they felt.” Or you suddenly see what they saw. For me, I had this moment while looking at a skeleton of a young boy that was left alone deep in the cave to die. Eric said researchers believe in took this boy days alone in darkness before he passed away. We turned off our headlamps and with no one else around…we could picture it. Darkness consumed us, direction left us. And it was completely silent. This is the most true darkness I have ever experienced.

Eric took us a different way out of the cave. With only our small red headlamp lights on, Kevin and I were given directions to enter the narrowest pathway called “The decapitator”. We were left alone to swim along the rocks until we found another small opening that had Eric waiting for us. This moment will forever be frozen in my memory because of how special it was. I know not everyone gets to experience this way out so I’m grateful we could. With our last final look at the cave we swam out into the brightness.

I would entirely recommend the ATM cave tour. I know it seems touristic but I was so wrong to first doubt it. More so, I would whole heartedly encourage anyone to attend with Carlos the Caveman. Carlos recently passed away and his wife and daughters along with Eric and the other guides are working to continue the legacy of his tour. All I know is, Carlos would be very proud.

So, what do you need for this tour?

Excitement! Along with that, no cameras are allowed thanks to some tourists that dropped their cameras onto the remaining skulls. (Eye roll inserted here). I wore my swimsuit along with leggings and a tank top. Oh and socks- you’ll need those. I was worried about being cold inside the cave but I actually didn’t have a single problem. On my feet I (and everyone else) highly recommend water shoes. Kevin picked me out these (link included) and I adore them. We also made sure to put bug spray on before we left the hotel.

Tips: Try and book a small group/private tour if possible. It makes a world of difference! Change of clothes is necessary for afterward! Doing this with your best friend/partner…makes it even better.

Oh! I forgot to mention, they feed you, too! And offer you a cold beer! Seriously such a perfect experience!

Cahal Peche

After a shower and change of clothes we decided to continue our adventurous day with a visit to the Mayan Ruin sight so close to the center!

Alright so these are the notes I jotted down from our driver: Cahal Peche is from 1,350 years before Christ. This main trading post was once considered the Switzerland of the Mayan world because the river was so actively used for trading.

Continuing with our days trend of no crowds, we had the sight almost entirely to ourselves. It was so fun to be able to climb (yes you can still climb them!) and explore the grounds from all around! We took our time exploring, climbing, running, taking photographs around the area. We even sat on top of one of the towers for awhile and just soaked it all in.

Day Three

Xunatenich

Unfortunately, this was my grumpy pants day. I blame it on severe dehydration mixed in with steaming weather, lots of sweat, and being very, very unprepared. I wasn’t aware that if you just mention to the taxi driver “Xunatenich” they take you to the small river ferry crossing and not the actual entrance of the ruins. Therefor, Kevin and I had a long walk with a very steep incline. Now, yall know that I’ve hiked steep hikes before, but man, I was not prepared at all for this. So by the time we arrived at the real entrance…I was a sweaty, grumpypants- lame. Kevin did everything he could to cheer me up, but sometimes, the heat just overpowers you and wins. It won. Still, seeing the massiveness that is Xunatenich from below was memorable. It was a busy day with high school tour groups, but from up above, everything just felt tiny. While exploring the grounds you can even spot howler monkeys in the trees- so cute! And for as far as you can see you witness Belize’s beautiful, luscious jungle. I would re-see Xunatenich, just maybe without the sweltering heat (this was the hottest day on our trip!).

Also, shout out to Kevin for being a champ. You’re the best.

Ambergris Caye

We ended up booking a last minute shuttle once again with William Hofman to the Belize City Marina. This time it cost $75 for both of us. Oh, and this time the shuttle had wifi which was a nice touch. We did some souvenir shopping while waiting for the next ferry to San Pedro through the Belize Express Water Taxi ($38 roundtrip normally but they had a promotion going on at this time). The boat ride took about 75 minutes with a stop in Caye Caulker. Tip: don’t sit so close to the front windows because it will feel as if hundreds of little needles are being stabbed into your skin (from your hair blowing around).

Costa Blue

I believe my favorite moment of this resort was arriving to it; they set up transportation at the Ambergris dock, took care of our luggage, and greeted us with a delicious adult beverage. I was 10/10 automatically impressed. It certainly was as secluded as the reviews said it was. I’ll give you our pros and cons about the resort.

Pros: The welcome. The whole resort is set up very nicely and not overcrowded. The “heated” pool has a swim up bar. It is right by the ocean. It has two hammocks which are very relaxing. The rooms were nice, a living room, microwave, fridge, and filtered water were provided. There is a volleyball court and other games on the beach.

Cons: It was all expensive: drinks, food, the golf cart rental. The sand at the “beach” isn’t the soft sand you expect but instead is quite rocky. I’d even say maybe it was a little too secluded as it took about half an hour on the golf cart to get to town. Oh, and the water is very sea-grassy and honestly, was even a little littered.

It cost almost $600 for three nights at the resort and by the end our tab was, well, you can imagine…high. So, yeah…definitely the priciest I’ve ever gone, and honestly, the resort/food itself probably wasn’t worth it. Being with Kevin though- worth every penny.

Day Four

We woke up this morning and thought, “let’s just relaaaax“. So that’s what we did! We parked ourselves by the pool, brought our own adult beverages from our rooms, and, well, drank! We did this for pretty much the entire afternoon until we fell asleep early in the evening. Oops.

Secret Beach

So on day five of our trip to Belize we made afternoon excursion reservations to snorkel Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reservice. Until then, however, we thought we’d do as the locals and drive around in style. Our ride for the day? A golf cart. The biggest mode of transportation around the island. So we drove around and decided to stop by this “Secret Beach” we saw on the map. How quickly we wished we had spent all day yesterday there!472eb3e4-9f92-4bcb-8921-c59a5bfca854

This place was, for a lack of a better word, dope. It had everything we wanted: so many beach chairs, swings, a dock, two bars, delicious food, and the ridiculously clear water we have been dreaming about!

The only thing I’ll mention that isn’t complete praise is that quite a few swimmers said they were bit my sand fleas- which I honestly didn’t know were a thing!

Tip: If in season, get the lobster bites from the bar! Holy smokes, they were so good!

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The excursions include both the Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. We booked it through our hotel’s desk and charged it to the room, but if I remember correctly it cost around $65 per person.

Mayan for “little channel” the snorkel excursion shows you many of Belize’s underwater ecosystems. Did you know that the Belize barrier reef system is the second largest reef system in the world? Although this day was a little murky my favorite part was snorkeling up to the break in the reef- the channel- and witnessing how vast it quickly became. I have mixed feelings about both excursions overall. First, I truly just love being in the water in general so being able to snorkel somewhere new was a blast for me. Secondly, Belize’s barrier reef is indeed beautiful. But…and I hate that I feel this way, I was a little sad to see the corral appear so…brown. I’m not sure if this is how it’s supposed to look as I am no expert, but I always pictured healthy corral to be vibrant and colorful. The whole experience just made me curious if this excursion is negatively impacting the reef more than we think. I’m planning on looking further into this, but let me know what you think!

Still, we got to see so many types of fish, corral, stingrays, and even eels while snorkeling the reef system. My biggest tip would be to try and go during low seasons because man, it was packed.

Shark Ray Alley

Alright! So this was the excursion I was most excited about! I had seen perfect photos all over Pinterest of people taking neat shots with nursing shots. I was determined to do the same! That is until I was actually in the water…and fighting off the other people on our tour…and barely making it before the nursing sharks took off. To say I was a little disappointed is an understatement. But still, swimming around with sting rays was a sweet experience and a few nursing sharks stayed within close distance to watch. I just wish the tour hadn’t been so crowded.

Also, check out the video I made at the bottom of this blog post for snippets of these two excursions!

Date Night & Casino Night

Once we cleaned ourselves up we drove our fancy little golf cart down to town and looked for some good food. We found it! Elvi’s Kitchen was phenomenal! We had delicious street (deep fried) and grilled corn plus the coconut shrimp as appetizers! Then we both had the lobster special with shrimp with a fantastic mango barbecue sauce. Holy Jesus. I would go back just for this meal.

I forgot to mention that we had been to the Casino in San Ignacio and well, we didn’t do well. So after this heavenly meal we decided to roll our way to the only one on the island. This is the evening I learned I’m actually pretty good at roulette. That or it was pure beginners luck. Either way, I always have a blast when I’m with Kevin and thankfully (or unfortunately) we both enjoy casinos so you can imagine how much fun we had this evening!

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Day Six

And alas, our time in Belize had ended. We packed up our bags, knocked out on the ferry back to Belize City, and went on our way to the airport. I got us that first class up grade on our way back to Houston which was the perfecting ending to our time in Belize!

Belize Overview

“They care about who I am not what I am,” our driver told us. Every Belizean we spoke to told us something similar. Belize is full of diverse individuals that truly become a community. They don’t see status, color, shapes or sizes, they only see you as who you are- a human being. A friend. Everywhere we walked on our short time in Belize we were only impacted with kindness and goodness. This was true southern hospitality. 

So although I wouldn’t necessarily go back any time soon for the beaches or the price-tag (it was certainly more expensive), I would go back for the people.

General list of places to see in Belize:

  • San Pedro
  • Caye Caulker
  • Ambergris Caye
  • Caracol Mayan Ruins
  • Hol Chan Marine Reserve
  • Lamanai Archeological Reserve
  • Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
  • Actun Tunichil Muknal caves excursion
  • Placencia (private island)
  • San Ignacio/Cayo District
  • Snorkeling shark alley
  • San Ignacio farmers market
  • Zip lining through jungle
  • Guatemalan Tikal Mayan Ruin (so close!)

For now, that’s all, friends!

Until next time!

-Mary A.7646c127-2150-4499-9e78-06effa833777

P.S. Check out the video I made for this trip! I’m working on becoming better at vlogging and documenting my trips so bare with me as they get a lot better with time!

Video!

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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: Lake Taupo

Well, hello again!

Another day another new experience!

I was sad to leave Crash Palace, my favorite hostel of the 8 day trip of the North Island of New Zealand. Although, I wasn’t exactly sad to leave the smell of sulpher behind. Well, it turns out hot springs have a slight smell of it as well. Originally I really wanted to do a mud bath and maybe if I go back one day (with Kevin) we’ll do the fancy Polynesian Spa. This time, however, Analeise and I really wanted to do something free just to balance out expenses. Lucky for us, Kerosene Creek wasn’t too far off our route to Lake Taupo.

Relaxing in the hot freshwater spring was exactly what our sore bodies needed after zorbing the day before. Hot springs are supposed to have many therapeutic elements within them so we lounged around for an hour or so and fell into complete relaxation mode. I would certainly visit again and visit other natural hot springs in the area. I’m just glad someone warned me to try and not submerge my head in the water. Whew! Also unfortunately, the area did have some trash thrown around, so remember: clean up your mess. I cannot stress this enough.

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After our relaxing plunge into Kerosene Creek we decided to continue our exploration of free places to see on our way to Lake Taupo and visited Huka Falls. No amount of photos will ever be able to fully detail the incredible force that is Huka Falls. The water is….astronomically and remarkably powerful. It forces itself through the passageway and pours over itself into the falls.

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And alas, this very dramatic photo of the falls.DSC07129

So the overview!

We stayed at the Tiki Lodge Hostel in Lake Taupo for $23.52 USD the first night and $30 NZ cash the second night (we booked it separately after deciding to stay another night). Overall it was a fine hostel. We had the six bunk room with private bathroom to ourselves the first night and then only had one other female roommate the second night. They provided free breakfast of cereal, bread, and jams with coffee and tea. The only thing was you had to get there early because they rarely replenished anything so once it was out- it was out.

So the only things that we spent money on this day was food!

  • $20 NZ cash on breakfast in Rotorua
  • “Expensive dinner” in Lake Taupo is what I wrote in my notes- my guess is about $40 USD! But, hey, sometimes you just have to eat well.

That’s all for this post, friends!

Until next time! (Maybe a crazy boat ride and some Glowworms?!)

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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