Travel

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: 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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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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Oahu, Hawaii- Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Clear skies, a bright spectrum of blue ocean, and lush greenery show themselves off on the hike up to the pillboxes.

Hello again, all! A couple weeks ago I was blessed with sunny Hawaii and Guam layovers which means currently as I type this I am in snowy Germany avoiding the freezing cold outside. With this job you have to accept all types of destinations- often in the same month or even week! It definitely makes packing a suitcase quite interesting! Swimsuit? Check. Snow-boots? Check! What I try my best to never forget is my camera and I’m thankful I didn’t in Hawaii!

This day was eventful from early morning to late in the evening. From breakfast we took an Uber to Pearl Harbor where we spent the early afternoon re-learning everything high school was supposed to teach us. I have to admit, I learned more in the course of a 20 minute documentary they showed us than I did in my courses at school…and that, unfortunately, is saying something. Still, it was a fascinating experience to visit Pearl Harbor. It gave me chills to learn that oil still continues to leak out from the USS Arizona. You just have to watch the water sway back and forth underneath to see the rainbow of oil that sits on top of the ocean.

From Pearl Harbor we made our way to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Kailua. The first few minutes of the hike may be daunting to anyone unaccustomed to rocky terrain. It required large steps and careful footing up till the first view point. There are ropes on this part to assist with the descent, which I was very thankful for after already falling on my butt once.

Still, once you get to the first view point…you just want to continue going. You will witness a full panorama of Lanikai with its bright blue waters full of kayaks that are making their way to the nearby islands.

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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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