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.

DSC07071DSC07078DSC07101DSC07098DSC07100DSC07109DSC07123

c287b499-7573-4c37-89f3-a1bd26e06092

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.

DSC07129-3DSC07212DSC07207DSC07192DSC07168

DSC07182

DSC07140DSC07245

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.

 

 

 

Standard
Travel

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.

DSC06856.jpg

 

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

DSC06951DSC06936

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.

Standard
Travel

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.

DSC06572

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!

 

Standard
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.

DSC06290DSC06298DSC06300DSC06303DSC06310DSC06312DSC06320

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.

Standard
Travel

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.

Continue reading

Standard
Travel

Revisiting White Sands, New Mexico

lrg_dsc00968

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

Standard
Personal, Travel

2017 Year Review

Hello, all! And  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome, 2018!

I started 2017 in Tampa picturing my future entirely different than I do now as I finish it in Ruidoso, New Mexico. In 2017, as cheesy as it sounds, I loved and I lost. I broke my first bone. I spent more time in airplanes than in my own home. But none of that even matters anymore- none of it. I also explored more of this beautiful world. I met remarkable people. Amazing friendships became even stronger. I spent joyous holidays with my wonderful family. There is a never-ending abundance of happiness that occurred in 2017 and happiness will always be the most important thing to me. Happiness prevailed in 2017. So as I begin to picture another new year my desire to be a better person, a more honest person, and an eternally hopeful person continues to flourish. Along with that, my desire to explore this world only continues to grow.  I hope 2018 is a year of constant travel, growth, and progress. Most importantly, I hope that 2018 is full of happiness, even among hard times (because there will be). I pray happiness continues to prevail in 2018.

One of my favorite parts of the end of year is, of course, reminiscing on the travels and highlights that occurred throughout. Since flying is my job, I can’t picture the number of planes I have been on this year, but I reckon it is a high amount. As much of a roller coaster this year was every single destination I got to explore has helped make this year special. More importantly, every person, place, moment I have had the opportunity to encounter has helped heal me. To be able to say that, I am forever grateful for this year.

I revisited many familiar locations in 2017: Honolulu, Tbilisi, NYC, Tokyo. This year was also full of many firsts for me: Rota, Spain, Washington D.C., Turin, Italy, Metz, France, Dubai, UAE. Of course, as special as every place is to me there are a few key highlights of 2017 that I will hold fondly in my heart and memories. They are moments that comforted me, challenged me, and inspired me (not in any order). (Note: Yall have seen these photos and read about these trips before- sorry!)

1) Hiking Diamond Head and exploring Idar Oberstein, Germany with Per Clausen.

The destinations were amazing, but the company was the most memorable part. Therefor, a huge highlight of this year was getting to know and travel with Per. He is a superb human being with a genuine heart and a contagious smile. I got extremely lucky that crew scheduling put us together for a couple weeks of flying and adventuring. With our daily coffee dates and financial conversations, I always felt happy in his presence. Per made every destination even more memorable. I miss you always, Per!

2) Swimming with whale sharks in Cabo, Mexico.

This has always been high on my bucket list and it finally happened in 2017! We had to swim quite rapidly to keep up with the gentle creatures but my favorite moment is sitting on the deck of the boat and watching them peacefully swim right by me. This was one of the first moments this year that helped push me into realizing my love of environmental management and conservation. I hope one day to re-experience this in clearer water!

3) Sorrento, Capri, Taormina, Italy

Pretty much any layover that gets me in a swimsuit is automatically a favorite of mine. There is just something special about the Italian coast and its islands. I was at a different emotional level on all three of these layovers but I still only remember them for being full of sunshine, friends, and champagne (so how could I be upset about anything else?)

4) Moving to The Heights in Houston

Moving to my own apartment with Analeise was definitely a huge accomplishment for me. Finally I could walk around comfortably in my own home and suddenly I looked forward to coming home after a long trip. Most importantly I needed a change from the place my life was in in June. So I packed up and made a change. There really is a big difference from living in Humble (near the airport) to being more centered in Houston. After two years of living in Houston I get to explore easily, go out, and make friends. Woah.

5) Tulum, Mexico

I’ve written about what Tulum meant to me before. It was right after my breakup so you can imagine that I needed distance and fun more than anything. This was also Analeise’s and my first trip as the dynamic travel duo that we are now. Snorkeling with sea turtles and manta rays will forever be a memory ingrained in my heart. (Also the second push that is helping me realize future career goals!)

6) Budapest, Hungary

Budapest surprised me more than any location this year. How could one city be this remarkable? From the architecture to the nightlife to the scenery and landscape…I couldn’t believe I found a place that had it all (for me). I’m certainly going back and exploring more of Hungary as soon as I get a chance (maybe for my 25th?!).

7) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was one of those layovers that reminded me how much I love the charter flying kind of lifestyle. I never would have thought I’d end up in Malaysia and one day I just…did. From taking selfies with cute monkeys to chasing waterfalls and running away from scary monkeys, Malaysia left me wanting more. 

8) Cusco and Lima, Peru

Yall already know what Peru meant to me. This was my number one travel bucket list item for 2017 and I made it happen. I made it happen despite heartache and despite frustration. That’s all I will say about Peru. I made it happen. (Also just scroll down a little for the full three part posts!)

9) Broke a hand and coincidentally got the holidays at home

*I don’t recommend this in the scenario you want holidays off of work. Being a flight attendant I always worry about getting the days off of work so I can spend time with my family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. So even though this was a painful experience it was made easier by coincidentally falling on the latter part of the year. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me I needed to spend more time at home?! Either way I listened!

10) Fall out boy concert

I feel like this is the night my year completely turned around. I felt confident again. I felt happy again. Celebrating Analeise’s birthday with dinner, a freaking awesome concert, and a night out on the town was the jump start my life needed again. Coincidentally also the night I met Kevin- Hi, Kevin!

11) Ruidoso, New Mexico

And alas, the last key highlight of 2017. Now. Here. In this cozy two story cabin with my family while WonderWoman plays on DVD. It is half an hour till 2018. We have skiied, hiked, gambled, and played in sand on our family vacation. We will eat our 12 grapes and make our list of intentions for the new year. Then we will wake up tomorrow to our last full day here. What a phenomenal start to another year of life. 

Other happy times: Tokyo Disney, Dubai, first wake boarding experience, Aggie football game, first Diego turn, Mandy’s grad school graduation, etc.

 

 

I don’t know what 2018 will bring. I do know that whatever it is, I can handle it. I know now that I am strong enough, I am brave enough, I am confident enough, I am hopeful enough to handle anything that comes my way. Before anything else, I know I have the support system in my life that will help guide me whenever I am lost.

Finally, I am thankful for this platform that allows me to express all of my silly thoughts and fun travel experiences. I am thankful for you for taking time out of your day to read this. And I hope you continue to join me on this journey.

Happy 2018, friends!

-Mary Anna

Standard