Last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to New Zealand during my summer vacation. I visited a few of my friends there, friends I made in my little village, Jangsu. Julia, Karina and Max were the best tour-guides a girl could ask for. I saw some truly beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime sights, and even managed to sneak in a taste of home along the way.
Fighting past jet-lag and the need for a shower
On my very first night in New Zealand, feeling rather gross after hours of travelling, I rallied and went to a concert. We partied to Fat Freddy’s Drop and Shapeshifter, whom Karina refers to as “New Zealand music royalty”. It was an absolutely spectacular night, and the perfect way to start my vacation.
A taste of home
While staying with Karina and Max (who just had their first baby – I’M AN AUNT!), I did a lot of eating, some gardening (yes, cactus-killing Div managed to successfully plant things) and heaps of laughing. Their home is so warm and full of life. One of the first things I did with Karina was devour some Nando’s. Boy, oh boy, how I had missed that! Nando’s is, in my opinion, South Africa’s best chicken restaurant. It’s simply mind-blowing. And I should stop writing about it because I am in South Korea, where there is sadly NO NANDO’S!
Flora, art, and the feeling of sand between my toes
We also took a trip to the Auckland Botanic Gardens – I highly recommend this! Absolutely gorgeous, peaceful and when we went, displaying some really cool sculptures.
During my stay with Karina and Max, I met Karina’s family, who are absolutely wonderful, and her mum makes the best cheesecake I have ever had. We took a trip to Maraetai beach together, where we had some pretty epic fish and chips.
Next, I was off to stay with Julia. We met on one of my first days in South Korea, and bonded a few days later over Oreos in her apartment. After that, we spent many a weeknight shopping in Jeonju, eating Lotteria and drinking Coke. She is currently teaching and adventuring in Vietnam, but I hope we can see each other again soon!
A bit of history
We headed over to North Head. This was really interesting. North Head consists of a volcano, tunnels and bunkers. According to Julia, “They were built for military coastal defence and to deter the Russians in the late 1800s” (girl knows her history!). We wandered around for ages, taking some pretty creepy pictures in the dark, quiet tunnels. The view from the top of the hill was spectacular; a great place for reflection.
Julia and I did a tour of Waiheke Island as well. The tour was quite disappointing, as we spent most of the time in a minivan and weren’t given a whole lot of time to explore. I struggled to keep awake through it as my motion sickness pills (which I needed for the ferry ride to the island) threatened to knock me right out. I would advise travelling around the island by yourself. Once the tour was over, Julia and I were able to enjoy ourselves a lot more, and moving at our own pace made the day more pleasant.
My last trip with Julia was to the Coromandel. We took a short drive to the absolutely beautiful area. While there, we chilled for a while on Hot Water Beach, where you can dig a hole in the sand and sit in some really hot water – a natural hot tub! That was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. And the water was scalding – at times, too hot to even dip a toe into. We popped over to Cathedral Cove, with its awesome hole in the rock. The scenery here was indescribable. I had not seen that kind of natural beauty in ages.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s brainchildOne of the most unforgettable parts of my holiday was my tour to Hobbiton. The tour lasted a day, and I had an absolute blast. It was truly a day of nerding out: gasping in delight at hobbit holes, listening intently to information given by the guide, and getting a bit tipsy on apple cider at the Green Dragon. I loved every minute of it.
New Zealand is such a beautiful country with lovely people, great sights and amazing food. I loved my time there, and would love to return someday.