New Zealand Recap & Thoughts…A Year Later

Let’s start with a super thorough & helpful video on New Zealand slang:Β https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTS2VfKjC6g

I just found that video and was pretty proud that I knew all but 2 or 3 of them! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to hear a British person’s take on New Zealand words, especially since I haven’t been to Europe and wasn’t sure which words were uniquely from New Zealand and which were just the European influence.

I miss New Zealand. Like a lot. I have barely started going through the pictures that I took on my nicer camera (everything on my blog is from my phone camera) and every time I go through the pictures, I miss New Zealand a little more. So that’s been going very slowly. I think what’s even harder is knowing that New Zealand is so big and I don’t think I will ever get to go for more than a week or so, which is no time at all for seeing any amount of the country! Plus I want to take my loved ones to see it but it’s so expensive to get there, most of them will never get to see it! I’ve actually kinda decided that I’d prefer to go back to Rarotonga first because it’s so much more manageable to see in a week.

When I think back on New Zealand, these are the top things that stand out to me:

  • gorgeous beaches (white sand, black sand, golden sand!)
  • super friendly and generous people
  • delicious ice cream (so yum! πŸ˜‰ )
  • super well handled tourism (it’s SO easy to navigate and find interesting things there)
  • driving on the left side and roundabouts (scary at first but not too bad once you get used to them)
  • hard work and tons of new experiences (work dairy farm, help touch up the paint on a ship, work in a hostel, trusting complete strangers, etc.)
  • learning how to live super transiently (mostly staying in places for a week at the most, sleeping in random homes, hostels, cars, camper vans, caravans, etc)
  • wine
  • bare feet…everywhere!
  • fresh, delicious, yum, fish. sigh.
  • flax, and learning the basics of how to weave it
  • extremely varied topography crammed close together (we have most of these things in the US but it’s very spread out)
  • Hobbiton
  • A helicopter ride to a glacier hike (!!!)
  • Christmas being in the summer and coinciding with summer “holidays.” Weird.
  • The Maori culture
  • The Kiwi culture – a mix of British, surfer, Maori and other cultures that make up a very relaxed and friendly country

Honestly, I could probably write an entire blog (or already have) about each of these points. If I haven’t covered one of them or you would like more detail about one of them, please let me know! πŸ™‚

Down sides/cautions for New Zealand: (because nowhere is perfect and I’m not completely blind)

  • Everything is EXPENSIVE – Food, clothes, gas, lodging, etc. etc. etc. I literally met someone in my parents’ church who moved their family to Texas because New Zealand is so expensive.
  • Sandflies –Β They bite, they are about the size of a gnat and they are more annoying than mosquitos. Plus their bites itch for much longer than mosquitos. Just no.
  • People who take advantage of travelers who don’t know their way around/how things should work. – I actually only came across a few of these people but they definitely exist in New Zealand (and pretty much every country.) I think some of them did it out of desperation and some of them did it just because they could. The instances that I saw was people pressuring others to work more than was fair/agreed upon. I endured it in my very first week in New Zealand and it was rough but it was a major learning experience and it kept me from getting back into another situation like that. I learned to ask the right questions up front and to make sure that expectations on both sides were expressed. Especially in that situation, you have to stand up for yourself because usually nobody else will.
  • It takes forever to get most places –Β Because there are a lot of hills and mountains and the speed limits are quite low.
  • It’s so far from everything –Β This is the biggest reason why I didn’t consider extending my visa, it’s way too far from my home and my family. That’s a deal breaker for me.

I don’t know when, but IΒ willΒ be back New Zealand. I miss you a lot.

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April 27, 2017 (part 1)

I am going home today!

This morning I packed up and got rid of the last of the things that I wasn’t taking with me, had breakfast, finished packing the last few things, checked out of the hostel, and took an Uber to the airport bus station.

I left for the airport a lot earlier than I needed to but I had to be out of the hostel by 10 anyway and I knew I would be a lot less stressed if I was waiting around in the airport instead of cutting it close. My flight didn’t leave until 4pm though. So I took the bus to the airport (which I had pre-paid for when I bought a roundtrip ticket when I came back from Rarotonga, which made it even cheaper.) I still can’t believe I paid so much for a taxi when I first got to New Zealand but oh well, I learned eventually. πŸ˜› On the bus ride to the airport (which takes about an hour) our bus driver asked if we heard a noise, but none of us did. A little bit later he pulled onto the shoulder of the 6 lane highway and gets out to check on the bus. And then he got back in and radioed in, saying that we had a half flat tire. Oh good. lol. They told him to go ahead but to take it a little slower, so he told us what was going on and told us that it was fine because the bus had more tires than a car. When we finally made it to the airport I went to the self check kiosk area and weighed my bags. One was just a little over, so I went through my things and rearranged them a little and then weighed them again to make sure.

Have I mentioned that Air New Zealand is great? When I booked my flight I told it that I had two bags to check and I only had the pay $1 for the second bag (nothing for the first.)

Anyway, I checked in and then went over to the other self service kiosk to send my bags through (so much automation, it’s pretty convenient!) but it didn’t like me for some reason so someone had to come over and check my ID and make sure that I was me and then she sent my bags through. From there I went through security where my ID was checked (which was automated again for certain countries’ passports) and then I went through the xrays, etc. with my bags. In New Zealand they don’t make you take off your shoes, etc. and it is so nice and much less of a pain than it is in the States.

When I finally got through all of the security, my flight was still a few hours away so I didn’t know what gate I would be flying out of. Which was a little annoying but I just wandered around the airport for a little while and bought a few more souvenirs to use up the last of my cash and then I bought two pieces of caramel chocolate slice (kinda like brownies) with the last of my cash so I could take it home and let people try it. πŸ˜€ Once I finished that I guessed that the Air New Zealand app was correct when it told me which gate I was flying out of (even though the signs still weren’t saying) so I settled down there for a little while and talked to some people on the phone and texted, and worked on some things online. I also had Gladys and Kipling tucked away in my bag. πŸ™‚

Finally saw my huge plane that would take me to Texas. πŸ˜€

and took my last selfie in New Zealand, lol

I picked a window seat when I booked my flight, but I couldn’t take very good pictures out the window because it was weird and messed up unfortunately. 😦

But these were my last views of New Zealand

https://youtu.be/Px1l7sNWzt0
and then they served dinner.

It was basically a stewed beef with peas and mashed potatoes, a quinoa salad, a roll, and ice cream. Which was delicious. πŸ™‚

Throughout the flight we hit turbulence quite a bit, which was zero fun. The sensation of falling when you’re super high up is definitely one of my very least favorite things ever. But I tried to distract myself with movies and TV shows until it was time to sleep. Oh and the sunset was pretty. πŸ™‚

For the past several days I have been trying a sleep schedule that I found online that is supposed to help with jetlag, so as soon as I felt like I could sleep, I did. I didn’t sleep much though and I made myself wake up at a reasonable time (Texas time) so I would be on a better schedule for home. Thankfully the middle seat on my row was one of the only ones unoccupied, which was really nice and I know I slept more because of that.

I distracted and kept myself awake better by exploring the screen at my seat, which was fun. And I ordered a snack, cuz I could and it was free, lol.

and I tracked where we were a few times on the map. It also told me how high we were (34,999 feet), how fast we were going (594 mph), and the outside temperature (-47 F.)

The flight crew had us close up all of our windows for the night but a few times I opened mine just slightly to watch the sunrise. Partly because it was pretty, and partly because that would help cut down on the jetlag.

Pretty soon they served breakfast, which was also very good. It doesn’t look great but it really was. It was eggs, sausage, baked beans (pretty common breakfast food in New Zealand), fruit, and yogurt.

Keeping up with the map a little bit was fun because then I knew where we were and what I was seeing out the window. It was really neat to finally see North America again. πŸ˜€

My flight left Auckland at 4 PM on April 27th, New Zealand time, and it was a 12 hour flight, but because of the time change, we landed in Houston at about 1 PM on April 27th. So strange.

This is of us landing in TEXAS! πŸ˜€

(continued in part 2)

April 27, 2017 (part 2)

As of today, it has been 1 year, 3 months, and 20 days since I got back from New Zealand. Which is crazy. And shows just how much I have procrastinated writing this last blog. Partly I’m just a procrastinator. Partly I felt like I would have to close the New Zealand chapter of my life for good if I wrote this post and officially finished the blog series of my travels. But I know that the longer I wait to write this, the less I will remember. It’s incredible how fast I’ve forgotten things about my trip, which make me even more glad that I blogged about the entire thing! So, without any more delays, here is the last blog of my New Zealand adventure.


When we unloaded I followed the signs to get through customs and was extremely underwhelmed with the signs.img_20170427_121341

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For comparison, this is what the New Zealand welcome entrance looks likeΒ Image result for auckland airport arrival

and they have native music playing.

I got into the very long line at customs and waited. Thankfully my flight wasn’t until 3:30 PM so I wasn’t worried. The form that I had to fill out for customs asked if I had been on any farms/ranches/pastures or been in close proximity to livestock. So I had to answer yes, even though it had been months since that had happened. Because of that I got pulled to the side and I had to help them hunt down my bag so they could look at my shoes to make sure I wasn’t bringing in any mud/poo/whatever. Which was slightly nerve wracking. I finally got through all of that and had my bags, etc. and was trying to find where the Southwest flights were so I could wait for my flight to Dallas. Aaaaaaaand then someone told me that Southwest doesn’t fly into that airport, they fly into the airport on the other side of the city which is an hour away. Whoops. I then realized that I had not paid close enough attention and had no idea that there were even two airports in Houston. I found out that they have a shuttle that goes to the other airport (for a rather high price) so I booked a trip there and waited for what seemed like forever. I was so afraid that I was going to miss my flight. While I waited I called my mom to let her know that I was back in the USA. πŸ™‚ I was trying to surprise as many people as possible so I had only told my dad and my brother when I was coming back. But my mom wanted a little bit of warning to prepare so I called her to tell her. She was a little excited. πŸ˜‰ I visited with a couple from New Zealand while I was waiting for the shuttle, which was fun, and then the shuttle got there. We made it to the other airport by 2:30 PM and I hurried through checking my bags, etc. and made it onto the flight in time and even got a window seat! Whew!

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Once we took off I ordered the most Texan thing I could, Dr. Pepper! πŸ˜€

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We landed in Dallas around 4:30 PM and I got my bags and my brother, Grant, picked me up. πŸ˜€ I gave him some of the chocolate caramel slice that I brought from New Zealand, which was fun. I love getting to share some of my experiences with others!

From there we went and surprised Grandma at the memory care facility where she goes to feed Grandpa. And after that we dropped by Mamaw & Pop’s to surprise them. πŸ™‚ I love getting to surprise people! We didn’t get to our parents’ house until around 11 PM and I was ready for bed. I got to see my parents but Carmen & Olivia were already asleep so I waited to surprise them the next morning. πŸ™‚

Also, because I was surprising my sisters my mom made a sign for me later in the week, which was so sweet. πŸ™‚

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It was great to be home with my family! πŸ™‚ I will probably do one more blog just reflecting over my trip looking back.

 

April 26, 2017

Today is my last full day in New Zealand! That’s just so weird to me! I am just finishing up some last minute things and trying to take it easy so I don’t stress myself out and rush or forget anything important.

I hung out at the hostel until around noon and then I headed out to get lunch at Oh Calcutta, an Indian restaurant that had been recommended to me and had great reviews online. I ordered a spinach chicken curry and some naan for to go (because I was dressed like a backpacker and the restaurant looked pretty nice, lol.) While I waited for my food I went next door to a bank and got a bunch of coins to take back for people at home. When my food was ready I started to eat some of it nearby at a park.

It doesn’t look delicious but it definitely was! πŸ™‚ It was kinda difficult to eat without making a mess, so I decided to go back to the hostel to eat it (and because I knew I would have leftovers to leave there anyway.) Once I finished lunch I headed out again to go to the grocery store to pick up a few last minute things. On the way I finally got a picture of this weird tree.

At the grocery store I picked up a few more candies for my family to try and I bought my last caramel and white chocolate milk. I’m definitely going to miss those but my waistline will be glad that I don’t have access to them, lol.

On my walk back I saw this girl’s pants…and I was so confused. lol. Why are there holes in her pants on the back of her legs?!

Once I got back to the hostel I finished getting everything packed up and double checking to make sure that I had my carry on liquids packed correctly, etc. I am doing my very best not to be rushed or stressed tomorrow!

This is on the wall in the hostel, telling the history of the place, which is pretty cool. πŸ™‚

and this is the shower in the hostel. I have only ever seen these in New Zealand, I think I mentioned it before, but they are meant to keep the steam in the showers. Which is smart but I think I would like them more if I felt like it was cleaner, lol.

April 25, 2017

Today is Anzac Day, which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and it is observed every year to remember those who have died or served in the military. So kinda a combination of our Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It was originally established to honor those who fought at Gallipoli in World War I.

This morning I got up before sunrise to go to the memorial event/parade at sunrise at the Auckland Museum.

It was really odd to walk there with lots of people when it was dark and almost no one was talking. It was kinda eerie. I misunderstood about what time it started so I got there a little after it started. There were SO many people there, it was amazing. There were political people talking, there were speeches, songs, and prayers in Maori and English, and there was a memorial wreath placed at the monument for the unknown soldier. There was also a helicopter fly over and then, around sunrise, the veterans, families, active military, etc. paraded out.

They also had a bagpipe group that was playing in the parade.

I walked back to the hostel while I enjoyed the sunrise, it was beautiful!

On my way back I stopped by a bakery and bought an Anzac biscuit (aka cookie), which I thought was an appropriate way to commemorate the day. It was a lot bigger than I expected!

Once I got back to the hostel most people were still asleep, so I read out on the porch and enjoyed the sunrise some more.

For most of the rest of the day I just hung around the hostel and did laundry and packed up most of my stuff. I also gave away or put things on the “free shelf” that I am not taking home with me. It’s so nice that I gave myself plenty of time to be ready to leave so I’m not stressed or rushed at all. I’ve done most of what I wanted to do in Auckland but tonight I am going to the Sky Tower. I want to go a little before sunset, so I can see the city during the day and at sunset, and at night.

The other day I saw something in a gift shop and decided that Gladys needed a companion. So, this is Kipling. πŸ˜€

It’s really hard to believe that I am going home day after tomorrow. Craziness.

I took the bus to the Sky Tower late the afternoon. Thankfully I got there early cuz the line to buy tickets and get up there was fairly long. Once I got there though it was pretty neat. You can also pay to walk around outside of the Sky Tower and/or bungee jump off. So I got to watch someone jump, which was entertaining, lol.

The views were nice from the top and I stayed for quite a while since sunset takes a while, lol.

There was also a road/path painted pink, which I assume had to do with the Master’s Games.

There were also places where they just had glass flooring, which was a little freaky. Unfortunately the outside part was pretty dirty though, so it didn’t make for very good pictures.

Once it was pretty much dark, I went down to the next level and bought an ice cream and enjoyed the night view of the city for a little longer.

After that I went to the ground level and looked around the gift shop a little bit and saw these hilarious socks.

They glow in the dark too! lol. I considered getting them as a gift for someone but decided against it.

The tower looked really cool from the outside at night too πŸ™‚

Once I left there I went to the grocery store to buy a bunch of candies to take home for my family to try (and to use up some of my New Zealand money) and the lines were ridiculously long. ugh. After I finally finished there I waited a long time for the bus and went back to the hostel. From the street right near my hostel I got this view of the Sky Tower, which was kinda fun. πŸ™‚

April 24, 2017

Last night a lady checked into our room after everyone was in bed with the lights out. So the guy working the front desk came in to show her where she was staying and turned the lights on (which was annoying and unnecessary) and made no attempt to be quiet. Once he left the lady started talking to…the room of sleeping people. In a normal voice. And apologized for the snoring that she would be doing. Ughhhhhh. And this is what she sounded like from the opposite side of the room.

But it was a lot louder. So I didn’t get tons of rest last night, thankfully I was able to listen to my white noise app on my phone or I wouldn’t have gotten any.

Today I did tons of exploring though! I am determined to see as much as possible (hopefully all) that I have on my list of places in Auckland! I did decide that I didn’t want to walk quite so far today though, so I took the train.

First I wandered through an area near downtown called Britomart, which was pretty cool. I especially loved the lights they had in one area.

The main reason that I went to that area was because of a chocolate shop called Milse that was supposed to be good. It looked cool when I walked in but I felt completely ignored by the employees, so I left without buying anything.

While I was there I went by my New Zealand bank (Kiwibank) and closed my account. It’s really weird to be so close to leaving and starting to close and finish up so many last minute things.

After that I went to the InterCity bus station because I had signed up for a tour of Auckland (to use up the last of my credit for the bus system.) It was a half a day tour and kinda a last minute decision but I am really glad that I did it. I actually kinda wish I had done it at the beginning of my time in New Zealand, it would have been good to have seen and known some of the things earlier (like what areas I would have explored more.) Until this time around I thought that I didn’t really care for Auckland but it’s definitely changed my mind this week.

They took us around to see several of the landmarks in Auckland and our guide told us a lot of stories and historical information, which was pretty interesting.

One of the first places that we stopped was Parnell, so I got the chance to go through the shops again and I stopped at a chocolate shop and bought a Chocolate Butterscotch Creme hot chocolate.

Which was amazing. I also tried a macaroon for the first time, which was also good.

The shop also had this sign out front, which I kinda loved. πŸ™‚

Each time our bus driver let us out he would give us a time to be back to the bus. I am already careful to be on time for stuff like that but this guy was pretty strict. I’m sure he has to be since he has a schedule but at one of the first stops there were two girls (probably in their 20s) who weren’t there on time and he gave them about 5 extra minutes and he just left them behind. lol. I felt bad for them but it was completely their fault. He expected that they would catch up with us later but they never did.

One of the places that we went by was Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park, which pretty and the views were amazing! I wish we had had time to look around more.


Once we got back I got some pizza for lunch and took the bus out to the zoo. I was determined that I would see a kiwi bird before I left New Zealand, and this was my last chance. There are a bunch of tourist type people in Auckland this week for the World Masters Games and most of them had lanyards on, so they were pretty easy to spot. One couple was on the bus with me and I could tell from the way that they talked that they were from the States so I struck up a conversation with them. They were going to the zoo too so we helped each other find it. The bus dropped us off at the road but the zoo was pretty far from the road so we took the trolley to the zoo, which was pretty fun. πŸ™‚

Once we got to the zoo I headed straight for the kiwi bird area because I wanted to be sure to see them. The area that they have them in is a small building and they have day and night reversed in there so that people can see the nocturnal creatures. Which is a neat idea. πŸ™‚ They also have it so it looks like there are glowworms on the ceiling, which is fun. πŸ™‚

Unfortunately the kiwis were not out when I got there, they were sleeping in their homes. I was pretty frustrated but I decided to wait, because I was determined not to leave without seeing one (and because I had basically paid $25 just to see them.) So I waited. And waited. And waited. For about an hour and a half. But my patience was rewarded! They fed the kiwis around 4 so they all came out and I got to see them, which was so fun! πŸ˜€ Unfortunately, because it was so dark in there, and because the signs said not to use a flash, I wasn’t really able to get a good picture. This is the best I got, and that was because someone else broke the rules and used their flash. lol. Even then it’s really hard to tell, but it’s in the middle, next to the tree.

They are about the size of a chicken and my favorite part about them is the way that they walk/run. lol! Here is a video from the internet that gives you a much better idea. πŸ˜€

They also apparently lay the biggest eggs, in comparison to their body size, of all birds. Here is Gladys near a model of their egg.

Once the kiwis came out it got very crowded in that building so I left to let other people see them too. From there I just wandered around the zoo for a while until it got closer to closing time. Some of the animals were pretty fun but none of them were anything that I hadn’t seen before.


I think that the meerkats were probably my favorite other than the kiwis. πŸ™‚

After the zoo I just went back to the hostel and hung out there for the night since I was pretty tired and I wasn’t too sure about how safe it was to wander around Auckland alone at night.

April 23, 2017

This morning I was kinda over walking so I took the train to church.

Which was interesting. It was a big church and it had a little too much “feel good” stuff going on. The message seemed watered down and the strobe lights and fog machine didn’t really help my impression of the place, lol. It might be a great church though. πŸ™‚

From there I headed back to the hostel and saw a French market, so I stopped and bought some bagels that were on sale. It’s getting a little more difficult to know just how much food to buy since I am going home soon.

I didn’t do much else today and I was pretty tired from so much walking yesterday. Thankfully everyone in the room was pretty much asleep by about 10.

Oh, and this is a common sight in a hostel dorm. People on bottom bunks put up a blanket or towel to get some privacy. Which is a great idea, but only works if you’re on the bottom bunk unfortunately.

April 22, 2017

This morning I got some organizing done and decided what I wanted to get rid of so I can cut down some of the weight in my suitcases. Plus I just don’t need some of this stuff and it would be much more useful to someone traveling here. Such as, a travel sewing kit & extra thread, a cell phone charger for a car, two padlocks that work well for hostel lockers, some work gloves, Epsom salts, super glue, bug spray, nail polish remover, my New Zealand cell phone, and my duvet and duvet cover. I am actually sad to decide to leave my duvet cover but I just don’t have room for it.

Once I finished that, I went to a nearby market

and bought a mince & cheese pie.

After I finished looking around there, I went exploring.

First I saw this awesome hedge of lavender.

Such a great idea! πŸ™‚

I was trying to go to Mount Eden, which is an inactive volcano, but there is also apparently an old prison that is called the same thing and Google Maps took me there instead. Which probably wasn’t the safest area but thankfully I didn’t have any trouble. Thankfully the volcano wasn’t too far from there but I was pretty tired by the time I got there. It was about 2.5 miles to get there and then I needed to climb up the volcano! Whew. But I was determined and the views were worth it. πŸ™‚

It’s hard to really show how deep the crater is but this video is the closest I can get to showing.

I walked around the crater and took in the sights and then I headed back. Thankfully I went a different way on the way back, so I saw an older (nicer) neighborhood with some neat looking houses. And this awesome tree. πŸ™‚

On the way back I walked through Newmarket, which is basically a suburb of Auckland that is a few blocks with lots of different shops, but mostly mall type shops. They were fairly interesting to look at but I didn’t go into many of them. I did go grocery shopping while I was there though. On my way back I walked through Parnell, which is the suburb that my hostel is in. It has more unique shops and was definitely more interesting to look at. I didn’t look at a lot of them because I was pretty tired and because a lot were closed because it is Sunday. I’m planning on exploring them again soon though.

By the time I got back I was pretty exhausted and when I checked my step tracker I realized why!

April 21, 2017

This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise

and headed out. It’s been nice to be able to drive and camp during the past few days, I’ve felt so self sufficient! Sleeping in my car and having all of the food with me that I need. I think I need to road trip and camp more often. πŸ™‚

Also, it’s so weird that this is my last week in New Zealand! In some ways it feels like I have been here for much longer than 8 months, but in some ways it doesn’t feel like long at all.

I drove to the storage unit outside of Auckland where I had stored my suitcase and closed my account and got everything out of it. From there I went to the hostel in Auckland that I will be staying in for the next week and put my two suitcases into a storage area until I could check in. I didn’t have to return the rental car until the end of the day and it was only around 10 by this point, so I decided to take advantage of it and go exploring one last time.

There were two beaches that were on my list of places that I wanted to see and were only about 30 minutes or so away, so I went to see them. It was definitely worth the drive! πŸ™‚

First I went to Karekare beach

and then I went to Piha beach


I really love black sand beaches, have I mentioned that? πŸ˜‰

Once I finished there, I headed back, checked into the hostel and got everything out of the rental car, returned the rental car, and walked back to the hostel (City Garden Lodge.)

The hostel was cheap and in a pretty good location for seeing Auckland, but it is definitely not kept up very well and seems rather dirty. The room I am staying in has 12 beds in it, which is kinda a lot. The good thing is that I am planning on exploring quite a bit for the next week so I don’t really have to stay in the room or the hostel in general all that much.