Before I begin talking about this beautiful place, I just need to say that I definitely did NOT get enough time here and I will DEFINITELY be going back in the near future!
New Zealand was the third country I visited during my three month trip around the world and it was also the first place I went where I was completely alone and not linked to a travelling group. It initially sounds quite daunting but I felt so much relief when my plane landed in Auckland and I knew that for the next two weeks I would be in a country with a notorious welcoming committee.
On the 17th July I flew into Auckland International Airport and took a taxi to my accommodation. It was quite a relief to walk out to a much milder temperature compared to how hot and humid it was in Sri Lanka. For the first of the two weeks I was staying in a beautiful cultured suburb called Ponsonby, which was full of places to shop, eat and stroll around. This was a huge advantage because the first thing I had to do when I arrived was to buy new clothes which were more suitable to the rainy, cool weather I had been greeted with in New Zealand. I ended up buying a bright red waterproof coat, a pair of jeans and a few jumpers, all from a local charity shop. I didn’t really think about the way I looked mainly because I really just needed to feel comfortable and protected against the rain. However, I must have looked like a tomato walking down the main street to go to the supermarket which was VERY LONG by the way and probably took me around 45 mins to an hour depending on how fast I walked. However, it was lovely to casually walk around picturesque Ponsonby and a lot of the shops were completely unique and were really interesting to check out. There were farm food shops, soap and body cosmetic shops as well as Maori fashion and jewellery shops.
For the second week, I stayed in the Haka Lodge hostel at the top of a long road which then led to downtown Auckland. So far, it has been one of the best places I have ever stayed in. Each member of staff was kind, helpful and supportive and I met some amazing people. The rooms were clean and tidy and they held movie nights for travellers to get to know each other. The staff also arranged excursions out to other parts of New Zealand which would’ve been difficult to access as a lonely traveller. More on that later!
One of the things I was told that I needed to do whilst I was in Auckland was to do the Sky Jump from the top of the Sky Tower. Baring in mind when I booked it I hadn’t actually SEEN how tall it was in person, just on brochures when it looked as tall as my thumb. Obviously this was not the case! The Sky Tower in Auckland is 328 metres or 1,076ft tall. I definitely noticed how tall it was putting on my jumpsuit in the changing rooms on the second floor. I also noticed how tall it was going up in the elevator to the jump point. It didn’t help that there was a glass floor in the elevator and a glass “front” so I literally could not escape going higher and higher. The people who organise the SkyJump set me up with a GoPro on my wrist so I could record myself going down, and I’m not going to lie to you, I was shouting and screaming all the way down to the ground. I’ve jumped out of a plane before at 15,000ft so this shouldn’t have been as scary and daunting as it was, but I believe it had something to do with being able to see a birds-eye-view of the buidlings I was about to jump “into”. I would still definitely go back and do it again, it was an incredible experience!
Whilst I was in Ponsonby, I booked a organised day trip for my second week in New Zealand to go to both Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves. The company who organised the trip was called Great Sights New Zealand, and they were incredible. We had an amazing tour guide who was both informative and hilarious which helped a lot during the long coach journeys between the sites. We went to Hobbiton first which even in the rainy July New Zealand weather, it was still so incredibly breathtaking and beautiful.
It was such an immersive experience. We walked around the permanent “set” and some of the hobbit house doors were open so we were able to step inside. We learned some of the secrets about the filming of Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit as well as being able to have a drink in the Green Dragon Inn and have food in the party marquee next door, all of which were included in the price of the tour. Hobbiton is a stunning place and it should definitely be something on everybody’s bucket list – even if you aren’t a fan of Lord of The Rings, it is still worth it to see the incredible artistry put in by everybody involved in the films.
After Hobbiton we then travelled to the Waitomo Caves, a series of underground caves inhabited by glow worms. Google it. It’s gorgeous. However, due to the protection of the glow worms, I was unable to take any photos, but it’s understandable. Just please take my word for it. We walked through the caves which were lit up by lights and then went deeper and lower into the caves until we came to an underground river. We then got into a little boat and drifted on the water, looking up to see the blue glowing canopy above us. There were no words. Everybody was completely silent, just taking it all in. Another one for the bucket list, it is a beautiful experience. I went during New Zealand’s winter, but if you go during the summer, you can wade through the water in addition to going on the boat as it’s a bit warmer which I am sure would be just as amazing!
During the final days of my trip to New Zealand, I went on a Bay of Islands tour which was organised by the Haka Lodge I was staying at. There was only a small group of us with our tour guide and we visited beautiful beaches, Whangarei Falls in Tikipunga (the three photos at the beginning of this post) and saw the Tane Mahuta “The Lord of The Forest” in the Waipoua Forest, which is the largest kauri tree which exists today -and it is huge! We also visited Paihia, Kawakawa and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds gave me an incredible insight into Maori culture and tradition. I also learned about the historic Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori Chiefs which was signed on the 6th February 1840 and is New Zealand’s founding document.
New Zealand is such a beautiful place, I met some lovely friends for life and I definitely didn’t get to spend enough time there! There is so much more to see and I will 100% be returning. Maybe I’ll bring my partner or friends and family so they can share the gorgeous experience with me.