Published: December 14th 2011November 6th 2011
Flying into Auckland from Manila sounds like a pretty easy feat doesn’t it? I mean, after all, it’s just a normal international flight. Well, that may be true, but when you buy a $250 flight and have to change flights in a couple of cities and you have 2 days of flying and being stuck in airports, it can definitely make for a MUCH more exhausting trip than normal. That’s exactly what we had ahead of us. Ah yes, the things we do to save money. We first flew from PP over to Manila where we NEARLY missed our next flight because of some “last minute technical difficulties”, OR it was because the flight crew was running late. Same same right? Oh well, we DID make our flight, which meant we were on our way NOW over to Kuala Lumpur where we would have an 8 hour layover before making our way to…NOT Auckland yet. Instead we made our way to Singapore for our next layover of 13 hours this time. The one GOOD thing about having such a long layover in the Singapore airport is that it’s really not like an airport at all! It was by far the nicest
and most accommodating airport we’ve been in throughout this trip. They seriously had everything from fairly comfy chairs you could lay down on to a butterfly garden, a spa and even a movie theatre! Of courses we’re such cheap asses that there was no way in hell we were splurging on a massage in the airport, but it was kinda cool just to know we had the option. After a little nap and killing some time, we were off to New Zealand (Nate practically with eyes watering).
We landed in Auckland safe and sound where we would have one of the most thorough customs/security examinations we’ve had on this entire trip thus far. We had to claim every piece of fruit, every drink, and even our hiking shoes, which they took in back to clean off every single particle of dirt so we wouldn’t bring it into the country. We wouldn’t find out the reason until a couple weeks later, but it was to keep out any bacteria or other harmful things that could do damage to New Zealand's flora and fauna. On top of that, there were drug dogs everywhere! If you were one of those genius’s staring
on locked up abroad from the National Geographic channel who was trying to smuggle a kilo of Columbia’s finest into THIS country, you’d be having a pretty bad day! So, what did it feel like to be back in a “western” country again after spending almost a year in Asia? Honestly, we didn’t like the feeling within about 20 minutes, but that had nothing at all to do with NZ. At any rate, we were headed out of the airport and getting a free shuttle ride to go pick up our new home for the next 25 days…our Explore More Campervan named “Moana”. Checking in and getting on the road really couldn’t have been easier, and we even ran into some fellow travelers who were leaving that day instead of arriving and were kind enough to give us a bunch of items they hadn’t used before their time was up; toilet paper, dish soap, cooking oil, disposable Tupperware, etc. Score! Thanks guys! Even though the bathrooms are bound to be just a small step up from Asia, we’re going to have the “toilet paper is gold” mentality for a very long time I have a feeling!
First things first,
load up on some food to cook in our “kitchen.” So, down the road we went as we were sitting on opposite sides of the car from what we’re used to for the first time in our lives while Nate was driving stick with his LEFT hand for the first time in his life. The first thing we noticed about NZ in the super market was that this country was going to be straight up EXPENSIVE! We know what you’re thinking. Guys, you were just in Asia for almost a year! Of COURSE it’s gonna seem expensive! Duh! Well, we know that…we promise. BUT, the food in this store was actually more expensive that a lot of the food in Los Angeles even. That’s pretty damn expensive in our opinion! Needless to say, strictly necessities, other than Coke once in a while for our rum from the Philippines we brought with us and the occasional Cadbury chocolate bar (we’re a little addicted to these suckers now honestly), but that was OK. It’s funny how differently people look at Nate here as they try to figure him out. The long hair and eye brow ring have a lot to do with
With our grocery shopping handled we were headed north to the Waipoua forest and Hokianga sand dunes, which were both absolutely beautiful! The MASSIVE Kaori trees were absolutly awesome! We’ve seen the giant redwoods before while living in California, but you just couldn’t help but be completely impressed! But, possibly one of our most favorite experiences on the north island was our hike in Cormandel. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and that trek through the forest with the fresh air was incredible and really just a perfect camp site we could’ve set up at for a few nights at least. We had already found a place we could’ve stayed for longer than a day but with so much to see in just a few weeks we really had to keep on moving. Then there was the highly talked about hot water beach, where you dug your own hole in the sand right next to the cold ocean water in order to make your own “hot tub.” Although it was fricken’ freezin’ outside that day, J convinced sally ass Nate to freeze for a little while in order to do the “man-made hot tub” thing. In the end he
was glad he gave in and so was she. There’s a fairly small area of beach where the sand is hot and the water underneath that first layer of sand is even HOTTER. Literally, you could go from water that was naturally hot enough to blister your ass cheeks to water that made your nipples hard enough to cut glass! I guess you could say, there was a SLIGHT temperature difference. Anyways, that hot water was more than inviting now that we were in a country where 80 degrees Fahrenheit seemed like a distant memory of the past. Really, we were DYING for the heat and brutal humidity. What they say about your blood getting thinner in warm climates must be true, we have been FREEZING our asses off, layering all the clothes we have, when most of the locals are wearing shorts and t-shirts.
One of the other highlights of the north island for sure was the town of Rotorua for a couple of different reasons. First of all, the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park was pretty awesome, full of geysers, bubbling mud pools, and even some crazy lime green colored pools of water. We also checked out the Waikite
Thermal Springs just to kill some time and to be honest, taking a shower was a high priority. Most DOC sites don't have them and for us, paying up to $40 for a camp site at a motor park was just out of the budget most of the time. Rotorua and a lot of the surrounding area smelled like rotten eggs with a hint of cow shart (an accidental shit when you fart) mixed with grassy sheep diarrhea, but as hard as this seems to believe, you really do get used to it pretty quick. The redwood park just outside of town was another place we truly enjoyed as we got to do some trekking, although a little quicker than we would have liked to avoid the massive tour of teenagers in front of their families singing at the top of their lungs while everyone else was trying to enjoy the peaceful wilderness. Imagine, if you will, the off key sound of a group of 11-15 year olds painfully shrieking as if they were being slowly tortured. Wait…maybe we were in the wrong place…are we actually in a karaoke bar and not in the woods? Ummm, NOPE! Yes, this is
a HUGE over exaggeration and only meant for your personal amusement…but it truly was annoying.
Anyways, the best part about this town for Nate getting his MUCH anticipated tattoo. We stopped in at Globus Tattoo where we first met Kelly, the wife of the artist (Elton) who was incredibly nice and answered our questions right away. The bad part was, Elton had just worked a ton of 12-16 hour days from people in town for the Rugby World Cup wanting tattoos so he couldn’t extend any of his upcoming full days to fit Nate in. We decided we would spend another 3 days here on top of the time we had already allotted just for Nate to get his tattoo since we had such a good gut feeling at this particular tattoo parlor. It turns out, tattoo artists are completely NOT regulated and Hepatitis has been quickly on the rise in New Zealand. Wouldn’t THAT be a fun souvenir to take home. After all, who needs a unique handcrafted statue when you can come home with a blood disease? With Elton being trained and working in the US for years and then in Australia, we felt really comfortable with
our decision. We were a little disappointed that we were going to have to spend a total of 6 DAYS in Rotorua just to for Nate to get the tattoo he’s been looking forward to literally for years. Then, Kelly asked a lady who was currently in the chair getting tattooed and who had an appointment in just a couple days to have some more work done if she might be willing to switch dates with us, and luckily she said yes! We were more than grateful for her saving us a few days in an already tight schedule in New Zealand. When the big day came, Nate was just a tiny bit excited and Elton honestly could NOT have done a better job. Nate was already wishing he could get more done when we were walking back to the van. The most amazing part was that Elton had freehanded a majority of the tattoo without even drawing out all the detail. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t have more time and money ‘cause Nate just MAY have walked out of there with a full sleeve! Are we kidding? Maybe…maybe not… Anyways, Elton is a TRUE artist and we
both absolutely LOVE how well it turned out. THANKS ELTON AND KELLY!!!
We thought a bit of a celebration was in order so we decided to stop at one of the local grocery stores and pick up some wine along with whatever else we had to stock up on for food. Once we were done shopping, Jessie decided to head back to the van and lay down for a few minutes since she wasn’t feeling very well. As the cashier slid the bottle of wine across the scanner, she asked Nate for his ID. She looked down at his ID, looked up at him a little confused, and repeated to do so a few more times. Then came the call to the manager whose response was, “Sir, this isn’t you.” Nate looked at her with a half smirk on his face replying, “Huh?” She said, “Sir this doesn’t look anything like you.” Nate laughed a little and said, “Ma’am, I’ve been backpacking for the past 10 months, I’ve lost 15 kilos (or about 30 pounds), and I haven’t cut my hair since we left. I look very different.” All the same, she wasn’t selling it to him. “I’m sorry
sir but you’re going to have to go get your passport for me.” That’s exactly what he did and brought it back to the cashier and the manager who immediately looked at his date of birth along with his picture. “Oh. 82.” (Nate’s date of birth) Not only did they not think it was really his ID, but the best part is, you only have to be 18 to purchase alcohol in New Zealand! HAAA! Are you serious? Hey, it was good for a laugh at least right?
We were hoping we were going to be able to hike the Tongariro Crossing, but mother nature had other plans. Unfortunately, our stop at the Lake Taupo i-site gave us some good insight. With day after day of rainy weather we had been having and the past 4 days of treks being cancelled, we weren’t going to be making this a priority and taking the chance of having to spend the next few days waiting for a clear day to go trekking. Thank God we didn’t! It had been raining pretty much every single day since we’d gotten here and that wasn’t about to change any time soon. The last thing
we would end up doing was checking out the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, which honestly wasn’t quite as interesting as we had hoped for, but there were still a lot of cool things. For instance, the largest squid ever recorded. This thing looked like it was strong enough to take down a whale, no lie! Wait till you see the picture of this bad boy! Overall, it was a pretty interesting place to check out. We probably couldn’t done without having to pay $2.50 per hour just for parking, but what can ya do? The funniest part was when we first arrived at the museum and Nate just about forgot that our van was so tall. As he was pulling into the parking garage we heard and felt a loud THUD, followed by a nasty scraping. OOPS! Dumbass, Ha! Wellington actually seemed like a pretty cool city we thought, but we really weren’t too worried about spending a lot of time in the city. For us, this trip to NZ was more about seeing the scenery of the country anyways.
Well, it was time to get on the ferry that we had pre-booked days ago and we obviously
knew it was going to be a much nicer ferry than what we were used to coming from the 3rd
world countries we had become accustomed to. Of course, we were NOT disappointed when we got on the ferry, and we weren’t disappointed in any way when we were arriving in Picton with so much beauty surrounding our ship. So, after a smooth ride with a cup of coffee and some nice scenery to welcome us, we had made our way to the south island.
**One thing everyone should know about traveling in New Zealand is that you absolutely do NOT need to purchase any guide books prior to coming here. There are more i-sites (Information sites) in this country that you could ever count and every single one of them is stocked full with brochures for every possible sight you might want to see. The other nice thing is that if you’re as cheap as us and don’t want to pay for a power sight very often since they’re about 3 times more expensive, you can steal some free power to charge up your electronics! Yes…we ARE that cheap! Traveler Tips Getting There
Well, unless you’re taking
the ferry from the South Island you’ve pretty much got one option and that’s to fly…I guess unless you can swim really, REALLY far!
Jetstar has some good deals from Asia if you book early enough. Staying
For us renting a campervan was the only way to go instead of having to take the tourist bus and stay in hostels, trailer parks, and B&B’s. We decided on ExploreMore and got a van with a kitchen, fold down bed and fridge, and the one thing we were the happiest about honestly, the raised up roof so we could actually STAND inside of the van. Especially this time of year when it’s rainy and nasty outside, the last thing we wanted to do was be standing outside in the back of the van with the rear hatch popped up in order to cook.
Make sure to check out the DOC sites, most are out of the way but are quiet, clean and best of all they cost between $6-$12. Eating
We really can’t say much about restaurants here since we couldn’t afford to eat out. For us, all we would do was cook every day for every meal. By
the way, the instant soups were back in full effect! Transportation
Our own! Prices are obviously going to vary depending on when you’re here and what model you get, but we were really glad we had our own wheels! Just plan to spend a fortune on petrol!
There are more photos below