“These are the good old days.”
I saw this quote illuminated in neon pink lights in a bar in Queenstown, New Zealand surrounded by strangers I just met the night before who I would spend the next seven days with. That quote immediately resonated with me because it’s a feeling I often have while traveling. I knew this group of strangers were going to become my friends and we would create a bond forever forged by our adventures together. I remember sitting at the table looking around at these new faces and that neon pink quote above us and thinking I don’t want this trip to ever end. I often become nostalgic during a trip and saddened that I can never recreate a precise moment with friends. I reminisce for a memory that is still being created. It’s a blessing and a curse to feel nostalgic for a time that hasn’t even finished yet. I’m thankful I realize in the moment that I need to be grateful for the experience and the bond, but then I feel like it’s a curse to recognize that because I can’t just live in the moment. I find myself getting wrapped up in thinking “these are the good old days aren’t they?”
“The mountains are calling and I must go” said John Muir. I always feel this pull, a curiosity and desire, to explore the mountains which is a huge reason I find myself in New Zealand right now. There’s something about the the wildness of forests and mountains that makes me feel more free and full of life. So I knew I had to venture to the South Island in winter to witness the majestic Southern Alps coated in snow.
If you find yourself in Wellington and are looking for a fun half day adventure then Somes Island is the perfect destination! Somes Island, also known as Matiu, sits in the middle of Wellington’s harbor and is a reserve to native plant and bird life. Humans no longer live on the island (though you can camp there) and it’s run by the Department of Conservation to ensure the preservation of the wildlife and plantlife.
I had a Saturday off work and the weather was a beautiful clear and sunny day so my flatmates and I hopped on The Dominion Post ferry at Queen’s Wharf in town and about 20 minutes later we found ourselves on an island in the middle of Wellington harbor. We chose to sit on the top deck of the ferry and had wonderful views of the island and the city.
For my birthday weekend I needed to stay within a day’s trip of Wellington but I wanted to go somewhere epic! I mean a birthday only comes once a year and how many birthdays will I have in a foreign country?? Probably not many and this is my first! A friend told my flatmates and I about Putangirua Pinnacles, just a couple hours drive from Wellington along the eastern coast. The Pinnacles are also near the striking red striped Cape Palliser lighthouse so seeing some rocks and a lighthouse sounded like a great enough birthday adventure for me!
Rivendell is the fictional Elven outpost in Middle-earth, created by J.R.R. Tolkien and brought to life by Peter Jackson in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Peter Jackson filmed his Rivendell scenes in the picturesque Kaitoke Regional Park just 45 minute drive north of Wellington, New Zealand. It’s a popular site to visit in Wellington so I of course had to visit as well! I can see why Peter Jackson choice Kaitoke Regional Park for his Rivendell because it is incredibly peaceful and beautiful there. The lush green fields, vibrant rain forest, and rushing streams are the perfect home for Elves and a wonderful place to spend the day for us mere humans as well.
My first New Zealand road trip is in the books! Our group drove the four hours north to the resort town of Taupo, an adventurers paradise located on the shore of Lake Taupo. We spent Saturday and Sunday exploring the lake, waterfalls, geothermal fields and hot springs! Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake and feeds the Waikato River which flows over Huka Falls. We were also treated views of the active volcanoes of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films) from the lake and we had beautiful Autumn weather all weekend. The most popular thing to do in the area is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but I’m still working up to be in shape for that all day hike!
Our first trip out of Wellington was a success, even though our plan to wing it didn’t exactly work haha. We drove northeast 1.5 hours to the charming town of Martinborough, famous for its vineyards. Mostly our problem was we didn’t research when the wineries closed so it wasn’t until we talked with a shop owner about the different wineries that she pointed out that they closed in two hours. Whoops! lol. Actually the closing early thing is something I’m struggling to get used to here, especially coming from Los Angeles where everything is open late. But here in New Zealand most stores closed by 5pm so we should have guessed the small town of Martinborough would be the same. It’s cute that stores close early but it’s not convenient when you are trying to just make plans on the fly. 🙂
The drive from Wellington to Martinborough is a gorgeous but very winding drive through the Rimutaka Mountains. Martinborough sits in a valley of rolling hills in the mountains and the vineyards are along dry riverbeds that provide rich soil. The town was founded in the 1800s by John Martin and many of the streets were named after places he visited which probably explains why we saw a street named Kansas!
Technically this is my second weekend in Wellington but I’m not counting the first weekend since I flew in, battled jet lag and got all settled into my new home. Not much of interest happened those couple days haha. Unless napping is of great interest; which come to think of it napping is probably my favorite hobby! lol
On Saturday I braved my first solo outing in New Zealand! The first trip is always the hardest right? And not that I’ve conquered that I’m looking forward to more adventures even if they are solo ones. I can’t ever remember using public transportation on my own before, I’ve always been grateful to have my own car or relied on my friends to figure out the public transportation when traveling haha. But finally at the age of 27 I used all those past experiences learning from friends to conquer the buses and trains all by myself! And it helps that Wellington has a pretty easy public transportation system too. 🙂
I’ve been in my new home of Wellington, New Zealand for a few days now and I can happily report that 1) I’m loving it here and 2) I experienced very little jet lag thanks to my BFF Laura and Young Living essential oils. A couple nights before I left Laura made me an essential oils blend of peppermint, valor, geranium and lavender and I rolled on the blend on my neck and chest right before my long flight, when I landed in NZ and once more after I showered later that day. Aside from being a little tired I felt pretty great and ready to tackle exploring my new city! I highly recommend using essential oils on your next international flight to avoid the jet lag keeping you from feeling good. Also remember to drink lots of water to flush out the toxins and further help reduce the side effects of jet lag. Drinking more water is always a good thing to do anyways. I’m trying to be better about it.
I have yet to truly explore Wellington but I’ve been getting organized and familiar with my new house and learning how to get around. I figured I should make sure I know how to get home and know how to contact my friends before venturing out solo and avoid being lost like a child who doesn’t know how to get home lol. Though the rain today set us back on venturing to the beach I hope to get out and about later this week and weekend. Below are some snapshots of what I’ve done so far!
2016 is about to be a big year for me! In a few days I’m moving to New Zealand for 12 months! I’m so excited to have this opportunity to explore the gorgeous country and get to know the people and culture! My home base will be in Wellington and I’m looking forward to starting this adventure! My next post will be from down under! 😀