“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! 😀
I can never seem to plant my feet in one place for too long! The travel bug has bit me good, and I’m always itching to explore somewhere new! As the new year approaches and big changes are coming for me in 2016, I want to take a look back on my favorite adventures from 2015. What are your favorite trips from this year?
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
As a millennial, I grew up with Harry Potter and the world of Hogwarts still feels like a home away from home for me every time I reread the books or rewatch the movies. So visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been on my bucket list for many years and my best friend and I finally made it there this summer! It was everything and more I wanted it to be! Was the butterbeer delicious? YES! Did I have more than one? ABSOLUTELY! Did I buy way too much merchandise? OF COURSE. Also I thought the Escape from Gringotts ride was the first time an amusement park really embraced 3-D and utilized it to its most awesome potential! The ride is an actual roller coaster (not a simulated one) but you are surrounded by 3-D screens projecting changing scenery and it was epic!! We also found it hilarious that we sought refuge from the Orlando heat in Knockturn Alley of all places because it was out of the sun. haha! Perhaps I am more Slytherin than Gryffindor!
My favorite vacation this year was my trip to San Francisco with my besties from college. We had a whirlwind of a long weekend in SF that included a side trip to Yosemite! We walked everywhere, ate amazing food, hiked in the mountains and with huge redwoods, and enjoyed a baseball game! When you travel with friends who love to meet new people and places as much as you do it will always be a great time and with the backdrop of the beautiful Northern California this trip turned into one of my all time favorite vacations!
A free ferry ride to Catalina and two hours of ziplining on my birthday made for an amazing day! I’m blessed to have good friends who wanted to spend the day with me in the quaint town of Avalon on Catalina Island! We were treated to gorgeous views of the island and Pacific Ocean while we ziplined and then stuffed our faces with delicious seafood and of course ice cream for dessert! This is a birthday I will never forget!
YOSEMITE ROUND TWO
Because I loved Yosemite so much the first time I went I had to go back as soon as possible! And boy am I glad I did because I was treated to gorgeous scenes on my winter trip to Yosemite National Park! I mean not to toot my own whistle but the below photo from Yosemite is amazing!! I am still in awe we stumbled upon this gorgeous scene! Both my summer and winter experiences were great and I’m so happy I’ve seen the park in varying seasons! Now I can’t wait to go in the Autumn and see all the varying Fall colors!
I have some exciting news to share soon about my 2016 that will probably blow 2015 out of the water, save for I don’t fall flat on my face lol! Stay tuned for my upcoming adventures!! Happy New Year!
A great tip I’ve learned during my travels is always talk about your travel plans with others because you never know what information that person may share. For instance, I was talking with a former coworker over a lunch catch-up on my plans for going to Santa Barbara for the weekend and she told me I had to go to Cold Spring Tavern for their amazing chili. After our lunch I Googled the restaurant and was immediately sold on visiting. I might not have ever known about Cold Spring Tavern if not for my lunch date! It’s such a unique and cool place that it gets its very own blog post!
[I’ve written about Santa Barbara before so feel free to check out that post here!]
Cold Spring Tavern might be as close as one can get to traveling back in time to the Old West in California! I get the same feeling when I visit Death Valley that time has frozen here to allow us a peek into the harsh and often romanticized life of the Old West. The Tavern was established in in 1865 as a stagecoach rest stop where travelers could rest their horses and themselves while enjoying a warm meal. The need for a way station began after the new turnpike over the San Marcos Pass was constructed in the 1860s to make transporting easier through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The pass became a vital route connecting Santa Barbara with the rural areas in the mountains, and Cold Spring Tavern was a significant staple on that road and continues to comfort travelers today!