Archive | February, 2019

12. The Last Criss; The Final Cross

28 Feb

“Well, it’s Tuesday again.”

Rachel and I got ready for a full day in Raglan. We headed to the beach because we’d heard that the waves were going to be #GnarlyBrah. Unlike last time, the waves did NOT disappoint, and we saw some world-class surfing.

 

 

Merely watching the surfers wore us out. We hadn’t done much actual chilling this month and Rachel and I were in the mood.  We went to the movie theater (! THIS IS THRILLING) to fill up our water bottles, throw out our trash, and saw the movie What Men Want.  It was a relaxing, perfect day. No more frenzy.

Our last week was super chill but we did get caught in a bovine traffic jam..the cows just wouldn’t mooooove (hehe). 

 

 

We saw, of course, a waterfall.

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Still just as gorgeous.

 

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Looks safe; was safe

 

We had the best showers for $20 each.  It had all the hallmarks of a great shower: hot water (!!!!), amazing pressure (!!!!), no shower shoes (!!!). It did switch off automatically every two minutes, and the “bench” area was soaking wet, but we looked past those small details. After my wonderful shower, I slept for a full 12 hours.

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Slept like a baby.

 

In the morning, we headed to the Gannet (bird) Colony. When we got there, I had to leave almost immediately because the birds smelled putrid. I waited for Rachelle on some rocks farther below to save my nose. I contemplated how we still didn’t understand tides even after we’d gone to so many beaches.

 

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Smelly but with a view

 

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My escape from Gannet Colony.  In the form of a picture for Collin.

 

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Light at the end of the … cave. Far less catchy.

 

After our stop at the Gannet Colony, we kept heading north because…. there was one last item on our wish list….WE WERE GOING TO SEE A KIWI.

We stopped at a grocery to pick out some yummy bach items and we looked (hard) for a red light to seek out those adorable Kiwis. Not the people. Or the fruit. But the bird, which we did have to clarify when asking around. Rachelle and I needed this light. 

We had great interactions with Kiwis– the people, not the bird.  And someone told us that we needed to go to a store called Hunting and Fishing to get what we were looking for.   The universe gave us a sign.  There was a truck filling up with petrol with the words ‘Hunt and Fish’.  Rachelle nominated me to go talk to the guy (we couldn’t ignore the universe). This man had lots to say, but he was very quiet. What I gathered was that his store got shut down by the police because his partner was selling guns out of the back. … I backed away slowly and mouthed to Rachelle, “Let’s go.”

We laughed our way to another store where we ultimately bought a huge $50 flashlight that would, indeed, light up a whole forest. And with the red cellophane we already had, we were raring to go.  Full circle, to the north, Trounson Kauri Park.  (Rachel, why could we still not figure out how the coordinates change when we put something into google maps?)

This drive was nostalgic. It was our last criss– our final cross (and of course, we were listening to Nelly, this time the B-tracks. Shout out to Lovers to Friends and Dawn to Dust).  We stopped at a cheese store and went back to Kensington Tavern, the bar where we got burgers for the first time. No one remembered us at the bar… Not even the old dude who had zoned in on us and chatted Rachel up last time.  No offense taken. Ok, maybe just a little.  This time, we chatted with a Mauri women (minus the crazy eyes.  That’s where their power lies).  Rachel and I went to the familiar campground, although this late in the summer, less people were around.

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Did not even Bailey remember us??

 

Rachel and I had been learning about Kiwis for our entire trip. Beel had an information tag attached to him.  Here are some things we know: There are three types, they are different in North Island then on the South Island., and those cuties mate for life. Rachel and I felt so confident and determined. We were going to see a Kiwi. We had that light, that sacred, lovely, BRIGHT light.

Once it was truly dark (not dusk; we learned our lesson the first time), we headed out into the forest with our $50 flashlight covered in red cellophane. We washed our feet and entered the Kauri forest– keeping a special eye out for our possum stalker. 

Rachelle and I were whispering, and while she was in mid-sentence, A KIWI JUMPED OUT IN FRONT OF US. I REPEAT: A KIWI JUMPED OUT IN FRONT OF US.

 

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KIWI!!!!!!!!!

 

We had downloaded Kiwi calls to play through Rachel’s phone  but THIS KIWI SURPRISED US! THIS WAS A BIG DEAL. THIS WAS A HUGE DEAL.  There was no indication he was going to jump out in the path in front of us.  We had been planning on trying for at least four full hours, but this happened within the first 10 minutes

MY HEART WAS RACING.  We stared at the Kiwi. He looked like we thought he would BUT CLOSER.   A bird. A flightless bird.  It literally brought us to tears.  I started crying as soon as I saw him. He was fuzzy. Disheveled. And it will go down as one of the top 10 moments in my life (Feb 26).  — WE WERE SHOOK. This bright ass amazing light. 1300 lummincessent light was worth ever penny!  Rachel and I were GIDDY! 

Silently freaking out, in the woods, walking back to the car, Rachelle reminded me that we’d just seen a Kiwi: “Samantha” she said, “I just needed to use your full name. I couldn’t use a nickname; it was really important. WE SAW A KIWI.”

The universe delivered AND WE WERE SO GRATEFUL (before AND after).And guess what? We saw ANOTHER ONE, too. WOW!!  SO many people had verbally doubted us– outright told us we would never see a Kiwi. 

“Do you wanna talk about American determination? This is how we won the second World War.”

Preach, Rachelle. Preach.

 

The next morning, we triumphantly drove back to Auckland. My notebook lasted the entire trip, I signed up for French class which started 18 hours after I landed, we gleefully sacrificed the water bottles (it’s amazing we didn’t get sick from them), and decided to split Beel and Nelly up, divided custody.  We headed to the airport completely FULFILLED.

At the airport lounge, I ate a salad while I waited to fly home.

 

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dreaming of that kiwi hop,
‘mi

 

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New girl band: IN-SYNC

11. Nearing the (New Zeal)END

24 Feb

We started off the next day with a hike, at the Dawson Falls Visitor center, that had a boardwalk. #MOREDWALK So I was already excited.  But, on the drive, Rachel and I got even more excited when we saw the cloud-covered silhouette of gorgeous Mt. Taranaki volcano.

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Modest Mt. Taranaki

 

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Photo hunt: Find the bach

 

 

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More walk, please. Thanks DoC!

 

And also a gorgeous goblin forest that was extra lush and mossy (Do you know how much I love moss?) because it had just rained. 

 

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On a hike after the rain.

 

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A forest of moss

 

We also came across a little waterfall during the hike which neither of us were surprised about – but both of us were happy about — given how many waterfalls grace the north island.

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Surprise! Another one (but not really a surprise)

 

After several hikes, Rachel and I headed towards the coast where we saw an old shipwreck before driving to Paritutu Rock for (yet) another hike. This time, instead of a boardwalk, it was going to be an intense, grapple where we got to climb up climb with a chain. We love that, too!

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Ship happens.

 

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Definitely warming

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Team chain gang

 

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Blue-tiful

 

We stuck to the coast for the rest of the afternoon and went to explore the blackest black sand beach that I’ve ever been to. (Superlative: blackest beach, New Zealand.) AND thanks to Scott’s notes, we knew that this sand was magnetic, so we had stopped to pick up some strong magnets in order to properly play in the sand.

 

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A secluded, black sand beach

 

And then guess what we did next? We went on another hike… to… another waterfall 🙂

 

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can’t stop, won’t stop #nothisbetterthansouth

 

That night, we searched for a Couchsurfing spot. Trever, our host, had an awesome B&B, but since we found him on CS, we got to stay, with less amenities, in his parking lot for free! Thank you, Trever!

When we got to his place, he invited us out for the night. Our answer?

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You can probably take this as a ‘no.’

 

We thanked him for the invite, but we were just way too tired to rally. 

The next morning, we got to use the bathroom at his place (sweet as), and he offered to let us use the hot tub (which we were far too dirty to use). We filled up our water bottles (you know the routine), AND, as an extra unplanned perk, a fluffy cat jumped into the car to snuggle up with Rachelle. It was the purrfect goodbye.

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Cat in the bach

 

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We wanted to whisk(h)er away

 

When we headed out, my girl and I stopped and ate at our host’s ice cream parlour: Big Jazz ice cream. They made ice cream from real fruit!  Rachelle and I were so in-sync. We ordered the same ice cream flavor and basically had the same thoughts at the same time.  We were living the same life for one month. What a fantastic person to sync up with, lucky me ❤

After the ice cream, we had 3 things listed for the day’s adventure: a waterfall, a cave, and a natural bridge.

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Waterfall and yours truly: Check

 

On the hike to get to the waterfall, I added another item to my list: Get muddy.

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Muddy hazard

 

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Cave: check

 

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Natural bridge: check.  It’s natural, don’t ask questions.

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Off-roading

 

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Rock detours.

 

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Back water adventures.

 

 

The next day we woke up…”Do we want to go and see another waterfall or do you want to go to Sunday sessions?!”   Sunday sessions in Raglan easily won.  Raglan, we couldn’t stay away. #zigzag

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To Raglan we go!

 

We had a fun night out. We had drinks, heard live music, and I read Rachelle’s mind and wondered out loud if Andrew would tell Pedro.

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Sunday is in session!

 

There was a moment I got heated.  After we got some Tibetan food at a food stand, I got VERY passionate about the situation over in Tibet. I just couldn’t fathom what they have gone (and are going) through. Rachelle asked: “Can you imagine?” and my answer was: “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE. LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE. WE CANNOT IMAGINE.”

…Warming!!  At least emotionally.

But Rachelle, being the wonderful friend she is, quieted me down by reminding me that we were still in public. This worked briefly.  (“I understand why you might be feeling frustrated…”) And then before we knew it was time for us to leave.  As we settled in for the evening, a cat hopped on the car with Rachelle (she attracts them) and eventually we fell asleep.  It was hot, not my best nights sleep, but luckily the next day was cruisy.  


Still living in a car,
‘mi

10. Do Cows Like Carrots?

22 Feb

After the night of the super moon, Rachelle and I woke up in our Couchsurfers’ driveway:

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Where we (intentionally) woke up.

 

The guys had left early for work, but they were really nice and left the door open so that we could use their shower.  We did and then she and I hit the road because we were still intrigued by this question: Do cows like carrots?

As we headed to Cape Palliser, we stopped to find out the answer.

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On the way to the southern most point on the northern island

 

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But first thing’s first.

 

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Answer: Not all cows like carrots

 

Once we finished our research and found out that only some cows like carrots (is this an anticlimactic reveal?) , we hopped back into the car towards Cape Palliser to check out more wildlife (seal colony) and a lighthouse. 

 

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Coastin’

 

 

 

The Cape was so windy, it even rocked our car.  Every time we got out to see the cute seals (including seal babies!!), we almost blew away. I was sort of surprised the seals were heavy enough to remain on land; I was expecting a seal cyclone (a sealclone?).

 

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Forecast for the day: Wind, wind, and more wind

 

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Seals hanging out, soaking in the view, not blowing away

 

There was a lighthouse that Rachel and I were heading to.  As we ascended the stairs up, we had to hold onto the railing for dear life because… wind.

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To the lighthouse!

 

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Trying not to take a tumble down all.those.stairs.

 

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The most lighthouse-y lighthouse

 

That evening, there were many incredible places to choose from to car camp for free. Yay!

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Like here 🙂

 

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My bedroom

 

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A great evening

 

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And a great morning!

 

The next day, we kept with our regularly scheduled programming and decided to drive back up north across the country (criss-cross or bust), and stopped for a strange hike amongst wild rock formations.

 

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Does this scream ‘Lord of the Rings’?

 

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Nature-made castles.

 

After our hike, we stopped in a small town (small as in, 1300 people live there) for some food and drinks. We found a place that was a “side of the road pub” with pure local vibes.  We had some really delicious meat (the meat is good in NZ because it’s free range) but lamented about our craving for a really good salad; they were hard to come by in NZ.  No one does a salad like the USA.

Anyway, because this was more of a local spot, we were excited for the cheaper prices…  How silly of us — they still charged $18 for two glasses of wine… but when in New Zealand, I guess.

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Foodtography: at it again

 

Rachel and I always made up for this with our cheap accommodation ($Free.99).

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free as a bird

 

Settling in for the night
‘mi

9. Feeling Well(ington)

20 Feb

The next day, Rachelle and I woke up from a night in our free camping spot where we slept VERY soundly. 

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View from our bach bed. Notice those clutch black-out windows.

 

Rae and I had planned a super easy day. We deserved it since we’d (pretty much) been to the most beautiful depths of hell and back.  We headed to Tui Brewery whose slogan was: “Yeah, right.”

For example:

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Harsh

 

Or:
Weddings are more than Just free beer…yeah right!
I’m really keen to see your mother again….yeah right!
It was a legitimate business expense…yeah right!
Trust me, I’ve done this before…..yeah right!

 

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Some more brilliant examples… yeah right.

 

We also had a great time using their billboard in the back where you could build your own:

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Shout out to my dolphins!

 

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Getting caught, acting normal.

 

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There’s a 90% chance Scott actually saw this… Yeah right.

 

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Super bummed about spending the day drinking beer… Let’s say it together, shall we: “Yeah right!”

 

Rae and I spent a good portion of the day at Tui before we started back on the Old Up Down (which is what we called our whole trip since we went back and forth across the country so often) and headed south on the thermal explorer highway, or the self-named explorer highway, or the nonthermal highway. There were a lot of beautiful highways. 

 

On our way to Wellington, we laughed about the rules of the New Zealand roads we’d grown accustomed to like learning what a Spillway is or a give-way versus yielding. Oh, and the crazy drivers. At one point on the trip, we’d seen a car tailgating a truck so closely that the car’s bumper was literally underneath the truck. Seemed safe…yeah right!  But, we also remembered how when Rachelle and I were at the gas station, the car in front of us was being an idiot — I was frustrated so I honked my horn, and the passenger got out. Very calmly, the passenger said, “I understand why you might be frustrated” and explained the situation. It was still really annoying, but Rachelle and I were ULTA impressed with how calmly this man handled my road rage.  I would love to take some more life lessons from him….and I mean that.

 

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Getting along well in Wellington

 

When we finally made it to Wellington, we headed to a museum with trippy, indigenous art including paint drips on the wall. After, we drove along the coast, ate a chocolate fish that was more chocolate than fish, and went to Carlucci land, which was just a place full of rust, junk, and miniature golf.

 

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Art-ppliances

 

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Art + Rust = Golf

 

That night, we wanted to find a cool spot for the full super moon, so we found some Couchsurfers to hang out with.  It was interesting but, unfortunately, where we wound up, there was a tree, fence, and clouds in our way.  We’d seen it partly full last night though, so it wasn’t too much of a tragedy.

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Pretty SUPER

 

Bonus reason it also wasn’t a tragedy:  We had fun hanging out with our very kind and very local Couchsurfers (Hana, Matt, Danika, Brianna, and Aidan). Everyone hugged us when we got there (and when we left, we’d tried to visit one of the girls at BP, where she worked, but she wasn’t there that day).

 

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Hanging with our new friends under a Super Moon.

 

We all shared some drinks, talked about the Super Moon, and participated in a bit of culture exchange. Matt also mentioned that festival I had talked about earlier — the one with the first sunrise in the world.  It’s called Gisbourne.  At this festival, apparently, they play R&B, and usually about 30,000 people attend. Right, so, apparently I didn’t react properly when Matt first told me the numbers so I had to redo it……30,000!!  That VERY BIG (for NZ). WOW!!!!! 

Rachelle and I had a great time, and thanks to her bragging, I even got to chat in Jamaican Patois.  We told the Couchsurfers how much we loved their country– “you have volcanoes, forests, mountains, oceans… What’s not to love?!”
Hana responded with, “Yeah, we have everything but nightlife.” Touche.

This group then taught us the correct NZ response to “How many drinks did you have?”
Proper answer: “Just a quiet one in town.”

Towards the end of the night, I received a compliment that I didn’t know I wanted. Matt told me that his best friend’s name was Sam.  Goodness do I love the words best friend.  TRIGGERED! 

After spending the evening with our hosts, Rachelle and I settled into bach ready for a good night’s sleep under the gorgeous super moon, which we couldn’t see completely, but which we knew was there, so it was awesome just the same.

Here’s to a quiet one in town,
‘mi

8. Doomed in Tongariro

19 Feb

Rachelle and I woke up – on purpose – at 4:30AM (much to the chagrin of Rachelle’s 8:54AM alarm)…. and feeling like we didn’t have food poisoning!!!!  In fact, we felt great (thanks DoC!).  So, we packed up our stuff, and dropped bach off in order to catch a shuttle to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

I had seriously considered hitchhiking (à la Louis) to the starting point, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t. Rae and I added on our own, bonus hike, and I couldn’t imagine how much longer the day would’ve been with the extra woes (and joys) that come with hitching. 

 

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So thorough that we planned exactly where our shoes would be at 6:10AM

 

We stepped off the shuttle and happily realized… we were going to have absolutely gorgeous weather all.day.long.

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The beginning of it all.

 

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Early morning chill with purple mountain flowers.

 

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A view to start off our day.

 

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The sun trying to catch up with us

 

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The sun definitely catching up with us.

 

A couple of hours into the hike, Rachelle’s alarm, like clockwork, went off at 8:54am.  Where where you at 8:54AM on February 19th?

At first, we started on the path with lots of people — it was too crowded, so we tried to duck off onto every side path but their were still people were everywhere.  Scott would have hated this place.

Soon, we made it to Soda Springs.

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To clarify, there was no soda to be found.

 

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Warning! Are they sure they didn’t mean ‘Warming!” ?

 

And then, something magical happened.  While on the trail… we were beckoned to the dark side like Frodo to Mordor.  Mt. Doom was calling our names.

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“Rachel!!” – Mt. Doom

 

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“Sammi!” — Mt. Doom

 

 

We couldn’t ignore the mountain, because as John Muir once suggested — when the mountains call you must go. So we decided to walk up to the base of Mt. Doom just to see if it was possible.  We had heard that people used to hike up there but now it was off limits.

 

Just a little farther….

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Mt. Doom pulls you in.

 

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…Until you find yourself heading towards the top.

 

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Gorgeous view — both the girl and the mountain

 

We decided to should just outright climb the mountain. We literally had to dig our heels into Mt. Doom; it was 100 percent rock scree, falling out from underneath us, which was a bit unexpected because the beginning was deceitfully easy. It was one of the scariest mountains I’ve ever climbed, and the ground was volcanically hot, which made it even scarier. We passed literal steaming vents on the ground we were walking on.  I guess it’s why they call it Mt. Doom. 

We played a game to distract ourselves. It was called “What the BLEEP would we do if this (clearly active) volcano erupted.” It was a short game because we both came up with the same answer: Die.

 

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The Depths of Doom– 2,291 meters tall (7,516 feet)

 

Despite the adversities, Rachel and I plugged away, making prockgress (hehe. Get it?). 

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The brink of doom sure looks good…

 

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On top of DOOM

 

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The smile you (still) have when you haven’t realized you have to climb back down yet

 

At the top, Rachelle and I counted our lucky stars: We’d survived…and we’d packed some of the best hard boiled egg I’ve ever had.

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Hard boiled eggs, cooked in natural hot springs, taste better when you were just living in fear.

 

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Hiker babe.

 

Up at the top, while eating our hard boiled eggs, we made a few friends right when we needed them. Because. Well. we were about to have to hike back down…and that was going to be even scarier than going up.  (Sidenote: Rachel, remember when we met that 70-year-old man at the top, and we were incredulous.)

On the way down, our new friends motivated us down for a little bit, past the scariest parts, but then, they left us behind. And I didn’t blame them! We were butt-surfing cautiously, to the point of having to stop (frequently) to empty our underwear.

 

While butt-crawling down (and thanking our morning selves for dropping the car off at the end of this trail so we wouldn’t have to wait for the shuttle.  We were on our own time.), we watched in awe as thrillseekers (or lunatics) literally ran down the mountain.

We finally made it down! Our detour had taken us 3 hours and 20 minutes.  We sat for a few more, emptied the remaining rocks from our shoes, socks, and underwear, and washed our feet with baby wipes to celebrate our major feat (or feet).

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We practiced gratitude once again. We thanked the universe for being back on solid ground and NOT on volcanic rock scree (a gratitude we did not realize we were going to be professing when we woke up that morning).  The bright side (besides having this amazing experience with my road-dog) was that the rest of our Tongariro hike was easier. Much easier. (Except for those last 6 kilometers, which were just straight downhill, rough on the knees, and not super scenic.) We were SO thankful we’d started so early in the morning, that I didn’t hitchhike, that our car was waiting for us, that the weather was spectacular, and since we’d taken a detour, that we’d to avoided the huge crowd from earlier that day.  New Zealand (and Tongariro) for the WIN.

 

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Proud of us!

 

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Red Crater (above) and Emerald Lakes (below)

 

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12 hours of hiking, most definitely worth it

 

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Celebrating the hike with another baby wipe! (we wanted to wash off in the water but we weren’t allowed because it’s sacred)

 

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Active volcano and steaming vents: We like living on the edge (of volcanic activity)

 

On the way back down, I’d met a math teacher who was carrying his student’s books. They were on a class trip and one of the students misunderstood what she was supposed to bring. I shuddered at the thought of carrying books on this hike.  After Mt. Doom, though, Rachelle and I were descent advocates and ew showed people how to bury their feet into the scree, books and all.

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Stunning, stunning, stunning

 

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And Emerald Pool, quite deserving of that name.

 

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Last view of Mt. Doom before our tough decent.

 

After soaking up the last of the gorgeous views, we headed back down. The ground was hard on our joints, so to distract ourselves from the pain, Rachelle and I talked about how well we were going to sleep that night and mused “we even have extra daylight to find a free car lot to sleep in”.

 

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Doom’s end.

 

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At the end, Rachel kept saying, “its around the corner I promise. I’m saying that more for me. :)”

 

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On the road practicing #GRATITUDE

 

Finally, to the car, we felt Triumphant! Tired! and SOOO thankful!  We enjoyed the lovely sunset as we drove to find our sleeping place for the night.

I’m forever grateful that I have a friend whom I can venture with to Doom and back.
Returning from the dark side,
‘mi

7. The Hobbit: an Un(EGG)spected Journey

18 Feb

3 blog posts in ONE DAY?! Unprecedented.

Just a disclaimer: This post will be the shortest of the bunch. (Haha, get it? Because hobbits?)

The next morning, we woke up at exactly 8:54AM (which we did every day thanks to Rachelle’s very specific alarm.  Where were you at 8:54AM?) to head over to a small little town called … Hobbiton!!

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Must be this tall to enter.

 

Hobbiton was super cool and well preserved. It looked just like how it did in the movies!

 

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Little hobbit burrow

 

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The Baggins’ residence… we were there on party business

 

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We really fit in.

 

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The flowers were taller than the residents.

 

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I scanned the community board for a job.

 

After the tour we stopped at the Green Dragon bar for an actual beer.

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Name of the bar seems fitting.

 

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Chairs of an excellent size.

 

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Beers of an excellent size, as well.

 

As we drove out of Hobbiton, I contemplated…instead of working on a kiwi farm… should I come work at the hobbit village before my visa runs out?? I love how traveling puts the craziest ideas in your head THAT ALL SEEM POSSIBLE!

When we reached Huka Falls (our next destination), I was absolutely stunned by the breathtaking view and the BRIGHT BLUE water.

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#nofilter

 

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If you were ever wondering how something could be crystal clear AND blue, here you go.

 

That night, Rachelle and I decided that we were going to sleep in a hotel (sorry, bach) because, the next day, we were going on a pretty strenuous hike.   However, to keep costs low, we were going to make ourselves some dinner on the road (some HOT food, finally). 

What was on the menu? Just a carton of eggs, naturally. And how were we gonna do it?
Naturally.

 

So, we tied a plastic bag to a stick, stuck a bag full of eggs into a boiling hot geyser, and got to cookin’. Don’t worry, we’ve done this once before.

 

 

**Sammi and Rachelle’s Wild Boiled Egg Recipe (with pictures)

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Step 1. Buy a carton of eggs (and Tabasco for extra flavor) and find a (literally) boiling hot body of water

 

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Step 2. Place plastic bag on stick; place eggs gently in bag

 

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Step 3. Let eggs cook.

 

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Step 4. Contemplate various – terrifying – diseases you can get from unclean looking water.

 

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Step 5. Rinse off and try to forget about said potential diseases.  FULLY enjoy!

 

We followed the recipe steps to a T, including contemplating the diseases we might get from the sketchy looking water. So, sufficiently scared from our Google search but also equally determined not to waste our HOT FOOD, we decided to only avoid the ones that were cracked.

We washed off the rest of the nine eggs and NOM NOM NOM!  While we ate, Rachelle and I audibly talked about how we hoped that our dinner wouldn’t wreak havoc on our stomachs before our 12-hour hike the following day.

All the while, I was posting to Instagram and keeping Collin updated. He wasn’t the only one who thought we were a bit crazy.

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Normal is relative.

 

We ate most of our boiled eggs smothered in a a gourmet Tabasco glaze, packed a few for the next day, and headed to a hotel where we were treated very rudely.  So, onto the next one.  We got a room and set about doing prep work for our extremely early and very challenging tomorrow.

While our stomaches were full from our hot meal…
Rae and I decided to practice gratitude: We professed how thankful we were for the incredible weather we would experience AND for how healthy (and not sick) our bodies would be.  I’ll tell you, despite that ugly looking water, gratitude practice must work because there are m
ore eggselent adventures to come.

‘mi

6. Old Wilderness in New Zealand

17 Feb

Previously on NZ Frenzy: Dashboard-cooked noodles, jurassic park walking, a wonderful friend named Louis who came and went and then came and went, iced coffee, a friend named Beel, and all to the comforting tunes of Nelly Furtado.

After dropping our dear friend back in Auckland, and after what had been our designated domestic day (highly recommended), Rachelle and I decided to drive by Rotura Lake to accidentally check out the Norfolk Island Palm Trees, which just so happened to become Rachelle’s favorite tree.

 

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so peaceful!

 

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I spy with my little eye…a potential travel-inspired tattoo?

After we hung out by the lake for a while, we decided to make some more friends via Couchsurfing.

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“Cowabunga! Surf’s up, brah! Gnarly!” — things Couchsurfers (and real surfers) probably never say

 

We had a great time with our hosts, and Rachelle was being my total hype girl (like she is all the time), and was so proud of me when talking about all the places I’d traveled to. The group decided to play this egg carton game but it didn’t last too long because we were tired.  And headed out to sleep in our car so that we could wake up early to take our American host, Andrew, to work.

After dropping him off, Rachelle and I spent the day traversing the (literal) steamy streets of Rotorua. And no, it wasn’t steamy because the people there were super attractive or anything (not that they weren’t, we didn’t notice), but literal steam rose from the ground because Rotorua was a volcanic field! A volcanic field with a FREE park….

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You can’t tell in this picture, but there’s lots of steam.

 

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Team Dream Steam

 

Standing by the lake with cool air blowing while simultaneously getting hit with wafts of steam coming from the underground was an exceptional feeling. It honestly gave me goosebumps, and I’m considering opening up a theme park where the only ride is a recreation of this sensation.  I absolutely LOVE hot and cold combos especially when it comes to food, and this was like the skin version.

 

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If pictures could give you feelings…

 

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Soakin’ up the steam

 

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5-star (FREE) spa experience. All natural. Highly recommended.

 

After that rejuvenating experience (Have I mentioned how GOOD the steam felt, right?), we were inspired to pretend (but not too hard) to be thermal explorers as we cruised down the Thermal Explorer Highway (actual name). It was pretty crazy– we saw Wai-o-tau, which was a crazy volcanic landscape. It was a thermal wonderland.

 

 

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The primary colors in action

 

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Going green.

 

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Giving Yellowstone a run for its money.

 

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#NoFilterNeeded.. Unless you’re gonna try to drink from it (not recommended)]

 

While we wandered around this thermal wonderland, we saw so many colors! Including the super purple berries (but not blueberries) that we saw at a place called Craters of the Moon.  It was stunning, and not something you often see in nature.

 

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Willy Wonka-colored purple berries

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Bubbling captured in the video below.

 

 

I know that in cartoons, hell is supposed to be the place bubbling with fire and brimstone, but we were in HEAVEN in this gorgeous landscape.  It got even better when we were driving to our next destination and passed a bunch of cows and LOTS of sheep. 

 

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“The hills are alive with the sound of moo-sic”– (these are sheep but just baa-ck me up on this one)

 

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Actual footage of us while passing the animals

 

As we drove by, Rachelle asked Nani (our GPS/ Siri): “Do cows like carrots?” 

[STAY TUNED FOR THE ANSWER]… creating intrigue and it’s not even the end of the post yet.

Anyway, we were in need of some more animals because, well, we didn’t need a reason. Rachelle and I stopped at a cat cafe, which was a first for both of us.  But sweet Rachelle LOVES cats, so this was a real treat.

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A catpuccino

 

After getting hyped up off of the kitties, we headed across the island (zig-zagging) to visit the first sunrise in the world (eastern, northern New Zealand). They even have a New Year’s festival there!  How cool! On February 17, 2019 — technically, Rachelle and I were 3 minutes off but, sheesh, it would have taken 4 extra hours to drive to the tip — Rachelle and I saw, what we’re calling, the first sunrise in the world. 

 

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Rae, should we go there for the festival this year?? 🙂

 

 

We had driven down towards Napier, which is a town known for Art Deco, and the travel gods were smiling down on us because they were coincidentally having their biggest festival right when we got there! However, this also meant that the free car parks where we planned to sleep were already full.

We ran into a really kind police officer who nodded towards a place we could take a cat nap and avoid a $200 ticket.  We ended up sleeping right on the water (gorgeous). Saturday night beach bach, bi*sh.

On our way back (and forth) across the town to settle in for the night, we passed by the same Mobile station five times because….we kept changing our minds and going the other direction. It was humiliating.  The first time was alright– two male employees stood outside and motioned us in.  It was sweet.  We found a pizza food truck, filled our water bottles #youknowit, used their trash can and bathroom, and talked to the men. They were super nice, and Rachelle and I decided that if they’d been from Pittsburgh, we would’ve called them “Yinzers.” 5 times was excessive, but we got past it (again and again).  

After a literal crack-of-dawn sunrise, Rachelle and I went to visit Shine Falls, which is perhaps the MOST beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen in my life. At least, the most memorable.  To get there, we took a long, gravel road and at the end, we reached a deserted parking lot, got ready for the day, and ate Indian food for breakfast.  What a fun life my road dog and I were leading.

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One stunner of a walk

 

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Three best friends

 

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On Scotts recommendation, and because I was in New Zealand, I got naked. LOOK AT THAT WATERFALL!

 

 

Shine Falls was way off the beaten path, aka, as you can see, skinny-dip style. It was EPIC. Rachelle and I had brought Beel on the hike so he could float in the water and enjoy himself too.

Refreshed, the three of us prepared for the drive zigging back across the country, where we followed the signs and “drove to the conditions”.  And the conditions called for some new music (not that we didn’t love Nelly), so Rachelle graciously downloaded some Jack Johnson. Yay!

And then, at some point during the day, we stopped to go on a quick hike for this gorgeous view:

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Reasons why I love to stop.

 

That night, we went bach camping (obviously) at what our map called “a romantic recreation spot with glow worms.” We bought hot cross buns m&m flavor (BDSM&M — it was a romantic recreation spot, after all). Before we settled in for the night, we used their shower and thought back to the cute love story about a boy and a girl we’d made up on our hike. We didn’t make the people up.  But we did make their love story up.  They’re probably still together now ❤

Rachelle and I got cozy in bach and started a really bad Netflix show called You. It was so bad that we switched over to a show called Sense8, which I became addicted to and have since finished both seasons.

So what comes next? Do cows, in fact, like carrots?
‘mi