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.



so peaceful!



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.


“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….


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



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.



If pictures could give you feelings…



Soakin’ up the steam



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.




The primary colors in action



Going green.



Giving Yellowstone a run for its money.



#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.



Willy Wonka-colored purple berries


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. 



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



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.


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. 



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.


One stunner of a walk



Three best friends



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:


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?


One Response to “6. Old Wilderness in New Zealand”

  1. deekerson March 31, 2020 at 1:01 pm #

    I love carrots. I am intrigued to learn if I have that in common with cows and anything moo I can learn. 🐮

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