Thursday, October 8, 2015

Melbourne and New Zealand Adventures

These past ten days have been the most exciting days of my life. This has been the first time I have ever done a trip on my own with just one friend in a different country. One might think this was a very nerve wracking experience. In reality, this has opened my eyes to a whole new world of traveling.

Drothea and I started our trip in Melbourne where we stayed with my cousin Lindsey, James, and their new puppy Eloise. Side note, this puppy had 3 different names while we were there before they finally picked Eloise.  On our first day, we explored the hipster section of Melbourne called Fitzroy where Lindsay works. We walk around, admired the graffiti and shopped at a few places. After lunch with Lindsay, Dorthea and I walked from Fitzroy all the way to the main city of Melbourne to drop by James’s juice press shop called Green Press. We had some delicious smoothies and played with miss Eloise who was chilling in her little bed.  We drove back to Port Melbourne to get ready for a fun dinner with Lindsay, James, James’s brother Miles and one of James’s childhood friends.  This ended our first full day in Melbourne.
The second day, Dorthea and I met up with Gianna, one of my family friends studying at University of Melbourne, for brekkie in a little area called Degraves street. We took a tram from Port Melbourne to Victoria street and met up with her at a little brekkie place called RNB. Degraves street was a long street dedicated to brekkie locations as well as delicious Melbourne coffee. After a few hours of eating and catching up, Gianna gave us suggestions for places to see in Melbourne. She suggested walking through Hosier lane to look at the graffiti art then taking a train down to Brighton Beach. Hosier lane is an ally way covered in beautiful graffiti and
is the only place where graffiti artists can paint their works of art without having to worry about the police. Dorthea and I ended up taking pictures and admired the street art that was all around us in every corner of the ally way. As we left Hosier lane to explore the area, we ended up walking along the river for a while before jumping on a train to go to Brighton beach. The beach is outside the city and has this line of colorful house sheds along the beach that all have different themes to them. We took pictures and walked along the beach before finding a café to sit down and relax. Lindsay picked us up and we drove back to the apartment where we played with little Eloise bean and relaxed. James and Lindsay made us a delicious dinner that night as well as introducing us to GayTime ice cream (which side note is the best ice cream ever invented).

On our last day in Melbourne, Dorthea and I slept in a bit before grabbing brekkie with James, Lindsay and Eloise. We went to a cute place in Port Melbourne where we had coffee and some eggs.
Right after, we were driven to the St. Kilda market, which happens every Sunday. We got to walk along a long strip of shops that sold cloths, to hand crafted foods and art. There was even a guy selling cotton candy
designs. Once we reached the end of the street, we ran into Luna Park, which looked very similar to Koney Island back in the United States. As we walked passed the large entrance we caught a glimpse of a group of young adults singing and playing music. As the sunset over St. Kilda beach, we jumped on a tram and headed back to the apartment where we packed up and headed to the airport.

This was the second time I visited the city of Melbourne and I have to say I was so happy I returned! Unlike the last time I visited, I got to really see different sections of the city that I never even heard about. The City of Melbourne is a young, hip area that focuses on culture. There was a huge presence of art in the city whether it was paintings, graffiti or even handcrafts such as wood and other materials inspired by aboriginal culture. I am normally not interested in art, but this city opened up a new world to me in the means of art. In terms of weather, we lucked out tremendously. It was sunny and not as chilly than when I last visited. Normally the weather changes very quickly, but this time the only thing that changed was the strong winds, which was okay considering all we had to do is layer up. The food there was one of the biggest things that stood out to me the whole trip. Melbourne has some the best coffee and the best eggs. You want an amazing breakfast experience come to Melbourne. To sum up my time in Melbourne, I could see myself living there one day if the weather was not so bipolar. The city is very spread out bu
t still has the feel of a city, which is similar to the city of Boston and the weather of Seattle or Chicago. It was so great to see Lindsay and James again. I was happy to spend some more time with my only family in Australia as well as get an insight to the life here in Melbourne. Dorthea and I want to thank them for the billionth time for letting us stay with them during our short time in Melbourne and for giving us great suggestions for sights to see. We were able to see all of Melbourne in a short amount of time. I guess you can say we know how to schedule our time.

Our trip was not over yet. Our next stop we made was in Auckland New Zealand, which we arrived early in the morning. We arrived at Dorthea’s cousin Kasper’s place located in Grey Lynn, which was right outside of the main city of Auckland. He gave us a bit of a rundown about how the area works as well as a bit of the terminology they use in New Zealand. For example, there are three uses for the word Kiwi. One is a bird, one is a fruit and the other is what New Zealanders call themselves. Yes, you call a person from New Zealand a Kiwi. Tired from the flight over and the small jet lag, the two
of us took a long nap before exploring the city. We were suggested to see Takapuna beach, which was located outside the city. Once we figured out the bus system, we arrived in Takapuna and started to walk around. The beach was not as beautiful as one would expect but we were able to see an inactive volcano across the water as we walked up and down the beach. The weather was a bit gloomy but that did not stop the locals from playing Frisbee and going kayaking. Eventually the two of us went to the grocery store to grab some food for the week. We walked back to the bus station to head back to the city. Instead of getting on a connection bus back to Gray Lynn, we saw the Sky Tower when we got off the bus and decided to check it out. We bought tickets to go to the sky deck which gave us a beautiful view of the whole city. We took another hour at the Sky Tower Café where we bought some drinks and gazed at the beautiful lit up city of Auckland. Afterwards, we caught the next bus to Grey Lynn and planned our road trip to Mt. Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings).

The next morning, we were all packed for our five-hour road trip to Mt. Ngauruhoe. With no GPS and no sense of direction, we drove for hours through lush green mountains and farmland. We stopped a
few times to gaze upon the beautiful rolling green hills that were all around us. As we drove through farmland, we took another wrong turn and ended up at a little lake where we took a small break and grabbed a bite to eat. The weather had gotten warmer so the three of us took a dip in the freezing cold water before jumping back in the car to find the nearest gas station. Once our tank was filled, we ended up stopping again at another view of the lake. There was a man who told us that we should go and visit his village, which was three minutes down the road we were on. Taking his suggestion, we stopped at the native village to take a look around. It was tiny but was right on the water. Steam came up from the sand, which was due to the volcanic fumes that warmed up the water and the rocks. Did I mention we were in a volcanic active area? After a long trip of seven hours, we finally made it to the hostel called A Plus Lodge. This hostel was located 30 minutes from the starting point of our hike and was located in a little town called Turangi. It was the strangest looking place but we slept in some comfortable beds for the next 2 nights. Since Kasper and Dorthea drove the whole way, I made a nice spaghetti and meatball dinner for the three of us before we called it a night.

We woke up at 5:30 am to make oatmeal for breakfast as well as some sandwiches for our hike. In the kitchen, four German guys, who were going to tag along with us, greeted us by almost burning their breakfast and almost setting the kitchen on fire. With our stomachs filled and our bags packed, we were on our way to the Tongariro Northern Circuit. Kasper dropped Dorthea and I off at the starting point where we waited for him to pick up the German guys at the end point then come back to start our hike. The plan was to have the Germans park their car at the end point of the mountain and driven by us to the starting point so we can park our car at the start point. This way once we finished, there was a car at the end of the trail. Once Kasper returned with the Germans, we began our hike through the circuit. We hiked through a dirt pathway up some stairs ways where we saw the view of the showy peaks and the road ahead of us. Once we started to hike up the area, the sight of snow on the ground was inevitable. We all turned into children
as we started to pick up and throw the snow at each other. As I huffed and puffed up the summit, we finally came across the infamous Mt. Ngauruhoe. The mountain was actually a volcano and very steep. Dorthea, Kasper and I were nerding out as we took pictures next to mount doom. We could tell that this was not a tourist attraction due to the fact that no other person was stopping to see the mountain except us. This made the hike all the more special. Since we did not have any ice picks and mountain climbing equipment, we were only able to walk around the base of the mountain. Once we reached the signs leading to our destination, we all took some deep breaths before continuing our hike. We finally reached the snowy section of our hike and our group looked so
unprepared next to the tour group with picks axes, snowshoes, and helmets. We followed the tour group up the snowy peak, as it got steeper. The group in front of us was too slow so our group walked around the tour group in the new unpacked snow up the mountain.
This basically showed the people in the tour group that they paid way to much money for unnecessary equipment. Once we reached the top section, we had to hike down the steaming sulfur smelling mountain, which proved to be a bigger challenge than hiking up. Once we were all safe at the bottom, we bumped into two girls we met at our hostel who decided to join us up one more section of the mountain before the rest of the trail lead downwards. With snow starting to enter my shoes and my legs feeling weak, our group made it to the plateau of the mountain where we celebrated our victory through the most beautiful and difficult section of our hike. We stopped by a bunch of rocks to eat lunch before continuing through the snow across the mountain to
the end. We still had a long way to go from our lunch spot. As we continued, we saw parts of the mountain steam up. Turns out we were in a section where two volcanoes were active. The area smelled like sulfur and most of the area was brown and dead. Soon, we made it to the forest area. This was the last section of our hike. There was a river, and beautiful lush woods. We finally made it to the end of our hike, which took exactly 6 hours to walk 19.8 km (this is about 12 miles). We were driven back to the car then we drove into the small town of Turangi to grab pizza for dinner since no one wanted to cook after all that. Once we picked up dinner and went back to the hostel to eat, we went to the hot pools to relax our muscles after the long hike. Due to volcanic heat, there were many hot springs in the area, which were turned into hot pools for locals and guests. It smelled bad but my muscles felt so loose afterwards. When we returned to the hostel, we had a little dessert and went to bed.

In the morning, we woke up to find out the owner of the A Plus Lodge made Kasper a cake for his birthday. After we had cake and breakfast, the three of us checked out from the hostel around 10 am
so we could go to the glowworm caves on our way back to Auckland. We added a fourth person to our road trip that we met at the hostel and was heading in the same direction. Her name was Stacy and was from South Korea. So we had two Danes, one Korean and one American on our road trip back to Auckland. We entered a dirt road with a lot of potholes in order to get to the caves. After fearing that one of our tires would pop on the trip there, we finally made it to the caves. Most of the glowworm caves in the area were guided tours but we wanted to go somewhere where we can explore ourselves. With our small flashlights, the four of us entered the cave, which was dark and had a little stream going through it. We saw rocks, glowworms and even a big spider. After a while we walked back out into the sunlight to rest and have a snack.
I ended up getting my shoes and pants wet while exploring the cave plus falling into the stream once we started to walk back to the car. As we searched for a gas station, we grabbed a bite to eat and rested as Kasper tried to find the gas station before we ran out of gas. It was so close to empty by the time we found a place. Our journey back to Auckland lead us to a farm which had a large hill that Dorthea wanted to check out. As we walked into the driveway, we realized the road to the hill was through the owner’s property. Dorthea asked the owners if we could possibly walk up the dirt road and they were more than happy to let us. In fact, the owners were nice enough to even show us their sheep and how they sheer them. I
had never been on a large sheep farm before so learning about all this was very interesting. The couple opened the gate to the dirt road and we walked up. On the way we took pictures as well as walk through the mounds of sheep grazing the fields. Many of the lambs were out as well with their mothers. We even saw a section of the farm that had a large herd of cows. After getting enough
pictures, we went down to the couple to say thank you for letting us explore their farm. They ended up inviting us into their home to have some dinner, which was the most amazing hospitality I have ever gotten from strangers. The couple was named Margret and Louis and they have come across visitors before. The food was delicious and was the first time having a home cooked meal since I have been on the other side of the world. They even sang happy birthday to Kasper as they served us a delicious dessert that Dorthea and Kasper told me was similar to a Danish dessert they have back in Denmark. It was peaches and apples with crumble, ice cream and yogurt. There is a name for it in Danish but I cannot pronounce it. After talking with the lovely couple and their kids, we had to head back to the rental place since it was very dark. We thanked them a thousand times for their hospitality and dinner before we jumped back into the car and headed back to Auckland.

The next morning, Dorthea and I slept in late before going to breakfast. We then went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for the dinner and lunch we were making for Kasper. For lunch, I made fluffy pancakes with strawberries and syrup and for dinner, I cooked Chicken Parmesan and Dorthea made meat ravioli with sauce. This dinner was our way of saying thank you to Kasper and his flat mates for letting us crash with them. Kasper had a little gathering for his birthday that Dorthea and I attended. If I can sum up what the party was, it was me and a bunch of Danes. They all sang happy birthday to Kasper in Danish and we mingled until 1 am.

We did our last hike the next day at an inactive volcano called Mt. Eden. The hike was a more of a
tourist hike than the one we did at Mt. Doom but it was still a gorgeous area to be. There was an amazing view of the whole city as well as a view of the crater, which was covered in grass. After walking down the volcano to the base, we found a little playground where we decided to be children again and swing on the swings
before we continued through the town. After walking into a few shops, we decided to eat at this little café called Circus Circus. The theme of the café was exactly what the name described. We sat there for hours eating and talking before we decided to head back to the flat. Before bed, we planned for our final day, which was going to the infamous Hobbiton.

The next morning, we wasted no time getting up and walking to the car rental place. Stacy tagged along with us. The first place told us they did not have a car even though they gave us a reservation,
but the place next door was able to get us a car. After two hours of the GPS screwing around with us, we finally made it to Matamata
aka Hobitton. We had to take a bus to the site because it was blocked off. On the way there, the tour guide explained to us how the sight was found and how long it has been there (only 7 years). Finally, the bus pulled into the entrance of Hobbiton. Our tour guide took us around and talked about how everything was made and where specific scenes were shot. One interesting fact about Lord Of The Rings was that the director was really into small details. The small details involved the backgrounds such as houses and some of the realistic look inside the houses. All of the hobbit holes were empty so there was no interior to them but Bilbo Baggins’s house had a little bit of an interior incase the door swung open to far during a shot. Yes we saw Bilbo Baggins’s house as well as Sam’s house, the party field, and even the Green Dragon Inn. Our tour ended at the Green Dragon Inn where we were able to get some drinks and dress up in some of the hobbit costumes. Dorthea and I made sure to do that. The whole time during that tour I was so excited with everything I recognized from the movies. Most people do not realize that movies now a days do not have the same type of effort put into them like the Lord of
the Rings franchise. Peter Jackson created a new world and put so much effort into scouting for sights such as Hobbiton. These sights
made the movie more realistic. Most of the shots in the movie were at locations you can go to now, which I find amazing. I was just so happy to be able to see the beauty that went into this franchise. To any Lord of the Rings fan, I highly encourage you to visit this location though it is a very touristic sight. You will have so much more appreciation for the movies if you see it for yourself. Once we jumped back on the bus, the three of us were back in the main town of Matamata. We grabbed some lunch before we called it a night on our last day in New Zealand.

First off I want to thank Kasper for the billionth time for letting the two of us stay with him for the seven days we were there. This guy not only let us crash with him but also came along with us on our
fun adventures. We defiantly were lucky to have a guide with us! Summing up New Zealand is almost impossible for me to do. This country was just gorgeous from its city to the rolling green mountains. The sights I saw were postcard worthy shots. Never have I seen such beautiful nature! I went into this trip thinking I was going to be let down when we got to New Zealand. Instead, it exceeded my expiations tremendously. Dorthea and I only were able to visit the Northern Islands, which I was told is not as good as the Southern Islands. I don’t know anything about the southern islands but if they are any better than the northern islands, it must be drop dead beautiful. The weather we also lucked out with because the area we were in was known for a lot of rain. The days we were hiking and exploring it was sunny and beautiful where the days we were relaxing it poured. Guess we really did luck out with weather on this trip! We walked and explored so much during our time in New Zealand; I would have loved to stay longer to see more.

Sadly all fun adventures must come to an end. To sum up the whole trip, it was an amazing experience for me. Dorthea was a great travel buddy to have and I am happy we were able to enjoy 
the time we had together for our break. This whole trip was not planned at all. When I mean not planned I mean the only thing we knew we wanted to do was go to Melbourne, then go to New Zealand and see Mount Doom and Hobbiton. The one thing we originally planned that did not work out was going to Wellington to see David Duke about Weta Studios. Turned out Wellington was really far away from Auckland. We did not know what days to do our activities. Melbourne we knew nothing about yet we basically saw the whole city. Part of the reason this worked out for the two of us was one, we had people living in the areas we were visiting, and two because we both liked to just go with the flow. I have done traveling where every day was planned and trips where some things were planned but other days were not. This whole trip, nothing was planned and it was the best experience I have ever had. The two of us learned how to get around the cities pretty easily as well as navigating areas though we had gotten lost a few times. Not once did the two of us panic while we were traveling. After this whole adventure, this has made me realize how much I enjoy moving around the world. Maybe one day I will return to these locations again with more time to explore. I just cannot get rid of my travel bug.

Look for a pictures and even a video of my trip very soon on Facebook!!!