NEW ZEALAND: the land of wonders
I don’t know how I came to the decision to go to New Zealand. It came out of nowhere. I had to pick a place where I would study English during the holidays. UK and US weren’t appealing to me as I wanted something new, something fresh. What else than New Zealand comes to mind?
I took a Emirates flight from Prague to Auckland via Dubai. My ticket was around 780£ and I had a ten-hour long transfer in Dubai Aiport. Luckily I got a call from Emirates a few weeks prior to departure saying that my ticket allows me to use a free hotel and transfer service – duh. When I arrived in Dubai I made to the minibus which would take me to the hotel. The hotel was really nice and it included a free breakfast. My room was for two people, both beds were big and really comfortable. After taking a shower I headed straight to bed and woke up the next day with a morning call from the reception. The hardest part of my getting-to-paradise was ahead. Almost 19-hour long flight with a transit in Melbourne.
(note: the transfer is when you change flights, aircraft, sometimes airlines as well. Transit is when the airplane stops just for about an hour to get the fuel and it depends on the transit – sometimes you have to get off the plane, sometimes you stay)
When I finally got to Auckland I was relieved. Security control was hard as all your bags are scanned in case you’re carrying any food (canned food, fruits, nuts), or clothes that have dirt from another country on them. After this, I was happy to finally get out on a fresh air and meet my driver, who was already waiting for me to pick me up and we headed to the City Lodge Backpackers hotel. This hotel was really nice – rooms had a comfortable bed, fridge, en-suite bathroom. big closet and table with a kettle. Down on a first floor was a large kitchen with pots and pounds so you could use anything you needed.
I took a small walk around my neighborhood and came back to fall asleep. It doesn’t matter if I slept on the plane, the 12 hour time difference wil get you anyway. On Monday, I had my first classes in my English school. I met many wonderful people with who I travelled around New Zealand for the rest of my trip.
About the trips – it doesn’t matter when in New Zealand you go. Every place is so incredibly beatiful it just takes your breath away. But to remember: the most beautiful places are the ones that are not advertised. Before going to NZ I read a few articles on what should I see and where should I go. Waitakere Park and Piha beach were not mentioned anywhere and these two places were the ones I enjoyed the most. On saturday morning, I and my friends headed to the Waitakere Park first. It was about an hour long car ride and the weather on that day was just horrible. It was raining it was really cloudy, so when we got the park we could see absolutely nothing. I saw some pictures prior to going online and they looked so nice. Neverthless, we got the chance to go down and see a waterfall. I was quite skeptical at first as the weather just completely ruined my mood. When we got to the waterfalls I was amazed by the beauty of it and everything around. After a photo break we went to the Piha beach, yet another beautiful place and stunning nature. We spent hours there, just going back and forth to the beach. The beach itself is quite big and it’s not rare to see surfers sliding the waves. The weather got nicer, it wasn’t raining anymore and it got a lot warmer. I went to New Zealand a year and a half ago, but when I browse in my memory back to this country, Piha beach is the first thing that comes to my mind.
On the next day, we wandered around Auckland, went to Sky Tower, to One Tree Hill (yes, it exists) and I found out that there’re plenty of smaller and bigger islands around Auckland, and you could get there from Auckland port. Tickets are affordable as well, I remember I paid around £10 to get to the Rangitoto Island.
To be honest, you can spend all day on this island, though I and my friend only had a few hours before our afternoon classes. Because of this, we decided not to go all the way up to the volcano and turned left in the halfway (which already took about 40mins of walking). We walked through the volcano caves, the forest (more likely a jungle) and we were able to see the Auckland mainland when we got closer to the edge. Running back to catch our ferry back to Auckland harbour there was more than a half of the island left to see. I don’t regret not seeing it, though, I would definitely regret not going at all.
Devonport – another point on a must see list when in Auckland. Getting to Devonport will take no more than half an hour by ferry. Why is it worth going? From the Victoria Volcano or more likely a mountain now, you can get a magnificent view of Auckland and the harbour. Not to mention that when we were going down from the mountain, we had THE BEST Fish&Chips ever. A small fast food restaurant was owned by an incredibly sweet older Korean couple. They had fresh fish – you could choose what fish would you like – and of course so famous Kumara fries. These fries are absolutely everywhere and New Zealand, in every fast food, restaurant or cafe. It’s simply a sweet potato fry and it’s amazingly tasty. We had our lunch right there and then headed back to the pier to take some more photos and afterwards back to Auckland.
One day my friends decided to go to the South Island and of course I couldn’t miss that opportunity. Tickets by Air New Zealand were quite cheap (less than 100£ for sure) and we booked a backpackers for four people right next to the city centre. Landing in Queenstown was just as amazing as the city itself. The airport is situated right between the mountains and even though it was July, everything was covered in snow. After leaving our back in the hotel we went straight to the city. Up on a mountain, where you can get by the funicular, you have the amazing view of the city, mountains, the lake and the sky. Queenstown is a small city and therefore there’s no problem finding groceries and information kiosk, where we booked our trip to Milford Sound for the next day. In the information kiosk are plenty of brochures and tour offers, so everyone can find what they are looking for. The next day we got to the city centre quite early in the morning. Bus to Milford Sound took more than 2 hours and we were stopping on our way there several times. The most amazing and memorable stop were the Mirror Lakes and they left more emotions and memories than a Milford Sound itself. Getting to Milford sound, we had a few minutes to use the bathroom and then get on the ferry. Sea Lions, waterfalls, and cliffs are the most memorable things from the trip.
On the next day, we rent a car and went straight up to the North to see Taupo Lake. On our way, we were stopping every time we saw a sign or a beautiful scenery. What is amazing in New Zealand is the fact, that scenery can change completely withing minutes of riding. One second you see red mountains and a route, the next second you see crystal white lake with the reflection of clouds and snowy mountains. We got back to Queenstown already after the sunset and on the next day we went back to Auckland.
As my time in New Zealand was coming to an end, I had to manage to put all the things that were left to see in one day. Rotorua and Hobbiton and two completely different trips and it is hard to find a place that does both in a single day. However, I managed to find an information kiosk in the backpackers hotel in the city centre and they had the opportunity to visit both places on one day. The price was incredibly high as I paid around 230£ for it. Normally, the trip to Hobbiton cost 150£ and same with the Rotorua. Now when I think about it, it is completely ok to do both trips in one day as the Hobbiton one takes only half of the day anyway and most companies return you back to the city after lunch so doing both places at one day is even better as you save time and money – it is expensive but still cheaper than paying for both trips separately.
First stop was Hobbiton and I was enjoying every single bit of the tour! Our guide left us at the Hobbiton reception and handed us the tickets. Then we had to wait till the special Hobbiton bus arrived so we could go to the Hobbiton part of the Alexander’s farm, which allowed the Hobbiton and Lord of The Rings set to film on their lands. The farm is huge and sheep’s everywhere! The lady who was a special Hobbiton guide took care of us from the moment we got on the bus to the moment when our excursion ended in Dragon’s Inn and we were offered lager, cider or hot chocolate for free in the famous Inn.
Next stop was Rotorua, where our driver handed us tickets to the Taupo park. We got a included lunch and then we were able to start our journey around the famous park. The closest pavilion near the entrance was a Kiwi House, though I was unable to take any good photos there. I was even unable to see them properly myself, as all of them were sleeping. The given map guided us through the geysers, mud lakes, and hot springs. And yes, the place smelled like bad eggs because of all these things, though you could get used to it soon.
We got back to Auckland around 7pm and I got a 2pm flight back to Prague on the next day. I would never expect that one month can fly by so fast and that I would enjoy nature this much. I was always more driven to the big modern cities but this trip changed my view on everything I knew about travelling!