sunnuntai 9. syyskuuta 2018

In the land of Ouzo and Zorbas

During our lazy days in Samoa we had some time to plan our next move. We went through all kinds of route plans including Japan and USA among others but ended up booking a flight from Auckland via Sydney via Singapore all the way to Athens, Greece. One of the reasons was that the tickets from Singapore to Athens felt dirt cheap being less than 300€ per person. And besides, who doesn't love Greek food ;D

Before going to Europe we stayed two nights in Auckland in a lovely airbnb place nearby the airport. We ended up taking a taxi there after many failed √úber tries (the drivers didn't want to take such a short trip). Our Airbnb had lovely hosts and a lovely house, but when its dark and you're in a new place it can be tricky to find the right house. Not saying that we intruded some random Samoan resident's home when the front door was open or anything... ūüôĄ

We didn't have much time in Auckland between our flights but still we were still fortunate enough to visit Pasifika Festival and meet our friend from Brisbane and some of her family members also. It was precious and we are so much looking forward for meeting again hopefully in the near future, maybe in Finland this time :)

The following day we took public transportation to Auckland airport. Our layover in Sydney was short but in Singapore we had to wait for few hours.. The company we flew to Europe with was called Scoot and as you might expect there were no personal touch screens or other luxuries included in the 266,19€ (with luggage!) price. Luckily the 11 hour flight left early in the morning around  3 am and we got some sleep during the journey.

We got to Athens March 27th around 10 am and went for a morning coffee straight away as there was no service on the plane and our journey from Aucland had taken nearly 26 hours. There was plenty of time to plan our route to our accommodation as our check in at Olympion Hotel started from 1 pm. With our caffeine-filled minds we had no trouble figuring out the best option and went to buy the train tickets to our destination. We did some waiting and after getting on the train and riding half an hour or so we got to the station we had googled. It seemed a little empty when we got off but we didn't pay too much attention on that at the moment although later on there was some trouble...

From the station there we had less than 10 minutes walk to our hotel.We checked in and almost immediately went to look for a grocery store. We found one nearby and being there shopping groceries in Europe using euros it felt weirdly familiar and foreign at the same time. Among other groceries we bought Ouzo which I've always hated but when in Rome (Athens)...

Back in Europe!

The essentials

After traveling all the way from New Zealand to Europe and not getting too much sleep we didn't do any sightseeing on our first day in Athens. One place we did visit though was a nearby restaurant called Fagourio. They didn't speak too much English there but we got our order through and the food was absolutely mouth watering and amazing! It was just a simple little place but it's very often the case with some of the best experiences. Little street food stalls in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, a modest bar in Koh Tao serving tasty Tom Yam, little sea food restaurant in Gdansk, tiny hole in the wall serving those tiny but so, so tasty tacos in Mexico.. Those are the places that stick to your mind.

Our first real taste of Greece

The next day was our only full day in Athens so we decided to visit Acropolis. It didn't take long to walk back to the train station where we arrived the day before. But when it was time to buy tickets there was no place to do that. The ticket machines were out of order and there was only a guard in the ticket booth so we continued our way along the tracks. After walking a while we got to another station and there... we faced the same situation. Only after a considerable walk we found a bigger station and there we got tickets for the train. We bought tickets for the next day also because our own station was a ghost place. It was a bit rainy when we got to Acropolis but we decided to visit there anyway. There were some Finns in the ticket booth queue so we tried to keep our silence :D

Views from Acropolis

Rest of the day we just strolled around Athens and looked for two restaurants that Mark Wiens had recommended in his vlogs. The restaurants worth visiting for are called Kostas Souvlaki and Mam. Kostas offers tasty gyro pitas and Mam delicious cheese pies (mm my mouth is watering just thinking about what we ate..). The next day we packed our stuff and took a train to the airport (luckily we had the tickets ready..). There we took the short flight to Rhodes.

Our ride to Rhodes

From Rhodes airport it was an easy bus ride to the center of the city. And our hotel was located very center indeed, it was conveniently named The Perfect Spot Luxury Apartments. If you're staying in Rhodes for more than few nights we highly recommend checking the place out. It was spacious and relatively cheap and, well, on the perfect spot.

We spent the next few days in Rhodes center and Old Town. If you're around and feeling hungry, be sure to check out Stavlos.

On Sunday we had a full schedule. First in the morning we took a good walk and visited Acropolis of Rhodes. Then we went back to our hotel to play some Tantrix and get ready for Throne of Helios 9D show (and Starbucks next door, gotta keep collecting those mugs ;p).

Morning walk near Acropolis of Rhodes

A game of Squiggle (Tantrix)
If you ask me to think Greece the first thing comes to mind would be a small tavern filled with people, live music and delicious food. The place we had dinner in (Kathopoulis Family Restaurant) was just like that and we really enjoyed the night! (usually stereotypes are bad but we'll let this one slip).



On our last day in Rhodes we hopped on a bus and traveled to Lindos. The place was full of cute small streets and the main thing there was to get all the way up to the fort but of course with out the help of the poor and cute donkeys.. We walked though. We saw the ruins from the outside and decided not to pay the touristy price for the ticket. So we went back down and visited a nice restaurant on the way instead. Greek salad and tzatziki never fails, really :)

Lindos
After Rhodes its was time to leave the clear blue waters behind and hop on the airplane and travel to Nyköping where we got a ok priced bus ride to Stockholm. There it was easy to navigate our way back to Finland. The ferry ride went through icy grey waters which felt so familiar (ugh) and also somehow very distant. And BAM. Then we were back home. Just like that. It was weird.. It was like we hadn't been anywhere but at the same time with all the memories of all the great places.



Memories from our trips together on the wall


What an amazing journey! <3



Afterword


If you have a travel bucket list, it just might happen that during your journeys the list does not shorten but instead grows longer. In our original plan we were supposed to stay 3 weeks in Philippines and fly home from Hong Kong. So I guess those go in the list. And when we were musing on our route options back home we grew more interest in visiting Japan. I've heard so many good things about Nepal, too, and that would be in the same general direction so add those too.. And of course the list is long already including places in Europe, Africa, Central and South America and who knows where. Maybe we'll write something here during some of our future trips. Or maybe we won't.
Traveling is a passion nonetheless and it's been it's own journey writing this blog, surprisingly time consuming for sure but a nice way to assemble our experiences. Thanks for our readers for traveling with us, we hope you liked staying with us. See you next time!

- Matias & Sini










Our route so far

sunnuntai 1. heinäkuuta 2018

Visiting Samoa and Some Moa

After NZ South Island we stayed couple of days in the North Island again before our trip to Samoa. It was cool to go back to our "roots" as we stayed again at the Bamber House. From there it was easy to get to the airport and to the city center. It was a bit bittersweet to go back to Auckland as I missed my mum and sis but.. It was also exciting :)
One year before we were planning to pack our bags and head out to the world my two (actually three) co-workers said farewells and went to see the world :) and now.. after 1,5 years it was time to see Sofia and Sebu again.. In Auckland NZ! Haha that was so cool! :)
So on one Saturday afternoon we met up on Queen Street and hopped on a ferry and went to the Waiheke Island. It was so nice to catch up as I had followed their journey through Instagram and got some good tips of places to visit. We had a great sunny and warm day at Waiheke Island playing frisbee golf, Tantrix and consuming beer on a beach. The night got even better when we tried unhealthy vegetarian food (by Lord of the Fries) talking about future plans and chilies in wrong places.. Good times ūüėé


A summer day well spent
Tantrix and beer on the beach
But yeah, that was the "Moa" part* of the story but the actual post is about Samoa.
What started as a joke in a bar in Bondi Beach Sydney turned out to be our reality and all of a sudden we were in a bumpy plane ride towards Samoa.

It took maybe 3-4 hours to get to Samoa from Auckland and when we got there we immediately noticed that we aren't in a super Western country anymore. The main terminal was under construction so we were guided to a nearby building for our immigration. There was a duty free "shop" consisting of one little stand in the corridor and a Samoan band wearing Samoan Talofa shirts was playing ukuleles and singing local island songs near the luggage belt. That was so special and thoughtful. We did not have any expectations whatsoever so it was all so exciting! When we arrived it was pitch black so we didn't see anything from the van's window and it was quite late when arriving to our accommodation in Apia, Talofa Inn. It was so late that no shops were open, they don't have any 24h 7/11 or gas stations there. But after a quick Google search we found a place of relief.. McDonald's! Oh hallelujah! And the best thing was that McD was just few blocks away and it was pretty much the only building staying open 24/7.
It was so dark and silent outside that I was super afraid to go out after 11pm in a strange place.. but we had to eat so my knight in not-so-shiny armor went to fetch some dinner for us. My hero <3

I can not even put into words how wonderful place Talofa Inn was. It's a small place in a wonderful location in Apia. Only 6 rooms, commodity kitchen, marvellous breakfast and smiling lovely ladies taking care of the people there. Talofa Inn was also a place where we met this one German/UK/Chinese guy and a Canadian girl.

Talofa Inn breakfast

Chatting at the breakfast table lead us to experience Samoa in a way we hadn't planned. Odin and Megan were heading to see the island of Upolu and we had the pleasure to join them. First we checked a 100m waterfall Papapapaitai and then got to swim in smaller one called Togitogiga (I am not making these names up...). Well Matias couldn't unfortunately swim as he had his new ink on him, but he got to enjoy the scenery still :) It was refreshing and amazing experience to have a dip. Also interesting experience as we met this local guy who first talked about his life and then laid his eyes on the Canadian girl trying to hook up with her behind the bathroom :D Well no time for hooking up as we had to rush to see what more the island had to offer ;D then we ended up in a paradise.. To Sua Ocean Trench. This place was so pretty with ocean view, small fales and clear water ocean trench where one can just chill and float. It had some scary ladders but I made it with Odin and Megan while Matias guarded our stuff and had his chill time enjoying few cold ones :)

Driving through the island

Togitogiga Waterfall

To Sua Ocean Trench

Chillin' in a fale

After the chill time we headed to explore the island little bit more.
We ended up in a tiny village of Uafato. The whole village was playing and enjoying some cricket like sport by the ocean and we actually drove through their playing field.. twice. Whoopsie. Luckily the village people were patient and let us move on in peace.
Odin was a good driver and we made back to Talofa Inn and cooked some dinner and we got introduced to Dhal soup :D ah.. that thing "saved" our lives later on our journey!

We stayed little over a week in Apia and we chilled, read books and wandered around a lot. We visited the fruit market and the flea market often and enjoyed the view of the ocean and the colorful bus terminal :) We also found an amazing restaurant called Paddles. It's a Italian restaurant founded by Italian guy who fell in love with a Samoan lady. You should always make a reservation, but if you forget and go just when it opens, you just might get lucky and get to have the marvelous food over there before the hustle. Especially the tuna and the salsa brings big smile to my face to this day :)

Apia bus terminal

Flea market

Mmm..

Heavenly tuna

We also visited The Cultural village of Samoa and that was an eye opener and amazing peak of Samoan history and the way of living there. We also got to taste some taro with Palusami and some fish made in umu, the tradition natural oven. The cultural village visit was free of charge but they accept donations so we felt it was good to give a little something back.

Umu cooking

Palusami is good!

We pondered should we go to visit Savai´i the bigger island and supposedly more beautiful island of Samoa but we counted our days and resources and wanted to try something fancy for a change instead. We booked our last 3 nights near the airport in a five star hotel. It was Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort and it was something else.

Breathtaking beach with hammocks and peace. Super friendly staff, swimming pool, good beer and big comfortable bed and also.. great food :) Though as we had our budget also in mind we weren't the typical five start residents.. oh no :) we had our own canned food! We had Dhal soup and dynamite chili meat mix and noodles with us! Matias, our chef "cooked" our delicious meal by putting the water heater on and filled the sink with hot water. Then he added our cans to heat up. After some waiting we had semi warm food to fill our tummies with. Haha it was silly but hey it made sense! The last night we spoiled ourselves and went to a Fia Fia night. Samoans are proud of their fire dance skills so the night meant good food, nice dance performances from ladies and gents of Samoa. Our waiter made sure we got good seats and what do you know we were invited to dance on the stage with the locals :D The fire dance later on was also cool! Or more like on fire! The guys are talented.


Sheraton Samoa Beach 

Life hacks

One of my favourite moments of all time


Samoan dance

Fia Fia Show

Ay ay ay :) I am smiling so much while writing this post by the way. 
I still drift away to the Sheraton hammock where we cuddled in an amazing sunset while listening to our favourites Robin and Popeda <3

If you ever get a change to visit this place.. do it. And bring your sun block and mosquito repellent.. The sun is hot and there is the possibility to get dengue or zika for example so stay safe and enjoy your life :)

Next for us it was time to work our way back to Europe and.. back home :) ️

*Oh and the headline.. The Moa part was NZ of course. Moa´s are extinct giant flightless birds native to New Zealand. But Moa is also a small brewery from Marlborough, New Zealand, offering a wide range of craft beer. So the Moa lives on after all.

- Sini










Our route so far

keskiviikko 23. toukokuuta 2018

NZ South

On Thursday 8th of February we left Auckland and North Island behind and flew to Queenstown. I was gaping out of the plane window for a long time enjoying the amazing views as we approached the airport. Queenstown Airport is surrounded by beautiful mountains and lakes and it's definitely one of the most picturesque airports I've ever been to (I'm not the only one thinking that)

Airport grounds and the Remarkables

We searched for accommodations about a week before our flight but this time we ran into problems. Until then we had had no problems booking our rooms few days in advance or even the day before staying but it was a different story in South Island. First it felt that EVERYTHING was fully booked and we found out it was the peak season with the Chinese New Year going on on top of that (we also learned that Queenstown is hugely popular throughout the whole year so book well in advance even outside the peak season). Luckily we didn't leave all the planning for the last day and had at least some time to plan our moves. For starters we got an Airbnb homestay place near the airport for the first couple of days. It was just a walking distance away from the airport and the house was empty as we got there. Well, almost empty as our bed was taken...

Coco the cat

It was still early afternoon when we got our stuff in place so we did a little Google research and decided to go to Queenstown and walked to the nearest bus stop. We found out that you can get a GoCard from the bus and it's the cheapest and easiest way to get around. Shortly after arriving to town center we saw Small Planet Disc Sports and had to pay a visit there, after being taken away from the disc golf scene for few months I had the urge to do some shopping.. After buying some discs we wanted to see Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown waterfront so we walked there. It was just beautiful with clear water and mountains in the background. We also walked to Queenstown Gardens and got a glimpse from it's disc golf course but it was getting late so we hopped on the bus going back to Frankton where we stayed.

The place we stayed in was a homestay and it was the first time staying in one for both me and Sini. The place had many good reviews but I was still pleasantly surprised. The owner turned out to be really nice and we felt like home and on top of that the place was located just a 20 minute ride from Queenstown. They also had a (bed invading) cat and a dog we planned to kidnap but unfortunately we didn't have space in our backpacks. ;p

Afternoon sun in Queenstown

The next three days we took it easy and just enjoyed disc golf in Queenstown Gardens and the town itself. Even if I don't fancy touristy places too much nowadays I fell a little for Queenstown. The place has it's charm for sure and it became one of my favorites in NZ.

It's in

On Monday morning we made our way to Omega Car Rental near the airport. We had rented a Hyundai Tucson SUV for three weeks and the car greatly eased our situation with accommodations. After paperwork and getting the car we went to get our backpacks and set our way to Alexandra. It's a small town one hour drive east from Queenstown. There's not too much to do around the town but there are some nice hiking possibilities and the guest house we stayed in, Irish Charm, was well worth the money. On our way to Alexandra we stopped to check out the views at Lake Dunstan near the Clyde Dam.

Lake Dunstan

We were very pleasantly surprised as we got to our guest house as it was located near New World supermarket and it was spacious, clean and had an Apple TV with the game Jetpack Joyride which we totally rocked! It would have been easy to lock ourselves in to beat the high scores but we decided to check out Shaky  Bridge Cafe that our host recommended. Coffee and a local pale ale in pretty surroundings worked just fine.

Shaky Bridge Cafe

Next day we decided to do a day trip to Wanaka which was around one hour drive one way. It turned out to be less touristy version of Queenstown which was just great. And there's a beautiful disc golf course also, perfection!

Checking out the views in Wanaka

Irish Charm was fully booked after Tuesday so we switched places again which was becoming a theme in South Island. Our next place was a Bed and Breakfast a short drive away from Alexandra. After leaving our stuff there we drove to Blue Lake in St Bathans. For me it was a 'meh' experience as there is so much beautiful nature in New Zealand that you kind of become blind to it. What got me more excited was the fact that the place we stayed in had a grill and we bought some steaks and red wine, it's hard to beat a good BBQ! We still had one full day near Alexandra so we decided to do some hiking, or tramping, as the locals call it. It's a long way to the top but boy it feels good when you reach it :)

On the top

Our Bed and Breakfast place had some farm animals and later that day Sini got to help with collecting chicken eggs and feeding the sheep. The sheep were a bit suspicious of us and stomped their feet at us but they fled pretty quickly when we did the same to them :D At dinner time we enjoyed some BBQ again as we had the chance.

Farm girl

There was finally some space in Queenstown hostels on Friday so we made our way there. We checked Bookme for some deals and booked some luge tickets for the next day. It turned out to be great fun and you should definitely book at least 5 rides. We had 7 and each felt faster than the previous one so maybe it was good we didn't have more to avoid injuries :D

Down the hill we go!

After the downhill fun we had pizza and went to play disc golf. On the course we met some local guys and played a round with them. They asked if we wanted to join them the next day on a different course that's near Queenstown and we were in of course. It was harder one for sure but nice to try still.

More visitors


On Monday 19th my mom and her friend were coming to visit us for two weeks. We were going back to Alexandra and we drove there beforehand with Sini to check in because our guests' flight was landing pretty late. In the evening we went to the airport to pick up my mom and Kisu and it was nice to meet again after many months of traveling. They had stayed in Singapore for one night to ease the jetlag but had a long flight behind and we still had an hour to drive. It wasn't too bad though and soon they got to paying some sleep debts.

The next day was rainy so we mostly just watched the Olympics and drove around Alexandra checking out the Shaky Bridge and the nearby town Clyde where the dam is. Following morning we set our way to Wanaka. There's a unique cafe and tourist attraction in Wanaka we decided to visit because it was still too early to check in and the rain continued still. It's called Puzzling World and it has all kind of brain teasers, puzzles and illusions to offer.

Coffee and puzzles

Again it was raining through the day so we kept inside after buying some groceries and rum to keep us warm. Little before sunset the sky started to clear out a bit so we did a little walk nearby before hitting the bed.

On Thursday morning we woke up to a whole different world as the sky was clear and the sun was shining. Unfortunately we couldn't enjoy Wanaka more that time as it was time, once again, to change motels. Our next one was located in Cromwell, a small town in middle of Queenstown, Alexandra and Wanaka. On the way we stopped to buy heaps of fresh fruits and went for a walk after checking in at our motel. It was good spending time outside after the rainy days although the town itself didn't have too much to offer. Later that night we had a big meal in Five Stags Restaurant.

Once again we had booked only one night stay and in the morning we went back towards north. We drove all the way to Twizel, 140 km from Cromwell stopping in Omarama to caffeine up and do some clothes shopping and to buy some fish in High Country Salmon that our hostess recommended earlier.

Scouting for salmon

After unloading the car and chilling for a while we drove another ten minutes to Lake Pukaki, which Sini had searched up before. We had to rub our eyes a bit when the lake came in view because it was just amazing. The lake has a distinctive light cyan color which it gets from glacial flour and it's an impressive sight. After getting back we still had time to check out the disc golf course which was located conveniently just next to our motel..

Lake Pukaki

Sunday was a relaxation day which we spent in Lake Tekapo and floating in Tekapo Springs hot pools ranging from 37 - 39 degrees Celsius. We were meant also to participate in Salmon Festival but it was already ending when we got back to Twizel that afternoon.

Our next destination was another small town named Kingston on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and we had the luxury to stay there in a spacious Airbnb place a whopping three nights.. On our way there we stopped for some wine tasting as there are tons of wineries in Central Otago ranging from big to small and bought a bottle of red. We didn't stop for groceries on the way and after getting to Kingston we noticed that the town is so small there's no grocery stores. So I hopped in the car and 60 km later in Lumsden I got us some food :D

We decided to spend the next day in Queenstown as Kingston was probably the smallest town we'd been to in NZ. On our earlier visits we'd seen the massive lines outside the famous Fergburger and now was the time to put those hamburgers to the test.

The hype outside Fergburger

Luckily we Finns love to stand in queues because the place was crowded as usual. In less than 15 minutes we had our meal in the bag and we took it to Earnslaw Park by the lake. The burgers were mighty fine, maybe not worth all the hype but very tasty indeed. After the meal we headed to the disc golf course with Sini and my mom did some walking and shopping with Kisu.

Glowworms and tattoos


On February 27th it was time to explore Fiordland so we hopped in the car pretty early and started driving towards Te Anau. We arrived before noon and went straight to Real Journeys office to book tickets for a glowworm cave tour. They had still enough space for the 3 pm tour so we bought those and got some snacks and coffee. There was still plenty of time before the tour and there was a 9 hole disc golf course and some good walking areas nearby so we had no trouble spending those few hours. At 2.45 pm we were back in the Real Journeys office and soon got on the tour boat.

Entering the caves

The caves were really cool, we walked there on platforms next to a underground river and saw glowworms and a waterfall. Few times we stopped to spot the worms and the guide turned off the flashlight. It was a little disorienting as it was pitch black and quiet, the only thing you could see were little specks of light from the glowworms. The coolest part was yet to come as we got on a small boat and in the darkness floated deeper in the caves where there were thousands of glowworms. It felt like floating in space, it was all quiet and those worms shone like distant stars.

We still had some days left with our guests and next we went back to Wanaka. On the way we drove up to The Remarkables Ski Area to remind ourselves what snow looks like and had a stop in Cardrona as well. After the drive we just chilled and threw discs at Lismore Park later on.

On March 1st there was a nice coincidence as we were having lunch (a massive lunch, Lake Bar's Taste Plate was HUGE!). Before 2018 New Zealand had won only one medal in Winter Olympics and this year they won 2 bronze medals, both by teens living in Wanaka. It was their homecoming party that day and they drove past us when we were eating. :)

Ordering food when you're hungry..

Wanaka Olympic medalists

The next day we did a little car trip to Blue Pools. There's some nice tracks going through woods and across the Makarora River and you have plenty of options to choose from, the one we took was 1,5 km one way. Back in Wanaka we went to have a small picnic in Eely Point and searched for That Wanaka Tree. In reality it didn't look like much but hey, the hype is real so we had to take a picture of course. Later that night we shot a round in Lismore Park and Sini got -1, you go girl!

Perhaps the most photographed tree in New Zealand

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Wanaka. We drove to Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town located near Queenstown. The place was bigger and more touristy than I had imagined but had a nice feel to it. We did some shopping and continued our way back to Kingston. It was the last night for my mom and Kisu so we had booked something different to stay in, two yurts. It was actually a really comfortable stay.

One of our yurts

On Sunday we drove our guests to airport and went to a nearby cafe to play Tantrix, a tile-based strategic game we bought in Te Anau. Next few days we were in a slight slumber, the travel weariness starting to get us. We had tried to book a table in Stratosfare Restaurant for our last night together with my mom and Kisu but they were fully booked then. I got a table for the two of us for Tuesday though. It didn't fit in our daily budget but it was still definitely worth it, the 95 NZD price included a gondola ride up the hill and the buffet had lots of delicious options to choose from.

Not too shabby

The next day was our last in South Island and all about adrenaline. We booked a KJet ride that took us from Lake Wakatipu to Shotover River, doing 360 spins and skimming over shallow waters. It was a one hour long ride and even if it the jet boat was going fast we could have enjoyed an even faster ride. It was fun still and after the thrill I had only half an hour to get to Otautahi Tattoo, where I had reserved a time to get some new ink on my calf. I'd planned it for a looong time but as it is a travel themed tattoo it felt right to have it done there on the other side of the globe. :)

Getting inked

- Matias










Our route so far

perjantai 13. huhtikuuta 2018

NZ North

Me and Matias arrived to Auckland fairly late on 31st of January. We figured we'd need sim cards and some data as the two of us were planning to stay 6 weeks in NZ. After immigration etc we found booths for Spark and Vodafone and based on some Google search we decided to go with Spark. But at their store I learned that their sims may not work as they should with my Honor 8 so I ended up taking Vodafone and Matias opted for Spark with his Samsung Galaxy S7. They cost the same amount and had 3GB of data for 2 months with 200 min of calls and 200 sms in NZ. (We didn't notice any difference with the connections but with Spark you can get 1GB extra data per day in "phonebooths" a.k.a wifi hotspots in bigger towns, so that's a nice bonus)

Hotspot

Getting away and to airport


The easiest way is probably to take the SkyBus which operates 24/7, but it does cost 18$ one way (17$ online) and it's a bit cheaper if you buy the return ticket also right away. But if you feel more adventurous, want to save some cash and have some time then you could take the 380 airporter bus  and change once if you are going to/coming from the city center. Without local transportation card (AT Hop, also available online) that will cost around 13$ and with Hop less than 8$. If you're traveling with more than two persons in a group, taxi/Uber would also be an ok option.

So yeah, this time me and Matias hopped on the SkyBus and went to stay in Bamber House near Mount Eden and my mum and sis went to a hotel in the city. The first 36 hours we didn't get to do much as the weather was really wet and grey. After Australia's sunny days we thought "uh oh.. is it gonna be like this the whole 6 weeks..?" luckily that was not the case.

Lovely weather in Auckland

Cruising around


On Friday the sky opened up a bit and that was nice as we went to pick up a SUV from Ezi car rental. (We got a tip from a kiwi living in Brisbane and this was the company she uses the most. The car was a really nice last year's Toyota RAV4 with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, back up cam and a smart key so we can definitely recommend this company).
We drove to pick up my mum and sis, packed ourselves and our stuff to the car and started our journey towards Whitianga. We only stayed there one night and in retrospect two nights would have been better, but in short time one can only do so much.
The drive didn't feel very easy. It was serpentine road up and down and when I wasn't driving, I got a bit nauseous. That was also the case with the backseat members so at some point we had to get our minds out of the serpentine and feeling sick (or cuckoo). So we started to play a game. A game that I remember playing as a kid, which gets kids (and adults) to focus on something else as the time flies.. what was it, you may ask.. :) So everybody picks a color and gets a point for every oncoming car that's the color you picked :) Soo simple! And then you just select a score like let's say the one with 21 points wins. My sis picked a successful color and was pretty much unbeatable the whole time. And the time went little bit faster ūüĎć


Whitianga & Hot water beach


Once we got to Whitianga we unloaded our stuff (me and Matias stayed at On the Beach Backpackers Lodge and mum and sis a little bit further from the beach) and then we decided to drive to Hahei Beach and more specifically to Hot Water Beach. We knew that there one needs a shovel to dig deep enough to get to the hot water and in order to make a nice pool for you and your mates. We didn't find a shovel rental place so we just went on checking the beach.. and what did we see.. loads of people digging and chilling on weird pits. We were little skeptical at first but as we walked closer and then stood in a hot water vein for a bit (like a second, it was freaking hot!) we were convinced that the water is actually really hot there! We found one abandoned pit and stood there for awhile. It was fun and enough for us. Our feet got a nice burn and must have gotten younger as the skin almost peeled off :D

Hot water holes

In order to have a full hot water beach experience you should have some time, shovels and beer but we didn't have any of those so we headed back to Whitianga for some food and chilling.
I really liked Whitianga and our hostel. It was basically on the beach so we finally got to witness a sunrise with Matias :) also with more time, we could have gone kayaking as they were free of charge in our hostel ūüĎć

Hot water beach
Sunrise in Whitianga


The smelly town of Rotorua


After Whitianga we headed to Rotorua. The drive was something like 3 hours, mainly because of the serpentine roads. Getting closer to Rotorua the scenery got really unbelievable.. all the green humps and bumps with sheep and cows.. it just looked like Hobbiton and I could just imagine little hobbits wander around, drinking Hobbit beer and have fun all day long (except the few fellows with the ring and all..)

Humps´n bumps

When we got to Rotorua we instantly noticed the smell.. it was like the whole town had eaten beans and eggs for breakfast :D
Little by little we got used to the smell but still from time to time we got a little whiff of the interesting odor and wrinkled our noses a bit :D
First day was for strolling around in the center and the in the park there. We soaked our feet in a thermal pool and witnessed some bubbly ponds. We didn't have too much time as mum and sis wanted to chill in their hotel's spa area and we wanted to see how did the Rotorua disc golf park look like.

We have found out that there are quite a few disc golf courses in NZ, but it was a surprise that many of the courses did not have permanent baskets or proper tees. This one in Rotorua for example offered a good place to practice but it was difficult to find all the tees and we weren't able to play the whole round.

Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland


The next day we woke up rather early and started the engine again. It was time to see some thermal action! In Wai-O-Tapu area there are few free options if you want to experience natural hot pools and see some bubbling mud lakes. There is also the thermal park that offers a chance to see a geyser show, or might I say geyser blow as they briefly talk about the geyser and then activate one with some sort of powder to make it shoot water high up. After the geyser show we headed to the park and it was like walking into some child's colored book. There were pools filled with boiling mud and water pools colored from bright orange to toxic green.

Thermal pools

On the way back to Auckland we still had a little bit of time left so we drove to the place where they had something called OVO aka putting one or two person inside a ball and throwing it down a hill (this was supposed to be the original place where they started this madness). Matias wanted to have it a go and had a good time sliding down the hill :)

Ready for rollin'


Auckland Auckland


For the last days together in NZ we rented an Airbnb in Kingsland. It was so nice that my mum and sis finally had their own rooms, we had two toilets (always a luxury) and a nice balcony with a view.
We went sightseeing around the city and strolled around in the Winyard Quarter which was really pretty. Mum and sis visited the zoo as me and Matias tried to find a frisbee golf course from Monte Cecilia park, but there weren't any permanent baskets unfortunately so we just hung around there and threw some shots just for funzies.

Kingsland
Winyard Quarter

All good things come to end and we had to say bye byes to my mum and sis. We had at this point two months to go and it sure felt really empty after they left.
It wasn't fun to be in Auckland anymore as the place reminded of them and I missed them already. Luckily we only had one more day in the North and then it was time to fly to the beautiful South island :)

Travel light

- Sini




Our route so far