Grettings and salutations! This is my last blog, my series finale. It’ll be like the series finale of Breaking Bad, but with more meth…and lambs. So let’s dive right in and head to the map one last time!
I took the ferry from Picton to Wellington in the north island. From there I went up to Rotorua, to Auckland, to Paihia(Bay of Islands) then back to Auckland. I’m backpacking solo and mainly getting around by bus. I highly recommend Intercity bus and Great Sights. I have had great experiences on both, and you get extra commentary and stops if you are into that, and sometimes the free wifi works too.
I highly recommend travelling to NZ. There’s tours if you want, you can get around solo, there’s buses, planes, trains, ferry’s etc,there’s the stray bus which is a hop on hop off bus around the country, you can drive if you don’t mind being on the other side of the car and road, and the kiwis are a very friendly people and quite like Canadians. Except they are crazy drivers, you’ve been warned! lol. But spend most of your time in the South Island. It’s truly the most scenic and gorgeous.
I did a tour around the city and coast line, very beautiful here. It’s a cool little nautical city. Lots to see and do.
This little city is a popular tourist spot. It’s an interesting place where I did the most random tour of mixed things. The indigenous group in NZ is the Maori. Very strong cultural representation in Rotorua which was great.
You can do an evening with the Maori which I highly recommend. You get on a bus and taken to a Maori village. There they have set up an old timey village and teach you some of their ways of life, games and the Haka(war dance). They would ask for volunteers, somehow I kept getting picked and I wasn’t volunteering myself lol. But it was fun, I got to play some traditional games. They then prepare for you a tradition meal called the Hangi.
You can check them out at http://www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz/
Rotorua is on geothermal ground. The hangi is a feast cooked on hot stones, they literally dig a hole in the ground and are able to cook their food as the earth is just that hot. It was really good. Had vegetables, potatoes, chicken and lamb. Very lovely and delicious supper.
We were randomly assigned tables, I ended up sitting across from this interesting couple from California, we had some great conversations. That’s one of the nice things about travelling solo, it really forces you to branch out and meet people. Then at the end of the meal and night, they sang us a song in Maori and asked everyone to hold hands. I somehow ended up in the middle of a bunch of Chinese tourists and we held hands. Not gonna lie, little bit awkward, especially since I had my hand in my hoodie pocket and next thing you know there’s this guys’ hand in my pocket pulling my hand out lol.
The following day I went on a day tour composed of seeing geysers and natural boiling mud. Then we went to the agridome to watch sheep sheering, then to this bird and fish place to see a kiwi bird, then off to hobbiton, where the hobbit movies and Lord of the Rings filmed the shire. Just a really odd tour, but very entertaining.
Geysers and mud pools
This is an agriculture experience like no other. I’ve never seen anything like this. So you get put into a giant barn/hall, the farmer or whoever he is, starts bringing out different kinds of sheep on stage one by one. He’s so enthusiastic, he announces them like they are heavy weight fighters. He brought out 19 different breeds of sheep. I honestly didn’t know there were that many kinds.
He’s very interactive with the crowd. Most of the crowd was Asian tourists from China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong etc. They were loving it as most don’t get to see farm animals. He then brought out another sheep, and sheered it.
He brought out this dairy cow, and the crowd went nuts, I mean this cow got a standing ovation and all it was doing was eating outta that container. He then invited people up to try and milk it. Let’s just say he wasn’t short on volunteers.
He brought some kids up on stage and got them to bottle feed the baby lambs, that was cute.
Then he brought out his sheep herding dogs. He got one to herd some ducks to show what he does. Then he got one dog to run around the hall barking like crazy. Then for some reason he had the dogs run back and forth on those sheeps backs then sit on them? lol not sure why, but okay.
Then we went over to Rainbow Springs, basically this place had different birds, fish and lizards. But they have the kiwi bird. Now these birds are nocturnal and in enclosures, because they keep it dark in the day so they are active, then turn the lights on at night so they sleep. No pics allowed, but I did see some. Kind of an odd flightless bird. I’m not actually holding one, they take a pic of you when you come in with your hands out. Then by the time you leave, there’s your pic holding a kiwi.
In the afternoon I headed out to Hobbiton. That’s right, the shire, where the hobbits live in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies. Again, I wouldn’t call myself a fan and I’ve never seen the Hobbit movies. But I do enjoy these tours, as the scenery is amazing and it’s always interesting to see these movie sets and get some random stories.
What’s interesting about this set, is that it’s actually outside in the middle of a farmers land. When they built the set for the Lord of the Rings movies, they built it 9 months before shooting. This way it got weathered, and they had planted flowers, crops etc, and just left it to grow. This way it looked lived in.
There’s really nothing in behind those hobbit house doors. The shooting inside was done in Wellington. After Lord of the Rings, they didn’t expect people to want to visit the set and they didn’t expect it to be used again. Once the Hobbit movies were green lit to go, they made these into a permanent set with artificial wood. They even have 4 full time gardeners and landscapers to take care of it. Now it’s a really popular tourist spot.
The Green Lantern Bar is also open. We got a free drink, a choice between a light ale, dark ale, cider or something that was not alcoholic. I had a cider, I quite liked it and I don’t even like beer. You can also order some food. I didn’t, but everyone says it’s really good. Made for an interesting afternoon anyway.
The scenery around here was so beautiful. It was all rolling green fields with hundreds of sheep. I never get tired of watching the lambs and sheep in the fields. They are just so cute.
They also taste good too. I tried a lamb burger with mint jelly. I get why lamb is a very popular animal eaten here.
Paihia (Bay of Islands)
I took a long day tour out of Auckland to Paihia. It was a scenic bus ride there, then I took a half day dolphin cruise to swim with wild bottlenose dolphins.
Just for the record, no I didn’t eat Flipper. They weren’t too friendly that day. Sometimes they find pods that are interactive and curious, but not that day, but happy to at least see a few, one swam right under me, glad I had my go pro!
I spent a couple days in Auckland, nice city but not a lot to do. But that’s fine as my travels were winding down, so was I.
What I like in some NZ and Australia cities, is these kinds of intersections. The lights stop all traffic and all pedestrians can walk, this allows you to walk diagonal from one corner to another.
Here’s the view from my hostel room, that hotels pool just taunting me!
Well that’s the end of my journey! I took a 13 hour flight from Auckland to Vancouver, avoided the US as I didn’t want to go through US Customs, then Canadian Customs. Had an excellent flight on Air New Zealand, if I’m going to have the best flight of my life, glad it was on the 13 hour one! Then I had just over an hour flight from Vancouver to Calgary.
You know you are in Canada when you come across this…
Well I left Canada Aug 21/15, covered 7 countries; Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia,Vietnam, Laos, Australia and New Zealand in about 3 1/2 months with everything on my back. Definitely had some highs and lows, travelled with good friends, travelled solo, met so many different people from around the world, caught a bug or two, tried many new things,had many laughs, challenged myself constantly and learned a lot about myself and others. Overall I had an excellent experience. It is tiring, and you know it’s time to end when you sign up for scenic bus tours and you keep falling asleep on them lol. I’m happy to come home, I was ready. But the world is a huge place with lots to experience, so although I’m tired, I’m already thinking of where I want to go next.
One of the nice things about travelling as a Canadian, is that I was usually instantly liked because of it. I would get mistaken a lot for either being American or Australian. When I would correct people and say Canadian, usually I would get a genuinely warm response, and I would get treated very well. Also, the universal language is really English, most people globally are trying to learn it, how lucky I am that it’s my first language. You also realize travelling how much we are all more alike than different. With everything going on in the world, everyone you meet share the same sadness, fears, and concerns. In the end, we all really want and need the same things regardless of our borders. How lucky and blessed I am in many ways! So don’t be afraid to get out there and see the world, cuz lord knows if I can do it, anyone can!
So thanks for following, I had never done a blog before and I enjoyed sharing my experiences in this format. The next time I venture out, I’ll most likely use this blog again, so stay subscribed if you want. If not, not hard feelings. I still have no Facebook and no immediate plans of reviving it. But my email and iMessage are firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll get my cell back up and running when I get to Lethbridge.
Wishing everyone happy and safe holidays, and an exciting 2016!