The Windy City

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

Our final destination in the North Island saw us visit the capital city Wellington for 3 nights as you saw from the previous post! People weren’t lying, it is very windy so a wind proof jacket wouldn’t go a miss! Chris (Airbnb host) and Ralph (the Schnauzer) made us feel very welcomed at their place. Ralph was just a legend… It’s not weird to call a random person’s dog the same one as your own at home? and proceed to call him that for the entire stay is it?! (Withdrawal symptoms are still heavy). 

Wellington is a really cool city, we have experienced a Kiwi cinema (watched Lion and was incredible), eaten some `Ugly` Bagels, explored Cuba street, shopped on Lambton Quay, travelled up the Cable Car,  honed our kiwi knowledge at the Te Papa Museum and last but not least…had some outstanding coffee (to Brogan’s disgust – she thinks I have a genuine addiction and I don’t think she’s wrong). 

It should also be noted that as we walked through Wellington I was expressing how amazing New Zealand was for it’s lack of chavs, literally 5 minutes later we walked around the corner and saw a 20 stone Kiwi lady pushing a supermarket trolley with a pitbull next to her kicking a Kiwi man because he had told her to stop ‘messing around with a drug dealer’ – think Kiwi Jeremy Kyle and you’re on the right lines.

To conclude our Wellington visit we had some drinks on the balcony with Chris and watched Indiana Jones! 
Saturday morning we were up at the crack of dawn to catch the ferry over to the south Island. After docking we drove straight down to Nelson to meet a couple of Brogan’s uni friends and we’ve planned to share a villa in Bali! 

North island ✔

Jamie & Brogan

Instagram:

@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

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Meet Ralph

backpacking, Couples, Travel

Following our time in Rotarua, we travelled to Waitomo where the glow worm caves are situated, here we booked onto the Black Labyrinth excursion which saw us put on wetsuits, grab a tube, and head 70 metres underground through the caves… We had to scramble under very low roofs, navigate the rapids and jump backwards from some mini waterfalls, at the end the whole group joined together, switched off our head torches and spent 15 minutes gliding underneath the most densely populated area of glow worms which was unreal (probably the highlight of the trip so far). Unfortunately for safety reasons we couldn’t take the go pro down so you’ll have to take our word for it!!

After the caves we drove straight to Taupo for a 3 night stay at Base Backpackers – this is more of a party hostel but still pretty cool! We chatted to a few travellers during our stay and took part in a quiz (which unfortunately we didn’t win). The hostel is built above its own nightclub and the free ear plugs left on the bed when we checked in were a fairly good indicator of what to expect. On the whole it wasn’t as bad as we expected, the final night was too hot to keep the windows shut and we did have a horrific sleep due to loud bass.

During Taupo we mountain biked over 7 miles to the Huka Falls which was a spectacle and then we relaxed in the natural thermal pools which have 4 ‘difficulty levels’ with the top pool at 41 degrees (one of us made it, I’ll leave you to guess who). On the final day we planned to walk the tongariro crossing (8-9 hour hike), however if anybody is familiar with the term ‘saddle sore’ they will realise why this consequence of the previous days biking inhibited this part of the plan! I’ll be honest I got it worse and as our budget is tight, if somebody could send out sudocrem or nappy rash cream that would be fantastic…

After checking out from Taupo, the second long haul drive (6 hours) to the capital city (Wellington) was completed and that’s where we are tonight! We are back in air bnb’s for the time being as it is cheaper than using booking.com around these areas. As you’ll see from the photos there may have been another reason for booking this accommodation *cough* Ralph. The owner of the house Chris is a top guy and was grateful because with the help of @charliedenison we managed to highlight a cyst on Ralph’s paw which he is going to need treating at the vets!

It’s crazy that in three days we will be catching the ferry down to the south Island and as you can see from the map, we have already covered so much distance in such a short space of time!

Jamie & Brogan

Instagram:

@jamiedenison1993

@broganharker

    We smelt it before we saw it

    backpacking, Couples, Travel

    The travels are still in full swing, the wallets are taking a beating, but we are adopting the ‘once in a lifetime’ mentality. Having to unpack and repack our bags on a nearly daily basis is becoming monotonous but life is pretty sweet all things considered… We had the pleasure of staying with relatives on Wednesday for one night in Tauranga in their luxurious house complete with hot tub, pool and two lovely dogs.

    Following lunch, we headed straight out to conquer Mount Maunganui which is on our hosts’ doorstep and is also home to some pretty impressive views! The walk was harder than we anticipated with some steep inclines in places. Once we reaches the top we met two Kiwi gentleman who were intrigued by us Brits and were interested in our plans/our bag of assorted nuts. After enjoying some well earned dinner at the bottom of the mountain (Pronto Burgers) we returned home and called it a day. The following morning we said our goodbyes.

    Whenever we embark on a new chapter in the travelling book we experience mixed emotions… excitement at the prospect of new territory, but apprehension because when you’re on a budget you tend not to be so confident about the conditions in which you will be sleeping each night. It’s fair to say that the accommodation in Rotarua named ‘Hot Spring B&B Kiwi’ has been the most peculiar so far. The building is home to around 5-10 Japanese individuals, with the decor reflecting this. We were greeted by a reserved and quiet lady who showed us around, within minutes the rules were being fired at us… shoes are to be left outside, no eating or drinking in the rooms, no showers past 11pm, clean up signs in every room, perhaps the most amusing of all, a curfew at 10pm, following which the outside doors would be locked! It should be said that the hosts have been immensely polite and the speed at which our dirty plates dissappear is astounding considering we never see these ninjas! One really cool feature is a large walk in hot spring bath which is filled with naturally heated volcanic water generated from underground- definitely the highlight of this stay!

    Now Rotarua is quite unique for one strange reason… there is an intermittent stench of rotten eggs which follows you no matter where you go, this is due to the sulphur, and although quite unpleasant at times is a result of the geothermal activity in the area which is the base of all the interesting activities that happen in Rotarua. In terms of our experiences, where do we start… we have been to a huge natural waterfall bath named ‘Kerosene Creek’ which is that hot it took Brogan a good 15 minutes to get her knees in, visited Waiotapu thermal wonderland which contained a variety of geothermal wonders (Brogan genuinely walked the entire route pinching her nose as the rotten eggs were intense here).Today we visited Hobbiton where The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed, this was genuinely brilliant as it showcased the extensive efforts that underpinned the production! We learnt that the entire set was taken down after the first trilogy and then rebuilt entirely for the hobbit, Peter Jackson also made one poor soul repaint 240,000 artifical tree leaves a different shade of green as he wasnt satisfied with the first attempt! This afternoon we went on a tree top walk through the Redwoods forest, and tomorrow we are booked onto the Black Labyrinth water rafting tour. This 3 hour adventure through the Waitomo Caves will see us stick on a wetsuit and venture down into the natural currents of the caves on tubes where the famous glow worms live! From here we head down to Taupo and are back in the good old hostels which will, I’m sure entail more interesting tales…

    Jamie & Brogan

    Instagram:

    @jamiedenison1993

    @broganharker

    Backpacking with Airbnb

    backpacking, Travel

    So with our next destination came the first of the long drives… five and a half hours to Whitianga (fit-ee-anga), although this would induce suicide on anything resembling the M62 or M1, cruising through forests on smooth roads and passing multiple insane view points along the way, the five hours soon passed. So following our interesting hostel experience we thought we would change it up a bit and give Airbnb a go (for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Airbnb is a platform for people to rent a room out in their actual houses while they continue to live in them… strange I know). We were slightly anxious approaching the house where we would be staying for the next few nights, primarily brought on by the abandoned cars, run down houses and the large social services building on the doorstep, we began to wonder if this was New Zealand’s answer to benefits street. Anyway we parked up on the grass and on approach were greeted by a middle aged kiwi couple who were friendly and interested in all of our plans for the month, after a good chat they showed us to our room and we decided to have an early night, ready to visit Cathedral Cove in the morning. One thing we are becoming aware of is the trust that New Zealanders have in their communities, windows are left wide open all day when nobody is home and cars are left running with no owner in sight, it’s a refreshing environment to be in.

    Our time in Whitianga has consisted of Cathedral Cove which looks like something plucked from a postcard, forest walks, incredible sea food in Coromandel town and today we hiked to a place called New Chums beach… not a shop in sight or any form of money making ventures, just completely unspoilt paradise. We also went to the Hot Water beach which is an area on the sand which the underlying volcano heats up to form boiling hot water, you are given a spade and literally dig your own hot tub – the combination of volcanic water and sea water makes for a bath like temperature. After struggling to make any serious headway on the hot tub, we began making jokes to a couple across from us who were also having difficulties, we decided to combine forces and made the best hot tub on the beach! The two guys Celene and Rieki were from Canada and we ended up chilling with them for a couple of hours and plan to meet them again at some point on our trip. In summary it’s been another brilliant leg of the journey and we are loving every minute of it.

    Tomorrow morning we drive south down to Tauranga and are staying with relatives who have kindly put us up for the night before we climb Mount Maunganui (it’s not as intense as it sounds).

    Jamie & Brogan

    Instagram:

    @broganharker

    @jamiedenison1993

    Finding our feet in the land of the Kiwi

    backpacking, Travel

    So after 22 hours of flying and 8 hours of airport mooching we safely arrived in Kiwi land. The first task was to collect the car which was surprisingly nice considering the price we paid! After the most laid back handover service we were given the keys and dropped off our bags at the hotel which we booked near the airport as we knew we would be shattered. To avoid falling asleep at 10am we took a drive to Auckland and had some lunch by the harbour with some incredible views. At about 6pm the jet lag properly set in and we had to succumb to sleep and enjoyed a monumental 12 hour sleep until 6am the following morning.

    On Friday morning we got straight off and drove 3 and a half hours north where the bay of islands resides. Even the drive was enjoyable, one minute you’ll be cruising through subtropical forests and the next, driving alongside the coast, every now and again passing a sleepy village. For two nights we are staying in the pickled parrot backpacker hostel in a double room, everybody has been friendly and on arrival we got chatting to a nice German guy (who will return to the story later). The bay of islands is beautiful, we explored the beaches and had lunch, after this we walked up to the rainbow falls which looked like something you see on a postcard!

    So our first night in the hostel was going well, nice comfy bed, fairly quiet, not too warm, pretty ideal really. At about 3am Brogan wakes me up to inform me that somebody is trying to open our door, I initially brushed it off as noise coming from the other dorms. I soon realised that in fact yes our handle was going up and down and behind the frosty door I could indeed see the outline of a man, my heart really began to race when I realised there seemed to be a crow bar dangling from his hand. So as the man in the room, I stepped up to the challenge, testosterone was flowing, my masculinity was at serious stake here, I flung the window open ready to engage in battle and was greeted with the ‘nice German guy’  who was heavily intoxicated and trying to find his room, he also had a stray cat between his legs (it’s worth mentioning that the cat’s tail was what gave the illusion of a crow bar). Thankfully he realised the error of his ways, drunkenly apologised, and wandered off to his own room…

    Today we went kayaking around the bay of islands which was surreal, we bumped into two other British kayakers and all paddled to an island where we found a completely deserted beach! Tonight we are going to join our new friends for a few drinks before our 5 hour journey to Whitianga in the morning. All in all the first few days of travelling have been unbelievable and we can’t wait to continue exploring!

    Jamie & Brogan

    Instagram:

    @jamiedenison1993

    @broganharker