A Travellerspoint blog

Salsa, Devonport and saying goodbye

18/19 September 2015

sunny 16 °C

For Faye's last night and day in Auckland, we decided to send her off in style with a meal out, wine and sightseeing.


On Friday night (Sept 18) we headed off to The Mexican Cafe (it really is called that) for fajitas and fun times.

Faye and I met up with my Swedish friend Linda (how cultural of us, English, Swedish, Kiwi and Mexican-themed evening) for good food, LOTS of bottles of wine and watching other people do salsa while debating if we were drunk enough or not.


We got some great pictures of our night out and the Skytower, but unfortunately couldn't have a laze in bed all day on Saturday as it was Faye's last day (sniff).


So we forced ourselves to get up and hop on the short ferry to Devonport.

How do I describe Devonport?


Well, think of any old British seaside town, take away the crap modern arcades and any signs of commercialism, and you're left with Devonport. It is beautiful.

The ferry is great as you get to see Auckland city centre from the water and the skyscrapers against the sky look pretty awesome. I'm not good on boats, so I was a little green behind the gills, but managed to keep my breakfast down to admire the view.


When we arrived we headed for a lovely little pub on the corner for food and alcohol (well, Faye was on holiday and technically I was too) and chowed down on seafood and yummy creations.


We then had a lazy walk along the prom and gazed out across the waters and the place I was now calling home (temporarily).


We saw some amazing houses (oh how the other half live) and took some great pictures of the scenery. We wandered round for a wee while putting the world to rights and taking snaps.


Eventually it was time to head back and soon after that Faye had to leave.

Not going to lie....had a little tear.

I've been lucky enough on my adventures for THREE friends to come out and see me and to actually live with another one for a bit. (Christine Morris - I f**king love you!) But it has always been hard saying goodbye to them.

I guess the trade off is getting to see some amazing sights.....and soon I will be jetting off again to another far off land. Can't bloody wait!

Posted by emmaabroad 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland new_zealand ferry devonport devonport_ferry Comments (0)

Waitomo Caves - cave adventures and glowworms

Pushing limits, conquering fears and getting wet

overcast 12 °C

I guess quitting my job to come travelling was all about facing fears and pushing myself further.


So when Chris suggested we do the Black Abyss Tour at Waitomo Caves, I was in.

As it was Faye's second day in New Zealand, I wasn't going to let her sit back and chillax, no no no no no, I was going to chuck her down a 40m shaft and then making her be energetic for four hours in the dark. That's just the sort of friend I am.

Another early start (thankfully this time I wasn't driving) and we were off to the famous glowworm caves in Waitomo.

We were kitted up in about four or five layers (it got pretty cold down there) and then topped it off with a wetsuit, white welly-boots and a kick-ass head torch and helmet.


After the obligatory stupid pose, we drove out to the cave entrance and had a little practice at abseiling.


Our guides were Dom and "Bin" (it's how you say Ben in a Kiwi accent) and they taught us all the basics. In fact I'll say now, they were awesome the whole day.


After a little practice go on the fake abseil set, we had to do the real thing. ARGH!

The 35m drop (it seemed longer) was in the shape of an hour-glass. So basically it was really wide at the top and then you kind of had to shuffle and jiggle around a bit in the middle before entering another wide area where you'd drop down to the bottom.


Thankfully the pull of the weight of the rope means at the top it is really hard to maneuver. I was grateful because I had images of shooting down it and splatting at the bottom.

The abseil was really enjoyable once you got into it, but that first thing of leaning back into nothing was scary as hell. Everything in your body is telling you NOT to step over the edge into the black abyss (I guess that was why the named the tour so).


After abseiling down the shaft and getting over the first fear (heights) we were off into the darkness scrambling over wet rocks and into the cave.

The next thing was the zipwire, which was SO MUCH FUN! Having done the one in Waiheke I knew I'd love this one too. Even though it was in the dark and had NO IDEA how fast you were going it was pretty awesome.

When we'd all got to the bottom, we lay flat on our backs on the rock and turned out our lights. And there they were.....thousands and thousands and thousands of glowworms. The cave is famous for them, and we even did the boat tour to see them again afterwards, but being in the complete pitch black with the white/blue twinkling all around us was amazing. I remember lying next to Faye holding her hand and thinking this was one of those moments I'll never forget.


We couldn't take pictures (and we weren't allowed cameras in the boat tour either), but like most things on this trip, the best pictures are stored in my memory, not my memory card.

After a hot chocolate and a biscuit, we were off again, this time jumping off a rock edge into water. I went first as it was pretty high and I'm not a heights person and OH....MY......GOD. It was like jumping into a bath of ice. It was so cold it actually took my breath away for a few seconds. And because I jumped down on a big rubber tyre, the water rushed up my back, all around inside my helmet and down my face. Literally nothing was dry, nor would be again for the next three hours.


After jumping down we had a long trek through the cave through varying heights of water. At some parts we floated on our backs and Faye and I drifted down the river holding hands (aaawwww!). At other times it was too shallow so we had to sort of half swim half scramble along.

There was a part during our water adventures where we went head first down a waterfall on a slide. That was so funny and the picture we got of me is hilarious.....why do I have a weird light/Viking horn?


We then paused for more hot chocolate and chocolate (nom nom nom) and sat on a rock to get our energy levels back. While we sat there, we did this cool things where the camera is on a delayed shuttered speed, so you can write things with your head torch. In these pictures I'm in the middle, Faye is fourth and Chris is far right.....


It was then time for more climbing, this time wiggling our way upwards pressing against either side of the cave and basically shifting our weight up. This for me was the single scariest thing, basically because I felt like I was going to slip down and just be stuck wedged in the rock forever. Tourists would come feed me in exchange for pictures.


Thankfully that didn't happen and we were soon out of that and back in the water (erm.....yeaaaah, NOT).

During this time we saw a whale bone and an eel. Amazing what you can find metres and metres below the surface.


Then it was onto the part of the adventure which I'm pretty sure burnt the most calories. Climbing up a series of waterfalls. And I mean REALLY fast flowing waterfalls.

I'm no salmon, so it was f**king hard.

Also - the cave had been shut a few days before because the water was too rough. So basically we had it the strongest it could possible be without drowning.


It was a good job we knew our tour guides well by then, as I basically got shoved up by my bottom. He didn't use his hands either - it was via helmet. Yep, he had his head in my arse. Classy!

And then I saw daylight. I was excited and disappointed at the same time. Excited that we'd managed to do it all and achieved so much, disappointed that it meant our journey was over.


Faye and I both said afterwards what an amazing achievement it was. And she dubbed it the best thing she did in New Zealand (I'm such a good tour guide! haha). We were really proud of ourselves and loved every second of it. Yes there were incredibly scary moments, but it was totally worth it.

Waitomo Caves ROCKED! (Get it? Rocked? Caves? Never mind).


After climbing them, we had hot soup and showers before getting a little boat around them. This was pretty cool too, but I'm so glad we got to the Black Abyss Tour first.

I made Faye chuckle when our tour guide said we had to be very quiet and not take photographs as the glowworms don't like noise or light. Erm.....hadn't we just spent four hours screaming our heads off and wearing headtorches? Oops!

An amazing day, although exhausting, and one I'd strongly recommend. Even if you only came to Auckland for a weekend, this would HAVE to be on your itinerary.

Click here to visit their awesome website and book your spot. DO IT NOW.


Posted by emmaabroad 00:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged caves adventure new_zealand zipline waitomo abseiling glowworms zip_line waitomo_caves zipwire adventure_tours black_abyss_tour Comments (2)

Hell's Gate - geothermal pools and sulphur spa

Girly chill times in the mud pools at Rotorua

sunny 17 °C

Who wouldn't say yes to a chill out in a mud pool and an afternoon of unwinding?


After an energetic morning of Hobbiton, airport and driving, we arrived at Hell's Gate in Rotorua.


Not as scary as it sounds, the spa and geothermal park is on a Moari special site which they knew as a special place of healing and revitalisation. The Maori's knew about it centuries before we did, but when Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw visited in the early 1900s he took one look at the bubbling mud and steam rising from the earth and said that it must be the gate to Hell.


The water is sulphurous, which means when you arrive here, you know about it. The smell is unbelievably potent and it can take some time to adjust (if you're thinking of going, forgo the jewellery for the day - it ruins it).

But the bubbling mud is worth visiting as it is almost hypnotic in it's lava lamp-type dancing. It is also strange to think that the only thing keeping you from boiling to death is a few wooden slats for a pathway.


Walking around the pools was incredible and the signs telling you about the different temperatures was incredible - pools which were just inches apart could vary by 100 degrees!

Maoris say the geothermal activity of the Inferno, Kakahi Falls, has healing properties and warriors would go there after battle to heal their wounds. The water would cleanse them of their "tapu" - sacredness of war.


After learning about all the different pools, we went into the craft area *geekgasm* where we carved wood with Maori symbols. To be honest, the teacher was waaaaaaaaaaay better than us, but I think we did pretty well out of it. And it is another treasure to remind me of my adventures when I am home.


After our lazy walk around the bubbling pools Faye and I entered the spa area to have a dip in the mud.

My skin felt AMAZING afterwards and I could have sat in there for hours.


Sadly there came a point where we had to leave, but this was an awesome way to end a great first day of having Faye in New Zealand. After the loooooong journey back we collapsed into bed ready for another early rise in the morning......


Posted by emmaabroad 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged volcanoes volcano island day north mud new_zealand tourist spa volcanic hell's_gate geothermal_pools journey_to_hell Comments (1)

Faye's arrival/Hobbiton

7th September 2015 - journey to The Shire

sunny 17 °C

So usually my alarm goes at 6.30am and it is PAINFUL knowing I have to cycle to work. But today I couldn't wait to get up earlier than that!


My lovely friend Faye Preston came over for a visit from England and I couldn't wait to meet her. I'd lovingly crafted a poster to greet her with at the airport (FACT: If a friend is coming from far away you have to make a poster). I did feel bad that the poster people next to me only had black and white and had waited over an hour. Mine was coloured in and I waited all of 3 minutes before Faye walked through the gate!

Once we were out of the airport and in the car we were straight off to HOBBITON. It's obviously something New Zealand is well known for and I wanted to go but had never seen any of the films. So getting to take a real Lord of Rings fan made it so much more fun! In the two hour car journey to the farm we chatted away for ages. I don't think either of us paused for breath the entire time.


After driving past incredible scenery we arrived at the farm. And it was like someone had PAINTED IT.

The fields were the greenest green you'd ever seen and there were hundreds of baby lambs everywhere. It actually made me have a little moment where I couldn't believe I was actually there.


Making it even more amazing was sharing it with a friend I hadn't seen in over a year - and the look on her face was brilliant! She was probably tired as hell but bless her she was giddy with excitement.


After a look round the gift shop and photos with the sign (standard requirement) we hopped on the tour bus to take us into Hobbiton itself.

Our enthusiastic guide told us lots of interesting facts about the film and was clearly a massive fan as he kept stopping to explain what scenes had been filmed where.


The little houses, clothing lines, vegetable patches and gardens looked AWESOME. It was like being inside a toy village. Even the little details like the names on the mailboxes were all there. It looked so cool.

Everyone "ooohed" and "aahhhed" as we walked around the village and for the first time in ages the sunshine came out, making it even more picturesque.


We were told about a tree at the top of the hill, which apparently didn't have the right "look" for the film, so some poor film crew members had painstakingly cut and painted thousands of individual leaves to glue onto the tree. It looked really green and stood out from the rest of the landscape at the top of hill.


After walking round the village we crossed over the bridge to The Green Dragon Inn. Sadly this is the point at which my camera died, but we got to dress up in Hobbiton costumes and enjoy a beverage (non-alcoholic ginger beer for me as the designated driver). Faye - I need to steal the pictures off you!


The whole experience was amazing! I was so pleased it was the first thing we got to do on our tour of the north island.

I strongly recommend Hobbiton to anyone whether they are a fan of the films or not. It is a fab day out and something really special to do with a good friend :-)

Click here to visit the Hobbiton website.

Posted by emmaabroad 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland travel the airport of scenery new friends sites hobbiton zealand friendship film rings fan lord shire Comments (3)

Road trip to Coromandel

Two hungover "teens" and an eager mummy

sunny 16 °C

I'm one of those people who likes to organise stuff and sort people out. I like to think I tread the fine line between bossy and enthusiastic.


So using the impending arrival of my friend Faye flying over from England as an excuse to rent a car a day early to "test it out", I phone up my friends Chris and Gabby and shoved them in the back for a road trip.


I say shoved because both of them were hungover, while I was mega excited to get going. It was like being mummy to two grumpy teenagers.


Once I finally got out of the car rental place (they'll be getting a strongly-word feedback essay on TripAdvisor), we set off to the beautiful Coromandel area. For those whose geography isn't that great, if you hold up your left hand in a mitten shape (all fingers together with thumb separate), that's what the top half of New Zealand's north island looks like. Auckland is at the bottom of your index finger and Coromandel is the thumb. So they're opposite each other but there is a lot of water in the way, so the drive was in a U-shape around the coastline.

On Sunday, 6th September we set off and once we got through the initial 30 minutes of motorway out of Auckland, the scenery was amazing! Like AWESOME.


I let the pictures of this page do most of the talking, but lets just say it as epic.

Once we started heading north again (after the bottom half of the "U") it got even better. It took a lot of concentration as the road was narrow and literally inches away from the sea, but it was worth all the concentration and tense arms too see this part of the country.


As I'm a bit of a photo geek, we stopped plenty of times for lots of pictures. I also made Gabby and Chris pose a few times, which in their hungover state they absolutely LOVED. Haha.


And after hours of gorgeous scenery we finally got to Coromandel Town. Where we stayed for all of 45 minutes to eat seafood and enjoy the local pub. And that was that.


Afterwards it was pretty much an about turn and straight back to driving more epic scenery and coastline.

It was an amazing day and a great little adventure but SO tiring driving for about eight hours. Worth it though as we had so many giggles together. By the end of it I was knackered, which was a good, thing as it meant I went to bed early ready to get up early in the morning to meet Faye at the airport. Yeeeeeah.


Posted by emmaabroad 14:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea auckland rental cars driving car scenery new friends zealand friendship seaside seafood sunshine coromandel Comments (0)

The night I performed stand-up comedy

There was a real audience and everything!

sunny 14 °C

So every traveler has a bucket list of things they want to achieve while touring around - my number 30 was stand-up comedy. And yes, I do mean actually doing it rather than watching it.

Me outside The Classic comedy club in Auckland

Me outside The Classic comedy club in Auckland

It's one of those things I've always had on my list but never thought I'd get round to doing.

But doing it in New Zealand seemed like the perfect plan - if it goes horribly wrong, I'm not actually living here permanently so I can just run back home with my tail between my legs.

The comedy line up...I'm in the second half

The comedy line up...I'm in the second half

Ticking off number 30 on the bucket list

Ticking off number 30 on the bucket list

So tonight (12th October 2015) I finally did it. After days and days of rehearsal, practicing in front of the mirror, re-watching videos of myself and annoying the shit out of my friend Linda....I DID IT.

And I actually got laughs too! Trust me, no one was more surprised about that fact than me.

The whole day I'd be shaking like a leaf, work went by WAY too quickly and every time I thought about getting on stage I could feel my heart beating inside my chest. LOUDLY.

Getting nervous before the show with Linda

Getting nervous before the show with Linda

I was listed for the second half, which I took as a good thing, as people are usually more drunk and open to laughter by that point.

And....OH MY GOD! It was amazing! I was nervous as hell, but apparently it didn't show, and people other than my friends genuinely laughed at me. I'm not going to lie, it felt good.


I strongly recommend a night out to The Classic in Auckland for either the Raw comedy on Monday, or one of the pro nights. Best decision I ever made. I'll let the video do the talking......

Me with MC Guy Williams. He is off of the telly!

Me with MC Guy Williams. He is off of the telly!

Posted by emmaabroad 09:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged night auckland street queen out comedy Comments (2)

Conquering Volcanoes....2

Mission Bay, Takaparawha Park and One Tree Hill

sunny 15 °C

On a sunny afternoon (Aug 16, 2015) my friend Chris and I thought it would basically be ILLEGAL not to enjoy the sunshine and so set out for a random little drive around Auckland.


First we went to Mission Bay, which is just around the corner from Auckland's city centre. You don't have to drive for long before you feel really out in the suburbs around from the highrises and traffic.


Mission Bay was absolutely beautiful and the beach and water fountain made a perfect backdrop to my many many FroYo pictures. I'm quiet mad-keen on FroYo (frozen yoghurt) since getting slightly addicted in Byron Bay many moons ago. Basically because you get to whack on all your own toppings and yoghurt is way healthier than ice cream so it's practically like eating a lettuce. :-)


The beach was a beautiful walk and we went for a little drive further round we got to St Heliers for more beautiful beach shots and a picture of my dangling my feet off the edge. (It wasn't that high mum!)


So after our morning treat and a walk around the beach, we Rocky'ed up the steps (that's when you run up the steps as fast as you can and then jump up and down in celebration at the end) to the top of Takaparawha Park. The beautiful spot has a war memorial, flower garden and fantastic views of the sea and city.


I get like the paparazzi when I'm surrounded by beautiful scenery, so apologies if it is picture overload! haha.

In the afternoon we scaled One Tree Hill. And don't be fooled by the name, I saw LOADS of trees.


One Tree Hill, also know as Maungakiekie, and the neighbouring Cornwall Park is a beautiful landscape of sheep and (at this time of year) baby lambs. I now work next door to this field and every day on my lunch hour I can hear the little lambs bleating to their mummies. So cute!

This 183 metre apparently has three craters (although I only recall two) and a lava line which extends to the Maukau shoreline. According to the council website, One Tree Hill is the largest of the region's intact volcanic cones.

What I loved most about this volcano was all the tree roots, where over the years the soil has blown or worn away but the twisted wooden legs remain intact. They're all curly and twisted and I once again could have spent HOURS taking pictures from lots of different angles. I resisted the temptation mainly because Chris was frowning at me! Haha.


From the top you can see amazing views of the city and look down into the crater where tourists have spelt out their names with rocks. The sheep walk between them so I like to think it was maybe the sheep, rather than tourists, that were trying to tell us that "J&E" had visited.


I loved seeing all the lambs following their mums around and they look so cute sunbathing with their little awkward limbs poking out from underneath them. We didn't get too close in case we frightened them, but silently crept around taking pictures as we went.


Going off the beaten track a bit, we went round the back of the hillside to where an old electrical building was. And behind it....a cool homemade swing looking out over Auckland and beyond.

Now I don't care how old I am, I'm still a massive kid at heart, so I was on that swing straight away! It was a bit rickety and made some unusual sounds but swinging out over the edge of the hillside was pretty cool. Good decision to wear my hair in pigtails today - went well with the swing!


At the end of the adventure we took a peak around one of the former settler's houses which still remains, before heading off back home. My shoes were muddy, my legs were tired, but we had an awesome day. I feel lucky to work and live so close to this amazing park.


Posted by emmaabroad 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland ocean park landscape beach memorial tree sheep new countryside hill one bay zealand rocky war sunshine film mission wool lambs Comments (0)

Being Xena Warrior Princess (kinda)

Red Beach, KareKare and Lion's Head Rock

8 °C

So I'm lucky enough to have friends in Auckland. And even luckier to have one who has a car. (Thanks Chris).

So on August 10, a random day where we were both not really up to much, we headed off in search of adventure and photos and stuff.

Th first stop was Red Beach. We had decided to head north as it was pretty chilly in Auckland and we figured heading nearer the equator would improve our chances of sunshine.

It didn't QUITE work, as I still had to keep about five layers on the entire day, but was worth the drive for the beautiful views.

Below are a few pictures from Red Beach (taken before dashing back to the car and out of the freezing cold wind).....


Next on the list was KareKare, which (and I quote), is home to the "boisterous sea". Fat chance of us going swimming anyway, as it was flipping freezing and blowing a gale, but we were more than happy to appreciate the view from land. And yes, it did look rather choppy.

At one point it even almost caught us out, as we got a bit close to the shoreline and then a big wave came and soaked our feet. Thankfully Chris got it worse than I did (mwahahaha).


KareKare was not only beautiful, but it was the area in which a lot of the Xena: Warrior Princess series was filmed. I'm sad to say I didn't spot Lucy Lawless out fighting crime while I was there, but you could tell from the stunning scenery that this would be an ideal shooting location for a movie or show. Some of it actually looks painting on it is so pretty.


The last pit stop of the day was Lion's Head Rock in Piha Beach. It is so called because at certain times of day in certain seasons, the sunlight is said to light up the rock face like a golden mane. From some angles, it also does look a bit like a lion, although a rock slide a few years back means it isn't how it used to look. But use your imagination....


As with so many places I visit in New Zealand, the landscape is just stunning and feels like England....only so much better. It's green and lush like England, but as the countryside is so much more vast, you can drive for miles without seeing another car or house.

It takes a lot to beat Australia, (for me personally) but I think New Zealand is starting to get there....


Posted by emmaabroad 18:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains auckland beach scenery new head zealand lions lucy films warrior princess location piha karekare xena lawless Comments (1)

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