- Hiking Mordor, New Zealand’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing (theepochtimes.com)
- Tongariro Crossing (worldlywalker.wordpress.com)
- Tongariro Crossing: Best Day Hike in New Zealand? (twotonedtravelers.wordpress.com)
My flight to Auckland was bright and early, but I didn’t get into Auckland until the afternoon due to the time difference. Last year in Thailand I met two lovely Kiwis on my travels, and I was graciously invited to stay with my friend Hannah when I arrived in her hometown in NZ! She picked me up and drove me to her family home just outside of the city, and I settled into the guest room, complete with my own bathroom – Bliss! That night she took me down to the bay where we caught up over delicious Mexican food and had KiwiYo, a make-your-own-yogurt not unlike our North American Menchies!! MMMmmmm. The next day was a beach day, the weather was fantastic so we took a wind-y drive to Piha, a black sand beach just over the hills with unreal views along the way. The beach was beautiful, and I’d never seen a black sand beach before so it was a novelty when I found out it was quite warm! We chilled on the beach all day, enjoying the unusually warm spring day and tanning – my last tanning day of my whole trip 😦 Lunch was at a cute pub, and in the evening I was treated to a family dinner at Hannah’s house – Thanks to her family for making me feel so welcome and for making me such a fantastic dinner. It was comforting to have some “family time” after being away from mine so long. It was also great to hang out with my other friend Chanel who I met last year, she’s a flight attendant now – see you in the skies, girl!
My last day in Auckland was busy – after a long lie-in and a spot of jet lag, Hannah and I ate eggs benedict at a local cafe and visited the art gallery where I saw some fantastic Maori art and cool modern installations. My favorite was this huge flower chandelier that opened and closed as we walked by. I also got to see Mount Eden, where we took in a panoramic view of the city and got some gelato in the cute suburb of Mount Eden afterwards as a treat! I also got some shopping time in the evening at the local markets, where there was tons of international food to eat and some kitschy shopping too. Overall, my favorite part about Auckland was catching up with Hannah and meeting her fantastic family, it’s a great city but not super touristy – very beautiful but not a ton of “historic” things to do and see. The downtown area is very hilly and compact, with lots of cute shops and restaurants, but I didn’t get to explore it too much cause I wasn’t living the backpacker life – thank GOD!!
My weekend in Melbourne was unreal! I laid low on the Friday during the day because I had lots of catchup blogging to do and wanted to conserve my hard-earned cash for a fun night out 🙂 I met my friend Matt from University in Toronto at the main station downtown, and we headed off into the night to a trendy hotspot called Cookie for some Asian inspired eats and drinks. He is traveling through Aus with his girlfriend for a year and they are loving the Melbourne life! I was able to get a locals perspective from him about the city and we swapped travel stories into the night, stopping at another trendy bar before visiting his girlfriend Shayna at an upscale chocolate shop for after drinks hot chockie and macaroons, my kryptonite pastry snack. We had to call it a night after that due to the gross rain (again, same as Vancity!) but we made plans to meet up for the football game the next day and catch up some more.
I wasnt sure what to expect from the Blue Mountains, which is only about an hour outside of Sydney and a huge tourist attraction for both locals and visitors alike. We drove up through windy roads, and even though the mountains are not anything like what we have in Canada (spoiled!), they were still pretty majestic. Our first stop was Flinders Lookout, where you could see how these hills got their name. Apparently the eucalyptus trees give off a certain chemical into the air that gives the surroundings a blue haze-like appearance, you can see in my pictures in some places it looks quite thick. You cant see it up close, but you can smell the amazing eucalypt trees – it was great to be out of the city and into the wilderness for a couple of days! We climbed down to see the falls – there are hundreds of little and big waterfalls in the area – and soon realized it would be a climb-y kind of day – I think I conquered about a thousand steps!