I figured since it’s been more than a week I should finish my post about my time in New Zealand. Wow did it take a turn for the better- it was so incredible and I am so glad I went. More than where I was, I met so many amazing people.
The previous night, (the end of day 3) I met 2 brothers from Chile. They cooked me an amazing dinner and we stayed up late just chatting. Incredible South American hospitality. I’d almost forgotten. I still chat with the younger of the two brothers, and I hope to one day see them again. Anyway, the next day I caught a bus to the Crossing and met a German named Marius. He was also backpacking a lone so we agreed to hike together. He was a lot of fun, and a fabulous photographer. He reminded me a bit of my cousin Katie, who is always taking photos of me, haha. The hike was incredible. 8 hours, with some pretty strong winds near the top of the volcano. Totally worth it though… Those views.. Once we finished the hike, Marius and I split ways and I made my way to Lake Taupo. I was exhausted from the hike and didn’t see much of Taupo, but I met two wonderful Israeli girls. Once again, we chatted the night away and they made me dinner. The hospitality and kindness of these people who I’d just met blew me away, and it didn’t’ stop there. Just wait, because my journey gets crazier.
The next morning I met Richard (remember, him?) in the kitchen. We loaded everything in the car and drove to Rotorua, where I would spend my next two days. The first day I went to Hobbiton. SO COOL. The movie set is beautiful, and brilliantly thought and planned, down to every last detail. I love things like that. Everything that goes into the making of a movie. It’s nuts. When I got back home, I checked my email and saw that I had people respond to my couch surfing requests! Because of my excitement, I ran into the other room and started yelling to the only person there. He was German, and quickly became a friend. His name was Marcel. As I was causing a lot of commotion, several other Germans came in. Pretty soon they were wondering what we were doing. We weren’t really doing anything, but I quickly solved that and a movie night at the hostel was in order! Because I made friends so quickly at the hostel, my plans the next day were easily worked out…
The next day we headed to a forest for a walk and a waterfall! There were 5 of us, but ended up being 6 as our other friend, Peter, met us there. We ended up wading through the water and decided to make our way to the other side and up towards the top of the waterfall. I was towards the middle of the waterfall, almost to the other side, when I lost my footing and fell in. My phone quit working, but it made for a good laugh for my German companions, so I didn’t mind too much. I don’t have many photos from this day because of that incident. Afterwards, I took a walk around the town and then Peter and I made dinner together.
I woke up early and hitchhiked my way to Cathedral Cove. THAT WAS THE BEST AND COOLEST EXPERIENCE EVER. There was a total of 8 drivers (I think) that helped me get there. It was fun to get to see so many different walks of life and learn their stories. I met a woman who had just lost her mom, but also had just gotten engaged. I met a man who worked in prisons, as a sort of counselor. I met a young guy who was going to school to support his 2 kids. I met a commercial fisherman named Wayne. I met a truck driver with a big heart named Simon, and his friend, Percy. I met a possum hunter who grew marijuana. I met an Australian man who’s life seemed to be torn apart with hardship and loneliness and searching. And then. Then I met Shep. Shep was the first person I was going to couch surf with. The plan was to couch-surf with Shep on Wednesday night, meet up with a different couch surfer in Thames on Thursday night and then head to Auckland with him on Friday so I could catch the overnight bus that evening and make it back to Wellington where I would join Hannah that day. When I finally made it through Cathedral Cove to Coromandel Town I called Shep (on a gift-shop’s phone, since mine was dead). He told me to meet him at the fire station, that he would be there around 5:10. So I walked through Coromandel Town (it was a street long) and then made my way to the fire station.
When I got there, there was quite the group of firemen shucking mussels. I told them I was with Shep, and they told me to take a seat and that he would be here any moment. I sat down for 45 seconds and then decided that that was enough of that. So I made my way into the kitchen, asked if there was anything that needed to be done and went to work straight away chopping onions. Soon enough Shep showed up and we were joking around in no time. Apparently, and I would soon see this for myself, Shep was really good at avoiding work. They joked that I did his share for him. Well, we finished the onions, but there still needed mussels to be shucked. So I shucked some for the first time! It was super easy and super fun. I tried one, and it was weird. When Shep found out that I had not had New Zealand fish & chips, he took me straight away to get some and we went to a lookout over the water. It was beautiful, and the fish and chips were KILLER. Shep is close to my dad’s age, and so it was nice to spend some time with someone like that. I miss my dad a lot!
The next day, after staying in Shep’s spare room, we made our way to Thames, where he worked. I was going to hike the Pinnacles, but the road was closed. So instead, I made up my mind to do a different hike, and then it started pouring. No bother! I just made my way through the little town and its shops. New Zealand has tons of little towns. At first I hated it, but by the end I loved it. I found a bakery and picked up some lamingtons (a chocolate coconut sponge cake-YUM) and went to visit Shep at work. Upon discovering that I had come bearing gifts, he quickly took a break from his “work” (remember, Shep doesn’t actually work), and we chowed down on the lamingtons and some milo. Then he sent out a few more emails and we went to lunch. From there, we took a bit of a road trip. He’s a contractor, and so he checks how the work is going on all the road construction. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream. I decided to make my way to Auckland that night, since Shep and I were getting a long so well, instead of meeting a second couch surfer. So we headed over to Auckland, grabbed some dinner, watched the Hobbit, and headed to sleep.
That morning, we parted ways and I hitchhiked into the city with a wonderful guy named Kairua from the Cook Islands. Islanders are the best. Seriously the nicest. From there, I made my way down to the harbor and just watched boats come in and out for a while, until I met another guy, this time from Rwanda. We chatted for several hours, but then he kept talking about his wife and how he was going home in a week and so I decided to leave, because we was making me homesick. Very cool to hear about his part of Africa, though. From there, I went through this really weird park that had a huge tree actually overtaking the park. You had to step over and bend under branches to even follow the path. Next, I made it to a gallery and met a girl named India, where again I talked for hours with her. This time, I was filled with inspiration and creativity. From there, I took a little walk through Albert Park to the State Library. Soon after, I caught my overnight bus. I met a girl named Taylor who was 19, but way beyond her years. She had a 2 year old daughter named Neveah, who was just adorable. They were great company and the sweetest. She gave me a whole bag of cookies… 🙂
WOOO MADE IT BACK TO WELLINGTON! Got there, checked into my hostel, and made my way towards Hannah. When I met up with Hannah, we walked all through the city. She took me to some of her favorite spots: coffee, scones, cookies, cafes. It was lovely, and nice to see a friend. She even took me to a look out over her old home, where we shared stories and laughs. This might have been my favorite part of the whole trip, but it’s hard to say! After I met up with her, I found my friends from Australia who were also on exchange and we hung out, skipping rocks down by the harbor. It was after, later in the evening, that we all got to see the fireworks for Guy Fox. It was a great way to end the trip. Perfect, really.
I learned a lot on my trip and had a splendid time. But I really learned how true it is about the journey being what is important, not the destination. I learned a lot about myself, but also a lot about others. I hope to take some of these lessons with me forever, but even if I don’t, I know that I will treasure these memories for years to come.