New Zealand – Surfing Lessons, BBQs + Puppy Cuddles

By | RL | No Comments

New Zealand is great for surfing. We’ve got some phenomenal surf beaches, and they are almost always within driving distance. In Auckland we’ve got Piha. It’s a good beach for surfing, because of a perfectly placed sandbar and a headland that allows the waves to curve around uniformly. It’s the site of both national and international surf competitions.

Knowing that Zee was keen, I got us both surfing lessons out that way. We got up stupid early (before the sun was even up!) and were met by Brett from New Zealand Surf Tours in town, and driven out to Piha. He was a great guy, Maori and very surfer-esque. Easy going, very relaxed and living the surfer life. He was an awesome instructor.

In the morning we got all wetsuited up and did some boogie boarding. Oh man, I haven’t boogie-boarded in ages and I’d forgotten how much fun it was! I know I was meant to be concentrating on where my hands were and where my body was in relation to the board, but mostly I was happy just catching a wave. There is something truly glorious about catching a wave, having it carry you along. I was gleeful.

I was much less gleeful about the next bit. I know that since we’d been kitesurfing I’d ruined my back a bit. Have you ever done a burpee before? It’s where from standing position, you touch the ground, kick your legs out so your planking (as if you’re doing a push up) and then you jump your feet between your hands and jump upright. Brett had us do burpees, because once your on the board that’s the closest technique for standing up.

Well… my back wasn’t having any of it. Trying to do burpies on the beach ruined me, there was no way I was going to be able to do it in the water. So, after lunch, I graciously conceded and the lesson became a private lesson for Zee. And oh man, did he love it. I think he was always meant to surf. He took to it like a fish to water, and was standing up pretty quickly, riding along the surf.

It was a pretty phenomenal day. Zee went back the next day without me, and apparently it was even better. I spent the day hanging out with Dad and Quinn. Oh man, best day ever. Taking time out to spend a day chilling with your dog really is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a day. Loved it. Don’t hate me for all the puppy pictures. Adore.

I love New zealand in the summer. When Zee had returned he was shattered and ended up napping the garden. It was kind of adorable. Dad graciously put on another one of his epic BBQ’s for us and oh, it was a feast!

This in part is why I love New Zealand so much. The beaches are glorious, the seafood + BBQs phenomenal. The strangers are nice and its easy to find new things to love. Not to mention all the family, just hanging out moments. I soaked them in. I’ll miss this when I’m not here.

New Zealand – Auckland

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After our big roadtrip, we took a bit of a down day in Auckland once we were back. Zee and I hustled down to the Tyler St Garage and met two old friends for lunch, The Second Quarter (who I’ve known forever) and Em, who I’ve known even longer (true story – Em + I both got our belly buttons pierced to celebrate our last year of school… mines still pierced!)

Anyway, we met at Tyler St garage, which was lovely spot overlooking the harbour. There were many cocktails because I wasn’t working and it was lovely. The conversation was… novel enough. It felt like bragging a bit, and a bit off kilter, but fine all the same (for those in the know, I couldn’t help but think of that awkward, horrible night in Parnell that time. Awkward!). Lunch was lovely, though! There are loads of new places popping up in Auckland. It’ll never feel like London, but it was nice to see that Auckland could compete on the lovely, fun places to eat stage.

Afterwards, Zee and I shopped along the high street, and visited the Sky Tower. The views! The views slayed me.

We were slated to meet my gorgeous friend Heidi for drinks + dinner, so we did. Heidi and I were friends from London, and oh god, I missed her. Heidi is glorious, and catching up with her was as if no time at all had past. Loved it. In true Heidi style we had some lovely wine, and then moved to Orleans where we had more wine and dinner and just all round a great time. She got me a cork for my collection, signed by the amazing blues singer that was on that night. Turns out Sibling was there too with her friends so we all joined and had a great party. To add to the fun time awkward remembering, turns out Heidi and Jimmy are together now, so down he came too. Good thing there was an awful lot of wine.

Still, it was great night. I was worried that after London, Auckland would seem dull. Small and low with not so much going on. Turns out that if you know the right people, you can make your own party.

New Zealand – Whangamata

By | RL | 6 Comments

After Hot Water Beach we retreated to Whangamata, which we were using as a base. I have a soft spot for Whangamata. As children we used to spend two weeks every summer out that way. This summer we spent some time on the beach, but mostly playing cards, eating all the food and hanging out with Mum and her partner. I spent a large chunk of time trying to figure out how to do crossword puzzles, and this physical get the bars around the ball puzzle that was lying around. We went out to dinner on the tiny little high street, and I drove the ridiculous Commodore up and down the stretch by the beach after, ‘cruising’ through the night, through the empty beach streets. On the Sunday we said bye to Lyth and Sibling (sad face) as they went back up to Auckland. Zee and I spent a few extra days hanging out, enjoying the sun and what not.

I have to say, it wasn’t all fun times and sunshine. There was a bit of a drunken free for all and tears after we’d had a few too many glasses of bubbles. I think the hardest part was realising that being so far away for so long had really deteriorated a lot of my relationships, and had allowed too many misconceptions to fester. Heartbreaking, because I’d always assumed that some things were rock solid. A misconception on my part, obviously.

My problem is that it’s too easy for me to be out of sight, out of mind. There’s no feedback loop when I’m on the other side of the world, in a very different time zone. It’s too easy take whatever stray thought and with a bit of emotion have it become fact when I’m not there to ask. It’s heartbreaking. To be put in the ‘too hard’ basket because the distance is too big.

It took this trip, and moments like this to realise what my absence really meant.

Still, the beach was lovely.

In a less emotional frame of mind, I really did love this road trip. Whangamata was our last stop before we went back to Auckland and it really was great to see so much of New Zealand. To show Zee places I’d been talking about for ages, to adventure with Lyth again. To revisit places I hadn’t seen since I was small. To remember how great Hokey Pokey is, and what a real beach is like. To be sunburnt, and around people who speak the same way you do.

It really was phenomenal – made me realise how little of NZ we’d seen, and given more time, how much more I’d want to see. Still, high five for a brilliant road trip!

New Zealand – Hot Water Beach

By | RL | 6 Comments

After Rotorua, we drove up to the Coromandel to spend some time with my Mum + her partner, and Sibling too. Our first day trip out we visited Hot Water Beach, which was a phenomenon I’d been telling Zee about right after I booked our flights. Have you heard of it? It’s aptly named. Around low tide you can wander out to the rocks where under the sand hot water (really hot water, 64°C hot) filters up through the sand. You dig a hole with your feet to reach the sand, and cold water from surf comes along and mellows everything out so you don’t burn yourself. It’s ridiculously fun (more fun than the photos make out, anyway).

It was a bit cool the day we went, and the surf was hella cold so the hot water was appreciated. It was a nice day up there, reading in the sun, eating all the bakery goodness, chilling out with Quinn (random memory – there was an obnoxious teen that squealed and descended on Quinn as we were walking down the beach, I asked her not to touch him just before she reached him and her reaction was as if I’d slapped her. Uhm, please don’t assume that just because my dog is ridiculously small and adorable that you have the right to touch him).

It was a weird day, actually. It was a pretty new group dynamic, and not an easy, relaxed one (so odd, considering the location). It was one of those times that really highlighted how three years away can really change relationships and expectations, and I spent most of the day driving and thus removed from the conversation, or hiding in a book. Maturity, my name is not it.

Still, there were shining moments of awesome. Figuring out panoramic shots with Sibling and my Mum. Delighting at finally being at a PROPER beach. A lovely spot, Hot Water Beach. Loved it.

The beach was mostly empty, but as you came around the rocks…

There are loads of people hanging out in the sand, digging away.

The only reason everyone is digging away is because their feet are blissfully warm.

I think Zee loves being in the water more than anyone else I’ve met. That surf was freezing (the hot water bubbling up from around the rocks is not even close enough at to heat the surf), and he came out blue and shivery.

New Zealand – Wai-o-tapu Geothermal Wonderland

By | RL | 4 Comments

On our way back north, we stopped in at Rotorua to see the mud pools. We’d missed it on the way down and now that we had a day to spare we doubled back to go have a look-see.

So, remember when I said that Rotorua smells? Like terrible rotten egg? We pretty much went to the source. Wai-o-tapu is a pretty active geothermal area, just a bit north of the Reporoa caldera, in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. (Yes, apparently there are volcanic zones, of which some are active. How cool is that?) Anyway, I knew there were a whole bunch of boiling mud pools, I just wasn’t prepared for how MANY there were. It’s 3km wander around the pools and out to the caldera. Woah buddy.

At the heart of it, you stick to this track which goes by all the attractions (mainly: pools of mud). Each has a number so you can follow along on your map. You wander by the hot bubbling pools as you go. Sometimes theres a fence, sometimes it’s just a path.

It’s an okay walk, but after the devils ink pots (small little deep holes with little patches of bubbling mud) and the “don’t leave the path – boiling sulfur” signs there are two main stars. One is the Champagne Pool which is very very pretty. Blue, clear … I want to say water, but I’m not sure that it is. It’s ringed by rusty red deposits, and has steam rising off it in clouds… it’s very hot, cooling on the surface at a balmy 73 °C. Also, it bubbles, which is why it’s called the Champagne Pool.

The other was the Devils Cave, which was basically a pool of neon green fluid. Violently neon. Apparently it was sulfur.

Anyway, if you’re out that way and are interested in geological things it’s a lovely (and relatively easy) walk with lots of things (read: mud) to see. If you wanted to skip it, no worries, I’ve got you covered with a bajillion photos:

First up: The Devil Ink pots

Teeny Tiny Terraces

The Oyster Pool

The Artists Palette

Champagne Pool

Devils Cave

Tickets are $32.50 NZD. Spensive, but if mud is your thing, or you’re on a volcanic kick it might be worth the price tag. I didn’t regret it in the slightest (I say that, but I’m earning pounds and was on holiday… impulse buys all round).

Worth a look in, I’d say, but don’t go out of your way to visit.