The Brunette Abroad: My Road Trip Through New Zealand

24 Nov

It has been three months since my amazing adventure abroad, and even to this day it feels like yesterday. As I am sitting on my cozy couch with my roommate in our college house, my heart yearns for the beautiful sights and experiences I had just last season. Although it feels like a dream, I cling onto these memories in hopes of returning one day. Until then, I write down everything I can think of from each of my mini adventures. Tonight I am excited to share my trip through the North Island of New Zealand with you.

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My friend and I decided to rent a car and make our way through as much as the island as we could, all in 3 days! We started by flying into Auckland, where we were greeted by a gorgeous display of the Maori indigenous culture. We checked into a hostel and prepared for our weekend journey.

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At 8 A.M. we were ready to pick up our rental and take to the road from the big city of Auckland to the remote area of Matamata (a.k.a Hobbiton).Thanks to my friends swift adaption of driving on the left side of the road (yikes!) and a straight hour of Mumford and Sons, we arrived to the original movie sight of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in a little over an hour. Both being fans of the movie series, we set out on a tour of the site. We learned fun facts about the movies, and got to walk the same paths as Gandalf the Grey and our favorite ring bearer, Frodo! Afterwards we relaxed with an original brew of our choice (created for the cast by Peter Jackson himself) within the Green Dragon Tavern, an exact replica of the one in the movie!

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After that we set off to the city of Tauranga. Sitting right off the coast of The Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is home the massive, extinct volcano of Mauao, (Mount Maunganui). This city was where my boss at my internship with Pretty Girl Fashion Group grew up, so I found it very cool I got to visit on my way down the north island. My friend and I stopped in time to hike to the top of the volcano for a quick workout and sight seeing. It was an awesome experience!

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The next day when we were driving to our next destination, Rotorua, we noticed a “rotten egg” smell in the air. Apparently the whole city reeks of it because of all the volcanic activity in the area. Once we got to driving, it was normal to see hot smoke rising from the ground in random places. This meant we were close to our next destination, the Wai-o-tapu Geothermal Wonderland. The park is New Zealand’s most colorful and diverse geothermal attraction revolved around the areas volcanic activity. We walked through naturally colored hot-and-cold pools, the world famous Champagne Pool, the amazing Lady Knox Geyser and the massive craters that are the hallmark of the Rotorua region’s volcanic heritage. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

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Afterwards, we jumped in the car to head to the North Island’s biggest lake, Lake Taupo. After a quick lunch of PB&J by the water, we headed around the lake towards the mountains of Tongariro National Park, which made for a breathtaking view. The scenery throughout all of our car rides were lovely, but this one is one I will never forget. Not long after, we arrived at the base of Tongariro Crossing and Mt. Ruapehu (a.k.a Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings).

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We decided to hike to the closest attraction (2 hours), which proved to be quite a task! We didn’t have much hiking gear, and my nikes could only take me so far past rivers, snow, and massive mounds of rock. We made due long enough to reach a stunning waterfall where we took pictures and enjoyed the sights. Tongariro is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and I recommend it to anyone if you are in New Zealand. This by far was one of the highlights of my entire summer. The mountain sights were absolutely incredible!

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After a long day of hiking, we drove to our closest hostel in sight of the mountains and prepared for our next adventure. The next day we drove our longest distance to reach the Waitomo caves, where we ventured to The Black Water Rafting Co. We experienced the adventure of a lifetime touring the glowworms in the famous Ruakuri Cave. We were guided by two experienced rafters as we took to the pitch black waters with our rafts. We floated in darkness with nothing but the tiny specs of light above us to guide our way to the end of the cave. It was scary and beautiful all at the same time. A very cool experience to add to the list!

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Finally, we headed back to Auckland for one last night to explore the big city before we flew back to Australia. I headed to the Sky Tower, the highest point of the city, for a cocktail and relaxing sight-seeing opportunity. I got to see the city all lit up at 1,076′ above the ground. The sky scrapers looked like shining beacons against the water. Such a great way to end a fabulous weekend adventure.

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If I ever get a chance to go back, I would do the South Island next! I loved the mountains and the South is known for its incredible, mountainous sights. (Look it up, seriously….stunning). New Zealand is one of the only countries where you can surf and snowboard in one day, so that would be another goal of mine as well.

I am so thankful for the chance to see such an amazing country. It was hands down one of the most exhilarating moments of my summer. A thanks goes out to my parents for helping me afford this trip (it was towards the end of my summer and bank account), Michigan State University for such an incredible study/intern abroad program (number one in the USA), and The Education Abroad Network for hooking us up with the coolest tour guide and arrangements while I was in Australia.

Cheers,

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