Middle Earth Memories

Arrived in Auckland, 3rd October 2013

The flights were long! Manchester-London-Vancouver-Auckland, over 30 hours travel time. Luckily a friend picked me up from the airport as by this point I could only just about function as a human being after very little sleep. I was going to be living in Ponsonby which is a lovely area of Auckland and I was not disappointed when I arrived at Anglesey Street which had an amazing view of the City which included the Sky Tower.

I had visited Auckland 2 years previously so had therefore already done a few of the ‘touristy’ things Auckland has to offer. Things such as going up to the observatory deck in the Sky Tower which offered up some amazing 360 views, walking up to the top of Rangitoto Island a volcanic island which I was not wearing the correct footwear for, I also did the Harbour Bridge walk which was fine until we had to go up to the bungee pod – lets just say heights aren’t quite my thing!

Anyway being back 2 years later I wanted to do some of the things I hadn’t got around to doing the first time. I went to Auckland Museum, entry was free because I was now an Auckland resident. I found it all really interesting especially the section dedicated to Maori culture, there was also a large wildlife section and Auckland as it used to be many years ago, the top floor was War related.

I also took advantage of the lovely sunny weather and went to Auckland Zoo. It was such a lovely day, as you walk in they have a large Pridelands area which you walk around at a higher level than the animals such as Giraffes, Zebras and Ostriches. They also had Lions, Cheetahs and an Asian Elephant. Some time later I was enjoying an ice cream and watching the Meerkats when to my complete surprise a few zoo keepers go by casually walking the Elephant around the zoo, it was amazing to see her up close!

I also visited some bars and restaurants in Ponsonby and the City itself and went to a couple of parties. My talented neighbour was a singer and was playing at the Thirsty Dog on Saturday night which we followed up with a visit to a club called Snapdragon down at the harbour. On Sunday we had a very chilled movie day which was well needed as I started work the following day.

My housemate had secured me a 2 month contract working for a well known media company. Having only ever worked in retail I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was working on the customer service helpdesk for Auto Trader, it was very computer based and quite complicated when it came to knowing what people were talking about when it came to Boats, Farm Machinery, Caravans and Cars!

On the plus side it was very relaxed and there were quite a few perks such as free lunches, free drinks and a social club ( $2 a month membership and all events were then free)  which had it’s own perks such as going gold class at a cinema – this included watching a film from your own individual reclining arm chair, a 2 course meal and a beverage of your choice. I never wanted to go to a normal cinema again! We also went to Sale Street for food and drinks with a $1500 bar tab to use as we pleased!! That night turned out to be one of the funniest nights ever! I met Lucy at work, she was also from the UK and we got on really well.

One day at work I was asked if I wanted free tickets to the Taylor Swift Red Concert at Vector Arena, of course I said yes. I received 2 tickets and asked Lucy if she wanted to go with me, she did. First we met up and went for an Italian meal down at the harbour and then on to the concert. Taylor is a brilliant entertainer, she played the guitar and piano, we had great seats too! She closed with ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ and loads of red and white ticker tape fell on us, good finale.

I was off every weekend so tried to make the most of going to places in the surrounding area. Mission Bay was a favourite of mine, just 10 minutes from the City it is a pretty little beach resort where I would often go for some fish and chips followed by a stroll along the beach front whilst enjoying an ice cream.

Waiheke Island is also beautiful and only a short ferry ride away. It has lots of little beach areas and some lovely little boutiques. There are regular buses from the ferry terminal to take you around the island, it is well worth a visit.

I also have a friend Manuel who is the manager of Bay Adventurers hostel in Paihia, so I took every opportunity to visit him. Paihia is in the Bay Of Islands and is a gorgeous little seaside town. The coach from Auckland would take around 4 hours but was very scenic. I would have breakfast each morning in a lovely little waterfront café. The weather was beautiful so we went for a drive around the area, including a visit to Keri Keri and a stop off at Haruru Falls. I think at one point we were even singing along to Michael Bubles ‘Everything’ which is one of my favourite feel good songs and the only one that Manuel would allow on his playlist! I also walked from Paihia to the Waitangi Centre which housed a traditional Maori Canoe, Meeting House and Treaty House which is where the document that established the British Colony of New Zealand was signed on 6 February 1840. There were also some stunning views over the Bay of Islands, an ideal photo opportunity!

Back at work things were much the same but my weekends were always filled with different things to see and do. One weekend a lovely lady from our street arranged a street party, it was more of a street barbeque/picnic really and everyone brought something different it was a lovely chilled out afternoon. Manuel also managed to get down to Auckland now and again so we would meet up and go somewhere for food and a couple of drinks.

I had a week off work the first week of December and had booked a trip to Queenstown on the South Island. It is described as a cosmopolitan lake and alpine resort that has the perfect mix of action and relaxation. Feature films have also been shot there including The Lord of the Rings, Wolverine and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lots of people I’d spoken to had suggested I go and I am so glad I did!

I flew down on the Monday and arrived in the afternoon, the views from the plane of the mountains and lakes were absolutely stunning! I was staying at Reavers Lodge which had brilliant views and was an easy walk to the centre. Not so easy on the way back I might add as it was on a very steep hill! For the rest of the afternoon I had a Ferg Burger for Tea (well known and a very popular place to eat) and then I took a little cable car up the side of a mountain so that I could get some amazing panoramic photos. They also had a toboggan track up there and people were paragliding and there was a little shop and a café. The weather was sunny and warm and just perfect. Going back down the mountain in the cable car was not as much fun, I’m not great with heights and it was swinging about all over the place!

The next day I had booked a 13 hour day trip to Milford Sound. The journey down by coach was amazing, we stopped in a few places of interest to get some photos. We stopped in Te Anau the last town before Milford for some food and then drove through the Fjord Land National Park. We saw mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, such stunning scenery that it almost felt as if it couldn’t be real. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Milford Sound was named by John a Welshman who first found it, he was from Milford Haven. We had to go through the Homer Tunnel to get to Milford, it took 11 years to build because work was stopped during the war. It is such a small narrow tunnel and only takes single file traffic controlled by traffic lights on either side. It is named after William Homer and Monkey Creek which is just before you get to the tunnel is named ‘Monkey’ Creek because William had a pet monkey. We also stopped off at Cleddau River (another Welsh reference) which was a great chance to stretch our legs a little and walk to the Chasm which is a deep fissure in the earth’s surface.

When we arrived at Milford we then got on a small cruise which would take us through the Fjord itself. We were surrounded by mountains and waterfalls and we spotted some seals sunbathing. It was very windy in the Fjord so here’s an insider tip if you want to sit outside to get the best photos make sure you take a coat with a hood and/or a warm hat. It was an amazing trip, there were no stops on the way back so you could just relax and take in the scenery all the way back. I went with a company called Jucy Cruize, the driver was very friendly and informative and they have their own little shop in Queenstown where you can just pop in and get yourself booked onto one of their trips and they pick up from most hotels.

On Wednesday I treated myself to a little lie in and then planned my day. I decided to walk to Frankton and then get the bus to Arrowtown. So Frankton was much further than I first thought (around 3.5 miles) and I ended up walking for about an hour and a half. It was a beautiful walk along the lake and I took some lovely photos. I got the bus to Arrowtown which was like going back in time, it is very charming and has a cobbled main street and town centre, a string of historic buildings and tree lined avenues. The pretty town sprang from the 1860s rush for the Arrow Rivers gold.

After an afternoon of exploring Arrowtown it was back to Queenstown for a fish and chips supper. I flew back to Auckland on the Thursday and was sat next to a kiwi guy who told me he was off to Europe in a few weeks and was after some advice which I was happy to give. I also told him our ‘British Fanta’  was better than theirs, and a message I received a few weeks later confirmed that I was right and that he agreed with me.

On Friday I went back up to Paihia and just relaxed and enjoyed an afternoon in the sun. On Saturday Manuel drove us to the Kawiti  glow worm caves in Waiomio about 20 minutes from Paihia. It is a family run tour business and we had a helpful guide who told us all about the glow worms and about the history behind the caves. On the tour we followed a wooden boardwalk through a 200 metre limestone cave system. Once inside, we saw thousands of glow worms spread across the ceiling surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. Our guide explained the life cycle of the New Zealand Glow Worm and the intricate webs used to catch their prey. We then made the return walk through a natural corridor of karst rock formations and pristine rainforest. It was all very interesting.

That evening we went to a waterfront bar to listen to some live music by one of the guys who was staying at Bay Adventurers, it was lovely sitting outside in the sun with a glass of Monteiths apple cider. I went back to Auckland on the Sunday where I had around 3 weeks left in work before I would fly home just in time for Christmas. It didn’t really feel like Christmas in New Zealand it was hot for a start! I did go to a couple of Christmasy events though, I went to the Coca-Cola Christmas in the park event with Lucy and her Aunty, it was a great outdoor Christmas concert that ended with a big fireworks display. I also had a Christmas party at work which was a 1920’s Great Gatsby theme and was great fun. They even had some Charleston dancers come in and do a performance and also as the company had recently moved to a new building so they had arranged for a Maori blessing to take place, it was brilliant!

There is still so much more to New Zealand that I haven’t seen so hopefully I will get to go back again one day to explore some more. It is a beautiful and safe country to travel around and I would highly recommend it to everybody.