Queenstown, New Zealand

Queen of all New Zealand cities! For one, you have the breathtaking views of the massive blue lake and the gigantic surrounding mountains. There’s also tons of thrilling activities that will get your heart pumping and make your life flash before your eyes.

The bus ride from Franz Josph Glacier to Queenstown was absolutely breath taking. Lake Wakatipu is right where Queenstown is and Lake Wanaka was one the way there, they are absolutely huge! They were carved out by ancient glaciers.

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Adventures Backpackers is where I stayed. The BEST hostel I have stayed in (Even the Island in Bali comes second). Clean rooms and bathrooms decorated with taste. Excellent personable staff, free WiFi, cool common area hangouts (including a wrap around porch). A lot of free stuff to rent. Oh and if you go in snowboarding season you can rent all gear for $20. Cheap! The views are awesome, even the bathrooms have a good view. Lol

I went to get Mexicanish food with my friend Morgan, from North Carolina whom I met in Rotorua. Maragitas were ok, but made me miss Roger’s homemade Margie’s! We went out for a couple of drinks and a game of pool with 2 Brits.

Early the next morning I headed to Milford Sound. I was sad to leave so soon, but I’d be back soon. The bus ride there was perfect because the bus driver stopped at some points so we could marvel at the mountains, river or waterfall. I stayed at the Milford Lodge which is right along the river.

Now for the reason I came to Milford, to kayak on the Friod. That’s right it isn’t a sound it is a fiord because it was carved out by a glacier which in contrast, a sound is carved out by running waters, like rivers. I went with Rosco’s and it was a great experience. We saw tons of NZ fur seals, Fiord Crested Penguins, and a whale! Amazing!
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The fiord has tons of waterfalls on the way to our destination, the Tasman Sea.
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I was pooped after and had to catch a bus back to my beloved Queenstown.

I went Bungy jumping at the Nevis, which is 134 meters high. I have never had that kind of thrill. After, you feel like you can do anything. Run a marathon, cure cancer. Unfortunately I didn’t do either.
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On my last full day I walked to sunshine bay and put my feet in the water. Very chilly. Then went out with some friends from the hostel. Ended the night with Fergburger. So good.

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That concludes my 7 month journey. Off to grab one last minced cheese pie and then catch a flight back to Los Angeles!

Sweet as, Bro!

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Franz Josph Glacier, New Zealand

The clouds were laying low on the mountains for most of my 2 day stay.
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At night I met a couple of Germans and a Swiss. We went to a little hike near by that has glow worms. So cool! There’s also another trail with tunnels where you can see even more. I went with a Brazilian on our last night. It was spooky as we were the only ones at least  that’s what we hoped. The tunnels have water so our shoes got wet, but it didn’t matter when we got to the end we saw heaps putting on a spectacular display. They have a circle in the middle of their belly that glows neon green to attract insects to its tentacles. Pretty cool!

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The clouds cleared that night and with the full moon we were able to see the white capped mountains. So beautiful and I’m thinking how cool would it be to skydive at night with a full moon. That’s next level.

The first day I planned to sky dive the fox glacier. Bad weather conditions made me push it to the next day and even then the weather forecast wasn’t looking good. Luckily, I was able to jump at 16k feet. The view was incredible. I could see the rain forest, very little of the glacier and the bright blue ocean. It was very cloudy, but it made it more dramatic.

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We landed on our bottoms because of my sore ankle. It was a super smooth landing.

My tandem guide didn’t get the free fall on video so he gave me the pictures and video for free. I was kinda happy because there was a lot of snot action. Lol!! Hey, give me a break, I’m just getting over a cold. My face almost was frozen off. So when we landed it had coagulated on my cheeks, which made me super embarrassed as I tried scraping it off my face.

Enough of my snot and tears. I left the glacier without walking on it, but that’s ok. I hear if you’re going to see a glacier Argentina is a good one. (Thanks American Amy)

Off to Queenstown to catch a bus to Milford sound for some kayaking action!

Christchurch and Greymouth, New Zealand

Right when I got to Christchurch, the shuttle took me straight to the jailhouse so I could get checked in.  No, I didn’t get into trouble, I stayed at a historic jail house.

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My cell

This jail was built in 1874 and was closed in 1999. It was vacant until 2006 when it was bought by a couple who turned it into a hostel.

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Display cell

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Some of the Jail mates drawings

Christchurch was hit with massive earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. I took a walk around town and it became very apparent that they were still recovering.

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Cathedral Center

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As of October 2013 rebuild activities have been accelerated with a completion date in the end of 2016. Damaged infrastructure in the central city amounts to $160 million. 

The city created a re start mall where all shops could move to temporarily in trailers.
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Next day was scenic train day on the Transalpine from Christchurch to Greymouth where beautiful Arthur’s Pass is. You can stand outside on an open car to take pictures.
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Want to save a lot of money on your NZ train tickets? If you purchase online from another country it will be more expensive. You can use a NZ proxy to make your IP address look like it is in New Zealand. I waited to purchase my ticket until I got to NZ. I saved $50 NZ dollars doing this. You could also get a travel agent within New Zealand to book for you or just google how to use the proxy.

Off to Franz Joseph Glacier for some sky diving and night glow worm hikes.

Wellington, New Zealand

Well, so, umm Wellington. Its a cool city with nice harbor views,  it it isn’t what you come to NZ for. I’m just here to catch a flight to Christchurch then a transalpine train to Greymouth then a bus to the Glaciers.

Anyways, took the cable car up to the botanic gardens. Very touristy, but the walk around the gardens was nice.
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On the way to the Te Papa museum, I stopped off at Cuba street for window shopping and there was a band playing on the street. Check out the guy on the left. He’s playing a keyboard he blows in.
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I then walked the waterfront of the Lambton Harbour to the museum.
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The Te Papa museum is impressive and highly interactive. My favorite thing was the giant colossal squid on display. It is the only colossal squid on display anywhere. It was caught in the Antarctic by a deep sea fishing vessel. The squid was attached to its prey which happened to get hooked.
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Right now I’m at the airport and off to Christchurch. There’s a big Smegal from the Lord of the Rings on display.
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Ohakune, New Zealand (Tongariro Crossing)

Holly smokes this is what New Zealand is all about. Breathtaking Scenic landscapes. The Tongariro Crossing is one of NZ’s great walks. 19.4km and 7 hours of pure enjoyment. I started from the Mangatepopo Carpark and ended at the Ketetahi Carpark, which minimizes the amount of climbing. It was actually pretty challenging at times. My body hurt during, but thank god it didn’t hurt after.

After getting up the massive red crater (1886 m- highest point of the crossing) you get a view of the 3 Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake.
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Left Blue Lake Right Emerald Lakes

When you move away from the red crater you look back and see an incredible view of the red crater, Mt. Ngauruhoe, and the Mt. Tongariro Summit. It was really tough to get to this point and I was rewarded with my favorite view of the walk. This was all used in the lord of the rings.
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I took a shuttle from the Station Lodge in Ohakune and the driver tells you what to do in the event the volcano starts to erupt. It depends on where you are in the hike. If you aren’t in the danger zone you turn back and run unless there are rocks shooting out you must watch the rocks and dodge them. Never turn away from shooting rocks. If you are in the danger zone take cover somewhere or run! I was getting nervous especially because the weather can change at any moment and clouds/rain can obstruct your view and you may not know where you’re going. There is a point of the trial where it has a stop light indicating whether or not to continue. There was perfect weather and no eruption. Lol. No red light. It was very windy coming down the red crater, but my wind breaker did its job 😉

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No red light means continue

I paid $45 for round trip shuttle to and from the crossing. If you want to do it cheaper plan your food ahead and stay at the Crossing backpackers where you pay $69 NZ dollars for 2 nights accommodation plus shuttle ride. Way cheaper. I stayed at the Station Lodge which was super clean and had a great view of the Tongairio Summit. It is shoulder season right now so it was dead. I had the dorm to myself 😉 the Crossing was another story. It was crowded, I can’t imagine doing the hike in high season. I would suggest doing the northern circuit instead or try a weekday of the shoulder season. You still get to see all the good stuff and it is shorter and less traveled.

An even better suggestion would be to drive a bike to one end and drive to the other and do the hike before anyone who takes a shuttle starts and ride your bike back to your car.

Rotorua, New Zealand

This place stinks, literally. Rotorua is known for geothermal activity that gives off a rotten egg smell, which is from the sulphur in the hot springs.

Amy, an American from California, and I met in our shared room at the Spa Lodge. In the evening we went to Hells Gate for a mud bath and sulphur spa soak.

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We stunk after, but hey our skin was softer than a baby’s bottom.

The next day we went to Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters), which is a Thermal Wonderland located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. It is covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles.

First, we went to the world’s second largest geyser in the world. They activate it by inserting clothing detergent. Prisoners were forced to log trees in the area and one decided to wash his clothes with the warm water. Once the detergent was added the geyser started to erupt and they ran for the hills, naked. Note the largest one is in Yellowstone. Ya aMerica!

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Note the red woods in the back of the geyser; they are not native to New Zealand. A volcano bursted and took out all the native trees, which take about 100 years to mature. So they planted the California red wood because they grow much quicker at15 years to maturity. In this area it is the largest man made forest, which is used for forestry. Another heck ya America!

Anyways, check out the beautiful colorful geothermal wonders I really liked:
The Champagne Pool is 74°C and was formed by a hydrothermal eruption 700 years ago. Minerals around the edge include: gold, silver, mercury, and sulphur.

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Devils Bath is a beautiful bright green. Suspended Sulphur is the reason for the green in this Eruption Crater.

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Next was delicious brunch with Amy and Morgan, whom we met on the tour and is from North Carolina.

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Morgan, me and Amy

Morgan took off and Amy and I continued to walk around the lake. There are many birds including black swans. Look at that view behind!

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We went to the Catholic church which has many Maori carvings, which is one of the things they are known for. Maori is the tribe that still lives in Rotorua today. In fact, they comprise about 40% of the population. To this day chiefs and warriors get tattooed on their face. Even wife’s and daughters of Chiefs get a tattoo on their chin. It is a sign of respect.

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After walking all around we went to get happy hour at a place with really good beers. Amy had a night bus to catch and I passed out.

The next day it was perfect weather, so I walked around the Saturday Market and got a crepe and a Thai message. The surrounding park is so beautiful even though the near by hot springs stink.

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Off to Ohakune, the doorstep of the Tongariro Crossing, which is considered to be one of New Zealand’s great walks.

Auckland, New Zealand

Rain. Lots of Rain when I arrived, but warmer than Melbourne, so I was OK. I was hoping for better weather the next day because canyoning (abseiling) was in my schedule.  Yes, with my gimp ankle.

I woke up to birds chirping and sunshine shining! It was on. I went with AWOL and we dominated the Piha Canyon. Javier was our guide and Connor was on the ride for training to be a guide. A Canadian couple went for the ride and they were awesome 😉

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From the top of Piha canyon

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First one

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First waterfall

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Second one highest and the best

We saw an eel in this pool. It was quite friendly. It started raining, so we picked up the pace.

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Narrowest and scariest!

There were a couple of jumps after that but nothing too high or scary.

We also checked out the black sanded beach.

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After Javier and I got dinner and a beer.

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Skycity tower in the middle

I was going to do the Canyonoz Canyoning in Thames, but it was double the price and they don’t pick you up from Auckland. It is definitely a better one to do and a lot harder.  Something maybe my ankle couldn’t handle.

The next day I head to Rotorua for spas and natural springs and mud geysers. 

Melbourne, Australia

From South Cross I took a tram to St. Kilda. It was 8 am so I saw people rushing to get to work and many people riding their bikes to work. It was so quiet yet so many people were around.

It was Halloween and at my hostel they had a free BBQ and beer if you dressed up. I put on leggings and a long sleeved shirt and put masking tape on me and wrote street names on it. Boom, I was a map.

I came down with a cold earlier that day, so after I ate I passed out. The next day I slept all day and night. I missed out on a Halloween Party at the Brunswick Mess Hall with my friend James that I met in Malaysia.

The highlight of Melbourne had to be the Great Ocean Road day trip I did. I learned that it is really hard to do in one day, but I was glad I got to see the 12 Apostles.

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At the London Bridge you could see the penguins little foot prints on the beach below. They come in at dusk, so we weren’t able to see them. If I could do it again, I would have rented a car and waited to see them. I would have spent more time in Apollo Bay as well.

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On the way we stopped by a place where wild koalas are normally spotted. We were lucky and saw 3!

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The next day, I checked out of Habitat HQ and took a tram and subway to Reservoir, one of Melbourne’s suburbs. My friend Kenny from Highschool lives in a cute little house with his Aussie girlfriend, Daniella. They were so hospitable and it was so nice to have my own room and bed!

We took a drive up to one of the outer suburbs to get a view of the city. The sunset was beautiful and you could see the outline of the buildings in the clouds. Pretty view.

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The next day I took a tram to Smith street to look for a down jacket. I checked out a couple of thrift shops and they didn’t have any, so I bit the bullet and bought a new one at the MacPac outlet. Normally it was 380, but I got it for 150. Not bad.

I walked around Fitzroy. The outside of the buildings are original due to the city code, which were built in the early 1900’s. Really cool.

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Lots of cool street art.

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I walked through Carlton Gardens where they have the Royal Exhibition Building. Such a beautiful place to just hang out.

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That night we went to Daniella’s friend’s BBQ. Since i had an early flight, Kenny and I went to China town for some food while Daniella and her friends went out to a club for some drum and bass.

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Sydney, Australia

Hello you massive, gorgeous city you! Sydney was where the British first settled and now I know why. Beautiful harbour with breathtaking beaches and good weather.

The first night, I met up with Chase and Henry (2 Americans I met in Bali). We had drinks at the Beresford hotel. Man, Sydney cops do not mess around. We saw two guys got taken down by cops because one was really drunk in public and the other was asked to leave the bar and he didn’t even seem that drunk. Both resisted and got the pavement in their face and a night in jail.

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The next day I hopped on the train to Circular Quay (pronounced Circular Key) to take a ferry to Manly. It is such a beautiful spot. You have a great view of the Harbour Bridge and of course the famous Opera House. The ferry ride is ridiculously beautiful! Sail boats race around and views of the surrounding land is incredible.

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Jeff, my Canadian friend I met in Costa Rico a few years back, picked me up at the Manly Wharf.  We had a BBQ for his mom’s bday. His parents, friends and girl friend were all awesome. We played beer pong and flip cup! Then we hit the town!

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Jeff's dad playing beer pong

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Jeff's adorable mom

Back to mainland Sydney. When I arrived back to the circular quay I walked over to the opera house.

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While walking back to the train there was a street performer who jumped over a lil boy on a tricycle.

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Uni Pro Show

Early the next morning I went on Kangarific wine,beer, chocolate and cheese tasting tour in Hunter Valley.

First we went to an animal sanctuary. They had koalas, kangaroos, wombats, lorikeet’s, cockatoos and peacocks. In New South Whales, it is illegal to hold koalas. Thank god I got to hold one in Brisbane, which is in Queensland where they will soon change the law as well.

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Koa-love

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Lorikeet that licked my arm

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The Hunter is the oldest wine region in Australia and they produce boutique wines, not massive commercial wines. This region is known for their Shiraz’s, which is my favorite wine.

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Lamblock

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Ernest Hill

Hunter Valley Brewery is the only brewery in the hunter. My favorite was the Cranky Pants IPA. They get the barely from Yakama Washington, maybe that’s why I liked it so much. Ya! aMerica (the A is silent)!!

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Getting photo bombed my my tour guide and the brewery owner lol

The weather was good so my adorable Taiwanese roommie, Junco, and I took the bus to Bondi Beach and did the sculpture by the sea walk.

Here is the count down:
4-inclusion. I like the use of lines

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3- flow- made of recycled bottle caps. What’s not to love its colorful and the artist recycled.

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2- sea breeze – I liked the reflection that showed the ocean.

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1- Horizon gets number one because it turns the world upside down in a mesmorizing manner.

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On the way there we ran into Kyle, Chase and Henry. I’m always randomly running into Kyle. Lol.

Off to Melbourne to celebrate Halloween