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Month Ninety was a pretty chilled month with very little travel, which combined with the near-constant rain and missing my husband, made for not the best month for me.
But it was a great month in that I got to see friends and family a lot, and I had some fun adventures when the sun was shining.
I started the month with a few days in Papamoa with my Mum where I hiked up and around the Mount and in the Papamoa Hills, went for dinner for Mum’s birthday, and got to see my brother during the last couple of days there.
From there I spent two days being a tourist in Rotorua, visiting the volcanic Waimangu Valley for the first time, and revisiting Polynesian Spa and Kuirau Park.
After a couple of nights in Hamilton visiting a friend and a short trip to Raglan, I was back in Auckland for 2.5 weeks.
It rained a lot but I made sure to get outside whenever it wasn’t, swimming and hiking at Mahurangi Regional Park, taking the ferry to Devonport, and visiting Matakana and Warkworth, the gannet colony at Muriwai, Herne Bay, Devonport, and the Tamaki Drive beaches.
The last few days of the month I was back in Papamoa and luckily the weather was better so I headed back to the Mount for hiking and a swim, and had a BBQ with an old school friend and her family.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: New Zealand
- New Zealand: Papamoa, Mount Maunganui, Rotorua, Hamilton, Raglan, Auckland, Warkworth, Matakana
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Mahurangi Regional Park in Auckland, Muriwai Regional Park in Auckland.
Islands Visited: Pudding Island and Casnell Island in Mahurangi Regional Park.
Days on the Road: Four days
Best Meals: Cheese souffle and sticky toffee pudding from Somerset Cottage in Tauranga; Thai chicken and cashew nut with coconut rice from Thai Street Food in Auckland; Blue cheese stuffed mushrooms from Matakana Market Kitchen in Matakana; Butter chicken roti pie from Roti Bros in Auckland; Prawn gyoza from Oji in Auckland; Sweet corn and cream cheese quiche from Lily Eatery in Auckland.
Worst Meals: I was disappointed by the grilled kahawai, garam masala potatoes, and ginger coconut sauce from Depot in Auckland. The fish and the sauce were really nice but the potatoes were so soaked in oil that I felt sick after eating them.
Best Craft Beer: White Mischief Salted White Peach Sour beer by Garage Project. Shout out to the feijoa gin & tonics by Mount Brewing Company too – not a beer but so good.
- Mauao summit and perimeter track in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 4.6 miles
- Papamoa Hills summit and loop track in Papamoa, New Zealand 3.5 miles
- Mauao perimeter track in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 2.2 miles
- Papamoa Beach Walk in Papamoa, New Zealand 4.1 miles
- Mauao summit track in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 1.6 miles
- Waimangu Valley trail including Mount Haszard in Rotorua, New Zealand 3.5 miles
- Hamilton Lake loop trail in Hamilton, New Zealand 2.4 miles
- Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter loop in Auckland, New Zealand 3 miles
- West Cudlip Point Trail and Mita Bay Beach walk in Mahurangi Regional Park, Auckland 3.1 miles
- St Heliers to Orakei Beach walk in Auckland, New Zealand 3 miles
- North Head, Cheltenham Beach, and Narrow Neck Beach loop 4.4 miles
Watching: Inside Man, Reboot, Wednesday, Cabinet of Curiosities, Luckiest Girl Alive, Upper Middle Bogan, and a LOT of Christmas Movies (’tis the season)
Reading: The Family Frying Pan by Bryce Courtenay, and The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.
New Posts: I didn’t write anything new this month, I focused on updating old posts instead.
Hanging Out at the Mount
Beautiful Mount Maunganui is a short drive from my Mum’s place in Papamoa so I headed there a lot to climb Mauao, walk around town, visit the Little Big Market, and swim at the beach whenever I can. I’m always amazed by the bright and vibrant colors of the grass and the water, it really is unbelievably beautiful.
Exploring Waimangu Valley in Rotorua
Since hiking to the second-largest boiling lake in the world in Dominica a few years ago, I have been wanting to visit the largest, Frying Pan Lake.
It is located in Waimangu Valley in Rotorua so I got a great deal to visit and enjoyed half a day hiking in the lush valley, seeing the lake and other thermal activity, and taking a boat ride on Lake Rotomahana.
Soaking at Polynesian Spa
Whenever I visit Rotorua I usually spend a couple of hours soaking at the relaxing Polynesian Spa. On this visit, I splurged on the Deluxe Lake Spa pools and it was so worth it. These pools are nestled in native bush right on the lake’s edge and I felt so relaxed after my soak.
Catching Up With a Good Friend in Hamilton
It was so nice to get back to Hamilton and see one of my besties and her lovely family. Seeing old friends that have known me for many years is one of my favorite things to do when I am back in New Zealand.
I also walked around the lake and visited the Hamilton Gardens. It blows me away how much nicer Hamilton is these days compared to when I lived there twenty years ago.
A Short Raglan Visit
As the cute surf town of Raglan is only a half-hour drive from Hamilton, I dropped in for a few hours before returning to Auckland. It was a cloudy day but I enjoyed visiting the small museum, eating out for lunch, checking out the shops, and walking along the beach by town.
Fun Nights Out in Auckland
I had a few fun nights out in Auckland during my time there this month, mostly at Eagle Bar (the best bar in Auckland). We also got our trivia team back together and did a couple of trivia nights at Citizen Park in Kingsland which were really fun.
A Morning at Auckland Museum
I love the Auckland War Memorial Museum, it is somewhere I went often as a kid and I still think it is one of the best museums in the world. I spent half a day there seeing all my favorite exhibits and a few new ones including a couple of excellent exhibits focusing on the city itself.
Randomly Bumping Into an Old Friend in Auckland
The sun had finally come out after raining much of the day so I went for an evening walk around the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter, and just as I was starting to head back to Dad’s, I saw a familiar face – my friend Jolie!
She happened to be in town for one night from Taupo for a conference so we ended up having drinks and dinner to catch up. I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to see her on this trip so it was a really nice surprise.
Two Visits to Spectacular Mahurangi Regional Park
I had been wanting to go to Mahurangi Regional Park in North Auckland since I saw photos when my brother went a few years ago and I finally made it there this month. There are three different sections of the park and I visited the two that can be driven to (one is only accessible by boat).
I spent a day hiking the trails, walking to Pudding Island at low tide, and swimming at secluded Mita Bay in Mahurangi West, and then another few hours on another day at Scott’s Landing where I swam at the beach and walked over to Casnell Island at low tide. It is such a beautiful park and definitely one of my new favorite places in Auckland.
Sunny Day Adventures in Auckland
Along with my two visits to Mahurangi Regional Park, I had some excellent sunny day adventures when the sun was actually shining in Auckland.
I took the ferry over to Devonport for a North Head and Cheltenham Beach walk and lunch and a pool swim with a friend, I walked between the four beautiful Tamaki Drive Beaches, I walked to Herne Bay Beach and Ponsonby, I had lunch and walked by the river in Matakana and Warkworth, I visited the beach and gannet colony in Muriwai, and I had a sunny fish and chips lunch at the iconic Riverhead Tavern.
Maybe it didn’t rain as much as it seemed to after all.
Housesitting in Auckland
I really enjoyed housesitting at my friend’s apartment in Auckland City. Because I mostly stay with family when I am in New Zealand, I don’t often get time to myself so it was a real treat.
So. Much. Rain
I know I always complain when it rains on my travels but this month was ridiculous. It was rainy or cloudy about 85% of the time which really put a dampener on my plans and made me feel a bit down to be honest. Luckily the weather has finally started getting better with more sunny days in the immediate future.
Not Feeling Myself
I think because of the constant bad weather along with other issues I wasn’t feeling my usually happy self over the last month. I have also been feeling a little under the weather, I’m not sure why. Luckily I have been feeling much better the last week though.
Missing Out on Northland
Because of the constant bad weather, I had to cancel my plans to head up to Northland to hike the Cape Brett trail, something that I had been looking forward to. I ended up just staying in Auckland instead.
Feeling Bad About My Body Image
I have gained some weight over the last few months and I’m just not happy with how I look right now. I love food and it’s hard for me to resist temptation, especially when I’m in New Zealand with all my favorite foods, but I am trying to walk or hike at least 10,000 steps most days as well as doing situps etc. and eating healthier.
It’s so much harder to stay in shape now I am older.
Missing My Husband
It’s been five weeks since I have seen Toby now and although we talk every day, I miss him. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Thailand at the end of January.
The ongoing issue with my ear blocking came back this month and my left ear was blocked for over a week. I had a fair bit of pain for the first couple of days because of the pressure but luckily that didn’t last long.
I am so sick of this happening and I found out about a place I can get them suctioned out with a tiny suction device but they are fully booked for the next month. Hopefully, I can find something in Bangkok or when I am back in Denver.
I Have Skin Cancer
On the last day of the month, I found out I have Basal Cell Carcinoma – the most common form of skin cancer. Luckily it is almost never deadly and it doesn’t tend to spread but I will need to return to New Zealand after my Asia trip in April (hopefully) to get it cut out.
In the meantime, I will apply a special cream to the area for the next six weeks to hopefully shrink the area that will need to be removed because it is quite a large area on my upper back.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
It would have been a reasonably cheap month had I not had to pay for multiple doctor’s visits, insurance for my Asia trip (so much more expensive now I have turned 40!), and Christmas and birthday gifts. As I will be traveling around the South Island next month I expect it will be similar.
My two nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of two nights at a motel in Rotorua.
My 28 nights of unpaid accommodation for the month consisted of eight nights at my Mum’s in Papamoa, two nights at a friend’s in Hamilton, ten nights at my Dad’s in Auckland, and eight nights housesitting for a friend in Auckland.
Food and Drink $704
A pretty standard amount for me. I did think it would be less than this though as I have been having a lot more home-cooked meals.
- Merino thermal long sleeve top $37.50
- Party dress $25
- Bikini bottoms $9.50
- Gas $87.50
- Uber in Auckland $27
- Public transport in Auckland $6.50
- Waimangu Valley walk and boat trip $27.50
- Deluxe Lake Spa at Polynesian Spa $22.50
- Raglan Museum entrance $3
- Auckland Art Gallery Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Exhibition $16
- Hulu $8.50
- Phone plan $35
- Spotify $10.50
- Toiletries $53
- Gifts $238
- Doctor visits for skin biopsy and travel vaccinations $319
- 2023 day planner and pen $8
- Travel Insurance for Asia $270
- Toiletry bag $17
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van/RV Costs $37
- Van/RV Insurance $37
What’s in Store for Next Month
I have one more month in New Zealand and it is going to be a jampacked one. I am starting the month with a couple more days in Papamoa hitting the beach (if the sun is actually out), and baking Christmas cookies.
Then we are heading to Waihi Beach on Christmas Eve for a few days to celebrate with my Step-Dad’s family, picking my brother up from the bus stop on the way.
I really, really hope it’s going to finally be consistently sunny because I want some proper beach time, to do some hiking, and maybe even do a day trip somewhere else in the Coromandel.
From Waihi Beach, I will be heading back to Auckland for New Year via a night with one of my besties in Hamilton.
New Year this year is going to be a big one because it’s my best friend’s 40th birthday and we’re starting the celebrations with lunch before decorating his bar and continuing the celebrations there. It’s going to be so much fun!
The first day of the new year will be spent very hungover then on the second I will be starting my four-day journey to Christchurch. On the way, I am stopping in Taupo, Wellington, and Picton, and I will have an afternoon and evening to explore Christchurch before picking my friend Dani up from the airport to start our adventure.
The last 2.5 weeks of the month we will be road-tripping in my Dad’s campervan, doing a loop through Arthur’s Pass, the glaciers on the West Coast, Wanaka, Queenstown, the Routeburn Track, Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, and then back to Christchurch where I will be spending the last day of the month.
I can’t wait to begin the more action-packed part of my New Zealand trip!
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here