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Also, we are living in strange and unsettling times so please make sure to check local guidelines before traveling to this destination, as I haven't updated individual posts with current travel information because this changes so often.
Month Sixty-Eight was a quieter month on the travel front, spent mostly in New Zealand before I finally returned to the U.S. at the end of the month.
I spent the first four days of the month in Auckland, visiting the Maritime Museum, swimming at Mission Bay beach, and doing a Trivia night with friends, before setting off on a four-night camping trip to Uretiti.
The Uretiti DOC campground is home to a beautiful beach so we mostly hung out there, but also did trips into Whangarei and Waipu. And we also drunk a lot of feijoa cider at our campsite – it was the theme of the trip.
I was back in Auckland after Uretiti for a week and did a few fun day trips – including to Rotoroa Island, the North Shore to do the coastal walk there, and to the West Coast to do some hiking, waterfall swimming, and beach time at Piha.
From Auckland, I drove to Papamoa to visit my Mum and Step-Dad for five days. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great for most of my visit but I did fit in a friend catch up, and walk around Mauao on the one sunny day we had.
I used the rainy days to catch up on work, sort through my old stuff in the attic, and go to see Rurangi at the movies with my Mum.
Next, I traveled to Hamiton to spend a night with my friend and her family before driving back to Auckland.
The last five days of my time in New Zealand was spent back in Auckland, where I spent a day at the Gay Pride event of the month – Big Gay Out! It was the most debaucherous fun I had had in ages and we drunk and danced the day, and night away at the after-party at Eagle Bar – the best bar in Auckland.
Then Auckland went into a snap Level 3 lockdown after some COVID community cases were discovered in South Auckland. We stayed in lockdown for three days and I was worried it would be extended and I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to friends before flying back to Colorado.
Amazingly we dropped to Level 2 after three days and I was able to have a farewell lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Auckland, Le Garde Manger, before catching my night flight.
After two flights and a long layover at LAX, I was back in Colorado which felt weird after being away for nearly four months.
I spent three nights in Denver, mostly recovering from jetlag and doing the final touches on my green card renewal paperwork, then we drove up to Silverthorne via short stops along the way in Breckenridge and Vail, and spent the last two nights of the month in a hotel there.
On the last day of the month, I went ice-skating in Keystone – my first time on a frozen lake! A great way to end the month.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: New Zealand, USA
- New Zealand: Auckland, Uretiti, Whangarei, Waipu, Tauranga, Hamilton
- Colorado: Denver, Breckenridge, Vail, Silverthorne
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: None this month
Islands Visited: Rotoroa Island in Auckland
Best Meals: The Shroomin Show mushroom and tempeh burger from Wise Boys in Auckland; Poutine from Fed Deli in Auckland; Potato gnocchi with goat curd and sundried tomato from Hayes Common in Hamilton; French onion soup and La Capri galette with goat cheese, honey, sundried tomato and walnut from Le Garde Manger in Auckland; Burrata with confit garlic and roast tomato from Timberline Craft Kitchen in Silverthorne.
Worst Meals: Nothing bad this month.
Best Craft Beer: Guava Sour Bomber from Golden City Brewing in Golden, CO, KaKou golden stout with Kona coffee, pineapple, and coconut from Platt Park Brewing in Denver, CO.
- Tamaki Drive from city to Mission Bay in Auckland 7.2km/4.5 miles one way
- Kitekite Falls trail in West Auckland 3.7km/2.3 miles return
- Mercer Bay Loop trail in West Auckland 3.9km/2.4 miles
- Campbells Bay to Rothesay Bay coastal walk in Auckland 7km/4.4 miles return
- Rotoroa Island trails in Auckland 8km/5 miles
- Maraetai to Kellys Beach coastal walk in Auckland 8km/5 miles return
- Mauao base and beach walk in Tauranga 7.2km/4.5 miles loop
- Waikato River walk in Hamilton 4km/2.5 miles return
- Lake Rotoroa loop walk in Hamilton 4km/2.5 miles
- Tamaki Drive from city to Mission Bay in Auckland 14.2km/8.8 miles return
- Section of Clear Creek trail in Wheat Ridge, CO 8km/5 miles return
- Gore Creek trail to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, CO 4km/2.5 miles return
Watching: It’s a Sin – this show follows a group of young gay men living it up in London in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. It is such a great show but absolutely heart-wrenching.
I also enjoyed On Becoming a God in Central Florida – Kirsten Dunst is brilliant, and the New Zealand-made movie Rurangi which my wonderful friend Ramon is in. It is incredibly well done – depicting a trans man coming back to his small-town home once he has transitioned and reconnecting with friends and family.
Reading: The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.
Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month:
The Best Cheap Eats in Auckland, New Zealand
I added a lot more restaurants to my Auckland cheap eats guide and took out some that have ceased to operate.
What To Do in Summer on Denman Island, Canada
I updated my guide to beautiful Denman Island, a Canadian Gulf Island in British Columbia, and added more things to do and accommodation suggestions.
A Great Canadian Adventure: Hiking to Abbot Pass Hut
Another older post that I updated and added to on how to hike to the historic Abbot Pass Hut from Lake O’Hara in the Canadian Rockies.
Camping With Friends at Uretiti
I loved our camping trip to Uretiti, a gorgeous beach campground just outside of Waipu in Northland. It is a beautiful part of the country and although we didn’t have the best weather during our time there, we definitely made the most of our trip and had a great time.
As well as hanging out at the beach, we also trips into Whangarei and Waipu to grab food and look around the shops when the weather wasn’t on our side and spent long hours at our campsite drinking cider and cooking camp food with other friends who were also camping there for the long weekend.
My kind of camping these days is usually in my van but I really enjoyed sleeping in my little tent. I will definitely be back next time I am in New Zealand.
A Day on Auckland’s Wild West Coast
One of my favorite places in Auckland is the West Coast beaches and the Waitakere Ranges – I hope that I can live out here one day. I spent a day there this month, and it was so wonderful.
I did a couple of hikes that had been on my wishlist for a while – the scenic Mercer Bay loop and the Kitekite Falls trail. I swam at Kitekite Falls, then headed to Piha Beach for some more swimming, sunbathing, and a short hike up Lion Rock for awesome beach views.
I didn’t want to leave, this is one of my happy places.
Visiting Rotoroa Island
One of my goals for this New Zealand visit was to tick a few places off my New Zealand bucket list and this month it was a day trip to Rotoroa Island, a sub-tropical island in the Hauraki Gulf that used to be used for drug and alcohol rehabilitation by the Salvation Army.
Now it is a predator-free bird sanctuary and is home to beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and a small museum about when it was used as a Rehabilitation Centre.
I used my time there to hike almost every trail on the island, I swam and sunbathed at one of the pretty beaches, and visited the museum. But the best part was the native bird spotting. I saw tīeke (saddlebacks), pāteke (brown teal), and tūī, but my best spot was two very rare takahē and their chick!
On the way back to Auckland on the boat, we also saw two orcas very close up – it was a great day for wildlife!
A Detour to Clevedon and Maraetai
When I was driving to Mum’s in Papamoa, I wasn’t really in a hurry so I decided to do a detour through Clevedon and Maraetai in Auckland’s far east.
The weekly Clevedon Market was on so I stopped there first to look around and grab lunch, then drove out to seaside Maraetai where the beach was full of people on this bright summer day.
There is a coastal trail between Maraetai and Beachlands so I did a section of that, and the scenery was gorgeous – the ocean is super turquoise here.
Then I drove the coastal route through Kawakawa Bay, Kaiaua, and Miranda which was so colorful with bright green grass and light blue water, before connecting back to the main route to Papamoa.
I definitely want to spend more time in this part of Auckland in the future!
Going Through My Old Stuff
It was raining in Papamoa so I decided to go through my stuff in my Mum’s attic – something I hadn’t done in a few years.
I ended up spending hours up there, reminiscing about my first year in London by reading my old diary, going through my 21st birthday presents, looking through old photos from when I was a kid, and I even found my favorite soft toy that I thought I had lost – Chocolate Moose, a moose with a chocolate-scented nose (he is now a Colorado resident).
It was fun to take a walk down memory lane and those memories stuck with me over the next few days.
A Quick Hamilton Visit
On the way back to Auckland from Papamoa, I stopped to visit one of my closest friends and her family at their farm just outside of Hamilton.
It was a short but action-packed visit, including lunch at the excellent Hayes Common, walks around the lake and along the river, and ice cream from world-famous-in-New Zealand Duck Island.
Every time I return to Hamilton I am struck by how much cooler it is compared to when I lived there 20 years ago.
Celebrating Pride at Big Gay Out
I have never been in Auckland when the Big Gay Out is on – until this time. I made sure to be there for it and it was SUCH a fun day! We started off with drinks at a friend’s place then took an uber to Coyle Park where it was being held.
Another friend had a pergola set up so we hung out there and watched the acts on the main stage, as well as exploring the grounds and dancing at the DJ tent.
After the event, we went to Eagle Bar to carry on the party and amazingly I lasted till the end. There was lots of dancing, lots of catching up, lots of laughing – it couldn’t have been any better and it was a great last Auckland blowout before heading back to Colorado.
Arriving Back Safely in the U.S.
Although a night flight, a long wait to get through immigration, a long layover, and then a second flight are not a highlight, getting back to the U.S. safely and without contracting COVID is.
While I already miss New Zealand, the freedom I experienced there, and my people, it is also good to be back in my second home with all my Colorado family and my husband. And I am getting a kick out of having a snowy winter because it has been a long time!
Exploring Vail in Winter
I enjoy visiting Vail in summer but I had never visited in winter before – turns out it is just as good.
Toby dropped me there for a couple of hours while he worked and I used that time to take a stroll through the town center, check out the shops, and walk the snowy river pathway to the Betty Ford Alpine Garden.
It was a true winter wonderland and I loved it!
Ice Skating on a Frozen Lake in Keystone
Another fun winter’s day was spent ice-skating on a frozen lake in Keystone – the first time I have ever ice-skated on a natural body of water.
I loved ice-skating as a kid, but living in subtropical New Zealand I was only ever able to skate in an ice rink, and even when I lived in London I only skated on an outdoor rink once.
Skating on the lake was magical, and I loved the scenery and all the frozen bubbles you could see under the icy surface. I did take one big tumble when I hit a surface crack at speed, and I was a bit sore for a couple of days, but overall I loved it.
Another Bed Bug Encounter
After getting bitten by bed bugs on Great Barrier Island last month, I unfortunately had another encounter this month when I was bitten in my Dad’s apartment.
They must have come back from the island in mine or my brother’s bags, and as soon as I saw the bites I washed everything in a hot wash, got some bed bug spray and sprayed my bags and all around the seams of the bed and the bedside table, and then hoped like hell that would be enough.
Luckily it seemed to work, and I haven’t had any bites since then, and neither has my Dad who has been home for a week now.
Stung by a Bee
When the rain let up after nearly three days in Papamoa, I decided to go for a walk on the beach. Unfortunately, I stood on a bee that was on the sand, and wow, did it hurt.
The pain went away after about ten minutes but over the next two days my foot swelled up and it was itchy as hell, making it hard to walk on and hard to sleep. And I’m not even allergic!
Hopefully it will be a long time before I am stung by a bee again.
Lockdown in New Zealand
The whole time I was in New Zealand, life was pretty much normal, one of the only places on the planet at the moment where it is, but then during my last week in the country, there were a couple of community COVID cases in South Auckland and Auckland went into a strict Level 3 lockdown.
I had planned to do a farewell dinner and trivia night with friends but with no bars and restaurants open for dine-in, that wasn’t possible. It was a stark reminder of what the rest of the world is going through and what I was going back to in the U.S.
Luckily the lockdown eased to a more social Level 2 on the day I was leaving and I was able to have a farewell lunch.
If you want to learn more about the lockdown levels and COVID in New Zealand, read this post.
Last month was more expensive than I thought it would be because I wasn’t really traveling that much. I did spend a lot on food and drinks and had a couple of unexpected costs like replacing my sunglasses, my Trusted Housesitters renewal, and Tailwind renewal. Next month should be cheaper.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of four nights camping at Uretiti, and one night at a hotel near the airport in Denver when I arrived back.
My unpaid accommodation for the rest of the month included two nights housesitting in Auckland for a friend, 14 nights at my Dad’s place in Auckland, one night at a friend’s place in Hamilton, five nights at my Mum’s place in Papamoa, one night on a plane between New Zealand and the U.S., two nights with family in Denver, and two nights at a hotel in Silverthorne covered by Toby’s work.
Food and Drink $695
More than I would have liked to spend and I’m not really sure where it all went because it didn’t feel like I ate out that much last month.
- 1 x Winter tights $14.50
- 2 x Socks $24.50
- 1 x Jumper $10
- 1 x Thermal top $6.50
I don’t include International Flights in my recaps
- Gas $70
- Flight from LA to Denver $16 (I used credits for the rest)
- Auckland City buses $4
- Auckland Parking $2
- Uber in Auckland $42
- Return ferry to Rotoroa Island in Auckland $40
- 2 x Movie Tickets to see Rurangi $14.50
- Toiletries $92.40
- Hulu $6
- Phone plan US $40
- Phone Plan NZ $5
- Trusted Housesitters 1-Year Membership $50 (half with Toby)
- 3 x books $7
- Tea towels $7.50
- Headphones $14.50
- Prescription Sunglasses $70
- Haircut $22
- Bedbug spray $19
- Stationary $6
- Gifts $16
- FedEx delivery for Green Card renewal $11.50
Website Costs $131
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
- Tailwind for 1-Year $119
Van Costs $0
What’s in Store for Next Month
Next month I will be hopping around the frozen tundra that is Colorado in winter. Toby is working as a COVID tester mostly between Silverthorne and Canon City so we will be spending a lot of time there, as well as popping back to Denver when we have time off.
I will hopefully be getting some work as a COVID tester too if it’s available.
I really want to go snowshoeing, husky sledding, and hot springs hopping in the next month so we are also going to fit in a few winter adventures in the Colorado mountains when we can.
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here