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Month Thirty One was a lot more exciting, and a lot happier than Month Thirty – I was on the road again and Toby finally got to New Zealand!
I may have spent the whole of month thirty one in only one country, New Zealand, but man – did I see a lot in that month.
I started month thirty one by catching the bus to my Mum’s place in Papamoa, nursing a hangover from a night drinking strong craft beers with my Dad, a friend and my brother the night before.
Papamoa was my base for a couple of nights and I pretty much just hung out at the house catching up on work and watching Christmas movies (and eating chocolate).
On Christmas morning we drove the hour to beautiful Waihi Beach where we would be celebrating Christmas with my Step Dad Robbie’s family.
Christmas Day was really fun and so were the following five days that we spent staying at Robbie’s brother’s beach house (or as we say in New Zealand, his bach).
It was hard to tear myself away but I had a bus booked back to Auckland, to celebrate New Years Eve and one of my bestie’s birthdays.
New Years Eve was a whole lot of debaucherous fun, and man did I pay for it on the first day of the New Year – totally worth it though.
After a couple more days off I went back to work for the last week and a half of my temping assignment. And then on the Friday – Toby arrived!
I loved surprising him at the airport – originally my Dad was going to pick him up as I had work but I asked my boss if I could come in a bit late and she agreed. It was so amazing to be reunited.
Toby’s arrival also coincided with my other bestie, Megz, coming into town so Toby got to meet her as well which was pretty great.
During the week I had left of work, Toby explored Auckland and we visited a few spots in the weekend together. Then I finished working and we set off on our epic North Island Road Trip!
For the first leg of our road trip we had my Dad’s campervan which we LOVED! It’s a bit bigger than our little Casper and when we do upgrade one day, I think a van like my Dad’s would be perfect.
The first stop on the road trip was in one of my favorite places, Matakana, where we stayed with my Auntie, ate at the amazing Matakana Market Kitchen and checked out the Matakana Market the next morning.
From Matakana we headed north, right up to the furtherest northern point in New Zealand: Cape Reinga. On the way we swam at beautiful beaches, hiked up sand dunes, soaked in natural hot springs, ate fish and chips, explored rocky coastlines and small country towns. It was pretty amazing, even if the weather didn’t always cooperate.
As a big storm rolled in, we headed back to Auckland for a night where Toby got to meet my brother, Robbie, who was back from his tour.
The next day we hit the road again, this time with Robbie joining us.
We spent three nights on the Coromandel Peninsula, a place dear to my heart as we used to go on holiday there every year when I was a kid.
Despite three days not sounding like a lot of time – we packed so much in, including hiking to a secret beach, taking the ferry to Pauanui where we played mini golf and strolled the beach, hiking to Cathedral Cove, stargazing in Hahei, soaking at Hot Water Beach, and hiking to the Pinnacles where we stayed the night in a hut. Phew – exhausting, but so much fun.
Month Thirty One ended at my Mum’s place in Papamoa, where we arrived under stormy skies. My Dad was in town too on the way down to tour around the South Island so we swapped the van for his car which we would be taking for the rest of our road trip.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries visited: New Zealand
- New Zealand: Auckland, Papamoa, Waihi Beach, Waiheke Island, Matakana, Pakiri, Mangawhai Heads, Whangarei, Whangarei Heads, Matapouri, Paihia, Russell, Kerikeri, Mangonui, Maitai Bay, Cape Reinga, Spirits Bay, Ahipara, Rawene, Ngawha, Warkworth, Coromandel Town, Whangapoua, Hahei, Hot Water Beach, Pauanui, Cooks Beach
Islands visited: Waiheke Island
National Parks and Monuments visited: None this month
Best meal: The Neopolitan Pizza from Cable Bay Winery on Waiheke Island. This was one of the best if not THE best pizza I have ever had. Seriously. Just as good if not better than the incredible pizza I had in New York. I couldn’t fault one single thing – the base was so thin, perfectly cooked and crispy, the sauce was so fresh and tasty, as was the basil, mozzarella and the olive oil it was finished with. If you are looking for incredible pizza in New Zealand – go to Cable Bay (the view ain’t bad either). I also loved the cannoli I had at the Matakana Farmers Market, the fish and chips at Matakana Market Kitchen, and all the amazing home cooked food on Christmas Day (especially the pavlova.)
Worst meal: Fish and Potato Fritter from The Flying Scotsman Takeaway in Cooks Beach. Just bad quality and not cooked well.
Best craft beer: Mac’s Summer Ale. It’s not exactly a craft beer but it is a craft style beer and I love the subtle flavours of honey and ginger – perfect for a hot day.
- Waihi Beach to Orokawa, New Zealand 3 miles/5 km return
- Whangapoua to New Chums Beach, New Zealand 2 miles/3 km
- Hahei Beach to Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel, New Zealand 4.5 miles/7 km
- The Pinnacles in the Coromandel, New Zealand 9.5 miles/15km return
- Cape Reinga Headland Hike in Northland, New Zealand 2 miles/3km
Reading: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. This book was a heavy read but a relevant one – especially with the recent #metoo movement. For any man that thinks that there is no rape culture in America, or the Western world in general – read this book. It’s real and it happens to so many women. It doesn’t have to be a stranger jumping out of a bush and sexually attacking someone for it to be rape.
Watching: Black Mirror. Need I say more? I was so excited for the new season coming out and we watched it in just a couple of days. This incredibly well done show focuses on stories set in the future that highlight the dark side of technology. It can be pretty dark but I love it, and the new season did not disappoint.
Chilling out in Waihi Beach for Christmas
After feeling bored and uninspired at my temping job in Auckland, I really needed to get away, and staying in Waihi Beach for five days over the Christmas period was the perfect remedy.
Staying right by the beach and swimming everyday was wonderful, but the best part was actually hanging out with everyone – it’s not often that I get to hang out with a big group of awesome people so I soaked it up.
There were about 15 of us – at least – that were staying at my Step Dad’s brother’s beach house, with more people for Christmas Day, and everyone was just so welcoming and friendly.
I went out dancing with my step cousin and his friends, we had happy hour every evening with drinks and snacks on the deck, we went for group walks along the beach – I haven’t felt so welcome with a big group of people since meeting Toby’s family and I will absolutely be spending time with these wonderful people again when I come back to New Zealand next.
A New Years Eve Party to Remember
I would have loved to stay on in Waihi Beach for New Years with everyone too, but I had a very important party to attend – it was my best friend Kurt’s birthday and for the first time in years, he actually had the night off (he’s a bar owner).
Kurt threw an epic party at his fabulous Auckland City apartment, and we had so much fun ringing in the New Year with views from the balcony of the Sky Tower fireworks.
Kurt has so many interesting and charismatic friends and as well as catching up with some of my favorites, I also met lots of new friends. Fun times.
Toby Finally Getting to New Zealand
I have been dreaming about Toby coming to New Zealand since we first started dating, and after two years together he is finally here! For the last two weeks of month thirty one I have been showing him around my beautiful home country, and introducing him to my friends and family – finally!
Him coming here is so important to me so it feels like a dream come true. And luckily he loves it, so there will definitely be lots more visits in the future too (and at least one stint of living here – we just need to sort out my Green card in the US first).
Swimming at the Mermaid Pools
The first time I tried to find the Mermaid pools, just around the coast from the beautiful beach town of Matapouri, I took the wrong path and then gave up. This time, we found the path and after a steep climb over the hill, we were there!
The Mermaid pools are natural rock pools that are a gorgeous green color, and are perfect for swimming in. And to make the experience even better, the day was dull and cloudy when we hiked over there but within about 15 minutes of arriving the sun was out and we could see all the different shades of green in the pools. It was a great little side trip.
Camping at Beautiful Maitai Bay
Maitai Bay on the remote Karikari Peninsula in Northland has got to be one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand – in fact it’s in the running in a Nationwide poll. The beach is backed by sand dunes and native forest, the water is a gorgeous shade of turquoise and the sand is white and powdery.
We camped at a basic campground right by the beach and I wandered the coast in the early evening – I practically had the beach to myself. An evening swim and watching the sky turn purple from a perch on the dunes made our time in Maitai Bay even better.
Sunshine in Cape Reinga and Spirits Bay
After setting off in the rain from Maitai Bay, I was worried that our visit to the very top of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, was going to be rained out. It rained off and on on the long drive up there, but luckily as we arrived the sun was out, and it was early enough that there were hardly any people there!
In my opinion, Cape Reinga is one of the most impressive and beautiful places in New Zealand and it is the second time I have been lucky enough to see it in the sun. We hiked along a ridgeline for incredible views and visited the famous lighthouse before heading to Spirits Bay where the sun was still holding out for us.
Spirits Bay is also a stunningly beautiful beach with large patches of crushed purple shells, light blue water and a curve of white sand. We walked around the lava rock peninsula that juts out to sea and I went for a quick dip in the powerful surf before the clouds started rolling in again and we had to leave.
This part of New Zealand is truly magical and I didn’t even care that it rained the rest of our time in Northland because we got to see the best bit in the sun.
Soaking in Ngawha Hot Springs
Because of the rain, we ended up changing a few plans around. Instead of driving to the beach town of Opononi and the Kai Iwi lakes, we took an alternative route and dropped into the rustic Ngawha Hot Springs for a soak instead.
The Ngawha Hot Springs consist of a number of small hot pools of varying temperatures with silt laden water, there is even mud you can lather all over yourself and wash off in one of the pools.
We met some cool people as we pool hopped and despite the bad weather, I loved our time at Ngawha. Nothing better when the weather is grey and wet than heading to the hot pools.
A Day in and Around Hahei
Hahei is another favorite New Zealand beach and the small beach town is a pretty cool base for things to do in the area. Possibly the two most famous beaches in New Zealand are both really close to Hahei – Cathedral Cove which is in the second Narnia film, and Hot Water Beach, where we can dig in the sand to create your own hot pool from the hot water that bubbles up.
We started the day hiking over to Cathedral Cove and me and my brother swam out to a secret sea cave, and then we spent the afternoon in our own hot spring on Hot Water Beach, slowly watching the tide creep closer and closer until it breached our walls.
The stars at night in Hahei were incredible and we could see the milky way – best enjoyed when lying on the beach or swinging on a rope swing in the dark.
Experiencing the Pinnacles
Despite the rough time I had getting up to the Pinnacles, see in lowlights below, once we were there I loved being able to show Toby hut life in New Zealand, and to get to experience it with my brother for the first time.
The view from the top of the Pinnacles was stunning, with cloud swirling around us and uncovering the spectacular views bit by bit. 100% worth the pain.
A Failed IUD Placement
For those of you that don’t know anything about IUDs – they are basically little T-shaped devices that are implanted into your cervix to prevent pregnancy. I had one in for ten years and it was time to replace it.
It is a horrible and very painful experience so I was very much not looking forward to it but once it was in, I wouldn’t have to think about it for another ten years – but the doctor couldn’t get it in.
I went through twenty painful minutes of her pushing as hard as she could but it just wouldn’t go in. So now I am on the pill, and I’m not happy about it. When are they going to invent the male pill already?
Rain in Northland
Unfortunately our six days in Northland were largely marred by rain. Luckily we still had good weather for some of the key sights like Mermaid pools, Cape Reinga and Maitai Bay, but it also meant we had to miss a few beaches and the Kai Iwi Lakes because we didn’t see the point of seeing them in the pouring rain. Oh well, it happens.
Extreme Heat While Hiking the Pinnacles
Holy heck it was hot when we were hiking the Pinnacles in the Coromandel! It has been a lot hotter than usual this summer (and spring) in New Zealand – too hot in my opinion. There is a section of the Pinnacles hike that is quite step and I just about died, the heat was so sticky and intense.
It was just like hiking in the rainforest in Thailand, which is just crazy for usually mild New Zealand. I also found the 45 minute hike from the Pinnacles hut to the pointy rock mountains of the Pinnacles pretty tough, with the hike involving steep stairs, ladders, mud and bouldering. Luckily it was worth it in the end.
Moving too Fast
I knew that moving every day or two during our road trip would be tough on me, as I had to work as well, and it has been at times. This pace is not something I could keep up for more than a few weeks – even that is stretching it – but it has still been worth it to be able to show Toby as much of New Zealand’s North Island as I can. But I’m looking forward to slowing down a bit soon.
I always thought people were exaggerating when they said that the WiFi in New Zealand is bad because I have never had any problem with it – but then I came to realise that is because it is not in-home WiFi that is the problem, it is the public networks that are sometimes dial-up slow, and the lack of WiFi in cafes and accommodations.
Luckily I have a New Zealand SIM card that I am able to tether my phone too although that doesn’t help when you are traveling around remote parts of Northland with no cell reception. I may have gained a few extra grey hairs in the past month worrying about or getting very frustrated at WiFi.
I love my family but we don’t always see eye to eye, and there were a couple of times this month that not everyone was getting along. It happens – but luckily not too often with us.
Wow my lowest total in months – I definitely expected it to be higher considering I was on the road for a lot of the month. Yay for me (and my bank account)!
My paid accommodation this month consisted mostly of camping ground fees for our North Island Road Trip, and one night at the Pinnacles Hut. I stayed with family for 23 nights in Auckland, Waihi Beach, Papamoa and Matakana, spent one night in the Pinnacles Hut, one night free camping and six nights in camping grounds.
Food and Drink $417
Not bad this month. Despite being on the road for three quarters of the month, I was either staying with generous family who fed us or we were eating sandwiches and cooking while camping.
After a bit of a splurge on clothes last month, this month I managed to abstain.
- Bus from Auckland to Tauranga $17
- Bus from Tauranga to Auckland $19
- Auckland Public Transport $37.50
- Waiheke Island Ferry return $28
- Petrol $107
- Paihia to Russell Ferry return $10.50
- Hokianga Harbour Vehicle Ferry one way $8
- Tairua to Pauanui Ferry return $7.50
Half my transport costs this month was petrol, which isn’t surprising as it is very expensive in New Zealand, and we were traveling in a camper which isn’t super fuel efficient.
- Ngawha Hot Springs $3
- Pauanui Mini Putt Golf $5.50
- Toiletries $4
- Year Planner $7.50
- Monthly Phone Plan + extra data $66
- Indonesia Guide Book $7.50
What’s in Store for Next Month
Month thirty two will see me finally leave New Zealand after being back for over three months – but there will still be some North Island roadtripping to be finished first.
The first couple of days of month thirty two will be spent at my Mum’s place in Papamoa where we are planning to go out on my Step Dad’s boat to Mayor Island and to walk up the Mount.
From there we will head to Rotorua where Toby and I have a few activities booked including a Movie Set tour of Hobbiton, a morning of lugeing and a tour of the Maori Thermal Village, Whakarewarewa. I am also hoping to catch up with some old friends that live there and to visit the beautiful lakes and natural hot springs in the area.
After Rotorua we are planning to drive around the East Cape – a region of New Zealand that many people don’t bother seeing. I drove the East Cape ten years ago so I am looking forward to doing it again. This time I am hoping to get to the East Cape Lighthouse and to stop in Wairau Bay, Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay along the way.
We are going to stop in Gisborne to hit up the beaches and the natural rockslide at nearby Rere falls, then our last East Coast stop will be the lovely Art Deco City of Napier.
From Napier we will be heading inland to the tourist town of Taupo then to Tongariro National Park to do the best day hike in New Zealand – the Tongariro Crossing – then onto Waitomo Caves to do some adventure caving and glowworm spotting.
Our last stops before we head back to Auckland will be to Kawhia for the lesser known hot water beach there, and the surfie/hippy town of Raglan.
Then we only have a night back in Auckland before flying out to Indonesia – my 58th country!
Toby is heading back to Raja Ampat to dive for a week while I will be spending that time in Bali, then we are planning to meet up somewhere else in Indonesia for the last ten days of month thirty two – we have no idea where yet!
It’s going to be a great month – I can feel it.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here