A proper NZ tour
Back again! Yet another trip to New Zealand, this is a faster and more relaxing trip then the one I made almost 2 years ago. It's a beautiful country and it deserves a lot of credit for its thriving outdoor adventures. In the month that I spent here last time, hitchhiking and trying out couch surfing for the first time, I really only made a dent in seeing it all.
The reason I'm here now is mostly because I have a few close friends who live here and I wanted to see them again as they also wanted to see me. The bonus was that I was also offered a paid ticket to New Zealand. It was hard not to say no to the opportunity to come back. Even if it is just for 2 weeks, split between two locations on the north island only.
On the flight over from Australia I sat next to the window, the middle seat was empty and the aisle seat was occupied buy kiwi who was a retired police officer. I didn't find this out tell we were about to land, I did something a little different then usual and kept to myself most the trip. He made several kind gestures; taking my water cup to hand off for the rubbish and turning the overhead light on above me when he noticed I couldn't see the immigration form I was filling out, very well. So eventually I engaged in conversation with him. Really nice guy and his brother was sitting across the aisle from us. I mentioned to him where I was going for the week and that I'd be taking an Uber for the first time when I arrived at the airport to get to my friends house. I was kind of excited about the opportunity to try uber but also a little nervous because I didn't really have a working phone and I wasn't sure how I'd know once the uber car arrived. My kiwi seat partner told me that it should only be $15 or $20 to get to the location I was headed by taxi. I had heard the same from Mike as well.
Mike and Nicole, my friends whose house I'd be staying at for the week only lived 15min from the airport but I was arriving at 12am and mike would already be in bed and Nicole doesn't drive. Mike works for uber part time and he gave me a credit of $10 towards my first ride, to use that night. If it had been daylight out, the backpacker in me would have just walked from the airport to their place.
The plane landed and the kiwi got up into the aisle and as I stood up he reached out to me as if to shake my hand and when our hands met he slipped me a $20 and said get yourself a real taxi and be safe. I graciously took the money and told him I would.
* I come across some amazing people in my travels and I've got to say I mostly have great karma and wonderful opportunities thrown my way. Like this for example! A complete stranger just handed me $20. And just days before leaving Australia I was given a pre paid phone plan, good for a year with free calls to Australia and the USA. I believe that these are the kind of things that happen to positive, free spirited, travelers who are kind to others, help when they can and say "yes!" As much as possible!
After I collected my backpack from the baggage claim I walked outside and caught an official taxi. I don't take taxi's much so I'm unfamiliar with certain things like A $5 AIRPORT FEE!!! What!? Had I known this I would have just walked across the street to the Burger King and caught a cab from there. And then when we arrived at the house he kept backing up and driving forward and as I watched the fee go up more for these useless maneuvers. Then I suddenly only had $20 NZ and the meter read $25 so I had to pay on a credit card. Oh but wait it gets better. I was then charged an extra $2.60 for using a credit card. Ugh! I was frustrated for sure but I didn't express it and definitely wishing I had taken an Uber. There was probably a reason why I was handed that $20 and encouraged to take the taxi.
Looking for Rest and Relaxation
Aside from originally wondering if I could pull off a quick trip into Queenstown, NZ for no good reason other than the famous Ferg Burger, Bakery and Mrs. Ferg; this trip to New Zealand was always intended to just see friends and travel plan. I decided against Queenstown and I'm glad I did because my time with Mike and Nicole in Wellington went really fast!
While they were at work I occupied myself with walks around their neighborhood and to a cafe around the corner from their flat. It's called Boabab and I rembered it from my last visit. They had great chai lattes.
I spent several hours of my first day in there, with a chai, a superfood salad and my sketchbook in front of me. They didn't have wifi which sadly is the first thing I asked for, so happily I pulled my sketchbook and pens out of my bag.
The weather was drastcially cooler than the sunny Gold Coast! Again (rembering Sydney) I was finding that I may not have packed warm enough clothes.
Mike is a tour guide mainly in Wellington but gives private tours all over NZ! He cut his hours back to part time with the tour company he originally worked full time for so that he could focus on growing his own company. He's doing well for him self and he's great at what he does! Super personable and does well learning what each customer is after and imediently catering to their needs. My second day with them he got me a spot with the tour he was taking out for the part time company. We started off at 8 am with a van full of 6 tourists (including me), Mike and another guide who was learning from Mike.
The first stop was Stellin memorial lookout. It was exactly that, a lookout. Great view but pretty windy and overcast with a continued threat of rain that would follow us through the day but never happen.
The second stop, a botanical garden of native plants. It wasn't the main botanical garden of Wellington which probably made it a little more special. It was on a hillside, 259.46 acres full of trails, the worlds largest pigeon and humongous fern trees!! Obviously there was a lot more then just this but you get the idea. The homes nestled around this property had it made! Imagine a botanical garden as your back yard vs tall city buildings. It was called Otari Native Botanical garden and it's the only botanical garden in New Zealand dedicated only to native plants. It's in a suburb of Wellington called Wilton.
Next stop was a 15,000 acre wind, sheep, cattle, wild goats and wild seal farm. This tour company is a the only company that has permission to take people onto to the property. We drove straight to the top of the property once we got thru a few gates. From this point I could see 24 wind turbines from standing in just one spot! There was definitely more of them as the property was nothing but rolling hills. I don't know what it is about these turbines but I've always loved them. I mean they are doing good for the world and they are just kind of a dominate force standing on its own. Does that even make any sence!?
We drove down the hill, perhaps the side of the property and thru more gates passing cattle, sheep and a few goats along the way. When we made it thru the last gate we had made it to the ocean. That's where we saw the seals. Nothing an Oregonian like myself has never seen before but it was still a fun experience seeing them all sprawled out along the shores of this farm.
We were given some time to wonder around and come back to the van if we wanted to get away from the wind and have some tea/coffee and muffins. The 2 of the French ladies that were with us just for the morning half of the tour got really into their picture taking with the seals. The other French girl who was on her own sat quietly on a log taking in the surroundings. The other 2 that were with us was a couple from Kansas City, Missouri. The wife hung out near the van mostly due to the wind while her husband enjoyed creeping around the rocks, peaking around them at the seals to get that one perfect photograph.
We dropped all the French ladies off after we finished on the farm and the 3 of us that were left joined Mike and the other guide (Steve) at one of Mike's favorite dinners. It was a place with a design based off of a NYC dinner. And the hip hop era. I had a ceaser salad because I was curious about the 60 minute boiled egg and the "stained glass chicken" that came with it. I have no picture of it to share with you but it was good and the boiled egg was great! The yolk was even soft inside, not really what I was expecting.
From lunch we went to Zealandia,
a bird Sanctuary that was pretty cool. I'm not big into bird watching but the birds on this side of the world are a bit more colorful and have a lot more harmony then they do on the west coast of the states.
There were lots of trails through the wooded areas of this sanctuary and they do a great job of keeping pests out and the native birds in.
This was a display sort of case where you could open it an sometimes you'd see bugs and sometimes you wouldn't. They had a way to come and go as they pleased.
These are the 2 adult ducks and their babies (not shown) who actually walked up to the entrance gates a few days ago and stayed until the gates were opened, they walked in and have since called it home. It's like they knew it was the safest place to be.
That was technically the end of the tour but like I said, Mike's a good travel guide and he picked up right away that The man was interested in tasting some local beer and that they as a couple where interested in what the locals did. So that is why we went to a local favorite for lunch and before he dropped the couple back off at their hotel we stopped in at a place called the garage project, a small local brewery project for some samples. Well they all sampled, I just looked at the cool art work on the bottles and kept eyeing this cool tank top that I wanted to buy but not for the $45 price tag that was on it! Yikes!
I think different artists for each design.
A few more days in Wellington left...