Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This past weekend, Sarah, Tamo, Katy and I went on another road trip to the north of North Island. We had an amazing and busy weekend. We left Auckland on Friday, and drove to our hostel in the small town of Ahipara. The hostel was a gorgeous house that was owned by a young Kiwi couple. It was so homey and cute and there was a great community feel. Our two nights there were spent hanging around with people from around the world that were staying there as well. We learned a new card game, heard some original guitar playing, and relaxed on the back porch with others from Germany, France, and Switzerland. It was a great place to stay, and right on the beach!
Saturday morning, the four of us left to head to the top tip of North Island - Cape Reigna. The weather was a bit spotty, but we managed to see some sunshine throughout the day. We stopped at some scenic beaches on our 2 hour drive to Cape Reigna, and then finally arrived to our destination. The wind at Cape Reigna was unbelievable, I felt as if I could hardly stand up against it. But the view was well worth the trip. Cape Reigna is known to the Maoris as the place where the souls of the departed leave New Zealand on their way to the spirit world. It was a very cool place that also marks were the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. After Cape Reigna, we started back south, and drove to the giant sand dunes that we have heard much about. I had no idea what to expect, but these dunes were enormous. It would take us about ten minutes just to climb them! I felt like I was in Egypt or some other desert. Its amazing how contrasting New Zealand's landscape can really be. At the dunes there was sand as far as our eyes could see. We brought sleds with us and had an amazing time flying down the dunes.
We woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful sunny sky. Sarah, Katy, and I started our day with a two hour horseback ride on the beach. It was so scenic and perfect. I have not been on a horse in a while, so the ride was interesting and a bit scary at times for me, but I enjoyed it anyways. We went down a beach in Ahipara, and then our guide lead us behind the dunes into a beautiful grassy path, complete with flowers. This was my favorite part of the ride because we were surrounded in greenery, yet to our right was a great view of the ocean, it was the ideal location for a horse ride. After that and a quick trip to watch some surfers at Shipwreck Bay, we sadly had to start our journey back to Auckland. But our way home held some surprises of its own. We had read about a cove that was a short distance out of the way from our way home, and since it was such a nice day decided to check it our. We are so lucky we did! When we arrived, we were excited to see a group of dolphins playing right in the cove. They would come right up to where the waves were hitting the beach. At first they mainly stayed underwater, but after some time their playful sides came out and they were jumping around everywhere. In such a beautiful cove, it was definitely a spectacle. As they came close to shore, Tamo decided to jump in, fully clothed, to take the opportunity to swim with them. Although he never got to touch one, he said he could see them swimming all around him. It was surely an experience to remember.
At the conclusion of the weekend, I was exhausted, but it was one of my favorite weekend destinations yet. It is scary to think that I will only be in NZ for another 2 months, but I am ready to make the most of us! The workload is getting a bit heavier, but I am attempting to work hard during the week so I can have my weekends to travel!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
My two weeks in Thailand went by so fast, but they were amazing. I was lucky enough to experience different facets of Thailand, from its beaches, to Bangkok, to Sukothai. Each aspect was completely unique, but they were all great. Since Caitlin lives in Bangkok, we spent most of our time there. It was an interesting city that seemed worlds away from Boston and Auckland. It was SO hot and humid.
Caitlin did an excellent job at finding places off the beaten track, where we were the only westerners in site. An example of this was the Amphawa floating market, a weekly market that it held on a river. We were able to do some shopping, and we had lunch on the steps down to the river, eating meals that were prepared on boats. We got laughed at as the locals watched us struggle with our chopsticks, but everyone was so friendly and while I figured out the most effective way to hold my chopsticks, someone went and found a fork for Cait. The day ended with a boat ride that took us down the river and we were able to see hundreds of fire flies in the trees on the banks.
One of the major tourist attractions I got to see was the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, which is The Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Both of these things were amazing, they both had so many things to look at and so much culture. I also got the oppurtunity to go to Sukothai in northern Thailand, which was another cultural wonder. Sukothai was previously the capital of Thailand, and the ruins are still there to be explored. Sukothai, which translates to "the dawn of happiness" was an amazing site, and one of my favorite parts of the trip. We were able to rent bicycles to ride around and check out the different areas, and we couldn't have picked a better day to go. It was an amazing time.
I was sad to leave Caitlin, and Thailand, but I am sure I will make it back there again. And I am glad to be back home in Auckland after two weeks away! I am also excited that it is getting progressively warmer here... its officially spring. With less than 3 months left in my NZ adventure, I am getting anxious to make sure I see and experience everything I am here to do!