Hi hello hey how u doing hi sorry it’s been a while. My bad. But I’m back again, gonna skip over Asia because it was a fair while ago and go straight to the beauty that is New Zealand. So. New Zealand. Damn it New Zealand. You stole my heart. From stepping off the plane in Auckland and knowing I would be surrounded by other Lions fans, to jumping off a platform with a 134m free fall, as well as leaving NZ with heaps of new pals, it really was the bestest 6 weeks. I don’t really know where to begin with NZ, because it was so bloomin’ great.
I know, here’s an idea, how about I start with the beginning. We flew to Auckland from Singapore and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a 10 hour flight. For those of you who don’t already know, I bloody love rugby. Love. It. And arriving in New Zealand in August meant arriving to the small matter of the last British and Irish Lions test against the world class All Blacks. So even before I stepped off the plane I knew I was in for an absolute treat, I can indeed confirm that it did not disappoint in the slightest.
I somehow managed to bag myself a last minute ticket to the final test decider from Ticketmaster, and before I knew it I was on my way to Eden park, kitted out in as much Lions stash I could get my hands on.
I was able to catch up with some of my Welsh family for a pre-match dinner and beer, which was the perfect start to a thrilling game. The game itself seemed to fly by, concluding in a somewhat bizarre draw that actually left the whole stadium speechless with no clue how to react. But I think it’s safe to say that the Lions fans certainly celebrated that night. And then some. The beauty about watching the game on my own was 1) everyone around me chatted to me, bought me beer and even invited me out with one of the Vunipola’s cousins 2) it meant I got to stay at the end of the match and fan girl my heart out, resulting in a close encounter with the (delicious) Barrett Brothers, and a cheeky selfie with Aaron Cruden on his 50th cap, as well as TJ Perenara. D r e a m y. All in all the absolute perfect start to New Zealand.
Now I’ve got the rugby spiel out of my system, I’m gonna crack on with a couple more highlights from my trip (in absolutely no particular order at all), and maybe throw in a bit o’ advice for anyone who’d like to do something similar.
So I travelled around NZ with Kiwi Experience – a big green bus that allows you to hop on and off wherever you like. I would definitely recommend this. Fair dos you can do a similar thing much cheaper using InterCity or simply in a car, but I met a pretty great group of pals on Kiwi, which really made it even more special. Think our friendship was cemented when we accidentally (on purpose) became a very promising girl band. Mixed tape will be droppin ASAP.
(The red coats? They were on sale for about £18 in Cotton On, which was too much for our broke selves to pass, and thus the Red n Blacks were born. We did end up also buying the same leggings. They were just such a bargain and so comfy, Cotton On WE LOVE U).
Everywhere you look you’ll find absolutely stunning scenery. From the rolling hills in the north to the steep Mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, and the sand dunes by 90 Mile beach to the numerous rugby pitches in even the smallest of villages, NZ really is a stunner of a country.
Milford Sound was undoubtedly one of the most stunning places I’ve seen. Just take a look at that reflection…
When I came to New Zealand I had no idea how much they liked pies. And boy oh boy do they like their pies. Butter chicken, steak and cheese, lamb and sweet potato, cranberry and Brie and the 2017 “supreme pie of the year”- Venison, bacon, mushroom and cheese. So many flavours. So much yum. Who ate all the pies? Sammy ate all the pies. (And has zero regrets.)
Bookme is basically a discount/voucher website, much like our Groupon or Wowcher. It offers discounts on tons of stuff in NZ, as well as Fiji and Oz. There were offers for the luge, bungy jumping and loads of other things, often equating to cheaper than the Kiwi Experience activity prices, which are generally slightly less than the RRP.
The culture capital of NZ. There are noticeably more Maoris around Rotorua, which I found pretty cool. With Kiwi Experience, we were able to stay overnight in the Tamaki Maori village, which was definitely one of my favourite experiences in NZ. It started with a kind of afternoon tea as we arrived, which is always a good start in my books. Cookies, shortbread, banana bread, and some kind of traditional cross between a scone and donut. Sounds weird, but it was a donut type dough that you split in half and topped with cream and jam. Bit of a weird one but pretty good. After watching a Haka, playing some traditional games and watching a traditional show, it was time to eat the feast. Cooked underground using volcanic rocks, everything had the most amazing flavour, and an all you can eat buffet is basically a gold mine to a backpacker. I stuffed my face with a kind of roast dinner, complete with stuffing, roasted veg and potato, as well as the biggest mussels I’ve ever seen. (Except for mine, obvs). Washed down with some red wine, followed by a campfire, hot tub sesh and a little more wine, it was an absolutely cracking evening, topped off by a sprinkling of snow the next morning. Unfortunately you can’t stay over if you’re not with Kiwi Experience, but you can go do dinner and the cultural experience, which is absolutely worth it.
Wellington and Christchurch
We stayed a few days extra in Wellington, as you normally only get one day if doing minimum time with Kiwi. It was off to a good start when I noticed the Westpac stadium lights were on as we drove in, realised it was a Saturday which meant there was bound to be a rugby match on. Much to my delight, a quick google told me that the Hurricanes would be playing the Crusaders, and there were still tickets left. After a quick turnaround after arrival and dinner, about 20 of us from our bus headed to the stadium to watch the match. I really wanted to watch a Super Rugby match while there, and it turned out to be quite a crucial one. We then headed out into town for a couple more drinks after the match and for a little boogie, so all in all a brill evening.
We then moved from our hostel into an Airbnb for a few more nights. There were four of us in a basement kinda set up so we had our own space, and our lovely host kindly supplied us with cereal (including delish muesli), milk, toast and all the extras you need for a lovely lil breakfast, and threw in a couple of bottles of wine too. She was lovely, and had an even lovelier lil Scottie dog. As well as a German Shepherd who looked adorable, but after being tied up outside all day, was clearly not very well trained and ended up nipping Flo. Cute to look at, but no more.
Being in a house, we had access to a proper kitchen, so we treated ourselves to a home cooked roast dinner on a rainy day, and it was bloomin great. The first one in months and well deserved after gruelling leg sesh in a local gym (which we managed to wangle for free). I really loved Wellington and could easily live there. Cuba street provides you with decent food and quirkiness, Westpac stadium for the rugby, as well as numerous lil mountains you can hike up with stunning views over the city. Lovely.
Christchurch was rather different from Wellington. We walked through the town centre on a Saturday and basically came across absolutely nobody. It’s sad to see how the earthquake still has such a devastating effect on the city six years on. However I could really see its potential in a few years, and how lovely it probably once was when it was more of a bustling city.
I did also get to watch a bit of a schoolboy rugby match, and we all know “how good Kiwi schoolboy rugby is”. I also had the pleasure of staying with one of mum’s cousins for the night. They live in beautiful Sumner and have a gorgeous house on the hill overlooking the beach. They looked after Flo and us so well, treating us to all the home comforts – a brill dinner with a tapas starter, clean clothes, a dip in the hot tub, two adorable dogs, and even an episode of Game of Thrones for Flo. It was so nice to be in an actual home, and great to catch up with them, even if it had been about 16 years!
I arrived in Queenstown after doing the second highest bungy jump in the world. A 134m drop and about 8 seconds of free fall – I heckin’ loved it. A cracking introduction to what Queenstown holds. It was damn chilly while we were there, but thankfully our trusty red coats kept the cold at bay and we were able to enjoy every single second of it.
Queenstown is not only known for its adrenaline activities, but also for its various delicious eateries. We were instructed to go to Ferg Burger, Fat Badger and Cookie Time, so obviously we obliged. Ferg treated us to probably one of the bests burgers I’ve ever had. Yes it’s technically a fast food place, but the constant 40 minute queue out the door is testiment to how good it is. And for £6 ish for a fat arse burger, you absolutely can’t go wrong. Top tip number one: order your burger over the phone to avoid queueing for years in the freezing cold. Fat badger is a pizza place, serving delish pizzas that are bigger than my future. We shared one between three people and I basically had to be rolled out I was so full. But so delish. And as for Cookie Time, dayyyumn the best cookies I’ve ever had. They are what dreams are made of – kinda crispy on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside. A warm bundle of absolute joy. Or two if you go between 6pm and 7pm thanks to their dreamy buy one get one free deal.
So the other big thing we did in Queenstown other than eat was ski. Despite growing up and living in a town that has set up its own private jet company just to take its residents to the alps to ski, I have never actually been skiing. I know. What a deprived child I was! I was gonna wing it and hope that my natural ability to never fall over, impeccable balance and slim, toned, athletic physique would get me through (lol), but thankfully I got 5 hours of lessons for only $35 dollars more than the normal ski pass. Long story short, I absolutely loved it. Classic me, spent the first day mostly on bum, took out three people and was really frustrated that I was shit, but come the end of the second day I was doing green runs comfortably, and managed a borderline blue run too (it was blue on some maps but not others but I’m just gonna tell myself it was a blue). Cardrona was stunning and the perfect intro to skiing. As was the apres ski mulled wine (mulled wine in August?!?! HELL YES).
Also if you’re in Queenstown, definitely hit up the Luge. So. Much. Fun. Mario Carting around the mountains with a stunning view, and all reasonably priced too.
Right. I think I’m gonna have to call it there. I’ve absolutely missed out a helluva lot, but New Zealand is really too good and I am really too good at rambling. But basically what I’m trying to say is that you must definitely go cos it is gr8. I love New Zealand, the beautiful land, the love they have for rugby, the culture and the Kiwis themselves. Only thing I didn’t like was the extortionate price of vegetables 😭😭 but I guess eating seasonally ain’t such a bad thing after all.
Anyhoo, I’ll let you get on with the rest of your lives now. Goodbye NZ, you’ve been bloody wonderful and I can’t wait to see you again.