What do you do when two of your favourite people fly to the other side of the world to see you? Go to some of the north island’s most amazing sites of course! My bestie Erin and her husband Jason came to visit Steve and me last week, breaking up their Australian holiday with a few whirlwind days in New Zealand. Because they only had two weeks total, their time in NZ was brief—only four full days—but I think we managed to squeeze a whole lot into that quick trip.
They arrived in Wellington late Sunday night and we immediately got down to business with a long-overdue catch-up (and some of our favourite local wine and beer). I hadn’t seen Erin and Jason since the end of last summer, and the four of us hadn’t been in the same place since their gorgeous wedding last May.
Despite staying up until nearly 3am (an especially impressive feat for me since I’d run a half-marathon earlier on), we got up early the next morning—so much to do, so little time! Because Wellington weather is unpredictable, we took advantage of the decent if a bit overcast day and as soon as we picked up the rental car we drove up to the Mount Vic lookout for a view over the harbour.
Earlier this week Steve and I headed a few hours north of Wellington to Tongariro to do the Tongariro alpine crossing. One of the highlights of the North Island, this 19-kilometre hike is known for some pretty epic natural formations including turquoise-tinted geothermal pools and the intimidating Mount Ngauruhoe—or as you might know it, Mount Doom. It’s also known for its changeable weather, especially this late in the season. When we arrived at our hostel, we were told by the owner that the shuttle hadn’t run for a few days, but that the forecast was good for the following day and she was optimistic we would be able to do the hike. The next morning, under an overcast sky, the shuttle operator told us that he would take us up but that he recommended we wait for a less ominous day. We decided to go anyway and luckily—after two hours of rain—the skies miraculously cleared up and we were rewarded with incredible views.
Going on a holiday often means stepping out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it means trying new cuisine that kinda grosses you out, sometimes it means navigating a country where you don’t know a word of the language, and sometimes it means venturing into the great outdoors when you’d normally rather be at the mall. There were definitely a few people we saw doing the crossing who weren’t particularly well prepared—like the folks on the shuttle with us who had to be driven to a local gear shop so they could rent rain jackets! While Steve and I only did our first overnight hike a few months ago, we’re experienced trampers and were ready for anything. If you’re thinking of exploring New Zealand or anywhere else known for its hiking, here are a few tips to help your tramping experience:
It’s been about a month and a half since Steve and I arrived in New Zealand on our 12-month working holiday visas and moved down to Wellington for the year. We’ve experienced a lot of cool things already—first time in Asia on our way over, first time in the Southern Hemisphere, first summer Christmas—and there are more to come—next week is my first summer birthday, and we’ll be spending it on our first overnight hike. This week our adventures are mostly stymied by rain and job-hunting, but I thought I’d take a break from firing off CVs and share a few of my thoughts on New Zealand so far.
Wellington has great local hikes
We’ve been lucky enough to make friends with cars who have been kind enough to take us along to a few trails, and we’re going to look into purchasing a vehicle of our own, but even if you have no access to a car here in Welly, there are still a lot of great hiking options. The closest is Mount Victoria, only a few minutes’ walk from the CBD (and where the hobbits hid from the ringwraiths under a log in The Fellowship of the Ring), but there are numerous other hikes of varying lengths and difficulties only a bus ride away. The photos in this post are from a few of my favourite hikes we’ve been on around Wellington so far.
Flat whites and hokey pokey are amazing
I always thought that flat whites were an Aussie invention, but according to Wikipedia New Zealand claims it as well, so I’m counting it. I’d heard of flat whites before coming to the southern hemisphere, but I’d never tried one and now I’m hooked. It’s like a latte but less milky, a cappuccino but less foamy, the perfect combination to create a delicious coffee. I only had one for the first time about two weeks ago, and I’ve probably had five since. Similarly, hokey pokey is basically honeycomb ice cream, but somehow it’s so much better. There are these little crunch pebbles of honeycomb that sort of pop in your mouth and create a delicious sweet tweet.
Getting a response is nice
It’s inevitable: when you’re job hunting, you will get rejected. Not every position is the right fit. Still, even if a job is a reach, there’s nothing more annoying than getting the professional equivalent of being left on “read”. Now, I don’t know if it’s actually a positive of kiwi culture or a negative of other places I’ve gone job-searching, but I’ve already gotten a number of responses—positive and negative—to applications I’ve sent in. Obviously, getting rejected is never fun, but it’s so much nicer to know one way or another rather than wondering whether maybe you’re the ideal candidate but your application accidentally ended up in the spam folder.
Summer holidays are actually great
I arrived in Ireland in the middle of October and the Christmas holidays were already in full force. I personally hate hearing holiday tunes or seeing decorations before December, so that was far too early for me, but it was equally weird at first to get to Wellington in December and see almost nothing festive. However, I came to appreciate the holidays happening in the middle of summer—the weather is warm so you’re not stuck at home, students are in the midst of a much larger break from school, and there’s definitely something to be said for a Christmas BBQ. It’s especially nice when you have great friends whose family takes you in for the day.
For a small city, there’s so much to do
Wellington has 200,000 fewer people than Seattle and Vancouver—and when you include the metro populations both cities’ populations are closer to the entire population of New Zealand than they are to its capitol. I grew up in a small town and have lived in small cities, but I’ve gotten used to living in bustling metropolises so I was curious what it would be like to move back to a smaller city. If I had any worry that there wouldn’t be enough to do, my fears were immediately allayed when we checked into our hostel and found a summer night market going on outside. There are countless meetups, events, and other activities happening throughout the city. I can’t wait to explore even more!
Sometimes you just have to commit
Ever since I ran a half-marathon in 2016 I’ve been talking about running another. The truth is, I’ve barely gone running at all since that race. Vancouver weather isn’t conducive to runs (super hot summers, super slushy winters) and unsurprisingly, neither is living in a van. I realised when I came over here that I probably wouldn’t start running again unless I actually signed up for a race, so when a friend mentioned Round the Bays I immediately registered. I’m definitely nervous because I had 13 weeks of training from registration to race date for the Vancouver half, and only half that for Round the Bays, but I’m feeling confident and ready to run.
Overall, I’m having an amazing time in Wellington and New Zealand so far, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings (hopefully a job). I’ll keep you all up to date!