Rachel continues to share her adventurous stories from 2016/17.
(On the off chance that you’ve missed the first part of her story, click here to be amazed)
This trip was probably the most random thing I have ever done. I honestly didn’t know if I was up for kayaking a whole day and travelling with someone I was not that close to. However, sometimes you end up having the most fun when you least expect it. And this trip was super fun.
I never realised how much I loved kayaking until this trip. It was battling the waves in the open sea, hopping from one island to the other, exploring what different islands had to offer, eating lunch on a white pristine beach, trying to take a perfect shot of a seal sunbathing on a rock and kayaking in the opposite direction when said seal suddenly jumped into the water (author’s note: please do not ever try this), and being so utterly exhausted but loving it. I would do this all over again.
While I did not have time to hike around Abel Tasman (next on my to-do list for sure), my friend and I managed to walk up to the Centre of New Zealand in Nelson and see the beautiful sights. The weather was also perfect for walks along the beach – we even found a café that my parents brought me to years ago and guess what? Food is still great at The Boat Shed Café.
I went to Tongariro twice – once in 2016 with the Victoria University Singapore Students Association, and the other in March 2017 with my dad and family friends – and unfortunately, the weather was horrible both times. We actually had to turn back in 2016 because the weather was ghastly, but I am very proud to say that I made it to the end in 2017.
I was kind of bummed that it was too foggy to see anything, but I hear the sights at Tongariro are stunning (think Emerald Lake, the Red Crater etc.). The skies did clear up towards the end though, and I got quite a number of good photos in. It was still an amazing bonding experience with my dad and friends nonetheless. I am also glad that my training paid off when faced with steep hills and a little bit of rope climbing.
Some advice before you attempt Tongariro: It is vital to have a good waterproof windbreaker and a number of warm layers on because you never know when the weather might turn. In no certain terms should you forget a huge water bottle, some hand sanitiser, food (e.g. energy bars, bananas, sandwiches), and definitely invest in a solid pair of hiking boots.
All of this preparation saved my life when I was hit with crazy winds and rain (author’s note to her friends: See? It pays to be extra pedantic sometimes). I cannot wait to attempt Tongariro again… third time lucky I hope? Fingers crossed.
Taupo and the Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook
Lake Taupo is like Queenstown – a beautiful postcard untouched by civilisation. I was, and still am, in awe of how clear and cerulean it was. Lake Tekapo is where you can find the iconic church of the Good Shepherd (tinier than it looks!), and the Mackenzie Sheepdog statue.
People also tend to stop and take pictures with the beautiful lupins when it blossoms during summer. You can find the freshest salmon in NZ at nearby Twizel as well – it was a treat chomping down salmon sashimi right next to Lake Pukaki.
My friends and I decided to attempt the nearby Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook. It was a relatively easy walk that is suitable for all ages. There were breath-taking views of Mount Cook in the distance, vast expanse of greenery, and a beautiful green lake with glaciers poking out of the water to welcome you at the end.
I particularly enjoyed walking across multiple swing bridges – but please be mindful and not jump on it! I have very fond memories of this trip.
Auckland will always have a soft spot in my heart. It was where my parents wanted to move to when I was 10 (disclaimer: we didn’t), it was where I celebrated the end of my high school exams, and it was where I first started my 8-year NZ university journey.
Most importantly, Auckland is the closest thing to home – I spend every winter break on the Goh family farm with my dearest Uncle Danny, Aunt Lee Ngan, and my sweet cousin Isabelle. I view Auckland as a retreat of sorts as it is a place where I can recharge and refocus.
In 2017, I finally attained my dream of visiting Hobbiton, which is a 2 hours drive from Auckland. The weather was not ideal, but being a huge Lord of The Rings fan (many thanks to Daddy Goh), I was still super excited. My best friend and I lapped up every trivia about Hobbiton and the movies and we were game to take as many photos. Hobbiton is definitely a must see!
There are also many other things to do in Auckland; the food choices are immense (night markets galore!), the view of the skyline is fantastic, the city is bustling (walking down CBD on a busy day makes you think you’re in Times Square), and there are so many beautiful places to visit. I don’t think I have done Auckland justice yet because I can’t really drive.
Most of my time is spent on the farm annoying the chickens, reading on the corner couch, and eating everything my super awesome aunt makes for me… I wouldn’t have it any other way though!
All in all, these trips are just a snapshot of what New Zealand truly is and I have tried my best to do them justice. You just have to experience them yourself!
There are some places I have been to (e.g. Invercargill, Bluff, West Coast) but unfortunately those trips were short and I have nothing substantial to write about. Hopefully I will have more to write about in the coming months when I attempt to conquer Roy’s Peak and potentially explore the Coromandel.
So moral of the story is: take advantage of your time here, and do not be afraid of going somewhere you have never been to. Do not make my mistake of only travelling when your time at University is almost up.
Ball is in your court now – please feel free to let me know where you have been and what places you recommend. I will be sure to chuck it on my list! 😉
Photo credits to Maple Goh and Friedrich Heng