There and Back Again

I had to go for this title, after all I was in New Zealand for the last three weeks. I was able to take this trip with my grandparents because I had graduated college early and they were generous enough to let me tag along.

We flew to Sydney, Australia to get on the ship that would take us all along the coast of New Zealand. We stayed for two days in Sydney where I was able to go to a wildlife exhibit and meet some koalas. It is beautiful in Sydney. It’s hot and humid and rains sporadically, but it is also fun, lively, and full of adventure. We saw the Sydney Opera House and walked around Circular Quay.

We boarded the Noordam in Sydney and had a few days at sea before we reached New Zealand. This was my first cruise ever and I was surprised that I didn’t have too much of a problem with seasickness. I was one of the youngest people on board as well, the average age on the ship was probably around seventy-five. I was able to meet and talk with many of these individuals and really enjoyed meeting new people.

Our first port was Port Chalmers, where we took some off road vehicles to a Penguin reserve. While we were riding in the ARGOS, I kept getting hit in the face with different branches and bushes, which I thought was pretty humorous. Our tour guide also had an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump and he consistently bragged about all of the things that he was doing and that he was practically famous. We stopped in Dunedin for lunch before heading back to the ship to continue on our journey.

Akaroa and Picton were both sunny and beautiful while we were there. They were the only ports where I was actually able to wear shorts comfortably because it wasn’t raining or cold. While in these ports, we visited the Banks Family Sheep Farm and went to a Maori culture insight. I was blown away by the landscapes in New Zealand and can see why they chose the islands to film The Lord of the Rings on.

Speaking of the film trilogy, we were also able to visit Hobbiton, which might have been my absolute favorite excursion. We were able to see Bag End and were given free beverages at the Green Dragon Pub as well as the most delicious muffin I have ever eaten. I was living the dream. I felt like I had stepped into Middle Earth and would fit right in the Shire.

Our more adventurous excursions included river rafting down the Mohaka River in the pouring rain and zip lining on Waiheke Island. Both of these were a blast and memories that I will cherish. Our river rafting guide, Mike, told us all about his experiences with being a guide and how he worked on the Harry Potter movies as a landscaper, which I thought was amazing. We also pulled a piece of pumice out of the river and I was able to take it home with me so that I can share it with my class. I also brought back a book to read to the kids called: Peewee the Lonely Kiwi Finds a Friend that came with a kiwi bird stuffed animal.

I also got a tattoo in Wellington at Union Tattoo (sorry, Mom). I got: “May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” on my shoulder blade. It is a quote from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I knew that I had to get it in New Zealand since that is where the films were made. I didn’t tell my mom until after I got it done and broke the news to her by messaging her and telling her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her. Her instant response was: “What did you do? Were you naughty?!” I might as well just give it to her straight at this point, so I told her that I had gone under the needle once again! She was not too pleased with me, but she was also glad that I didn’t get a tattoo on my neck. No worries, Mom!

Unfortunately, our last port was cancelled due to weather conditions and we had to head back to Sydney one day early. I am thankful that I was able to see so many sights before we left and while on the ship I did plenty of reading and writing. I read three books during my trip: Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, Leigh Bardugo’s Smoke and Bone, as well as Jane Eyre. After reading all of these books, I still had two days left at sea, so I used that time to write and journal.

We disembarked in Sydney and made the long trip home. We flew out at 11:50am on March 14th and arrived in California at 11:50am, March 14th. Time change is weird. Jet lag has certainly kicked my butt as well as my poor grandparents. We have all developed aches and pains as well as a bad cough, but hopefully with enough sleep we will recover quickly! It is a small price to pay for the trip of a lifetime!