Abroad: New Zealand

New Zealand

I’m sure no one really noticed, but really late last month, I went on a trip out of the country. It was mostly for a wedding, but because of the steep airfare, I decided to go and have a vacation as well. So here goes my story of how I took the ultimate break to New Zealand.

Day 1. A friend and I took an eight-hour flight to Sydney that took ten hours–because of time zone changes. At Sydney, we passed the time (mostly) by talking, but we also browsed the shops. The really expensive shops. No plans on buying anything yet–not with our budget, and with our trip just starting.

From Sydney, we had another three-hour flight to Wellington, our destination, that took four hours–more or less. And the first order of business? Visit Gollum of course! (If you clicked on the link, yes I did cheat–that’s a photo of Gollum when I was leaving New Zealand. I haven’t uploaded the one from when I arrived yet.)

But wait, there’s more. On the day of our arrival, something big was happening at Wellington. A red carpet premiere. Of epic proportions! It’s for The Hobbit! (Okay, so the picture isn’t off the titular hobbit. But again, forgive me for I am lazy with the uploading, and that was the only I have of the red carpet premiere that’s already up somewhere).

We didn’t really get to do much more during our first day. We arrived some time around three in the afternoon, and we headed straight to the premiere. We stood there for hours (until seven, I think), but I didn’t really notice that it was already evening because–surprise–the sun doesn’t set until nine. Seriously.

Our Kiwi friends took us to their homes, fed us, and then it was time to turn in for the night.

Funny thing I learned on my first day in Wellington? Kiwis don’t believe in ghosts. Or the ones I met, anyway.

Day 2. Wait. Can I give you the option of choosing to read the rest of this entry? Let me figure that out for a bit–

Oh, here we go!

Now, our Kiwi friends didn’t believe my friend and I when we said we were light sleepers. Probably because our other friend (who arrived a day earlier than we did) said that she was going to wake up at ten in the morning, and slept through until one. The one I arrived with, Cathy, wakes up when someone moves. As for me, I wake up at four or five in the morning when I’m not in my own bed. Regardless of timezones and jet lags.

So Cathy and I are awake and ready by seven in the morning. While waiting, Kiwi friend Brigitte thought to show us their backyard–of mountains! It was awesome. Well, the part where we saw a half-chewed bunny wasn’t so much awesome as the rest of the trek, but–New Zealand, from what I’ve seen to this point, was very beautiful.

The trek lead us to a playground where we became kids for around ten minutes.

I deleted the photo that had me falling on my ass on the slide. Just let your imagination provide you the visuals.

After our morning trek, we stuck around the house for a bit before going out for brunch at the Paradise Cafe, an establishment inside a moored boat. The food, so far, has been amazing and Paradise Cafe wasn’t going to be the start of the exception.

The hot chocolate I had with my bacon and eggs and hash brown was heavenly.

Then it was time to do tourist stuff. We went to the beach, high points of Wellington–and to Te Papa museum where I used up almost half of my budget buying souvenirs for friends in the Philippines.

We’re gonna take a bit of detour now, because I want to talk about Te Papa museum and how enjoyable it was compared to the museums I’ve been to in the past.

Number one, Te Papa is interactive. It really encourages its visitors to touch and explore. There was a room with a floor made of the New Zealand map, where a step in the right plate would bring up photos of notable events on the walls. There was an area dedicated to the Earth and earthquakes–with a small house that simulates what happens when there’s an earthquake! And there were trolls!

We didn’t get to explore Te Papa much though, as we had to do one other tourist-y thing: go to the shopping area.

Fine, we had coffee and went to a bookstore. We’re not that young anymore. But after that, we took the tram (or what they call, a cable car) downtown where we went to more shopping centers.

Day 3. Friday was a bit different as it’s time to get to the serious business of wedding preparations. As I mentioned before, this was the main reason why we went to New Zealand in the first place. So the whole morning was spent at Boomrock, an events venue by the cliffs.

I am serious. It is by the cliffs. And while beautiful, it was hella scary.

After Boomrock, the wedding party went back to the city proper to continue the wedding rehearsals, and to pick some stuff up for the wedding. Afterwards, we were left to explore the city some more–but, being Filipinos, we ended up just looking for somewhere we could plop down and eat.

That night, we tried to find out if New Zealand had a night life. It did. We went bowling, we went to a bar–and then we had a burger. That’s how night life normally is, right?

Day 4. The day before the wedding, we didn’t do much else aside from prepare. We picked up the bouquets, and the dress, and went to the hotel where our friend Brigitte would be staying the night. Brigitte’s family and friends from Auckland also arrived, so there was much talk to be had.

And then, we went out for an early dinner.

And then, I saw Aidan Turner again. Having dinner. At the same place we were in.


Can I just say how much I love how chill the Kiwis are when it comes to celebrities? They simply don’t care that you’re there and eating alongside them. Of course, that meant I couldn’t fan boy and ask for a photo, and ask about Being Human and The Hobbit and stuff, but hey–I don’t really fanboy. Except when it comes to Power Rangers.

Speaking of which, that was the only goal I didn’t get to tick off while I was in New Zealand. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to see where they filmed, or even just see any of the actors. We were in Wellington most of the time, went to a couple of other places, but not in the vicinity of where Power Rangers was being shot.

There is always a next time though.

One more thing about our fourth day. A cold front rolled in during the day. And seeing as I packed for the summer, because it is summer in New Zealand right now, I was not expecting any cold fronts. I braved a five degree weather with the air-conditioner in full blast (because we didn’t want to bouquets to wither). Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the heavy rain and the strong winds yet. I kept waking up to the sound of some thing whipping against windows and walls. Before I knew it, it was already–

Day 5. It’s wedding time!

Okay, so the wedding doesn’t actually take place until the afternoon. And because I’m a guy, it doesn’t really take me more than thirty minutes to prepare. So for the most part, I was just sitting around the hotel suite waiting. And then, I braved the winds for lunch with my friend’s soon-to-be sister-in-law (well, they’re in-laws now) for lunch.

Can I just say that that would be my first and last time to eat a savoury muffin?

It’s not that it wasn’t tasty. It was. It just wasn’t for me.

The actual wedding was, for the lack of a better term (and for the nth use this post) was beautiful. The ceremony was short and to the point, and everyone enjoyed the exit parade that the party had rehearsed (over and over) the previous Friday.

The day was foggy, but it gave an ethereal feel to the whole proceedings–before ending the day with a dramatic rolling up of the fog to show us a truly golden sight.

After the wedding, we danced the night away. Literally. And then took a chartered bus back down to the city. A death-defying bus drive through small roads and cliffs.

It was a very good thing that we couldn’t see outside of the windows.

Day 6. Cathy, Kayra (our other friend) and I went back to our friends’ house. They stayed the rest of the night at the hotel. The morning was to be spent for sleeping in, but Cathy and I (being light sleepers) opted to do some house work instead. Cathy more than me. By lunch time, our friends picked us up to go to one of their favorite restaurants that closes down today. That closed down today, I should say. It’ll already past five in New Zealand by the time this post goes live.\

In the afternoon, we bought some more souvenirs. But for the most part though, our friends showed us how it was like to be locals–with a dinner picnic at the park.

Day 7 started very early, as we had a road trip ahead of us. We went to Matamata, where the scenes from The Shire (both in Lord of the Rings, and in The Hobbit) were filmed. We toured the set, had lunch on the road, and became geeks for the time being.

And then it was time to continue to road trip to Rotorua, the vacation place to be. Apparently.

Day 7 ended with us plenty tired, but we still got together with our friends’ family to have dinner. Some went for a swim. I decided to sleep early. Mostly because I was finally getting tired from all the early mornings, but also because the next day would be my last in New Zealand.

But not before one last adventure.

Day 8. My friends were decided that they would get me to go to at least one Rotorua adventure before I leave. And because I’m deathly afraid of heights, sky-diving and bungee-jumping were automatically out of the question. The Zorb, they warned, was not for the queasy stomach. So that left The Louge.

Fact: in New Zealand, cable cars are called gondolas. Which I did not know. Confronted with this reality, I was forced to change the image of a calming boat ride to a fear-inducing slow climb up the mountains in a death trap holding on to a single cable wire. But that was nothing compared to The Louge.

I understand that that makes the Louge sound scarier than it is. That’s unfair of me. Louging is actually fun, in hindsight. Sure, it was hard to control, and throughout the ride I had a fear of colliding with trees and other obstacles in the course

But it was the after that really killed me.

Once you go down the mountain on the Louge, there is only one way back up. By chair lift. Where the only thing that will prevent you from falling down to certain death is a steel bar.

I don’t know how long that ride was, but it was longest so-and-so minutes of my life. I was a sitting cliche throughout, asking my friend how far we had to go before I could step on ground again.

Suffice to say, I gave up my next two rides to my friends and found myself sitting (and waiting) quietly at a cafe nearby.

I am a Baggins of Bag End, apparently.

The afternoon was spent on a maddening chase for an elusive toy (and I feel I must apologize once more to my friends for that), and a trip to a stinky sheep show.

Now, the show wasn’t bad. It literally was stinky.

Brigitte, as a remembrance, gave Cathy, Kayra and I each a plush sheep to remember our New Zealand stay with.

And then, there was nothing left for me to do but wait.

We left Rotorua at nine in the evening, so we could make it to Wellington in time for my flight at six in the morning. From Wellington, I flew to Sydney for my connecting flight to Manila–but not without stopping a bit over at Brisbane first.

Now I’m back in the Philippines. It’s been a couple of weeks, but I still wake up as if I’m in New Zealand (meaning, I wake up at two thinking it’s already seven in the morning). I miss the tranquility of the place, but if you ask me–I can’t see myself living in New Zealand. It’s too quiet for me. Eight days in, I already missed the hustle and bustle of Manila.

I am glad I took that break though. It put my life in perspective. I am more relaxed now, and I am more sure of where I want to go from here on in.

If you’re still reading until here, thanks for sticking with me. I hope, at the very least, you weren’t bored with my recounts.


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