My nineteenth month of travel was all about moving too fast and doing too much — you may have noticed this by the fact that I disappointingly only managed to post twice this month! The combination of moving quickly and terrible, slow, expensive internet in New Zealand ($18 for 6 hours use, anyone?) has meant that I’ve been mostly unable to work on anything over the last four weeks.

It has, however, been another fantastic month, with tons of exploring, hiking and beautiful scenery!

I began this month with a drive to the northernmost part of the North Island, Cape Reinga, where I was super excited about the month ahead of us.

The premise of our New Zealand trip is for us to spend two months travelling from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. Having now reached Cape Reinga, it was time for us to start heading south.

We stopped off in Raglan, a stunning beach town on the west coast and my favourite place in the North Island! It had a relaxed, laid back vibe, the black sand beach was secluded and beautiful and we had an amazing afternoon sunbathing and paddling in the sea. When I next come to New Zealand, I’ll probably end up living in Raglan for months…

Black sand beach in Raglan

Next up was Waitomo, famous for its glowworm caves. I had never seen glowworms before so this was another exciting first for me. Despite the cave tours being full of loud, obnoxious people who insisted on yelling for the entire tour despite being repeatedly told to keep quiet, it was incredible to see the glowworms. Next time I’ll do it without the tour group.

Funnily enough, for me, the actual highlight from Waitomo was something we stumbled across on the drive down there. A nondescript sign directed us towards a waterfall and we spontaneously decided to go check it out. Bridal Veil Falls was one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve ever seen and I’m so happy we decided to stop there!

Waterfall in New Zealand

We continued on to Mount Maunganui, where I fell over and hurt my ankle again so unfortunately my time there was limited to lying in bed and drinking cider. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time too, with a major hike coming up in a few days.

Next up, was Taupo where we had just one thing planned for our time there: Huka Falls jet boat.

You probably know by now that I get incredibly travel sick, with seasickness being the worst of all (I get nauseous in swimming pools and baths!). I am ridiculously sensitive to any kind of motion, so racing along a river at speeds exceeding 80 km/h, with only 360 degree spins to slow us down, well, let’s just say the result wasn’t all that pretty.

I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be getting back on a jet boat anytime soon…

Lauren on a jetboat

After recovering from the jet boat journey from hell, we moved on to Rotorua, a place that was a pleasant surprise! Dave had visited previously and didn’t have many positive things to say about it, if any. I was expecting to find a smelly town with not much going for it.

We spent our time exploring Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-O-Tapu thermal park. Both of these were stunning and so much fun to explore, with vibrant, colourful lakes, crazy geysers and yes, lots of bizarre smells.

Rotorua champagne pool

And then it was time for the one thing I had been dreading the most throughout my time in New Zealand.

Back in July, Dave and I were strolling through the streets of Prague when ten minutes into our walk I had to stop. I was out of breath, I had a stitch and I wanted to sit down. I couldn’t bring myself to walk any further. Dave was understandably extremely frustrated at my complete lack of fitness and as we argued, mostly about how I was going to cope with hiking in New Zealand, I realised that things had to change.

I spent the next six months forcing myself to sort out my fitness levels. I walked when I didn’t feel like it, attempted to climb hills and mountains and bought myself a whole assortment of hiking gear.

I was determined to prove Dave wrong and show him that I could keep up with him on all of these crazy New Zealand hikes.

And so, at 6am, after a sleepless night full of visions of legs breaking, bodies falling and Laurens dying, I packed up my bag, pulled on my hiking clothes and made my way to the Tongariro Crossing.

With a combination of an 18 km track, a height of 2000 metres and active volcanoes, this was going to be the longest and hardest walk of my life.

I am so glad I decided to become A Hiker because I had so much fun! The Tongariro Crossing was amazing and so, so beautiful!

Lauren hiking the Tongariro Crossing

After brief stops in Lake Waikaremoana, Napier and Wellington, it was time to head to the South Island, where I planned on impressing Dave even further with a 50 kilometre walk over 3 days in the Marlborough Sounds.

The first couple of days were… okay. I managed to get through the 12 and 14 kilometre walks reasonably easily and I was feeling confident about my abilities for the final 25 kilometre day.

To put this into perspective, before I arrived in New Zealand, the furthest distance I had ever walked in my life was probably under 10 km!

It was probably the hardest physical challenge I have ever undertaken. Around 5 kilometres from the end point, my legs completely seized up and began spasming, I was dehydrated and soaked in sweat, I had so many blisters on my feet that I was walking on raw skin. I felt like I was dying.

…And yet, I still completed it! I’ve never felt so proud! 

Despite feeling so incredibly broken by the end of the walk, I was happy I stuck it out and forced myself to walk the whole distance. My calves now look like cobras, I feel the fittest I ever have in my life and I got to explore one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.

I don’t know who I am anymore.

… Onto the statistics for the month!

Distance travelled: 3196km

Countries visited: 1

New Zealand

Cities visited: 16

Auckland, Paihia, Cape Reinga, Hamilton, Raglan, Waitomo, Mount Maunganui, Taupo, Rotorua, National Park, Lake Waikaremoana, Napier, Wellington, Picton, Christchurch, Akaroa.

The next month:

The next month will be more of the same as I continue on with my New Zealand adventure in the South Island.

I’ll be heading to Tekapo to relax in some hot springs and go tubing, in Dunedin I’ll be eating chocolate until I vomit at Cadbury World and walking up the world’s steepest street. I’ll be heading to the southernmost point of the South Island for some more hiking goodness and then checking out both Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. After stops in Queenstown and Wanaka, it’ll be off to walk on Fox Glacier and ice climb all over Franz Josef Glacier — I’ve never seen a glacier before so I’m most excited about this! It’ll then be back up to the top of the South Island to check out Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park and then, the highlight. Dave and I will be heading to Ashburton — Dave’s hometown! I can’t wait!

At the end of the month, I’ll have no doubt spent an insane amount of money so it’ll be back to Southeast Asia for my bank balance to recover… and I’ll be heading to two completely new countries for me during this time… I can’t wait! 

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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