I arrived in Auckland in the early evening, and as I was walking to my hostel, seeing as it was the weekend of Chinese new year, there were a lot of celebrations, and I saw some dancing pandas and people on stilts!

I took my bags to the hostel and then walked around to try and find a good restaurant to eat at… I found an interesting pizza place :

The next day, I woke up pretty early and decided to go to Sylvia Park, which is the largest shopping centre (spelled RE and not ER) in New Zealand. There was pretty much everything you could think of ! Including sushi sandwiches, which I would 100% recommend trying.

I then went into a grocery store just to wander around and see what they had that was different to the US. The main thing I noticed was L.O.T.S O.F C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.

I then went back to the hostel because they were hosting a movie night.

Most people think hostels aren’t very clean and aren’t a good environment, but I met so many different people and I am so glad that I didn’t stay in fancy hotels. Everyone in the hostels is so down to earth and willing to hang out with new people. There is a new person to meet from a new country and new fun things to do with them every day!

After watching the movie, I decided to do laundry, because I would be heading out to Australia the next day, and I wanted all of my clothes to be clean when I got there. I put all of my clothes and towel and bathing suit in the same washer, but what I didn’t realize, is that my bathing suit and towel still had sulfur on them from the mud bath I took in Rotorua that I wrote about in my previous blog post. I had hand washed them twice before that already but that was not enough. When I went to remove my clothes from the dryer, they all smelled like rotten eggs! Just like the volcanic areas I had been in the week before. I had no idea what to do because the only clean clothes I had at that point were the clothes I had on and some really fancy dresses that I hadn’t had the occasion to wear yet! I decided I would problem solve in the morning and it was late at this point.

The next day was Waitangi day in New Zealand, which celebrates the signing of New Zealand’s founding document. I walked to the harbor to where all of the festivities were happening and got some ice cream.

There were so many street performers at the harbor, I could have spent all day just watching them !

Then I headed back to the hostel to do some research on my sulfur ridden clothing.

I called the mud bath spa to see if they had any ideas, and they said they were worried that I would not be able to get the smell out because I had put the clothes in the dryer, and the heat from the dryer will make the sulfur set into the clothes. I was horrified!!! He said I could soaking my clothes in ammonia. I wasn’t quite ready to do this though, because I was scared it would discolor my darker clothes, so I went to google for help and learned that baking soda and white vinegar are very helpful in this situation. I only had 3 hours before my flight to Cairns, Australia, but I wanted my clothes to smell good by the time I went to my study abroad program orientation the next day, so I went to the store and decided to buy the vinegar and baking powder in New Zealand, seeing as when it would be late and the stores would be closed by the time I got to Cairns! I then double wrapped my sulfur ridden clothes in trash bags, so that they didn’t “contaminate” my few clean clothes, and stuffed them in my suitcase and headed to the airport! Phew. I guess it wouldn’t be -studying – abroad without a bit of problem solving!

On the way to the airport, I saw the sky tower, which is very well known because you can wear a harness and climb around the top.

Onward to Cairns, Australia!


I got to Rotorua late Wednesday evening, and decided to just hang out at the hostel, because I had so much planned for the next couple of days! One of my roommates was from Boston! Small world.

I woke up really early the next day because I had to go pick up my rental car! A lot of the stuff I had planned around Rotorua weren’t within walking distance, and after deciding I was going to rent a car for 2 days, I booked things a couple of hours away!

The first thing I did, was drive to Hells Gate. Hells Gate is Rotorua’s most active geothermal area. There are lots of mud pools and sulfur lakes, and even a pit that gets up to 144 degrees CELCIUS! That’s crazy hot.

After wandering around the park, I had the option to get into one of the mud pools. Why would I say no to that? It was great, although it made me smell funny.

After leaving the park, I drove to Te Waihou, which is a walkway leading to the blue springs, it was beautiful!

After getting back to my car, I realized that I still had a few hours before the tour I was doing that evening, so I went to a little cafe in a town called Tirau and had a steak pie. Yum!

After that, I headed to my tour at Hobbiton ! I was so excited. I was doing the evening tour, so I got to enjoy a hobbit feast!

It was definitely the highlight of my trip so far. I felt like I was in the movies. After we ate dinner, we walked around Hobbiton again and all of the lanterns were lit on the houses and the chimneys were smoking.

I got back to my rental car at around 11pm, and my GPS wasn’t working, but luckily it was an easy route back, and I made it to the hostel without a map or anything!

The next day, I woke up early again for another Lord of the Rings related tour. I had a 2 and a half hour drive to Waitomo, to go to one of the filming locations that is now called ” Hairy Feet.” When I got there, the owner shook my hand and said : ” You must be Maddie?” And I thought, oh no!! Am I late? But turns out I was just the only person that had signed up for a tour that day, and got my own private one!

Once the tour was over, I started heading back towards the car rental place so I could drop the car off, but I had a few hours to spare, so whenever I saw a scenic walk, I stopped.

First I stopped at Omaru falls :

Then I stopped at a park with a giant tree whose name I can’t remember grows :

Then I dropped the car off and slept a lot ! I was exhausted.

My last day in Rotorua, I went to Te Puia, which is an area where there is thermal activity and a lot of cultural things happening !

I saw the Pohutu geyser erupt. It is the biggest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then I watched a maori cultural performance and ate traditional hangi, which is a lot of steamed food !

Onwards to Auckland!


I arrived in Taupo late in the evening after a 7 hour bus ride. The plan was to sleep on the bus, but there were too many pretty sights! There first hour of the trip was along the West Coast of the North Island, right on the water. The waves were almost crashing on the road! The rest of the way was rolling hills and LOTS of sheep.

When I got to Taupo, it was a lot warmer than Wellington, because there isn’t as much wind! It was great. I made my way to the hostel and it is definitely my favourite by far. There is a little garden in the center of the hostel where everyone hangs out and plays music at night.

I woke up at 4:30 am the next day, to catch my 5am shuttle to the National park to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’s 19.4km not including the side tracks. I got there at 7am and went on my way ! It was incredible. The last shuttle was scheduled to leave the end of the crossing at 4:30pm, so I had 9 1/2 hours to complete the crossing. It usually takes people 5-6 hours, and the extra side tracks – are supposed to take – (foreshadowing the end of this story) 3 hours. I decided I was going to do one of the side tracks… Mount Doom ! The mountain from Lord of the Rings.

I didn’t realize until about a quarter of the way up that it got harder and harder as you went, and by about halfway up, there was no solid ground, only volcano rocks and dust to grasp onto. It was really difficult.

After 2 hours, I finally made it to the top ! I thought it would be the most rewarding thing ever, but then I looked down, and realized that I had to get to the bottom at some point, and suddenly I was terrified.

I started climbing back down, and slowly realized that climbing was not the way to go! You had to basically slide down on the rocks, almost using your shoes as skis, but making sure you lean back in case you tripped!

About three quarters of the way down I stopped staring at my feet and looked out and realized how incredible the view was, and that’s when I felt super proud of myself!

After about an hour and a half of climbing down, I made it to the bottom. I couldn’t believe I had done it ! But I didn’t have any time to wait around, so I headed out. I was already behind by a half hour.

After about 2 more miles, there was another fantastic view! The red crater :

After the red crater, it was all downhill from there! Phew. At this point, it was about 1pm. I had 3 and a half hours to get back to the bus, and about 4 hours left of walking to do. Hurry!

After walking down the hill and around the corner from the red crater, there was another stunning photo op : the emerald lakes :

From the emerald lakes, you could also see another lake in a different shade of blue :

I had about 2 hours left to walk up and around that lake, and then back down to the other side! At this point I realized I might not make the last bus, but I kept trying!

After you round the corner behind that lake, you can see the end, but it’s very far away! And not a very straight route! There was no way I was going to make it! The bus driver told us when he dropped us off, that if we weren’t going to make the bus, we needed to call them to let them know so that they didn’t call New Zealand Search and Rescue. I reached for my phone but realized I had no reception! Why would I ? I was in the middle of the mountains. I kept going until I ran into another person and I asked if they had reception, but they didn’t ! Oh no!

The clock hit 4:30, and I was only about 10 minutes away ! Man, I was so close.

I made it to the end and when I tried to make the call, my phone wouldn’t turn on! I asked another friendly bus driver if he could call my shuttle, and he so kindly did, he even offered me a ride! I made it !

The next day, my legs hurt A LOT, so I just went on a nice short walk to the nearby waterfall called ” Huka Falls”

On my last day in Taupo, I went sailing on the Great Lake, and saw maori rock carvings.

Onwards to Rotorua!


I arrived in Wellington on a late flight. The first thing I did was go to the phone store in the airport and get a really cheap little flip phone because I was going to be doing a lot of hiking in New Zealand and you never know !

I then got a taxi to the hostel, and when I got there it was so windy! Wellington is right on the Cook Strait, which is the body of water between the South and North islands of New Zealand, and the wind is crazy coming off it! When I got to the hostel I went right to bed.

The next day I woke up and went to Zealandia, which is a wildlife sanctuary near Wellington. I saw so many amazing birds and lizards. I even met a Tahake! There are only 260 left in the world :


After going to Zealandia, I took the Wellington cable car back into town :


From the cable car, I walked to the New Zealand parliament buildings, one of them commonly referred to as the ” Beehive.”


I went inside the parliament buildings and took a tour. The inside was incredible and is even built to not collapse with earthquakes! They took us into the basement to show us the “earthquake-proof” pillars.

Later than night I went to the Cuba street night market and ate churros!

I spent the whole of the next day in the Te Papa museum, which is New Zealand’s national museum. At the time, they had an exhibition on the war :


That is a wax sculpture of Lieutenant colonel Percival Fenwick.  He was one of the first doctors ashore during the war. He saved hundreds of people in the 2 months he was there before he got sick.

The next day was a Lord of the Rings day. I went to the woods behind the Mount Victoria lookout and found a Lord of the Rings film location :


After that, I went to the Weta Cave. The weta cave is where they made a lot of the props for Lord of the Rings. They also have a bunch of life size sculptures :


I learned a lot of cool facts when I was there! Here are a few :

  • They made 30,000 arrows for the film, but only got about 5,000 back, which means there are still thousands of them floating around the filming locations of New Zealand!
  • Elves are supposed to be light on their feet, so during the scenes where the fellowship are in the snow, they had Legolas (Orlando Bloom) walk on crates while everyone else dragged their feet in the snow.
  • The actor that plays Boromir (Sean Bean) is so scared of flying that he had to take a boat to New Zealand, and he even had to hike to one of the filming locations and made his makeup artist hike too !

After that, I had a 7 hour bus ride.

Onwards to Taupo!