A Travellerspoint blog

Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove

First stop on the Kiwi Experience bus

sunny 18 °C

We had to get up early to be picked up by the Kiwi Experience bus at 8am. Our driver is Scottie who is also known as Nancy Boy! We were the first people to be picked up and then by the time we had made a few more stops the bus was completely full! It was nice to be on a bus with other backpackers – quite a difference from the weirdo’s on the Greyhound in America! We hit the road and Scottie told us lots of history about New Zealand which was really interesting. We stopped for a lunch break and then carried on to Hot Water Beach. Once we had checked in to the hostel and dumped our bags we walked down to the beach where people were digging holes in the sand to create little hot tubs using the naturally hot water that comes up on the beach. Unfortunately because some people caused the bus to be running late we didn’t have time to dig a hole before doing our afternoon activities. We walked back up to the hostel to catch the bus and Jonny went to do Sea Kayaking whilst I had opted for the free walk. The kayaking people got dropped off first and then the rest of us were dropped off to hike to Cathedral Cove which is a little beach that has an archway in the rocks and is quite pretty. It has been used in a few films including one of the Narnia one’s but I haven’t actually seen it! It was a bit of a tough hike for me as there was quite a lot of going uphill which I hate so I had to go quite slowly at my own pace. The beach was pretty but I wasn’t sure it was really worth the hike! By the time I had walked back I was exhausted! We went back to the hostel but it was another couple of hours before the kayaking people came back. Jonny had enjoyed himself although he did say he had been quite scared in the water. We had fish and chips for dinner and had showers and then hung out getting to know people on our bus.

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Next stop is Waitomo!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 13:19 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Auckland

The New Zealand adventure begins!

rain 16 °C

From San Francisco we got the bus back down to L.A. and stayed at the Hilton Airport Hotel for a couple of nights. Somewhere between the greyhound bus and arriving at the hotel Jonny lost his credit card. We think it most likely fell out of his pocket in the cab to the hotel so he had to get it cancelled so that was all very stressful and annoying! We’re not going to be in one place long enough for a new one to be sent until we start working in New Zealand so we’re now having to rely on my credit card alone! The Hilton was a nice luxury although it wasn’t quite as nice as the Hilton we stayed at in Macon and unfortunately for some stupid reason the wifi wasn’t free. When we checked out at noon we still had a lot of time to kill as our flight wasn’t until 9pm so we decided to chill out in the lobby for a few hours (where the wifi was free!) before getting the free shuttle bus to the airport. There seemed to be some sort of convention going on in the hotel as there was people everywhere dressed up as various sci-fi / video game / comic book / anime characters – Jonny was loving it! Eventually all the noise and hustle and bustle of walking pokemon characters got annoying so we just got the shuttle to the airport. We were able to check our bags in despite being really early and then we had to wait at the gate for about 6 hours before our flight! The flight itself was 13 hours long and we were not looking forward to it! We were flying with Air New Zealand and they had the most amazing flight safety video, it was based on Lord of the Rings, I’ve posted a link on facebook if you want to check it out. The seats and the food were not too bad and there was a fair selection of films and TV shows to watch. We probably only got a couple of hours sleep though so we were feeling pretty rough by the end of the flight. We caught an airport bus and made it to our hostel but it was still quite early in the morning so our room wasn’t ready to check in to yet. We hung around in the TV room for a few hours and once we’d checked in we immediately had showers as we felt so disgusting after all the travelling! We pretty much spent most of the day relaxing and trying to get our heads together! We had a nap in the afternoon which helped and then we went to the nearby supermarket to stock up on some food for our stay in Auckland. We were actually staying in Mt Eden which is only a short bus ride from the city but it’s very quiet and picturesque which is exactly what we needed for getting over the jet lag. Walking around the streets it has a very English feel to it and there’s a lot of English sort of foods in the supermarket too, it made us realise just how crap the food markets were in America!

The next day we decided to venture into the city of Auckland so we caught a bus and then wandered around. Apparently it’s New Zealand’s biggest city but it felt quite small! It was also really chilled out and there wasn’t too much hustle and bustle. We had a look around the shops and I’ve spotted quite a few shops that I recognise from Australia including Cotton On and Jay Jays. It really feels like a cross between England and Australia here! There was also a Nando’s so we decided to have some lunch in there and then headed back to the hostel. We pretty much just spent the next couple of days chilling out and relaxing as we knew that as soon as we got on the Kiwi Experience bus it would be non-stop! On our last full day in Auckland I appeared to have come down with a cold, I was sneezing and blowing my nose constantly all day and I felt like crap so we went out to get some tablets and stock up on tissues and I spent the day in bed with Jonny making me cups of tea! I was really worried that I would feel ill on the Kiwi bus but when I woke up the next day I felt a lot better. I still took some tablets and that seemed to keep the cold at bay which was good.

Next stop is Hot Water Beach with the Kiwi Experience bus!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 12:49 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Goodbye America!

It's been amazing...

The first leg of our trip has sadly come to an end! Our time in Canada and North America has been simply amazing and an all-round brilliant experience. Here are some of my highlights and lowlights:

Top 3 Favourite Cities:
1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Toronto

Best Accommodation:
Marina Motel, San Francisco (with the Hilton in Macon coming in at a close second for obvious 4* reasons)

Worst Accommodation:
Global Village Backpackers, Toronto

5 Most Exciting Sights (in no particular order):
1. Niagara Falls
2. Grand Canyon
3. New York City Skyline
4. Golden Gate Bridge
5. Yosemite National Park

Biggest Let-down:
Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk and Rodeo

Yummiest Proper Meal:
New York Steak at Sparks Steak House in New York

Best American Fast Food:
Wendy’s

Worst Meal:
Chicken fried steak and a chicken burger with the weirdest tasting sauce ever – A restaurant I can’t even remember the name of at a shopping mall in Texas

3 Experiences That Made Me Giddy:
1. Graceland
2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
3. The Bellagio Fountain Show in Las Vegas (best at night!)

Most Nerve-Wracking Moments:
1. Firing a gun in Texas
2. Driving around L.A. – especially the freeway (and I wasn’t even the one driving!)
3. Watching Jonny precariously standing on various edges of the Grand Canyon hoping he wouldn’t fall off

Overall it’s been a hell of an adventure and I’ll be taking away some wonderful memories and perhaps a few extra pounds from all those Hershey’s kisses!

Next stop New Zealand!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 15:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Francisco Part 2

Downtown and a rollercoaster cable car ride!

sunny 23 °C

We got a bus, a train, and another bus back to San Francisco from Yosemite and checked in to our hostel downtown. It’s a H.I. hostel which is the same chain of hostels that we stayed in in Washington D.C. but this one isn’t quite as good! We’re just in a 4 bed mixed dorm this time. We dumped our bags and then went to a little Thai restaurant and had an amazing dinner and then came back to the hostel and just watched a movie before going to bed. We were woken up in the middle of the night by our 2 drunken roommates coming in - they made so much noise! We seem to be having seriously bad luck with hostel roommates at the moment, these two were sniffing and phlegming all night it was disgusting. They woke me up again at 5.45am; they seemed to be whispering and one got up and started getting things out of his locker and then rummaging around and stuff – I assumed that maybe they had to get up really early or something but then he just got back into bed! I couldn’t get back to sleep at all so when it got to 7am we both just got up as they had woken Jonny up too. Then what really annoyed me is that one of them said “morning! You can turn the light on if you want to” – I was thinking “oh can I? I’m allowed to turn the light on am I? Oh that’s so generous of you after keeping me awake all night rummaging around for apparently no reason and phlegming like a disgusting beast” URGH! Ok rant over…

After getting ready (with the light on) we went to check out the free breakfast which unfortunately wasn’t as impressive as the one in Washington, it was just bagels, toast and coffee. We can’t get any Wifi in our dorm room so we went and sat in the common area and sorted out lots of important bookings and things for the next leg of our epic trip on the laptop. Jonny thinks that he left a micro USB cable at the Marina Motel where we stayed last week in San Francisco and after emailing them they said they had a whole bag of cables left in rooms and he was welcome to rummage through it so Jonny set off to walk up and down the many hills to go back to the Marina Motel whilst I opted out to go and check out the Westfield Shopping Centre instead! Since leaving England we’ve pretty much been together all of the time so it was a little bit strange being by myself but I quite enjoyed it, especially seeing as Jonny always gets bored looking around shops! I suppose it wasn’t the best laid of plans as it was torture walking past lots of clothes shops knowing that I couldn’t buy anything (although I did end up buying a skirt in H&M, oops!) but I did need some moisturiser and knew I couldn’t get hold of my usual one so had to do some testing and shopping around for that which was fun, all the shop assistants seemed to be gay men and they were fascinated that I was English and travelling! I also got quite confused and disorientated whilst shopping; we’d just spent a few days in the cold and there are winter clothes in the shops so I was getting into the winter-clothes zone and they were even playing Christmas music in the shops, but it was actually 23c outside and sunny and I know that in a week’s time I’ll be in New Zealand where it’s summer and hot! Very weird! Anyway after a few hours I went back to the hostel where I found Jonny shattered and cable-less! We just chilled out for the rest of the evening.

The next day we woke up after sleeping much better thanks to the use of some free earplugs from the hostel reception! In the morning we had a couple of skype sessions with each of our parents and then headed out to try and find a big computer store for Jonny to buy a new cable, which luckily we found and they had the cable we needed. We walked around a few other shops and picked up some bits and bobs to make some lunch using the pasta we already had at the hostel. We went back to the hostel and ate and then headed out again to the Westfield. We were trying to find a bookstore because Jonny is about to finish his book and wants another one for the plane but there didn’t seem to be any book stores in an entire 5 floor shopping mall so we decided to walk all the way down Market Street and go to the Ferry building to check it out. The market inside was really good and we wandered around there for a bit and then decided to go and see Paranormal Activity 4 at the cinema – if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t bother it’s not as good as the others! Afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat and then went back to the hostel.

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Part 2 of San Francisco is interesting because we’re staying downtown which is a complete contrast to where we were staying before up in the Marina district. Although we’re loving being downtown at the moment, we felt like we really wanted to visit the north of the city one more time, especially as it was such a nice day as well. We thought we’d take one of the classic cable cars there and back because although it’s a bit of a rip off at $6 each one way, it’s a must do experience of San Francisco. It was a fun ride up to Fisherman’s Wharf and we walked to the park and chilled out for ages with a view of the bridge and watching lots of dogs running around chasing each other and having fun. Then we wandered around the shops in Fisherman’s Wharf for a while and got some lunch. I ended up buying a San Francisco t-shirt and Jonny suddenly decided he wanted to start wearing a watch again so he bought a classic style digital Casio watch! We got the cable car back to downtown and then went back to the hostel and got some laundry done and relaxed in the evening.

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The next day we didn’t really do anything of interest, we just went out to stock up on some snacks to take to L.A. with us because there won’t be much around the hotel and the restaurant there is going to be really overpriced! Unfortunately the weather was nowhere near as nice as the day before, in fact it was really cold so we didn’t stay out long and just chilled out in the hostel. In the evening the hostel provided free pizza and we watched the movie "The Rock" in the TV room - it's a ridiculously over the top action movie set on Alcatraz but it stars Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery who have some fantasticly cheesy lines making it so bad that it's good!

I have come to love the city of San Francisco a great deal and I’m glad we’ve been able to spend so much time here. I could really imagine myself living here and loving it - if it weren’t for the fact that working in America and getting a green card was practically impossible! I love all the differently coloured amazing houses, the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, the beautiful hills that provide amazing views of the bay and the city (even if they are a bitch to climb!) and then the complete contrast of the hustle and bustle of downtown. The city is very clean, laid back, and is doing its best to be environmentally friendly and it feels very safe. The only downside is that there are a lot of homeless people; they’re on every corner downtown but then this seems to be a problem across the whole of America and is not unique to San Francisco. I will be very sad to leave this city and hope I get to experience it again one day.

Next stop – back to L.A. just for a couple of nights and then flying to Auckland, New Zealand!

Posted by Jenpen17 15:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Yosemite

National Park in California

Yosemite – that’s Yo (like “yoyo”) sem (like “gem”) ite (actually more like “itty”) but the emphasis is on “sem” and the Americans don’t usually pronounce their T’s so it’s “Yo-SEM-iddy”! It took us a while to get the hang of saying it properly! We had to catch a bus, a train and another bus to get to the Yosemite Bug Hostel where we were staying for a few days and it took about 6-7 hours in total to get there from San Francisco. We checked in and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon as we wouldn’t have time to actually go to the park because it’s another 1 hour bus ride away from the hostel! The Bug is described as a rustic mountain resort and spa and we stayed in a 12 bed dorm which was basically 6 bunk beds in a simple cabin with 2 toilets and 2 showers. There wasn’t any heating in the cabins apart from some basic insulation and it got down to below freezing at night! The bedding was good and kept us warm though and the beds had memory foam mattresses so they were really comfy! There was a café which had a large lounge seating area and a fireplace so it was nice and cosy in there!

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After somewhat of a chilly night we got up early to get the 8.22am bus to Yosemite Park. It was pretty cold but it always got slightly warmer in the afternoons when the sun came out. We went in to the visitor’s center and tried to figure out a few easy hiking trails we could do but ended up just guessing and finding our own way! The sights and views were absolutely amazing and as its autumn all the leaves are falling and the colours were just beautiful. I really love autumn in England so I’m glad I’ve been able to see some autumn here before we plunge straight into summer in New Zealand! We did three different trails and saw some wildlife although unfortunately we didn’t get to see any bears (and they are around in Yosemite – black ones!) and we also got very geeky and decided to do some little film clips pretending to be Bear Grylls surviving in the wilderness (coming soon, we need to do some editing first!) which was extremely funny. We had brought a packed lunch provided by the café at the Bug so had a little picnic half way through one of the trails and despite there being signs absolutely everywhere saying DO NOT feed the wildlife, I could not stop Jonny from giving his crumbs to a duck! He nicknamed her Mildred! We found a little area by the lake with sand and sat on a log admiring the view for a while and then Jonny noticed that there were bear prints in the sand! They didn’t look very fresh though so I don’t think it was nearby! We caught a bus back to the hostel in the afternoon by which time we were quite exhausted. It was Halloween so we decided to watch Paranormal Activity 3 on the laptop all snuggled up on our bunk in the dorm but it wasn’t long before we were regretting the decision – it was Halloween and we were staying in a little cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere amongst strangers so we started to get a bit freaked out! It didn’t help that the cabin was under some acorn trees so acorns would randomly fall from the tree and bounce off the cabin making loud banging noises and someone staying in our dorm came in in the middle of the night but had a lot of trouble unlocking the door so he was rattling it for ages trying to get in – it woke me up and I was totally disorientated and freaked out!

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The next day we decided to have a bit of a lie in and get the later bus to the park. Unfortunately the cold must have got to my neck in the night because I woke up with a really sore neck and shoulders. We also missed breakfast in the café so we just had apples for breakfast and decided we’d get something to eat at the park because there are a few restaurants there. We got the bus in but when we arrived and tried to find a restaurant we realised that they had all been closed for the season! Then I was struck down with a really bad tension headache due to my neck and shoulders hurting and also it was 2pm and all I’d eaten was an apple! We managed to find a little café that did sandwiches so we ate but I had to take some strong tablets for my headache that make you drowsy. Jonny said I looked really ill and I couldn’t have really coped with hiking so unfortunately we had to just catch the next bus back to the hostel so it was a bit of a wasted day! That night a few more people checked in to our dorm and unluckily 2 of them were terrible snorers! Even with my headphones in listening to my ipod I could still hear them so we hardly got any sleep at all that night! It was so annoying, snorers should be banned from dorms full stop! When Jonny snores I can just give him a thump and he’ll roll over and shut up but I couldn’t very well go and hit strangers and tell them to shut up although believe me I was thinking about it! Jonny thought about going back to the park the next day to do a difficult hike by himself (I couldn’t handle a difficult one!) but in the end decided he’d rather chill out instead! Meanwhile I had a much needed full body massage at the spa which was lovely! That day we had some more people check in to our dorm and one guy was such an idiot who obviously had no clue about hostel dormitory etiquette; every time he would enter or exit the dorm he would leave the door wide open behind him – not very nice when it’s so cold outside; he set an alarm on his phone for 7am but snoozed it every 5 minutes for the next 45 minutes and so waking up everybody else in the room who had not planned on getting up that early – then when he finally decided to get up he went to get ready in the bathroom (which is on the other side of the paper thin wall) and decided to play shit dance music on his phone really loudly! This time Jonny was the one close to hitting someone! One of the snorers had left so we did manage to get some sleep that night though!

Our stay in Yosemite has been short but sweet! The park was amazing and we really enjoyed it. Now we’re headed back to San Francisco for part 2!

xXx

Posted by Jenpen17 11:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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