Epic Quest Update #2 – New Zealand (North Island)

Greetings from New Zealand!

Here are two things that you need to know about this place:

  • Weather, scenery, people, activities, etc. = AMAZING
  • Internet = ABYSMAL

I seriously don’t understand how such a great country can be so behind the times when it comes to the Internet. I found more reliable (and cheaper) wifi in tiny Peruvian towns than I’m finding here.? But enough complaining about the Internet; it’s time to start gushing about how freaking beautiful this place is.

You know when you adjust the saturation on your television, and all of the colors seem just a little bit too rich?? That’s what New Zealand is like…ALL of the time.? The grass is actually greener, the sky is bluer, the ocean is more oceany, even the clouds seem to be whiter.

To say I love it here would be an understatement.

Waiheke: Heaven on Earth

If you saw my post last week on push ups, then you know that Waiheke is a gorgeous place. I knew nothing about this island other than it looked pretty in pictures and that everybody told me I needed to check it out.? After an uneventful Monday morning in Auckland, I hopped on a cheap ferry Monday afternoon to take me over to Waiheke Island.

Upon arrival, I took a bus through the island’s interior up to Onetangi Bay, from which I hiked up approximately 160 steps to find my hostel, a place I had discovered just a few hours earlier online.? I knew nothing about this hostel other than it had good prices and great view.

Boy did I luck out.

My experience at Kina Backers Hostel could not have been any better. Although I haven’t traveled too extensively, I’ve stayed in enough hostels? to know which ones are great and which ones aren’t.? Kina Backpackers is far and away the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and I seriously cannot recommend staying there enough.? Owned by Luke and Erin (who have two kids and live right next door), Kina is a hostel that has gone through some major renovations since they’ve taken over: brand new bathrooms and showers, a new kitchen on the way, and FREE WIFI!

In most other hostels, I feel like a number – just a body to occupy a bed, pay my room cost, and move on.? At Kina, I seriously felt like I was part of a family.? Within five minutes of my arrival, a nice German girl named Nicole introduced herself and said “hey, we’re all going to the beach, you should join us!”

Okay fine, twist my arm.

Upon arriving on the beach, I met Fede(rico) and Guy, two other dudes that stay at Kina. I asked them both how long they had been there: “a few months.”? I then asked them how long they had initially planned staying – “A few days.”? Hmmmm, I could see my one night quickly becoming two…or three…

After an perfect afternoon on the beach and swimming in the ocean, we all pitched in money as Guy made a run to the grocery store, Fede fired up the grill, and we all ate a home-made meal of burgers and salad together.? One big family.

“Okay, but just one more night though.”

For the next four days, this is how my days on Waiheke went:

  • Wake up, take a walk outside barefoot and sit on the bench pictured above.
  • Walk back inside, find Luke, and tell him “I’m gonna stay another night, but that’s it.”
  • Luke would laugh, and say “ha, okay man.”
  • Spend all day wandering through the town, walking along the beach, and/or exploring.
  • Eat dinner with my new “family,” catch up on emails, write an article, and fall sleep with a big grin on my face.
  • Repeat.

My one day on Waiheke turned into five.? Oooops. I blame the gorgeous weather, amazing friends, free wifi, and gorgeous beach within walking distance.? One day, Guy (the unofficial tour director for the house who organized fun trips, meals together, etc.) got us all together to go hiking along the ocean for the famous Waiheke Sculpture Walk.? I figured I’d look at some statues, get in a good hike, and go home.

And then this guy showed up:

They had a freaking giant Mario sculpture! I have no idea why it was there, but it made me happy.? The rest of the sculptures were neat, but none were nearly as cool as the world’s most famous plumber here.

I also happened by this hill that strongly resembled Bilbo Baggins’ Bag End? in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.? It’s certainly not the same hill from the movie, but it looks pretty darn close to me:

For my last night on Waiheke, we decided to put together a hodgepodge of home cooked meals. David (NYC), Jonas (Switzerland), Kimberly and Erica (Canada), and myself each provided something different for the meal: chicken-veggie stirfy, salmon, a delicious salad, chips and guacamole, and crepes for desert.? I cooked the stir-fry, my first time ever cooking for more than two people…and I did okay! (this will actually be the theme for Monday’s post).

Back to Auckland and Onward

After lounging around for as long as humanly possible on Friday, I finally bid farewell to Waiheke and my friends at Kina Backpackers before hopping on a late afternoon ferry back to Auckland. Upon arrival, I was met by NF reader Geoffrey who took me on a whirlwind tour of the city.? After discovering that One Tree Hill (immortalized by U2) was IN Auckland, I knew I had to go see and asked Geoffrey to take me there.? We drove all of the way up to One Tree Hill, where Geoffrey finally informed me that due to a dispute a few years back, some wacko actually cut 2/3rds of the way through the tree with a chainsaw and killed it…so now it’s No Tree Hill.

Sad day indeed.

At least I could say I stood where the tree used to be?

After my quick tour, Geoffrey took me to a grocery store so I could stock up on some food supply essentials (bread, apples, whole milk, and almond butter) for my next few days.? Thanks Geoffrey!? I went to bed early and planned for my trip to Rotorua the following morning.

Rotorua: The Land of Funk

You might remember my friend Sue from such blog posts as “Epic Quest Update #1“. Well, it just so happened that Sue was driving down to Rotorua on Saturday morning and offered me a ride!? Sue, you’re the best.? My three-hour car ride was quite delightful, thanks to Sue and her friend Wendy playing tour guide along the way and letting me know all about the history and geography of New Zealand.

As we got closer to Rotorua, Sue and Wendy let me know that I’d be able to smell Rotorua long before seeing it, thanks to the large amounts of geothermal activity and sulfur there.? In case you’ve never smelled sulfur – think rotten eggs.?? Fortunately, the smell wasn’t too pungent, and after a few hours I didn’t even notice it.

After an uneventful evening and first night in town, I spent my second day mountain biking through the Redwoods of Rotorua. For $25 NZD, I was able to rent a bike for a few hours, ride around on some spectacular bike paths, weave in and out of gigantic redwood trees, and get a great workout.

These trees were so tall and things were so green that I truly felt like I was on Endor; unfortunately no Ewoks showed up ??

Onward and Southward!

Week #2 is in the books, and I’m starting to settle into a good rhythm. I’m keeping busy, getting my work done, meeting lots of new people, making friends, and having an absolute blast.? I’ve already purchased my ticket for bungee jumping in Queenstown (which means I HAVE to do it), and I’ve started planning my skydiving adventure (which will probably take place in Queenstown as well).

From a business perspective, Nerd Fitness continues to do very well – it’s freaking awesome to go out and spend a day of hiking, biking, climbing, whatever, and then come back to see that I’ve sold a few books and t-shirts.? I’m doing my best to balance “build the business, brand, and community” with “get away from your computer and go experience cool stuff,” but I think that’s something I will always struggle with.

Tomorrow or Tuesday, I’m off to Waitomo to go Blackwater Rafting (which sounds dangerous, but it’s really just floating down an underground river in a tube…which will still be a lot of fun). Apparently there are some really neat Glowworm Caves over there as well.? After that, I’ll be making my way down to Wellington where I can hop on a ferry and make my way to the South Island.

Until next time!



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