Jess is a Wanderer visited Auckland as part of a whistle-stop tour before heading north one more. The great thing about travelling is the people you meet. I was fortunate enough to meet local Aucklander – Scott – who told me of three hotspots from which to view the city at night.
Armed with my tripod, a jacket, extra batteries, my camera and remote, I set off for the first spot: Sulphur Bridge. Here, you are literally underneath the harbour bridge and the views of the city are quite incredible.
The second stop on my late-night Auckland tour was the Birkenhead Ferry Terminal. Time it right and you’ll get a line of light in your long exposure as the ferries come in and out of the terminal. A fabulous spot for viewing the city and the harbour bridge.
Finally, as always, the best was saved for last as we approached the Chelsea Sugar Factory. With time getting late, tiredness kicking in and an extra chill in the air, I decided to fight the fatigue and head to the third recommendation. I was not disappointed! It was beautiful. Such a clear view of the city and bridge, the lights reflected in the water and the wind (which had plagued me in the other two spots) had completely died down. It was totally worth the extra effort. If you do end up at the sugar factory, be warned that they do lock the gate at 10pm so make sure you’re out in plenty of time!
Jess is a Wanderer (out here in 2018) finally got around to watching The Lord of the Rings… it’s been a long time coming and for someone who has a severe dislike of ‘the fantastical’, I have to say I thoroughly appreciated the films. Such stunning landscapes even if I didn’t thoroughly understand what was going on. Nonetheless, when the opportunity arose to visit Hobbiton, I jumped at the chance.
Located outside Hamilton in Matamata, Hobbiton was chosen for its perfect landscape set in the hilly grassland of the Alexander family’s farm. It really is a perfect spot.
As a rather new ‘fan’ of the LOTR trilogy, I was hesitant to part with my $80 (especially as I’m seven months into my round-the-world adventure and the pennies are fading fast) but actually, it was more than worth it. Actually, it was one of the coolest things I’ve visited. Despite being super duper touristy and super duper busy and rammed full of hobbit-lovers and elf-chasers, I really actually genuinely enjoyed myself! It was incredible to see the set and to imagine all the camera guys and actors milling around.
The facts which were shared by the guide were also pretty mind-blowing – from the amount of time things took to the teeny tiny details that took hours to create for less than three seconds screen-time, it was so fascinating to see and hear. And did you know, the tree on top of Bag End is totally fake? That’s right, the leaves get repainted every couple of years so they continually look fresh!
You even get to go to The Green Dragon for a pint of beer, cider or non-alcoholic ginger beer. It’s really quite marvellous. I do wish I’d tried the cider so if you go, do let me know how it is!
Jess is a Wanderer visited Blue Spring – a natural, fresh, clear water source tucked away in the Waikato region not far from Hamilton. An easy walk on a gravel path leads you down to breathtaking views of the water. With over 70% of all New Zealand’s bottled water coming from this very spring, it’s an absolute must-visit when in the area!
It was a rainy day when we visited but the sand flies were right on cue to nibble at our toes and ankles as we tried to enjoy the view and a rather soggy picnic lunch. As a Brit, I’m a natural for a soggy picnic after all.
Jess is a Wanderer headed out to the famous pier at New Brighton in order to catch a magnificent sunrise. Fortunately, there was no disappointment as the colours, clouds and silhouettes all blended together to create some beautiful early morning images.
Jess is a Wanderer spent a day wandering around Christchurch. Despite the awful earthquake of 2011, the city is very much repairing, rebuilding and recovering from the damage. A colourful, quirky city – I had a really lovely time mooching around.
Whether you’re into fresh food from around the world, funky street art, beautiful gardens or mingling with the locals in a park – Christchurch has it all. We stumbled around the city with no plan of where to go or what to see. We found a shipping container food court (do those places have real names?!) and ate some delicious burritos as we admired various works of street art scattered around the streets.
The architecture is absolutely worth seeing, the destruction from the earthquake, the rebuilding and the renovations that are taking place. There’s something for every interest and the buildings all vary from each other with all their funky colours.
The Botanical Gardens were a definite highlight whilst in Christchurch. Can’t say I’m much of a gardener (mainly due to not having a home… or a garden!) But I did appreciate the landscaping, colourful flowers and lakes which were dotted around. You can follow the river, enjoy the sights and generally have a rather relaxing time in the middle of this bustling city. Definitely not to be missed.
For an additional highlight, look out for locals in the park. We came across a group who enjoy spinning things – they had hula hoops, poi, juggling apparatus and ropes which they were using in a manner of ways on this lazy Sunday afternoon. We were welcomed to join in and had a grand old time with the hula hoops.
Jess is a Wanderer climbed New Zealand’s Mount Taranaki – here’s everything you need to know to prepare for your own ascent.
Climbing Mount Taranaki was a difficult and challenging climb. I won’t pretend that it was easy because it really wasn’t. Right from the beginning the ascent was steep and the terrain some of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. But… the views were out of this world!
It begins with a rather unpleasant hike up a concrete path. Despite the steepness, it is actually the easiest part of the entire trail so appreciate the sturdy ground upon which you walk. It doesn’t last long!
OK, so, it’s pitch black when the climb starts, because you want to be able to see the sunrise – which is most impressive. You’ll definitely want to stop for the view (or at least as an excuse to catch your breath). I took way too many photos and I shouldn’t have done as it only delayed the pain of what lay ahead whilst my pals made haste and got ahead.
After the concrete path, the road turns to gravel and then around 200 steps. These steps are narrow, winding and will make even the toughest tramper’s calves turn to lead. No joke. I wasn’t filled with confidence when I hadn’t even reached the steps when a fellow hiker was heading back down the mountain claiming ‘it gets worse and I’m too unfit to continue’. I can’t deny that it definitely scared the shizzle out of me but with my companions further ahead, I could hardly turn back so soon.
I continued up and met Sarah whose pals had actually turned back so we teamed up to conquer what remained of Taranaki together. Nothing could have prepared us for the scoria that lay ahead – sliding rocks, gravel, sand and muddy bits that we’d scramble up three steps and slide back down one step. It was near impossible trying to get to the top but eventually we somehow made it through the hellish conditions and onto the next phase: rock climbing.
Fortunately, we were high enough at this point to actually be above many of the clouds and the views were phenomenal so the treacherous conditions of clinging onto rocks weren’t actually that difficult due to the distraction provided by the clouds. Seriously, the sea out to one side, other mountains in the distance and the most perfectly fluffy clouds floating by. It was incredible.
After the rock climbing came a little more scoria to the peak of Mount Taranaki itself. It was one last push and again the views were super rewarding. I wasn’t there long enough to get any decent photos before the rain clouds moved in and all hopes of some lovely pictures went out of the window as the visibility dropped to near zero but that was OK. I’d made it to the summit, eaten my cheese and hummus sandwich and was more than happy to head back down again.
The descent was sadly no easier than the ascent. Climbing down the rocks was a slow and laborious process due to there not being a clearly defined path. The scoria was a nightmare – even with speed, it couldn’t prevent you from falling over or taking a tumble on your bum a few times. My legs are still covered in scratches and bruises a week on from the experience!
Taranaki is a treacherous ascent with many climbers falling into trouble each year. You definitely need to have some mountain climbing experience, different layers of clothing (including waterproofs), food, water and a moderate level of fitness in order to be able to make the return trip successfully.
I’m so glad to have climbed Taranaki but I shan’t be rushing back to reach the summit any time soon.