September 2015

Tepid Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

You may know it as Hot Water Beach, or you might not know it at all. It’s a perculiar phenomenon that occurs on a beach in the coromandel peninsula of New Zealand 1 and a half hours before and after low tide. 

Today was my first day on the Kiwi Experience bus and this was our first stop. We arrived at Hot Water Beach at 1:30pm so quickly checked in and headed down to the beach, spade in hand. 

There were already people down there in their pools so we tried digging next to one of them but only found cold water. We tried a few other spots but the best we could do was tepid water so we just stood in there and admired the view. We hadn’t changed into a swimsuit as it wasn’t all that warm but some of the guys went swimming.

We then got on the bus and drove down to Cathedral Cove. It then took us 30minutes to walk down to the beach, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day and along the way we got some awesome views and the beach itself was stunning. It felt although you had stepped into a postcard! It would be a beautiful place to just sit for the day. Whilst we were down there the weather suddenly turned and it started chucking it down. We stood in the cove undercover and just looked out. Even with the rain it was still beautiful and somehow there was still a blue sky.  


 Eventually, Me and Shauna decided to make a break for not and start the walk back up. Then when it felt like I had been punched in the shoulder we realised there were hold all sized hail stones! The steps at the start of our walk back up had turned into a waterfall. We started to make our way up and then as quickly as it had started the rain and hail stopped.  

I really loved Cathedral Cove and would have loved to stay longer! Maybe somewhere to go back to. 



Waheke Island 

Waheke Island is a 35minute ferry ride from Auckland but it’s completely different. It was a very windy ride despite it being a really warm and sunny day. I arrived onto the island with hair in a tangled windswept knot and got on a bus heading to EcoZip. It was a very scenic drive as we headed to higher land and the view from EcoZip HQ was awesome!

We all got strapped into our harnesses and helmets and were ready to ride! The first zip was very gentle yet still fun with nice views. It took us over a small vineyard below us. Me and Shannon, our Canadian friend, rode together but we both took off and THEN realised our cameras weren’t on the right settings. It just means we will never be able to share the view from that first zip except for using good old fashioned describing words. Eg. Awesome.

The second zip was bigger and the third and final zip was even more so. Longer, higher, steeper and even better views! My camera didn’t want to start before I took off on the second zip but by the time I reached the end it had started recording and I couldn’t stop it so ended up recording the final zip. I enjoyed zip-lining, it’s not a jam packed adrenaline activity but it was cool way to see the views of the island. 

We had a 30minute walk back to EcoZip HQ through the bush and then cleaned off our muddy shoes and were given a lift down to “Wild on Waheke”, one of the many vineyards on the island. However, they were really busy and their kitchen was backed up and the boys were hungry so we decided to walk into the village for a late lunch. 50minutes later we looked at a map at a bus stop and realised we had come only a fraction of the way. In fact it would take another hour and a half to get back to the ferry so we decided to get the bus. We had a bit of a wait but were perfectly content in the sun.

By the time we got to the village and chosen a thai restaurant out of the selection available it was dinner time. I had an amazing tasting platter and the boys got a glass of wine so even though we never tasted wine from one of the vineyards they did still get a glass on Waheke.   We were exhausted on our way back and were struggling to stay awake on the ferry. I was happy to finally rest my head and get to sleep that night.

This is why I came to New Zealand!

A frequent question I was asked before I left England was “Why New Zealand?”. Part of me wants to just answer “Why not?!” I want to go to a lot of places, do I need a specific reason other than to see something new? However, New Zealand has always held an appeal for me since I was told about it as a work exchange programme in 6th form. But today was a perfect example of why I came.

Stray took us on a free one day trip and we saw just how stunning New Zealand could be. Waitakere Ranges Reigonal Park was our first stop where we went on a walk and saw the tree which inspired Avatar, it really was just a stunning walk the entire way around.  

We stopped to appreciate a view of the city before heading towards the beach, again having to stop just to take in the awesome aerial view we had of the beach before driving down into the town of Piha.  

We went to climb the rock formation (more steps) and Take in the views whilst the guys from stray got the BBQ going. We then ate our lunch on the beach with an awesome view.    

 After lunch we went and hiked the Hillary Trail which was stunning. It took about an hour including a stop at the waterfall where me and two of the guys went swimming. It was so cold! It was impossible to breathe when you submerged your torso in the water and it just felt like everything froze inside you.   

 We completed the trail but then it meant it was time to come back into the city. It was a shame as the day had given a taste for what was out there and made me desperate to leave the city ASAP so that I can start exploring more of this beautiful country.

Adventure is out there.

Cassette 9

Tuesday night was the IEP pub meet. We met at 5 then headed down with other travellers to Cassette 9 which was a really funky bar around the corner. We got food and a drink with 20% off thanks to IEP and whilst I only got a “light snack” or crispy chicken it took me a while to finish even with help. 

We hung around until 9pm as this is one things really got into the swing. The place suddenly filled out as backpackers from all around Auckland showed up for a good night out. Everyone was given a free drink and a raffle ticket for later in the night and every time you brought a drink you received another ticket. The drinks were also only $5 each and the prizes ranged from drinks to kiwi experience tours and skydives! I was determined to win so used the opportunity to stock up on drinks.A couple of hours later and the winners had all be announced and I was not among them. James from our group though won a teapot of alcohol though which he shared around.

The DJ then took over and we had a good dance and the music was some pretty decent dance remixes. It was a really good vibe and there were literally people from all around the globe packed into this little 1st floor bar.

If you’re in Auckland and looking for a good night out Cassette 9 is the place to be on a Tuesday night. Good people, good drinks, good prices and good fun.

Packing light for travelling.

I got a new Peru 55l backpack for this adventure and always aimed to pack light. I had started a first draft of my packing list months before I departed the UK as I saw suggestions for useful items and also began to get an idea of the important documents I would need. 

When it came down to actually packing I found it relatively easy and I even had spare space in there so I could pick up more stuff whilst travelling.

My mum was slightly concerned and asked me to put in a few more clothes “just in case” -I didn’t. I knew I had everything I wanted. At the airport the BUNAC staff admired my light packing and others were impressed I had a mere 9kg in there. So how did I do it? And what is in the 9kg I have brought.

-Please note I also had the weight of my carry on which had all my important documents, gadgets and bits and bobs, it weighed approximately 5kg.-

I had time to constantly review my packing list over months and I must have read hundreds of packing list posts on other blogs in the lead up to my trip. It also meant that when my birthday rolled around in August I was able to ask people for presents I needed and could take with me.

I’ve only been gone a few days and yet there’s some items I’m already really glad I brought. 


This is the main component of anyone’s packing when going away so you want to get it right. My research had indicated layers was key in New Zealand after all the country is often referred to having “4 seasons in one day”. Also because I’m going for a year it makes it rather varied in climate but my priority was spring and summer as that was when I was arriving.


Regular shoes

Flip flops 

>> I left off my steelies which I wear for tech work as I didn’t have any confirmed work and they are big and heavy and anyway some theatres are cool with just sturdy trainers.

1x jeans 

>> Whilst almost tempted to bring another pair of shorts or jeans I resisted. Even if I have a second pair of jeans I will most likely wear just the one pair 80% of the time and besides no one really noticed if you’re wearing different jeans or not.

2xshorts (new longer denim ones, patterned fabric ones)

1x leggings

1x lightweight waterproof 

1x hoody

1x jumper (dark grey)

1x black cardigan

>> Fairly straight forward here. I live in my hoody back home and jumpers are big so I didn’t want to go crazy here. 

2x dresses 

>> This is possibly a bit of an overpack for me as I don’t wear dresses that often so they may not be used much but they’re both very light and small and will be perfect when I just need to chuck something on.

5x tops 
>> I also got a free BUNAC T-Shirt at the airport so it’s already bumped that number up.

3x vests

White blouse/layer 

1x pyjamas 

>> I could have brought a couple of sets of PJ’s but my fabric shorts or leggings and any T-shirt will work just as well multitasking.

2x bikinis/swimsuits

>> One of each, variety and allows drying time of necessary.

12x socks

14x underwear

2x bra 

>> You want to make sure you have enough underwear as you will need to do a wash when you run out however remember that you can do underwear in sinks pretty easily so don’t go too crazy.

1x sunglasses

1x Buff

>> Sunglasses duh. The buff was from my dad and I’m really excited to use it as it is multifunctional as bandana, headband and scarf. In fact It’s tied to the outside of my carry on at the moment as an easy marker and it makes it accessible if I suddenly want to use it.

These can be weighty stuff so pick and choose. You can’t take your entire beauty regime. I don’t use much beauty products as it is so found it a little easier.

Travel towel

Laundry bag

Various size ziploc bags

>> I love my travel towel. My brother got it for me and it’s amazing, it’s so soft and drys me with ease yet is so small! The ziploc bags are for anything and everything. I have used them to store underwear and socks to carry on toiletries and food so far. 

Hair brush 

Lots of hairbands 

Make up (foundation, eyebrow, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, tweezers)

Make up wipes 




Bug repellant

Sun cream



>>It’s easier to get sunburnt in NZ and there’s sandflies, I was advised to come prepared. Plasters came in useful on the first day when I got a blister.






Razor and spare head

>> I splashed out and decide to try the shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH as well as a nice soap. So far they are so worth the money. They Work well, smell amazing and are so much lighter and take up a fraction of the space in my bag.

Small pack of washing powder

Travel size





-Eye revitaliser 

Sleeping set (eye mask, earplugs and neck pillow)

>> just some bits and bobs to help me stay fresh on the 11hour flights. The revitaliser was a recommendation from a friend, still not sure what it does but it felt nice and soothing.
Gadgets and doodads.

Electronics are very useful for staying connected to home and documenting your trip and a huge help when researching and booking parts of your trip too.


>> I couldn’t bring laptop as I have a very chunky one and I didn’t want all the extra weight. I flip-flopped on the kindle as I don’t use it much back home anymore but I’m glad I did bring it as have already read 3/4 the first Harry Potter again.



>>Gopro and iPhone are my cameras as didn’t want a third as these two gadgets take good pictures as is. 

External charger

 >>I’ve yet to use the external charger much but it will be very useful and a huge safety net on power.


>> Lost these already. Luckily have apple earphones too and if I really want I can buy some more.

TSA padlock 

>> Padlocks for lockers if not your bag too. Adapter. Duh.



>> I was really worried I would have my Letherman taken away but it made it through. This is alway useful, scissors, knife and bottle opener among other tools. 
Documents, Books and Stationary.

You need to be organised here. You want to make sure you have the right paperwork for getting in the country. Books are heavy though so be frugal.



Insurance confirmation

Bank statements

Spare passport photos

USB w/ CV etc on

Printed CV

Printed references 

Driving license

Debit card 

Notebook with important details

>> All necessary documents that may be required for immigration or job applications and a notebook for me to document everything from booking references to family and friends contact details so that it’s all in one convenient place.

Lonely planet guide book 

Extra NZ travel guide book

>> The lonely planet one was free with BUNAC and the other was a present. Im sure they will help me find some great places and activities along my trip. 

There are a few other bits and bobs I have probably left off but this is the majority of what I have brought and I am quite happy with the state of it all.

Light packing is easy. You just need to research and plan!

“Mum, you don’t need to worry but..”

This is everything that’s gone wrong in the 3 days we were in Hong Kong. 

-Please refrain from reading if you will worry about me unnecessarily.-

Upon arriving in Hong Kong we were told it was a very safe place but that we should know a taxi shouldn’t cost more then HK$50 and that we should still stick together at night. Fair enough really.

First night and a few from our group went out to a club, one guy got a taxi back alone earlier than the others and the driver did try to charge $200! It took a bit of arguing and threats of calling his company but he eventually got down to $60 and just settled and left. Meanwhile the others were still out and whilst in a bar one of the guys started feeling quite drunk but once back at the hotel he realised it wasn’t drunk and that he might have been spiked. He went to the hospital and found out that he had in fact been spiked but luckily it wasn’t enough for any major effect.

We got through the second day without any major incidents but then the third day was a bit of a drama. We all had a very chilled morning, getting all our luggage organised and hanging out on the pool terrace reading and playing cards then as arranged headed down with our luggage at 2:20pm as we had been told (repeatedly) to do so by Lyonna, our tour guide. We were sat on the bus ready to go at 2:30 but realised we were missing two people, and we hadn’t seen them at all that day. Lyonna was running around trying to find them but with no sign of them or the bags, despite the fact they had checked out of the room we could do nothing but leave to go on our tour with Lyonnas number left at the front desk if they appeared. Another 10 minutes later Lyonna recieved a call to say they had appeared but by this time we were on our way so couldn’t go back to collect them until 4pm.

It reached 4pm and we stopped outside the hotel and Lyonna went in to collect the girls and 5 minutes later we were on our way for the last stop of the day. Until someone asks if we’re short one person. I look around and do a count and realise there’s only 19 people on board, a double check and we realise one guy had got off the bus to go to the loo when we had stopped and hadn’t got back on! Back to the hotel again we go.

The last near disaster of the trip occurred right at the end. We had all checked in and gone through security where a few people split up to go browse different shops or get food. We all meet up again at the gate around 45minutes before departure except we are short one guy. We weren’t worried at first but then it got to 30minutes to go and we were starting to wonder where he was, minutes tick by, the Australia lot come and say goodbye and people start boarding our flight and there’s still no sign of him. It’s eventually with 20minutes to go that he strolls up and tells he got lost and didn’t realise how long it would take to get to the gate. Granted the airport is huge. 

But despite all these near misses we all (at least all the New Zealand group) got on the plane and arrived in Auckland in one piece!

So lessons to take from this?

  • Know how much something should cost and don’t be afraid to argue to avoid getting conned.
  • ALWAYS keep and eye on your drink!!! Whether home or away, male or female, just be aware of your surroundings.
  • Be on time! If you are told to be somewhere at a certain time. Be there! Get there early if possible, especially if it’s important!
  • Tell people where you’re going if you’re wandering away from a group.
  • Figure out where you need to be before you need to be there!

Happy travel is safe travel!

Smelly Brits visit Buddha.

On route to New Zealand (or for some Australia) we have a 3 day over in Hong Kong. It was an 11 and a half hour flight but very few of us managed to sleep. (That’s what excitement will do to you). The flying itself was a relatively comfortable experience as we were served food, given a blanket and pillow and had an array of movies and TV to watch. We arrived around 7am Hong Kong time and seeing as we couldn’t check into our hotel yet we left our bags and went on an expedition to visit “Big Buddha”. I say expedition because 15 of 20 decided to go and we were trying our hardest to stick together through the shuttle bus, 2 subways and local bus to arrive together. We did succeed and eventually arrived late morning.

Big Buddha really was impressive and the area and architecture around him was beautiful. We climbed the 260 steps to reach him and the views were worth it even if we were all tired, jet lagged and smelly. We had a wonder around and went to the Monastery which was really beautiful, locals came to pray and worship here so it really was a spiritual place to be. 

Just before getting back on the bus a few of us grabbed some lunch at a stall for our first Chinese meal and I was impressed. I went simple and just had noodles with sausage meat but I did get to try some of their dumplings which were really good and I even ate with chopsticks. Plus it was a lot more cultured then the subway and McDonalds others had on our way back.  

We spent the rest of the day having a swim, showering (at long last!!), and then got dinner and some drinks at the hotel before finally getting some sleep after being awake for 35 hours straight!

New Zealand Travel Plans.

Continue reading “New Zealand Travel Plans.”

The Brussels Incident.

This is a story about what happened when me and my sister visited Brussels a few days before Christmas in 2014. It is an example of why you should have access to emergency funds and be prepared because even if you are only going away for a couple of days anything could happen!

Continue reading “The Brussels Incident.”

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