waitomo caves

i recently took one of those quizzes on facebook calculating the number of places i've been out of the top 100 places to go.  honestly, i was expecting to do better than i did so i won't be bragging about my score, but even more disappointingly, i noticed that i had hit only 1 out of 3 places in NZ that made the list.  one of those being the waitomo glowworm caves, which since became a priority.

now, want to know one of the best things about living in a country for a long period of time and technically still being a "tourist?" even if you said no, i'm going to tell you.  staying here for a long period of time has allowed me to not only spread out my touristy activities in a financially responsible manner, but i've also had the time to take advantage of all tourist activities posted on groupon out of season.  double financial responsibility. boom!  so when a groupon appeared for a tubing trip down at the waitomo caves, i naturally emailed/imed everyone i knew and peer pressured a group into going.

since the caves were on the way back to auckland from our ill-fated tongariro trip, we decided to make it a sunday activity for the weekend.  two friends who didn't come for the tongariro trip even met us halfway from auckland for the adventure.  and an adventure it was.  

honestly, we really had no idea what we were getting into when we arrived.  i think most of us were sort of thinking we simply got in tubes lazy river style and floated through the caves (particularly the hungover ones who arrived), but it was much more interesting than that.  during one part of our journey through the caves, we literally got down on our hands and knees gorilla style to crawl through a tiny paths in the cave to a waterfall.  at another point, we dropped down a 7 meter slide into a raging rapid of freezing cold water.  and yet again, i had the opportunity to showcase my fear of heights with a mini panic attack falling backwards off a 2 meter waterfall (please don't google how many feet that is - totally embarrassing...)

the best part? when the guide asked us what we thought was the part of the glowworm that shined, and we childlishly answered "the ass," we were kind of right.  "it's what comes OUT of the ass actually," our decorous guide responded.  so what we were ooh-ing and ah-ing about all afternoon, was really just glowworm poo.

we weren't even posing.

in the van on the way to the caves.

i don't think you're ready...

group artsy tube photo. standard.

believe it or not, these were the photographers fade filters. no instagram necessary.

SO glad the two girls we didn't know got in front for this one.

tourist photo in the glowworms.

glowworm poop.  really, i'm not just being immature.

post mini panic attack caused by jumping backwards off a 2 meter waterfall. some things never change.

side note - this past week there was also a groupon for a shark dive at an aquatic center here in auckland.  thought about it, but unfortunately for you/the blog, that was the extent of my actions. maybe next time...but probably not.


taranaki falls

one of the most popular tourist attractions that i have had on my list of things to do in NZ since i've been here has been to do the infamous trek through the tongariro crossing.  if you google "emerald lakes NZ," you'll see exactly why this has been at the top of the "must dos."  it's about a 6 hour hike in the central part of the north island, that has some pretty spectacular views.  unfortunately, as the weather is slightly precarious in NZ, i have unsuccessfully attempted to complete these trek 4 times, all of which were cancelled due to poor forecasts.  this past weekend, however, i got together with a group of friends and we committed to make the 5 hour drive from auckland down to taupo to finally do the crossing.

as it's quite a long trek, it's best to begin the crossing early in the morning, so we decided to leave town after work on friday to make the journey down to taupo.  we drove through rain and fog across the winding roads through the pitch black night.  finally, we arrived at the backpackers we were staying at, to find some paperwork detailing our stay:

name: aimee gulliver
room number: 27
paid deposit: yes
need to pay more: no
travel to the crossing: definitely not going

definitely not going?!? awesome way to find out that the whole purpose of us driving down was now an impossibility. via pink highlighter on our hostel documentation.

despite this set back, we decided to remain positive and stay the night anyway; hopeful that the weather might surprise us with sunshine and clear skies the next day.  plus, it was midnight and we were tired.  we woke up the next day to grey skies, and a very frazzled hostel keeper who didn't deal with conflict very well (but that's a WHOLE other blog post...).  we were still "definitely not going" according to him, and eventually we decided he wasn't just being dramatic about the weather when we read the report that there were 90km winds at the top of the mountain.

frazzled hostel director (brian) suggested we make the best of it, and though he was pretty much the last person on earth we wanted to take advice from (we had a little beef with him not telling us pre-5 hour drive that the trip was cancelled), make the best of it we did and we decided to do a 2 hour hike to taranaki falls.

i considered posting these photos and pretending like this is tongariro. i mean really, you wouldn't know unless you google imaged these places to check up on my blog accuracy.  but honesty is the best policy, or something like that right?

trek on the way to the falls. told you the weather wasn't good.

a smaller fall on the way. which was very disappointing for a minute when we thought this was "it."

team tongariro taranaki.

taranaki falls - the real deal.

underneath the falls. because we were adventurous by climbing behind them. and stupid by bringing our digital cameras.


all that glitters

as a general rule, it goes without saying that gold always costs more than silver.  being that i'm a "gold girl" (guys: that means i prefer gold jewelry to silver), i've always been aware of this tragic flaw that makes me slightly more high maintenance than "silver girls."  the cost difference between the two metals is sometimes significant, however, it hasn't proven to be a deal breaker in the past.  in NZ, however, it might actually mean that i'm completely undatable.  at least to anyone who isn't a billionaire.

the cost difference between silver and gold here isn't just significant, it's exorbitant beyond anything i ever expected.  case in point: karen walker jewelry.

karen walker is an incredibly popular NZ designer, and definitely considered high end.  that being said, there's no excuse for the price range that runs across her silver and gold jewelry. a silver "heart and arrow" pendant necklace, for example, runs for about $339 NZD.  the gold one? oh that will cost you about $3,449 NZD.

i mean, is the gold made of something different here?  is it actually made of crushed up tiny diamonds? is it blessed by someone important? aged until perfectly ripe? i don't understand.

i'm not going to lie, the prices haven't exactly kept me away from actually considering purchasing a couple pieces of her jewelry.  there's one necklace in particular that i still have on my mind.  too bad the gold version is about $1,200 NZD.  don't worry, i won't hold my breath, but isn't she preeeeeeeeettttyyyyy??


muriwai beach

we're nearing the end of summer here in NZ, which means i have little time left to take advantage of the beautiful weather here.  though the winters aren't necessarily cold here, it rains pretty consistently which makes some of the beautiful sites i still have yet to see significantly less beautiful.  besides, i can't be expected to get a decent self portrait in front of said sights with rain hair.

anyway, this week we have wednesday off from work as it's a public holiday, so i took advantage of my day off and headed up to muriwai beach.

muriwai beach

black sand

we took a quick stroll along the beach, which was amazing as it is a black sand beach - something i have never seen in person before.  i want to go on and on about how beautiful it was, but i'm feeling a little self conscious about the romantic notion of walking on a beach seeing as i was with two girls, so i'll just have to hope you can grasp how awesome it was through my photos. 

after our walk along the beach, we made our way to the caves on the beach.  these are only accessible at low tide, but luckily our trip was timed perfectly so we could take a walk through these amazing caves.  the colors were amazing - black, tan, and something like a purple color that almost seemed unnatural.  i have this random desire to somehow incorporate the word "ombre" into the description, but i'll resist.

oh yeah, please ignore the guy in the center of the picture, who's peeing in the cave.  probably wouldn't have even noticed that if i didn't point it out, but if it made one of you laugh, it was worth it.

just taking casual photos of someone else's photos in the caves

there were also several footpaths along the beach and through the wooded area around the beach.  we walked through the quarry trail to the look out point (also apparently called the hillary trail?).  as you would expect, the view from the top was fantastic and we again had another moment i feel the need to de-romanticize, with a picnic of cheezels, grapes, and a banana. not romantic, right?

the hillary trail? i don't know what you think, but i'm pretty sure "hillary" is a slightly modified picture of elvis

sunset over the black sand


the reviews are in!

you may have thought that it was possible that i've already covered off on every different food product here in NZ on this blog.  well, you'd be wrong.  though i know i'm probably going into unnecessary levels of detail covering off on the food here (particularly food of the junk/fast variety), i'm working through a little bit of a budgeting phase that doesn't exactly allow for the cost of more adventurous activities that might make the blog more interesting.

this is my real life, people.  and a girl can't be an adventurous canyon scaling, bungy jumping, sleeping bag swinging vagabond everyday.  she's got to have a little down time once in awhile to take it easy and enjoy the finer things in life. like whitakker's chocolate.

whitakker's chocolate is a local brand of NZ chocolate that started in christchurch back in 1896.  it's one of the largest chocolate brands here, and you can find the wide array of flavors at almost any grocery store or superette.  they have many different flavors, and have even launched a few new ones since i have been here.  so, of course i've taken it upon myself to try a wide variety of what whittaker's has to offer.

hazelnut is a goody and probably a pretty generic choice to be enjoyed by many.  nothing too out of the box here.  do you like nutella? yeah, i thought so. this is a solid bar of nutella. with nuts.
i know a few people who will be upset about what i'm going to say next, but this is my least favorite of the whittaker's range so far.  as plainly stated on the package, this is a block of white chocolate with macadamia nuts.  i mean yeah, ok i bought a block and finished the whole thing, but really not much stood out to me about this chocolate. in a word: meh.

peanut butter is one of the new flavors released recently by whittaker's, which seems strange to me as it seems like such an obvious combination.  then again, i'm an american and apparently peanut butter as a staple is a very american thing.  i've been caught making a peanut butter in the kitchen and was automatically accused of being american from 10 feet away by a stranger. anyway, this block was good, but somewhat disappointing.  maybe because i have high standards for peanut butter, and the peanut butter included in this block was more of a honey consistency than the reese's peanut butter cup type peanut butter that i'm used to.  if i had to give it a score, it'd be like a 6/10.

if you're asking "what exactly is hokey pokey," i covered this off in an earlier blog post.  so if you're bandwagon fan and not one of the original readers, float on back to septemberish for an explanation of this delicious NZ treat.  this is one of the newly released flavors for whittakers, though slightly less popular than the peanut butter block according to my overly detailed observations of the grocery store shelf inventory.

this block i actually haven't tried yet, but i decided to include it anyway because it's the last of the flavors i would be curious about tasting.  others include different varieties of nuts, raisins, and varying chocolate colors, but kiwifruit is one ingredient i haven't seen before in a chocolate bar.  i did give a bar of this to my parents for christmas (along with other gifts - i'm not that cheap!), so maybe my mom can weigh in on how it tastes.  or just give me another week and i'll probably end up caving to my curiosity.

and finally, last but certainly not lease, the coconut block - my personal favorite.  i'm a huge fan of coconut in general, but i'm an even bigger fan of samoas, and this is exactly what this bar tastes like.  except more chocolatey. which is amazing.  i'm actually not even allowed to buy this anymore, because if i do i will finish the entire family sized block in a matter of a half hour.  

so there you have it folks, the reviews are in! not that there's anything revolutionary being revealed in this post.  chocolate is great - you all knew that. but whittaker's chocolate? it's a whole other level.  if you find some international website that will ship a block to you for somewhere in the neighborhood of $40, do it.  we can place an order together and i'll split the shipping with you when i return to the US. that's a promise.


you can take the girl out of chelsea

this past weekend, i did something i should have done a long time ago and finally made it to the auckland art gallery.  the art gallery is located in the heart of the city, near a place that i have walked by about 150 times, and is free to entry - which is why i say i should have done this a long time ago.  of course, i can't even take all the credit for going as i met up with my friend lisa for brunch and on a walk afterwards we haphazardly walked to the gallery to meet up with another friend.

i don't have many photos and admittedly it was a pretty quick visit - we only spent about an hour total at the museum.  it made for a great afternoon to hide from the ever temperamental auckland weather, and there were even a few pieces i recognized, which always makes me feel cool and hip and intelligent (which i TOTALLY am, right?).

there were also quite a few pieces of interesting modern art, which is huge since normally i'm not a big fan.  of course there were smatterings of the stuff that makes me a non-modern art fan - a white glass door, a random light wire, and some neon plastic flowers that look more like mass produced home accessories from urban outfitters than modern art to me.  one of the cooler parts of the modern section, however, was a room full of mirrors.  

sounds pretty unimpressive, but it was a room in the middle of the exhibit that people lined up to go into.  normally the line is pretty long, but since it was pretty manageable we waited and went in. and i mean it made for a preeeeeeeeetty impressive picture for my instagram account.

in front of the gallery and yeah i instagramed it. trust me it looks much better this way when i don't have make up on.

the giant moving flower chandelier at the entrance to the gallery. pretty sure it was from korea, but 100% sure this was asian.

a room full of mirrors in the super artsy fartsy modern section.


big bikkie

ok i know i said i'm being healthy, but we all know that word has a certain margin of error. the margin increases for a few treats i've found here in NZ that are amazing - like the best ice cream bar i've ever had in my life.

NZ is known for their dairy, so it's no surprise that they make a great ice cream.  i've tried a few interesting flavors while i've been here, but i'm a simple girl at heart and always find myself going back to my all time favorite, cookies and cream.

it's not as boring as it seems though.  like i said, the ice cream here is amazingggggg. like beyond anything i've ever tasted in my life.  and this particular brand of ice cream that i like, tip top, have new ice cream bars, including a cookies and cream flavor which i'd like to think they launched with my arrival in mind.

it's a bar of cookies and cream ice cream covered in a chocolate/cookie crunch shell.  sounds pretty basic, but you know that bite of cookies and cream ice cream where you find a huge chunk of cookie and it feels like you've just won the lottery? no? just me? i'll choose to ignore that, because that moment is the sole reason i love cookies and cream ice cream to begin with.

this ice cream bar is like that ev-er-y-time! the number of huge cookie chunks included in this ice cream bar is unreal.  every bite is the best bite you've ever had, and i personally never get over the lottery feeling every time i get a big piece of cookie.

so what i'm saying is, this is all of my dreams coming true in a single ice cream bar.  

step 1: go to the superette and pick up a big bikkie. it's important you get the cookie flavor and ignore the "energy" label in the corner

step 2: unwrap that bad boy

step 3: take a bite and taste the sensation of crispy chocolate, creamy ice cream, and mountains of oreo cookies


woody the gardener

after the earthquakes took out a lot of the businesses in the area of christchurch, many people were forced to move to other cities and find jobs to survive.  a lot of those people have landed in auckland, as it's the largest city in NZ which means more job opportunities.  i've met quite a few people in shops and taxi drivers that have all recently made the move, but the most interesting person i've met is a gardener from christchurch.

hi name is woody (as the sign clearly states) and he was a gardener who was forced to relocate after the earthquakes.  i can't say i have the full background story as it's not exactly something you walk up to a perfect stranger and ask them about, but woody has been spending his time in a "garden" near one of the main roads here in auckland.

he tends to a flower bed and essentially makes his living based on any tips people choose to leave him in a cooler he has left near his work.  talk about the honor system.

without getting too cheesy on you guys, i think it's absolutely amazing and speaks volumes of the people here, that woody has been gardening and surviving here in auckland based on these tips since i've been living here (going on 9 months).  it's great that he's able to do what he loves, even without finding an official job per say, and that the people in the city appreciate the work he does beautifying the city enough to leave him tips to live.

and considering how expensive it is here, that's a huge deal. i mean, i find it hard to make ends meet on a 9-5 salary.  maybe i need to run through my finances with woody.


around grey lynn

through a recent health kick i've been on, i've been trying to make it a habit to take more walks consistently through the week.  on one such walk, i brought along my camera and took a few photos of my hood - grey lynn.

that's it really. enjoy!

tree outside my flat.

hakanoa street. (my street in case you don't have my address)

oh, just some skulls my neighbor has hanging in their yard.

weasel graffiti.


my obsession with taking photos of flowers continues.


a drive on the wild side

i drove on the other side of the road.  though it might sound trivial, this is no small feat as i haven't actually driven a car in 4 years and i'm sure my mother is actually having a heart attack at this point. (sorry mom!) never one to admit any potential obstacles, i did actually think it might be a little bit difficult getting back behind the wheel, but it was actually just like riding a bike.  backwards.

not only did i drive on the other side of the road, i drove on the motorway in the rain for a little over 20 minutes.  it wasn't the most spectacular drive as there were no amazing views or rockin tunes on the ride, but it felt kind of like one of those life goals you can check off and i was pretty excited to experience something you really can only experience spending a significant amount of time out of the country.

anyway, i'm not about to sit here and pretend like i was perfect. there were several times i was in more than one lane and one time that i almost side swiped a parked car (a la alicia silverstone in clueless), but i'm sure my mom is glad that at least i'm still alive. i'm just glad i didn't crash my flatmate's car.