About a year ago, my friend Jamie and her husband Kevin moved to New Zealand on a year-long visa, and in October of 2017, I went to visit them! I shared a ton of my trip on Instagram, but I never got around to blogging about it, so this is Part 1 of an extremely belated recap of my trip, which was full of lots of knitting and adventures.
The flight to New Zealand is incredibly long, and I wanted to be sure that I’d have plenty of knitting without the bulk, so I treated myself to a sweater quantity of Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn to knit a pullover. I downloaded a bunch of TV shows to my phone through the Netflix app, and I was ready to fly! To break up the plane time, I flew from Seattle to Honolulu to Auckland, which was perfect for such a long flight. I didn’t have any luck napping, so I instead I knit the whole time while watching Manhunt: Unabomber and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. Being able to marathon entire TV series made time pass incredibly quickly, and next thing I knew, I had knit up and entire skein of sock yarn and was landing in Auckland where my friends were waiting for me!
My flight arrived in the evening, and after catching up a bit with my friends, we called it a night, which set me up well to avoid jet lag. Still, we kept plans simple for my first full day there. We walked around Auckland a little and explored Mt. Eden Summit, and then we loaded up on New Zealand snacks and ciders for me to try. The day was windy and rainy, not unlike Seattle’s spring weather, but it made me realize that I should have packed some neckwear.
On day two, we piled in the car to drive to Paihia. We made an important detour to Sheepworld to admire the gift shop and grab some coffees. Sheepworld is a funny little tourist attraction where you can pay to see sheep, goats, etc. and watch a herding demonstration. Because sheep aren’t exactly a novelty for us, we skipped the attractions and spent our money on yarn and touristy tea towels. I got a big skein of deliciously sheepy Naturally Natural Wool Chunky 14 Ply to make myself a quick neck accessory to have in time for our visit to Wellington, which is farther south, with colder, windier weather.
During the day, Paihia was nice and mild. We waded on the beach and looked for critters in the tidepools, and then we grabbed dinner, followed by drinks and knitting at a spot with an amazing view. After the sun went down, it was too chilly to stick around, but it was wonderful while it lasted.
The next morning, we went up to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to go on the tour and visit the museum. It was nice to get a bit of New Zealand’s history, and after the tour, Jamie and I discovered that the footpath in the wooded area of the treaty grounds included labels for most of the trees and plants, so we tried to identify some plants we had seen on our way up. The plants in New Zealand are amazing, and I got a little obsessed with learning more about them.
After grabbing lunch, we headed out. We debated visiting some caves with glow worms that Kevin and Jamie had been to before, following a sign to a different glow worm cave that we had passed on our drive to Paihia, or going straight back to Auckland in the hopes that we’d get there in time to see a documentary about New Zealand chicken shows. At some point we realized that we weren’t going to make the movie showing, so we decided to visit the caves we had seen signs for, and I’m so glad we did!
We followed a muddy footpath across a field to the entrance of the Waipu Caves. The path went straight into the mouth of the cave, and then we scrabbled down some rocks to wade on the floor of the cave. It had a really high ceiling, so no crawling was required, and we walked as far back as was easy, to where it was pitch black without our lights. None of us had flashlights, so we were all using our cell phones to light the way. When we got away from the mouth of the cave, we turned off our lights and looked up. The ceiling looked like the night sky filled with stars, thanks to the thousands of vibrant glow worms. It was indescribably beautiful and one of the coolest things I did on my trip. Unfortunately, you’d need a tripod and a good camera to capture them with a long exposure photo, so you’ll have to settle for this picture Kevin took of me and Jamie leaving the cave.
We spent another quiet night in Auckland, where more ciders and snacks were sampled, and we watched some of Jamie’s favorite reality TV shows. We wanted to be well-rested because the next day Jamie and I were going to Hot Water Beach, a beach with geothermal hot springs underneath it, and we needed to make some important purchases of roadtrip snacks and knitting needles in the morning before we left.
Our drive started off pretty uneventful. Jamie drove while I provided the music and balled the yarn I bought at Sheepworld. But things hit a snag when the road we were supposed to take was unexpectedly closes. Timing was important because access to the hot water section is dictated by the tides, so we picked the fastest alternative route Google Maps offered. And was that an adventure! We followed a small highway around a bay and then turned off onto a mountain road that seemed to shrink the farther we went and eventually turned into a gravel road. I was glad I wasn’t driving because it was a little sketchy, but the views were absolutely stunning. It was forest all around, and the sun kept breaking through the clouds and lighting up the hills.
We got to the beach before the tides came in, and managed to snag a good hole that someone had dug earlier. The way the beach works is that hot springs pump up warm water under the sand, but you have to dig a hole in the sand to access it. It’s incredibly hot, so you want to be close enough to the seawater to keep cool and take the occasional plunge. And bring beer in koozies, like Jamie did for us. We stayed in our hot pool until the tides came so far in that they flooded it with cold water.
Jamie had booked us a cabin at the TOP 10 Holiday Park, so we got cleaned up and spent the rest of the evening sitting out front, knitting and listening to podcasts and music.
The next day we packed up and headed back to Jamie and Kevin’s apartment in Auckland, with a much less eventful drive. First we stopped for pies– I’m a big fan of savory pies, so I ate a TON of pies on this trip– and then we stopped to explore the Auckland Botanic Gardens. We had been talking about visiting the Wellington Botanic Gardens and discovered that Auckland has a massive one. It was beyond beautiful and so fun the explore. Some of the plants were so huge that they reminded me of 50s creature features, where the characters visit an untouched island with huge plants and giants like King Kong. Other sections felt like they were pulled out of a beautiful fantasy movie. It was a really magical garden, and I’m going to leave you with a bunch of pictures from it.
To be continued in Part 2 later this week.