Posts tagged New Zealand

Are Hostels Safe? And Should New Travelers Stay in Hostels?

Hostel_Part_III_2011_CustomBD_001When you first start to travel, so many fears can pop into your head from getting robbed to missing flights to running out of money. And thanks to Hollywood horror films, hostels have been added to a list of things encouraged to fear, and for some, evoke images of kidnapping and torture.

In general, most news you see on TV around the world is bad news, and most western governments use scare tactics to keep people at home. The world is a dangerous place. That’s a silly generalization, and after hitting my 4 year travel anniversary it’s one that’s become even more laughable. But what of hostels? Those sketchy and dank places run by Slovakian mobsters? Sometimes I have conversations with friends or co-workers when I return to the United States and the topic comes up with a statement like “hostels aren’t safe, I don’t know how you do it” or “people get killed or robbed in hostels“.

I chuckle at them and shake my head.

Whatever you want to call them, hostels or guesthouses go hand in hand as a part of the travel experience for me over the past four years. They are the meeting place for new best friends. They are starting places for exciting and unexpected adventures. They can be a place where solo travelers find another solo traveler to connect with and sometimes canoodle with (take that however you want). They smell a little funky. They are places to perfect the art of cheap pasta recipes. And you will miss out on a huge part of the travel experience if you never stay in a hostel.

The debate will forever rage on whether or not to stay in hostels if you don’t have to which depends on what type of traveler and what tastes you have. But to argue if they are safe or not I will share the tale of my first time in a hostel to make my point.

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All month I am revisiting many of my travel firsts from my first trip abroad to New Zealand. For my first experience of a hostel everything began quite normal, but just like something out of a movie — shit got weird. So this is one story had to be told again.

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Photo By: Matthew Coleman

It seemed like a normal day in Auckland. I went on a birthday binge drink the night before with a new friend. Jaegermeister breath in the morning. Hangover. Rushed downstairs 5 minutes before checkout to book another night. But when I returned my room, I discovered a naked body in my bed. Lifeless.

What do you do when you find a mysterious body in your bed?

At the time I didn’t know if the person was lifeless or not. But the body wasn’t moving and didn’t seem to be breathing from what I could see. In some instances, one might panic thinking it’s a dead body. In others, one might also fist pump in silence thinking they got lucky or high five themselves. I knew for a fact that I didn’t get lucky the night before and come home with a girl

I knew for a fact that I didn’t get lucky the night before and had come home with a girl. My “it’s my birthday” line that worked so well in Vegas for smooches, failed that night on the ladies of Auckland. And the second reason was the bare ass staring back at me belonged to a dude.

I wasn’t that drunk.

Sure, one of the thoughts that raced through my head among hundreds of others was wondering if the person was dead, but I’m not a hobbyist of recreating Hollywood horror movies, and I can’t imagine someone being able to drag a body into the hostel room unnoticed.

I was simply confused.

Planking was a big fad around that time, yet I don’t think naked planking had caught on in 2011. Maybe it was a prank?

Then the other hostel mates saw the body. 

Slowly bunk bed by bunk bed began to squeak with the other backpackers coming to life. As some stretched out and rubbed their eyes or announced their own hangover with a moan, they began to notice the situation in my bed.

I was standing in the doorway with the definition of befuddled on my face. There was a naked body  slumped in my bed, half twisted and half hanging off the edge. One Irishman looked back and forth from my bed to me about 10 times before whispering, “Woot da heel is dat?

The only reply I gave at first was an extended “uuuuuuhhhhhhh…

As the rest of the room came to life and sat up to gawk, I looked around at them and whispered the only thing I could, “What the fuck is going on?

The Irishman replied the only way I’d expect, “Oim nawt drunk enoof for dis shite in da mornin“.

I wasn’t either.

Where did the body come from?

As I stood there, I tried to trace back over the whole morning to figure it out and hundreds of scenarios popped in and out of my head within seconds.

Flashback sequence commence…

That morning when I woke up to the scream of my alarm and saw it was just 5 minute before I had to check out. I know for a fact I rolled around in a Jaegermeister induced agony at first. After finding the energy to get out of bed, I discovered my half-full water bottle near the edge of the bed. Elixir of life.

And nobody else in my bed. I rolled off the bed still wearing the outfit from the night before and waddled out of the room, squinting through one eye as I made my way downstairs. The front desk was swarming with last-minute check outs, so I shuffled outside and into the searing sunlight. The hangover was too intense to do anything that day let alone think, so I listened to my belly instead and bought the last shriveled up meat-pies in the 7-11 nearby.

I rolled off the bed still wearing the outfit from the night before and waddled out of the room, squinting through one eye as I made my way downstairs. The front desk was swarming with last-minute check outs, so I shuffled outside and into the searing sunlight. The hangover was too intense to do anything that day let alone think, so I listened to my belly instead and bought the last shriveled up meat-pies in the 7-11 nearby.

When I returned to the hostel, the front desk commented on my glorious appearance with a “looks like you had an epic night mate” as they booked me for another night. Before going back to my room, I slumped down on the bottom step, lacking the energy to focus on juggling meat pies and water bottles while climbing stairs.

With the pies destroyed, I trudged upstairs and entered my room. No naked body in the bed. It was already 10am and I didn’t want to waste the day so I grabbed my toothbrush and went into the bathroom. Nothing out of the ordinary except that I found the remnants of meat pie in my beard. Yum.

Then I returned to the room.

And BAM. Naked ninja in my bed.

Cut to the Irishman waking and we’re back to “What the fuck is going on?

Either way, I knew through my brief flashback sequence that there was no way this naked-planking-ninja-dead-body was there minutes before.

That was the only time I put my Lonely Planet guide to use.

It was time to investigate. And when I say investigate, I mean use my Lonely Planet Guide Book for the first and only time ever during my trip in New Zealand. The guidebook was the closest thing to grab so I used that to poke his leg. No response. The butt cheeks stared back unmoving.

The rest of the room watched in silence (though there was a bit of giggling from one girl) as I walked around to the side of the bed and reached out to prod the dude in the shoulder. No response. I looked back at the rest of the room and held up my hands not knowing what to do. The Irishman nodded his head forward, and I took that as the sign to wallop the guy upside the head. If he was dead it wouldn’t matter, right?

So I walloped him in the back of the head. 

Lonely Planet proved useful and the moment I walloped him, he sprung upright. How he sprung upright from he twisted position he was in still baffles me (naked ninja skills I guess) but the sudden life of him scared the hell out of all of us. IT’S ALIVE!

I think I even yelled “Oh shit!

There wasn’t much life to the guy. As he sat on my bed, his eyes twirled around in his skull. Then he flopped back down.

Hey dude” I said, and proceeded to nudge him again with the guide-book. This time he did one of those moves where he tried to blindly swat me away. My hangover took hold, and now that I knew this naked dude was alive, I was furious he was in my bed. I hit him in the back of the head again, and again he popped upright. Eyes still twirling, but this time he mumbled something I couldn’t understand.

At that moment he came back to life.

Half-life at least. His eyes stopped twirling and he looked down at himself, realizing he was naked. He looked around the room but straight through all of us as though we didn’t exist.

You need to get the hell out of my bed man” I said, beginning to grit my teeth.

Instead of just wandering out naked after deflowering my clean-ish hostel bed, he reached down and began to grab my clothes from my backpack.

Great, now he was trying to steal my clothes!

He had two of my shirts and a pair of my pants and I yanked them from his hands. He still didn’t seem to realize anybody else was there, but he wrapped the blanket around himself and stood up.

Yes, take the blanket because I was going to burn it anyway” I called out, and he waddled out of the room and into the hall. Everyone in the room began to laugh, and even though I was pissed off, I could help myself either. By the time I poked my head into the hall to see if he was sleeping in it, he was gone like some naked phantom.

And that was the last I saw of him. But not the last I heard of him.

Later in the day word had spread of the naked guy in the bed, and while making some instant noodles and instant coffee in the kitchen, one of the backpackers in another room gave us his origin story.

He literally pissed off everyone in his room.

The “bloke” as they called him couldn’t hold his liquor or drugs apparently. The night before he had gone out by himself and re-appeared around 7am. At one point, close to when I was downstairs booking another night, he woke up everyone when one roommate caught him standing in the center of the room peeing all over everyone’s luggage. They did what anyone sensible would do in that situation and physically tossed him outside and locked the door.

When we compared stories, we figured out that somehow when I went to use the bathroom after booking another night, he managed to wander into the room and flop onto my bed before the door closed.

Looking back on it, it was a hilarious situation. For someone already battling hundreds of emotions as a first time traveler, I created tons of bad scenarios in my head that were usually based off of horror films. And that will make any experience seem dangerous. Go camping? Killed. Eastern Europe? Killed. Unless Liam Neeson can save me with his certain set of skills. Relaxing by a lake? Killed. Own a cat and bury it when it dies? Killed by zombie cats. Go to sleep at night and dream? Killed. Tomatoes? Killer tomatoes, you’re dead. Clowns? Killer alien clowns. Get the point? Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!

Get the point? Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!

Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!

Don’t let fear of the unknown or TV/movies delegate where you can travel to and not. Even when I traveled to Haiti, most warned me that I’d be killed or kidnapped because they saw it on TV and the news. Haiti is my favorite country to travel to.

Hostels can be weird, but they’ve never felt dangerous.

It’s true that my first ever hostel experience involved finding a lifeless body in my bed only for it to come back to life and waddle off. Freaking weird huh? Since then, I’ve heard stories of times when people have had drunk or drugged up idiots do things similar to that. I’ve experienced a fight in my hostel in Thailand that threatened to spiral out of control. I’ve also heard of stories where people have had their things stolen as well, but usually that’s because they decided not to take proper precautions.

Almost 99% of hostel stories I hear though are funny like my first experience, or about best friends being made.

Are hostels safe? After 4 years of travel and hundreds of hostels that I’ve stayed in, I can tell you that hostels aren’t dangerous or secret cults that will kidnap you or anything close to that.

My hostel experiences, though peppered with some weird shit like this one, has been pretty great. I’ve met friends that I’ve traveled with afterward and still keep in touch with. I’ve met hostel staff that I’m friends with to this date. I’ve even worked in a hostel, and it turned out to be a great way to save on budget. But I’ve never felt one was dangerous.

I’ve been to hostels that are incredibly dirty. I’ve been to some that outdo hotels in style. I’ve stayed at one run by an obsessive Christian who made us watch movies about Jesus. I’ve stayed at others that are run as a circus where you can learn to fire dance and juggle and tight-rope walk. Even some hold an incredibly high standard for eco-sustainability and environmental consciousness that outmatch most companies around the world. You can have a great experience or a horrible experience in some, but that is the same for most travel experiences.

You have to be responsible about staying in hostels.

Even though I’ve befriended plenty of people in hostels, there are always bad apples that you meet abroad. I’m not trying to tell you to distrust anyone, but to be blunt I’m telling you don’t be stupid. Most of it is common sense people.

  • Don’t leave your passports and electronics out in the open.
  • Don’t come home so wasted you don’t know where you are.
  • Always lock up any valuables in the lockers most hostels have.
  • If there is no locker, take a day-pack of your valuables with you.
  • Going out? Ask the front desk to hold it for you.
  • Read reviews about hostels before you go to make sure they are clean, in a good area, that they have locks on doors and lockers for your stuff, and that the staff isn’t sketchy.

Overall, don’t be scared to stay in a hostel. They are pretty fun places made for budget backpackers to meet and make friends. And who knows, maybe you’ll have a funny story to tell like the case of the naked planker.

SIDE NOTE: When I originally told this story on my old blog, the hostel that this happened at thought it was so funny that they sent me on a tour around New Zealand to write for them. Bless that naked ninja.

What was your first experience in a hostel like? Have a funny hostel story as well?

The most beautiful landscapes from around the world

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This week’s #Frifotos theme on Twitter is the subject of landscapes. And even though I’ve just began traveling, I’ve had the opportunity to gaze upon some absolutely jaw dropping scenery from North America to Canada, Haiti to Thailand, and Cambodia. And now, as I begin traveling through Europe, I have finally been able to take in some landscapes in Italy as well.

Here are my picks, in no certain order, from my own photos of the most beautiful landscapes from around the world that I have visited.

CAMBODIA 

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Angkor Wat pokes above the tree tops in the distance as the sun sets.

 

NEW ZEALAND

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Lake Tekapo glistens in the sunlight, golden grass sways in the wind, the smell of fresh mountain air and pines fill your nose.

Check out more from New Zealand

 

HAITI

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High atop the mountain fortress of La Citadel the land drops 3,000ft into a lush and green valley below.

Check out more from Haiti

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The morning sun climbs over the hilltops above Belly Beach, nearly untouched paradise surrounded by the crystal clear Caribbean.

Check out more from Haiti

 

 THAILAND

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The valley of Pai fills with orange and gold as the sun descends behind the mountains.

Check out more from Thailand

 

ITALY

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Aqueducts from ancient Rome climb out of the landscape in the countryside outside of Rome, still defying time and the elements.

Check out more from Italy

 

CANADA

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A fiord splits the mountain range past a dark lake on a cloudy day in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada.

Check out more from Canada

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Amongst the pine trees and thick hills outside of Gros Morne National Park, a wood-plank trail disappears into the distance.

Check out more from Canada

 

UNITED STATES

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Everything was wiped away in this once-upon-a-time resort getaway — the Salton Sea was created by man, but nature denied the reward. It is the contrast to an era long gone; the silence, the desolation, the salt-crusted land and inhabitable lake, the dead fish, the seagulls squawking, and the skeletons of houses leftover that makes this oddly beautiful in its demise.

Check out more from the United States

 

What was your favorite landscape from above? And what is your favorite landscape from around the world?

 

In Photos: The Most Beautiful Coastlines around the World

Whether it be watching gentle waves roll softly in on a beach, or admiring a sunset that glistens across a silver ocean like a million diamonds, or being awe-struck at the fierce and frothing water crashing relentlessly against cliffs after a storm — there is something mystifying about a coastline. It’s as if you stand at the edge of the world staring out into an infinite expanse of blue.

I scoured my hard-drives for for the most beautiful coastlines around the world from my travels including images from Thailand, Haiti, Canada, and the United States.

Enjoy!

THAILAND

Me on Koh Phi Phi looking out at Loh Dalum Bay.

Koh Phi Phi Le and the location of “The Beach” from just over the crest of our longtail boat.

Loh Dalum Bay at low-tide.

Want to see more of Thailand? Head over here!

CANADA

A lonely pony swing looking out over the coast of Norfolk County.

The inlet coast of St. John’s Newfoundland as the sun sets.

Looking out over dark green pines at the Atlantic ocean from a trek new Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

Cape Spear lighthouse keeping a watchful eye for sailors on the coast of Newfoundland near St. John’s.

View from the Skyline trail in Nova Scotia.

Pastel sunset and the silhouette of Rocky Harbor lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.

Want to see more of Canada? Head over here!

NEW ZEALAND

Doubtless Bay and Cooper’s Beach in the far north of New Zealand.

The rocky coastline around Wellington.

Looking out over Christchurch on the South Island.

Bright blue water seen from Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga.

The small town of Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand.

The waring coastline of Cape Reinga in the Northland, where the sea and ocean me, clashing for all of time.

Weiheke Island outside of Auckland, the island of wine.

Want to see more of New Zealand? Head over here!

HAITI

Jagged coastline before reaching Labadee.

A friend meditates before the bright ocean at Belly Beach, Labadee, Haiti.

A warm morning sun radiates over the mountains near Belly Beach, Labadee.

Want to see more of Haiti on the blog? Head over here!

 

UNITED STATES

A cream-sickle colored sunset and a yogi on the cliffs outside of San Diego.

From the train pulling into northern California at dusk.

Want to see more of the United States on the blog? Head over here!

Love being on the coast? Which photo was your favorite?

In Photos: The Favorite Places to Relax Around the World

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Life on the road can be a daunting and sweaty and blistered affair. Perpetual movement can take its toll on the body, mind, and soul  — always on to the next destination or next place to drop your 30+lb backpack. But along that endless horizon unfolding before you, there are places that you come across that makes you just go, “I want to relax here for a bit.”

This weeks #Frifotos travel photo theme is “relax” and though I don’t partake in this often, there are so many places I’ve found that cause me to halt wherever I am going and stay for a while.

Here are my favorite places that I have kicked up the trusty ole’ chucks for a bit of time to recuperate my energy and to take in the moment.

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Occasionally, a moment calls for laying on your back and relaxing under the clouds. Or pretending to walk on them.

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Occasionally, I like to kick-it with Honest Abe, or other monuments around the world.

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Relaxing on the edge of a waterfall, the spray of the water misting upward and cooling me off on a hot day in New Zealand.

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In a meadow overlooking Auckland as the long grass sways in the wind.

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How about a little “chillaxing” at an Ice Bar in Auckland, New Zealand?

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Though cities can be hectic, a park can be an escape — and even a relaxing spot in a tree can be bliss. I found this peaceful escape in the heart of Auckland away from the business district!

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Another favorite: an ice-cold beer at an outside bar in Wellington, New Zealand.

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And then moving over to the Wellington Harbor for a bit more relaxation by the water.

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Most people like owning fish because they are relaxing to watch, I just go to the local aquarium. (Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland)

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With the roar of the ocean and the wind carrying the salty smell up the cliffs, this is definitely a perfect spot to stop. Cape Reinga, New Zealand.

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Sunsets on a rocky harbor at a place uniquely named “Rocky Harbor” in Newfoundland, Canada.

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Sometimes hanging out on the edge of the world with sheer cliffs dropping off to a watery grave is a good spot. Really though, Cape Spear in Newfoundland Canada was seriously relaxing.

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Going back to my childhood when imagination and fantasy ruled, and my treehouse was the best damn thing ever. What about an adult treehouse hotel? Yeah, right? There might not be a cooler place to relax.

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Chucks on a boat! Any boat for that matter can make me fall asleep with the gentle rocking and the sound of the waves.

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Watching the changing scenery pass by on a cross-country train adventure is something I could do all day.

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And yet, all of these places can be improved by one of my favorite methods of relaxing — hammock time. And hammock time in a bungalow in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand was marvelous.

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Though sometimes the chucks need to be kicks off and forgotten when you find a private hidden cove in the north of New Zealand.  Long grass whispering in the wind, the sun shining, the waves crashing, and the sway of the hammock. Relaxation at its finest.

*If you like this post, come check out my friend who inspired me to do this post — Derek of The Holidaze and his favorite places to relax!*

What are some of your favorite places or methods to relax? Share below!

Weekly Photo Mojo: A Hammock and a Sunrise in New Zealand.

Molten gold poured over the darkness, setting the sky afire. Past the silhouettes of scrawny trees, flames of the hottest white and blue fanned outward, conquering all blackness with a bright dawn.

This was the sight just beyond the tips of my toes cocooned within the sleeping bag. A did not move a muscle as the light of the morning danced across my eyes, a sunrise money couldn’t pay for.

I was in my beloved hammock, slung up in a random wood in the wilds of New Zealand’s north. There was no place to stay before reaching Cape Reinga, but no need, because this freedom was truly free.
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The photo of this sunrise in New Zealand above is a teaser of a photo essay to come, involving that hammock and the numerous adventures I had in it all over New Zealand, so stay tuned!

Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.)

What feeling does this photo evoke for you?

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What to do in Auckland – Escape from Queen Street!

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I can’t wait to leave Auckland!

This is a phrase often heard from other backpackers during the numerous times I was in Auckland. At first, they would be head-over-heels for the City of Sails, but after a week of two partying their faces off on Queen Street, they were “over it“.

The City of Sails seems to always get a bad reputation for being all sorts of things except delightful. I know exactly why this is — and I’ll even admit that I thought Auckland was kinda crappy after just a few days there.

At first.

But I was very wrong to judge it based on what most other people do mentioned above: Queen Street.

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When I first got to New Zealand, I spent my first week after arrival strolling up and down Queen Street with a rad backpacker I met at the airport.

After the dazzle of the ever-present Skytower sighting fizzled, it seemed a little dirty, extremely busy, and horribly expensive.

We did a LOT of walking, but no genuine exploration of the city, and we couldn’t wait to leave based on what we saw.

Just up and down, and up and down Queen Street some more.

And a couple wicked hangovers.

Then, I returned from the Northland of New Zealand after doing a tad bit of guerrilla camping in my hammock, I figured I would come back to Auckland for a couple of days to reconnect with the world. And I might as well give Auckland another try.

I’m happy I didn’t write off Auckland.

Once you step off of Queen Street and see the harbor, the numerous parks dotting the city, the old reconditioned factories in the Britomart, and everything else, Auckland becomes quite a charming place.

But Queen Street isn’t to be written off either. Queen Street is one of the main places in Auckland that have some of the finest retail stores and restaurants around. While visiting the city it’s always best to stay in one of the Auckland hotels near Queen Street. With so many great tourist attractions there is to experience, it’s always nice to be able to go back to a great and relaxing hotel that is stress free. This should leave one only thinking about what the next experience will be while visiting Auckland.

I started by trying to find some greenery, and no, not that kind. After spending two weeks living in the wild all I wanted was to chill out under a tree some more. I wanted to walk in a park, and I wanted to get away from the noise.

The Parks

me-on-tree-in-aucklandTurns out, Auckland has tons of parks all over; Parks large and small, usual and unusual, and some of the most interesting parks I have ever seen.

I was walking back to downtown Auckland with a new friend and we stumbled upon Western Park. This park was fascinating, and popped up out of nowhere while we were passing through Posonby.

Chunks of buildings are strewn across the green grass, a beautiful ode to nature and chaos. A travel guide told me it was the old Auckland museum that sunk into the ground, and I gullible ole’ me believed him completely, but it is just an awesome art project.

 

 

Another park to soak up some sun and chill out is Albert park, smack dab in the middle of the city if you stray just a block or two from Queen Street.

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(Western Park)

Waiheke Island

Talking about escaping the city, Waiheke Island is just a short ferry ride and an amazing place to spend a sunny day.

I went to Waiheke Island for a day, known as being the Island of Vineyards, to look for a job. But a half an hour in, my friend Pirmin and I ended up wandering all over and getting lost on the Island. It is a place to easily get sidetracked with the beauty.

We walked everywhere! The island has such a crazy diversity when it comes to the beaches and geography. White sand beaches, rocky beaches, and beaches made completely out of shells.

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Every place we went to was unique. The highlight was a small cove right outside of Oneroa with star fish dotting the rocks all over, and natural rock arches climbing out of the sand. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go on any wine tours which Waiheke is really known for, but I’ll be back to check those out.

We took the cheap Island bus to explore, about $5 all day, but wait times are long per stop. Seems like a perfect place to rent a scooter as well, especially if you want to go vineyard hopping.

TIP: Make sure to talk to your hostel or go to the ferry website, you will most likely save money on a ferry ticket that way.

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Piha Beach

Back in mainland Auckland, you have another hidden beach escape just a 30 minute drive the city, Piha Beach,

After a snaking drive through rolling hills lined with trees, golden reeds swaying in the breeze and the crisp ocean air greets you as you pull up to the sparkling black sand beach.

Hike up “Lion Rock” to get a bird’s eye view, chillax on the beach, or walk along the outskirts and explore the unique cliff-lined shore with pools of vibrant ocean life.

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Mount Eden

High up above Auckland’s cityscape it Mount Eden, topped with long grass, an interesting crater, and some of the most stellar panoramic views in all of the region.

Bus or walk up there, bring a picnic, and spend the day on the mount relaxing or reading a book. It’ll be a good way to see Auckland in all it’s glory.

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The Harbor

Back in the Central Business District of Auckland, or CBD, I noticed a pattern that was happening. I was naturally gravitating to the harbor. The white flapping sails of the boats coming in and out of the harbor, the seagulls soaring on a light breeze, and the bright green water.

They do call it the city of sails after all…

Every time I was in Auckland at some point during the 10 months I was in New Zealand, I would always end up here sometime during my day whether it was to grab a pint or just walk around.

There are some awesome, and sometimes expensive places to grab a bite to eat. Sitting there staring out at the green glass colored water and watching the action while enjoying fresh seafood — simply amazing.

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Graffiti Galore

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What about the city though? Inside the business district of Auckland there is sill plenty to be seen. I was walking around one morning trying to find a unique coffee shop to feed my caffeine addiction when I stumbled unto an old warehouse district. Every inch of concrete in this place was covered by sponsored graffiti, and the artwork was gnarly.

Each section was divided up for different graffiti artists. The art on the walls were stunning and intricate, colorful and explosive. I have always found a fascination in legitimate graffiti art, but I had never seen anything like this.

The city is one of the most colorful places I’ve seen, promoting artwork and imagination all over. So cool.

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Put it simply, Auckland is an awesome city.

The couple of weeks I was there were a blast, and I’m so glad I gave it another shot. If you are staying at any hostels inside central Auckland, don’t judge the City of Sails by Queen Street.

Auckland is so much bigger than you think, you just have to wander. If you are looking for what to do in Auckland, take my advice – get the hell off Queen Street!

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Have you been to Auckland? What were your first impressions?

 

 

Weekly Photo Mojo: Pier out into the Sea from the Island of Waiheke.

Like a path into the unknown, this pier that dipped into the glass green open waters of Waiheke Island in New Zealand is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.

I look at it from time to time, and each time I do, it always inspires that wanderlust again. While traveling through New Zealand, places like these always made me stop and think of where I was, and how I would have never believed I would be here. And over all, you may not be able to see where it leads to, or it may seem to lead nowhere, but it’ll always be an adventure worth taking!

So listen to the wise words of Mark Twain:

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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(click or tap to experience the moment)

Share this inspirational image below with friends!

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Weekly Photo Mojo is about stimulating your cortex with retina rupturing and awe-inspiring photos from around the world to help you reach Terminal Vicariosity (The point where the mind reaches maximum capacity from living vicariously through someone else, and chooses to start actually living.)

What feeling does this photo evoke for you?

 

 

Swimming with Sharks in New Zealand (with video)

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Eeeeerrrrrrrbrrrrrblublublub

That, my friends, is what a scream underwater sounds like, and it is exactly the noise I made when I saw a 10ft shark swimming right at me.

Luckily, nobody can hear you scream underwater. Of course it was a manly scream no doubt, and of course I didn’t pee myself a little as it got closer, staring into my soul with those black glossy eyes.

I wasn’t afraid at all.

Okay, that is a small lie… I was terrified. My stomach tightened up and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. All I could do is let out a mewing sound as the shark cut through the water like it was thin air, and I couldn’t move fast enough to brace myself to be chomped.

Would all of those episodes of Shark Week I’ve watched help me out of this underwater pickle? I don’t think so…I was dead meat.

*Cue the Jaws music* Dundun…dundun…dundun dundun dundun dundun

Speaking of Shark Week, Discovery Channel just ended another season of this gnarly show, and it inspired me to write about the time I swam with sharks in Napier, New Zealand.

SPOILER ALERT! I did survive.

Drats, I hope I didn’t ruin the suspense…

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Napier is home to the National Aquarium of New Zealand, one which lets you snorkel with the sharks. While visiting the Art Deco themed town located in the southeast of the north island, I knew I had to knock that one off my bucket list and finally see just what it is like to come face to face with these horror movie mascots.

They are all blood thirsty killing machines after all right?

The aquarium itself is quite a bit smaller than others I’ve visited in the past, but it does still have a ton of information to take in, and was the only one I had come across to offer this kind of a unique experience.

Before we suited up to go snorkeling, we took a quick tour around the aquarium and watch some of the feeding in the tank. Yes, feed them until they are STUFFED, so they’ll have no room for me.

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Besides your normal array of underwater animals like stingray, various types of fish, and sea turtles, the aquarium houses 4 different types of sharks and one behemoth (dead) giant squid.

Fun fact: One of the long time aquarium employees actually came up with the best known preservation method for the giant squid, and this is why the display isn’t murky or has bits floating around in it.

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Watching it from the tunnel kind of calmed my nerves a bit, being that sharks are one of my own biggest fears. Probably from watching Jaws too many times as a young lad.

Oh, they aren’t THAT big.” I said when I first saw the sharks come around the diver.

Little did I know, the rounded tunnel we walked through made the sharks look about a third of their actual size.

I was pretty stoked at this point. I hurried to slip on the wet suit and rushed to the entry point of the aquarium.

“Now, you don’t have to do anything except flout there, your wetsuit will keep you a the top of the water. Just swim around, but don’t touch them.”

Easy enough I thought. When I got in the water though, it turned out to be way colder than I expected.

When I mentioned earlier that my stomach had tightened up and I couldn’t breathe, a lot of it was due to the temperature in the water.

I was literally shivering already by the time I let myself sprawl out and dipped my face into the water for the first time.

I had never been snorkeling before, so that was an experience in itself.

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It’s a whole different world underwater. Some senses are heightened, and some are hindered. The world goes completely quiet, and all you can hear is your breathing (or my hyperventilating) and the swish of your flippers.

But everything else underwater can surely hear, sense, and feel you way better.

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And then I spotted the shark for the first time, and I remember mumbling something into my snorkel around the lines of “Oh my god” when I saw just how big they are!

It was like the size of a freakin’ car! And of course it was swimming right at me. This is the point where I screamed underwater as mentioned before, and it hits you just how potentially defenseless you are underwater to any wildlife there.

They swim better and faster than you, and as the shark came closer to me I froze. I was holding my breath. I was shivering. And I hoped I wouldn’t be eaten.

And the shark swam right beneath me like it had no care in the world. Well, it also helps that it was a Seven Gill shark that just so happens to not have a hankering for humans.

But that was the really cool thing about swimming with the sharks. Even though the don’t have the flesh- shredding teeth of Great White or Tiger sharks, sharks in general really don’t eat people.

From watching TONS of Shark Week episodes, sharks seem to be highly mis-understood creatures with most attacks being that of mistaken identity. And swimming with these made me see just how fascinating sharks really are.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to go out to South Africa and dive with Great Whites just yet, but swimming with the sharks in Napier shed a whole new light on them.

And made snorkeling one of my new favorite things to do.

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Here is a video of some footage from the aquarium. Listen at the end to my terrified laugh after a shark brushes me!


Have you ever swam with sharks? Do share =)

If you fancy reading about Swimming with Great Whites, check out this article by Don’t Ever Look Back!