Wednesday, 30 October 2013

VIKING ACITIVTY: The Luge - Rotorua

The Luge is a activity for both kids and grown ups. It’s part go-cart, part gravity racer and offers a unique “racing” experience for all ages.

I mounted my GoPro on my chest and raced down the hill.

The Luge itself is a brand that can be found several places in New Zealand, in Canada and Singapore. This particular one is in the heart of New Zealand’s volcanic area, in Rotorua. The Luge has three tracks, scenic, intermediate and advanced.

It all starts off with a gondola ride, Skyline, up to the very top. Here’s you’ll have a great view of the entire Rotorua area. Then after having found a helmet and securly fastned it, you head towards the starting area. On your first ride you’ll be given instructions by the staff on how to ride cart, after which they will give you a stamp and you can get into a different line next time, taking you straight to the carts.

The track takes you down the hill, twisting and turning, while you take in the great scenery or perhaps race with your friends. If you haven’t done this before and would like to see some of the stunning view at the same time, I would recommend you start out with the scenic track. This is somewhat slower than intermediate and advanced, but is a good way to get used to the cart and see area at the same time.

TIP. Look for the white tent in the middle of the forest where the host weddings and events. There’s a parking space on the left side of the road (see markings), so if you want to take a look round you can do so there.

After a scenic ride, I definitely recommend you try the other tracks. I tried the intermediate twice and the advance twice. Both of which are heaps (loads) of fun and twists and turns. When you reach the end of each track, you’ll get out of your cart, place it on the conveyor, take the ski lift up to the top and do it all again.

It's fun. It's crazy. It's Kiwi.

For for information go on to their website

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Weekend in Rotorua (mobile post)

Good morning (or evening, depending where you are in the world)!

Currently I'm on a holiday in Rotorua, with friends from my Auckland orientation. This weekend is absolutely packed with heaps/loads of adventure; skyline, zipline, zorbing/OGO balls, mud pools and more.

So far it's been a great weekend and I can't wait to show you all! Hopefully by the beginning of next week I'll be able to show you all the videos and pictures from the trip.

In the meantime, here's a picture from onboard the gondola (Rotorua Skyline).

Stay tuned and see you soon!

Monday, 21 October 2013

The 101 things I want to do before I die - My bucket list

The first time I heard about a "bucket list", I was around 14 years old. A film called A Walk to Remember had been released. It featured this girl who had been diagnosed with cancer and her desire to do all the things on her list before she died. (I'm not going to reveal the end, so you'll just have to watch it).
Not long after, I typed up my first bucket list and hung it on my bedroom door. It didn't have that much on it, but a few on the things still remain on my current list. It stayed there for many years and slowly I started to tick a few of the boxes.
Unfortunately the original list was lost, but I managed to remember most of it and have added many more dreams over the years. Until now, mine has been a word document saved on my computer.

A bucket list is a list of stuff you'd like to do. It's not like the ordinary to-do lists people make at the beginning of the week to feverishly try to balance work and spare time. No a bucket list is a list of dreams, activities and adventures you would like to do some time before you die.

December 2012: Licence - Though this is a fairly new dream, a few years back I suddenly wanted to get my motorcycle licence. Still have to buy a bike, but I'll get to that one day.

So why should you have one? Well first of all, it's important to have a dream. A goal. Something to aim for. It doesn't have to be huge like becoming the President of a country. It could be something as small as making you grandma smile every Saturday by bringing her flowers. Point is that we all need to embrace that inner child in us. That "Peter-Pan" stage of our lives where everything is possible if you only believe.

You can go about it in many different ways. You can make a scrapbook with recycled paper, use an website to manage your list or fill a wall with colourful post-its. Point is you need to find a way that suits you. It's no point me telling you what is the right way, cause there ain't one. What I will do however, is tell you how I went about it.

London New Years Eve 2012-13 : When I was growing up, I used to watch the telly on New Years and see the celebrations from all over the world. London, Sydney and New York was always my favourites. So that's how my childhood dream ended up on my list.
Brainstorming and thinking makes it easier to know what you want, really want, and that would make you truly happy might not always be an easy thing know. Take some time to do this, like an hour or two. Go to a place where you can relax, breathe and think. For me this is the beach on a sunny day. Listening to the waves relaxes me immensely.

Draft it on a piece of paper (or on your computer). Just write, or draw, whatever comes into mind. Remember, this is your list. Not your dads or your best mates', it's yours. The stuff you put on this list might seem silly to others, even borderline rude, but to you it means something. That's all that matters.

I bought this leather bound notebook with high quality paper.

The final version should be something you've put some thought into. Like I said at the beginning, this is not the average weekly to-do list which has got the groceries on it. This a list of life. Having said that, nothing is set in stone. You can add or change your list. Only rule is that it's your list.
My way of doing it is having two pages for each goal. On the left page there will be a headline with the dream and pictures from it. Then on the right side I'll write about it, what happened, where I did it and how it was.

By spending some time with it, you make it special. It's not just another piece of paper to go next to the pile of bills or in that folder on your computer where you save all the mixed documents. Nurture it. It's your new mantra. Your new Bible if you want to call it that. It's a reminder about your dreams, about your goals. So if, and you probably will at some point, feel a bit lost in your life you can look at your bucket list. You've done the hardest part, identifying your dreams. All you have to now is make them happen.

Put your personal touch to it

Now, some people might say that you should only put stuff that realistically can happen on there or that they think you're capable of. I think you shouldn't. My personal opinion is that you should write your dreams down, regardless how unrealistic they may seem. I put "Present at a TED talk". Now, I'll admit that I'm not any close at the moment in receiving an invite to speak at an TED event, but who's to say it won't happen in 30 years from now? Point is, don't limit yourself. It's your dreams.

William Arthur Ward once said “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”

Here's my bucket list (in no particular order)

My bucket list

  1. Live in a different country- V
  2. Travel by myself - V
  3. Travel to Oxford - V
  4. Travel to Venice (Italy)
  5. Travel to Australia
  6. See the Sydney Opera House
  7. Celebrate New Years in London - V
  8. Celebrate New Years in Sydney
  9. Celebrate New Years in New York
  10. Do Route 66 (USA) on a motorbike
  11. Travel to Scotland
  12. Travel to all seven continents
    1. Europe - V
    2. Asia
    3. Oceania/Australia
    4. Africa
    5. North America
    6. South America
    7. Antarctica
  13. Interrail - Travel Europe by train
  14. Travel to the end of the world - V
  15. Travel to the north of Norway and see the Northern lights
  16. Travel to Svalbard (Norway) and see polar bears
  17. See the Pyramids of Giza
  18. Travel in a hot air balloon
  19. Experience weightlessness
  20. Swim in every ocean
    1. Pacific Ocean - V
    2. Atlantic Ocean - V
    3. Indian Ocean
    4. Southern Ocean
    5. Arctic Ocean
  21. Go to the airport and pick a random flight and go there
  22. See the Eiffel Tower
  23. Travel to the North Pole
  24. Travel to the South Pole
  25. Fly a plane
  26. See an active volcano (active as lava)
  27. Have a pint at the Oktoberfest in Munich
  28. Travel to Pompeii (Italy) and see the stone people - V
  29. Visit the Amazon Rainforest
  30. Cross a country by foot/bike
  31. Attend the Mardi Gras in Sydney
  32. Ride the cable cars up the hills of San Francisco (US)
  33. Celebrate St. Patrick’s in Ireland

  1. Get a degree from university - V
  2. Get a degree or certificate from University of Oxford
  3. Work as a bartender
  4. Get a job I love
  5. Work for Travel Channel OR National Geographic
  6. Work with kids - V
  7. Volunteer for an orphanage
  8. Find a job I’m completely happy in
  9. Work as a teacher
  10. Be a jury member
  11. Study philosophy and/or psychology
  12. Open a cafè in the countryside
  13. Volunteer for a charity - V
  14. Run my own business - V

  1. Sleep under the star one night
  2. Learn conversational Spanish
  3. Learn a Sign Language
  4. Learn to play the piano
  5. Be two places at once - V
  6. Find a cure for my animal allergies - V
  7. Get a motorcycle licence - V
  8. Improve my handwriting and write more letters/postcards - V
  9. Pet a kangaroo
  10. Get a book published
  11. Drive a Ferrari
  12. Do a skydive
  13. Spend a few weeks in a buddhist temple
  14. Run a marathon
  15. Get over my fear of heights - V
  16. Get a tattoo - V
  17. Read every book I own
  18. Have over 500 books in my own library
  19. Watch the sunrise on the beach
  20. Hitch-hike
  21. Get six pack abs
  22. Have a “slow-motion-moment-with-family/friends-at-the-airport”
  23. Make a difference to in someones life
  24. Do karaoke for one whole night in a bar/pub/club
  25. Take a photo, every day for a year
  26. Run a club/hotel in Greece
  27. Send at least ten messages in bottles - V
  28. Ride a camel
  29. Own my own house
  30. Go zorbing
  31. Be on TV - V
  32. Take dance lessons
    1. Salsa
    2. Ballroom
    3. Samba
    4. Hip-hop
  33. Go to a P!nk concert
  34. Learn to juggle
  35. Attend the Olympics somewhere
  36. Get an article published in a newspaper - V
  37. Meet a Royal
  38. Attend an art class and learn how to paint
  39. Do yoga (for a minimum of 6 months, twice a week)
  40. Learn archery
  41. Swim with dolphins
  42. Climb one of the World Seven Summits
  43. Donate blood
  44. Fall in love
  45. Have kids
  46. Fire a gun
  47. Go on a safari
  48. Wear a kilt
  49. Eat insects
  50. Write my memoirs
  51. Have my own “Hallmark-perfect-Christmas”
  52. Milk a cow
  53. Present at a TED Talk
  54. Find my Narnia in the back of a wardrobe

    Now it's your turn, dream, write and do it!
    If you would like to share it or need any tips, feel free to comment below.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

My big fat Viking roadtrip

First of all, I need to apologize to you, for not posting in a long time. The main reason is that for two weeks I was stuck with dial-up speed. Yes, dial-up speed. The thing we all were used to in the 90s. In New Zealand they have limited internet, so each household has a subscription of X amounts of GB. My house just happened to have a 30 GB subscription, which does disappear quite quickly when you Skype home to Europe, upload photos/films and use Spotify. The internet is now sorted and we have bumped up the subscription.

Anyhoodle, the road trip! That's what this is about. During Spring break, a fellow Au pair (and friend) and I had a week off from work, so we decided to pack the car and head out. After having waited a full day for the garage to finish servicing the car, we filled it with everything from tinned beans and fruit to sleeping bags and camping gear. To save money and to do it in proper gapyear style, we decided to sleep in the car.
Here you might be thinking Oh how lucky you are that you've got access to a campervan/motorhome. Well, not exactly. It was a standard five seater Nissan, where we popped the backseats down and laid out an air mattress to sleep on.

As travellers you learn to appreciate the free and local knowledge of people. This trip was put together by loads of free maps and brouchures from the local tourist office and advice from Kiwi's. Having heardthat The World Forgotten Highway (43) was New Zealands' equivilant of US's Route 66, I knew that was one thing we simply had to do. From there I devised up a route which would be easy enough to do in a few days and without costing too much.

Day 1 

Because the garage took all day (or just "Kiwi-time" as we call it), we didn't set off until five o'clock in the afternoon. So we decided to camp just outside Taupo. Freedom camping (camping outside a holiday park, like rest stop, field etc.) is illegal in NZ and will earn you an instant fine of NZ$200/£100 if the police catch you. Nevertheless, we needed to sleep, so we found a rest stop.

Breakfast after the first night in the car. Esther, my friend and fellow traveler, brought some really good camping gear so we could have a hot breakfast and tea/coffee.
TIP! If you are going to use a rest-stop, look for other travelers. For example a pro traveler family, with big homes-on-wheels, satellite TV and general gypsy lifestyle, will probably know where it's safe to park so that the police don't mind.

Day 2

Having spent the night in the back of a car, we felt fairly ready for a shower. After, we decided to head into town. Though you might not be a huge fan of touristy things, I do suggest you stop by the information centre (i-site). So far, all the i-sites I've been to, have been full on local knowledge and have guided towards more "attractions for locals" instead of the standard tourist stuff.

Anyhoodle, Taupo. A city just by the shores of, guess, Lake Taupo. The lake itself is fairly big and stunning, but the city centre offers a wide variety of shops and cozy cafes.

Posing infront of a typical Maori arch, a style which you can see all over NZ. (Lake Taupo in the background)
TIP! In NZ, you'll often find public shower. Not always free, but normally fairly reasonable. The Super Loo in Taupo charges 50c for entry and the NZ$2/£1 per four minutes of shower. The trick to only spend $2, is to prepare EVERYTHING before you go into the shower. Then as soon as the water starts flowing, you need to multitask. Good luck!

Bee yourself.
Or you could stop by the Huka Honey Hive and have a FREE taster of their absolutely amazing honey and see how it's all made. If you do, you really do need to buy some fudge, it's amazing!

The World Forgotten Highway

The World Forgotten Highway (highway 43), is a 151 km long road from Taumarunui (King Country) to Stratford (Taranaki). Along the way you will pass some amaxing scenery and small quirky towns. Climbing three tops, or saddles, you will get the chance to have a 360 view of the landscape.

The Moki Tunnel was built in 1936 and is known locally as the Hobbit's Hole. In the 80s the floor was lowered to allow access to big trucks.

In addition to many different sights underway, you also leave NZ for a short period of time and enter the Republic of Whangamomona. Though it is somewhat of a tourist gimmick, it is actually a real republic. Murt "Murtle the Turtle" Kennard (2005–present) is the current President. The local garage owner fought off strong competition from former president Kjestrup and a cross-dresser called "Miriam" to become the 4th President of the Republic.

With a population of 15 in the "town" centre, it feels like you've been taken 40 years back in time. If it hadn't been for the bikes parked outside, one could actually think it was the 1960s.

Be sure to stop by the hotel, which is also the local pub, to have a pint and get your passport stamped (cost NZ$2).

After having gotten our passports stamped in the passport office/pub, we set off to Stratford and our final stop for the night , Opunake. We arrived at the Opunake Beach Holiday park around ten o'clock in the night, but manged to get a space. For only NZ$18 you get access to bathroom facilities (shower and toilet), kitchen and common area. The owner was really nice and said we could sleep on the sofas in the common room because it was fairly quiet. That's another thing; Kiwi's are so friendly to strangers, it's incredible.

Mount Taranaki, (2518 m/8261ft high) came into view as we were coming out of Stratford

Day 3

New Plymouth and the Surf Highway
Having had a nice time on the Forgotten Highway, we carried on with The Surf Highway (45). This takes you along the coast from Hawera up to New Plymouth. As with 43, it has several sites on the way, but is probably most known for it's many great surfing beaches.

Oakura beach is one of Taranaki's most popular beaches. During the peak season the beaches are patrolled, making it safe for both young and old. Also check out the Oakura fish & chips shop. It's a white building with blue writing on it. It might seem a bit dodgy, but that was truly the best fish & chips I've ever had.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse
About 40 minutes before you get into New Plymouth, make sure you turn left onto Cape rd and visit the Cape Egmont lighthouse. It marks the western-most point of the Taranaki coastline. Originally built in the 1800s in London (UK), it was shipped in segments to NZ in 1865 and was initially put up near Wellington, before later moved to its current location.

Drive down Timaru Road and you'll come to a beach with black sand the wreck of the SS Gairloch, which has been a local landmark for the last century. Running aground in 1903, it has slowly been rusting into the Tasman Sea. And from what I've heard, this beach is also great for surfing.

My first impression of New Plymouth is that it is an vibrant city by the sea. The 10 km coastal walkway, offers some stunning scenery and is also suitable for skaters and bikers. In the same building as the i-Site (tourist info), there's also a museum which offers an insight into the Taranaki life.

Downstairs is also a art gallery, which exhibits all kids of NZ art. Everything from sculptures and paintings to Maori dresses.

If you prefer to walk by yourself without loads of other tourists around you, ask the i-Site for a map for the Heritage trail. This will take you around the city and show you much of what it has to offer.

Though I'm not a Christian myself, I do respect and admire the greatness of many churches and cathedrals. New Plymouth is home to NZs oldest stone cathedral, Taranaki Cathedral. Carry on walking past the cathedral and the path will lead you to the top of a hill. Here you'll find a NZ war memorial and a stunning view of the city.

Taranaki Cathedral
War memorial
The view from camping ground

Day 4


 After a damp at Urenui holiday park, we set of towards Hamilton. Because the plan was to head back to Tauranga, we decided to NOT go into Hamilton city because four hours wouldn't be enough to explore all of the city. So instead we decided to go to Hamilton Gardens and boy was I surprised. I was expecting a boring rush bush and maybe an cactus. Instead we walked from one absolutely stunning garden to the next. Each garden had a theme. For example a Chinese garden paradise:

You could also find several Maori statues and arches around the gardens.

Separated at birth.
After a few nice hours in Hamilton gardens, we headed on to the charming town of Cambridge. Because it was a Sunday afternoon, several of the shops were closed, but that didn't matter to us. This town offers a nice variety of cozy cafes and restaurants.

GelatAmorè, AMAZING ice crream
By sleeping in the car and sharing food and petrol costs, my friend Esther and I managed to travel over 1000 kilometers around the North Island and see some absolutely stunning things. It is trips like these that make up a great gap year. Hopefully the future will bring many more trips like these.

Below you can find all the photos from the trip and see the route we took.