Couchsurfing Weekend!

....I don't think I've ever had so much fun with so many strangers before :) I LOVE COUCSURFING! As I've already told you, we climbed up the volcanos on Saturday which is probably why we took it a little easier on Sunday and drove into Taupo to sit in a hot river at Spa Road. It's a river and a hot spring in one, so basically you're just sitting around and there's hot and cold water flowing all around you :) Fascinating experience! We used it to chat and chill in the river :)

just chillin' in the river....
We brought our Couchsurfing banner of course :) We also started a massage row, which had some of the other people look at us with envy ;) Well, we know how to make a spa experience a real spa experience! I think we were sitting around in that river for about three hours... When it finally got too hot for us, we went back into town to have dinner and hang out at the waterfront, taking over the entire Buger fuel and the pub next door ;) Here are some expressions from our group:
Cheers Couchsurfers!
Bryana and Gerard enjoyed the music
Enjoying some live music and the sun
Me and my girls Denise and Bryana
Sadly, some of the surfers already left that day or went up to Rotorua from Taupo. The rest of us went back to the camp and had a very... interesting... evening :)

Gerard's look says it all :)
And then we went white water rafting *yay* SO cool! we met at Okere Falls just outside of Rotorua. When we got there (we were the third group) Nick just got back and when we asked him how it was, his answer was "We flipped, it was awesome!" Nick, I'm still not sure why flipping with a raft after a 7m drop is awesome, but ok... glad you had fun ;) Our raft didn't flip *yay* so we could just enjoy the view! It was absolutely stunning!

We did it!

Okere Falls

The last run lost their guide.... 

"Where is Simon?"
but it was all good, he appeared right next to the raft ;) What a FUN day! What an AMAZING weekend! thanks to everybody who was at the Couchsurfing meeting, I think we all had a blast :) Kinda makes me want to come back next year just to see y'all again :) Awesome! Wicked fun! *happy*

YAY Couchsurfing! :)


The Quest of Mount Doom!

What a day... :) I don't even know where to start! I'm in Turangi for a couchsurfing meeting, because I met this couchsurfer from Auckland at the local meeting and he invited me to join the 5th annual Tongariro crossing this weekend and, well, obviously, I said yes :) In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, check it out!

Link to the official website

We're all in tents and cabins at the Holiday park. Everybody arrived last night and today, we went up the mountain! 1886 meters on the top, 16 km there and back again, 7 hours including lunch.... and the worst part? The devil's staircase! A very appropriate name, if you ask me.... -.-

The devil's staircase
See those small color dots in the back there? Yeah, those are the people on the staircase.... As you can see, the mountain is not exactly walking-friendly... There was actually a a sign right at the beginning of the staircase that said "Do not go beyond this point if you're not fit enough" Kinda doesn't keep people from going up there though... We took our time and had lots of rests along the way, because it was just too steep to just climb up there. And the air is thinner up there too! But we had fun anyways :D

Rock-surfing in the wasteland
Again, when couchsurfers meet, there's always lots of stories to tell and infos to share, so no matter in which group I was walking, I always had fun! About half of our group actually did go UP "Mount doom" I mean, seriously people, Mount Doom! That path where they tell you "well, you'll only slip once..."
a little scary, if you ask me....
I decided one ridge is enough and "only" did the "normal" tour... yeah, well, there was nothing "normal" about this track ;) It was just flat out awesome!!! (and SO exhausting....)

yep, I went up there...
The view was pretty awesome!
that was the rock-climbing part....
We couldn't walk the entire way, because Mount Tongariro actually erupted a while back and part of the track is closed... When we were up there, we heard some rumbling noises, but we chose to ignore them. Some people even said it was just the army doing some kind of exercise... Yeah.... Se that "cloud" in the picture below? That's smoke from when the Mountain errupted again - today!
Welcome to the top!
What can I say? It was an incredible walk and we had some incredible views! We went to the hot pools afterwards to soothe our sore muscles and basically took over the entire pool, which was loads of fun as well :) I'd love to upload some more pictures, but I REALLY need some sleep now... The CS meeting is still going, so I'm sure I'll write some more pretty soon ;) We're actually gonna go wild water rafting on monday... New Zealand really is turning into my very own little "unexpected journey" :D


Kia Ora from Rotorua

I've made it to the volcanic area in and around Rotorua! Chris and Warwick kindly offered to give me a ride down there from Tauranga and we ended up having lunch in the Redwoods. Yep, Redwoods, as in Californian Sequoia trees! I was so bummed that I didn't have enough time to visit the Redwoods in Cali and now here I am on the other side of the world walking through a Redwood forest *hihihi* I love forests! I know, that's a weird thing to say, but it's true! It's so peaceful... and very relaxing.

They then dropped me off at my new host Carol and the first thing she tells me is that there will be a bunch of other couchsurfers staying at her place as well :) I had some time before the others arrived, so I explored the city a little... It's really peculiar... There is this big lake and everywhere you can see steaming wells and hot springs... kind of scary, if you ask me. It's also a center for Maori culture, so I went to see a village by the lake and there, the volcanic activity came right through the pavement. It's bubbling and steaming everywhere! *crazy* 

one of the many many hot springs in town
The house I stayed in was on the hillside, so we had a fantastic view over the valley and the lake. Apart from me, three chinese couchsurfers and a couple from Spain were staying at Carol's and we all made a very weird but surprisingly delicious dinner on wednesday night. Melody made salat, the boys helped chop up some veggies, I was in charge of noodles with tomato sauce and Glenda made a delicious strawberry desert! It was so much fun! All these different nationalities and no plan whatsoever but it worked anyways ;) 

The next day, Glenda, Jorge and I went on an adventure in their caravan together :) we started in the Redwoods *again* sincce they wanted to see it and I didn't mind going there again. Then, we drove down the road to the blue and green lake. Those two are so much fun! We had a blast! We did a lot of hiking, but we also took some time for fun pictures ;)

The Caravan Crew!
We got a little lost in the woods around the blue lake, then we drove down to the sunken village, but were too broke to pay the 32 $ each for the tour, so we just had lunch there... Lucky for us, a Korean film crew complete with a bunch of Maori guides was just passing through and they were having lunch as well. They had these huge sushi rolls... Jorge went right over and asked them what that was and the next thing we knew, he handed us a roll! The guide had just given it to him - for free :) It was absolutely delicious! (And I don't even like sushi...)

...Jorge made us do it...
Oh man, we had so much fun! It was just perfect! We drove down to another lake to have a swim and a siesta before we headed back into town to check out the bathhouse. New Zealand was a British colony after all. It's fascinating how they mixed the colonial style with Maori carvings at the entrance... Glenda and I used it to meditate ;) 

pretty impressive structure....

To finish off our day, we indulged in the Night market in downtown Rotorua. Now, there's a funny little story as to how we ended up there. Back when we were strolling through the Redwood forest, we ran into these two nice ladies having a picnic on a bench in the parc and we started talking to them. One of them told us about the market, saying that she'll be there too, because her husband will sell traditional Persian food. She encouraged us to come and we decided it sounded like a lot of fun. It offers all kinds of different food, from Italian, Chilenian, Spanish to Thai, Persian or Croatian and they have some live music and a couple of craft stands. So, about seven hours after meeting those two in the forest, we met them again at their food stand at the night market! :D Their falafel-like food was really tasty and the woman instantly recognized the weird, interational trio :D My favorite was the Croatian dessert! I have to get the recipe for that...

meeting new friends in the forest :)

THANK YOU Glenda and Jorge for spending the day with me - I had SO MUCH fun with you guys! Hope to see you again at the crossing or maybe in Europe someday! Couchsurfing is simply the best....


Between Whale Riders and a bunch of Australian Queens....

I'm at the Bay of Plenty, staying in a beach house (yep, I said BEACH HOUSE) with this adorable couchsurfing couple and having a blast! They love food, I love cooking... you get the idea! It all started on sunday, when they picked me up from the bus station in Tauranga and we went down to the beach to meet another couchsurfing couple (she's from Mosambique, he's from Brazil...or something like that) and have a picnic on the beach. As usual, when a bunch of couchsurfers meet, conversation was not hard to find and we found ourselves in a three hour long chat about different experiences and all kinds of places in Africa and South America (I have to do so much more traveling now...) We then drove "home" to Omokorora Beach and started my short stay with some Italian dinner and more cs-stories, which eventually led to Warwick and Chris suggesting we'd watch Priscilla, Queen of the desert! Oh---my---god--- what a HILAROUS (but also kind of serious) movie! *hihihi* and, all the while, I had to think about Julian, who had told me months ago that I should watch this... you were right, honey :) Awesome film, loads of fun!

Omokorora beach!

I decided to take it a little easier on monday and only went for a short walk around the peninsula - that already gave me some great views though :)

View of Mount Maunganui
The path kinda led through people's back yard, but it was so beautiful! And then I found this little picnic spot... absolutely gorgeous!

Picnic in Paradise
....did I mention that I love this country?!? ;) That night, we had Bakony (now also available in NZ ) and watched a local film called Whale rider. It's about this little Maori girl who was the only daughter of the chief's son and since the son refused, she would have been chief only that she was a girl. It is absolutely heartwrenching and really really beautiful... The total contrast to Priscilla, but perfect for a film night in New Zealand. The Maori really are an interesting people... Absolutely recommend watching it!

Today, we drove over to Tauranga to climb Mount Maunganui. Not the biggest mountain, but a nice steep little walk nevertheless... Oh, but the views! The views!!!!

...it's just a few steps to the top...

....there are no words for this....

After that climb, we were all a bit tired, so we had some ice cream, and a meat pie (yep, in that order) and then a nice and relaxed afternoon back at the beach house. For dinner tonight, I had the honor of creating my own Pavlova for dessert. I know it doesn't sound like it, but it's a Kiwi specialty. And, I have to admit, it's actually quite good...

apparently, I felt very geometrical today...
My next couch is already "booked" and Chris and Warwick kindly offered to take me to Rotorua tomorrow. All in all, it's been another fantastic couchsurfing experience and I hope I can show them around my little town someday! This trip has been as chaotic as it has been amazing - can't wait to see what the weekend brings :)

The Coromandel Peninsula

Since everybody told me, the Coromandel is an absolute must-see region, I got myself a hostel at Whitianga and drove down there on Friday for a quick, two night stay. Already on my way over there, I was absolutely amazed by the nature this little piece of landf has to offer. It is absolutely incredible!

a snapshot from the drive
The hostel was very sweet and very friendly. They put me in the staff-room (how do I always end up there?) and they had a washer, so I could finally wash some clothes ;) Then, I was off to the beach and found myself buying fish & chips in a little shop just across the road from the bay. Yeah, I know, me and fish! But, somehow, I don't know, maybe I'm spending too much time in the old English colonies or something, but I had a real craving for fish&chips! AND I have to say, that was probably the best fish&chips I ever had! *yum* The location right on the bay wasn't too bad either... ;)

The next day, I had booked a little trail ride. I know I'm running out of money and I shouldn't spend it on horseriding, but I just couldn't help myself... Carolyn picked me up (I'm not kidding....) and we went up to the ranch early in the morning. Now I can finally cross "riding in a Stock Saddle" off my list :) The ride went all over their 9,000 acres property - it was absolutely beautiful :) And VERY relaxing!

Our little riding group of four

Jungle anyone?
My horse "Angel" carried me up the hills until Carolyn suddenly suggested "go on, you can canter up here and we'll meet you at the next gate!" That's something you don't have to tell me twice :) So, off we went to enjoy the view on top :D

On top of the world ;)

Angel spotting the rest of the company
Carolyn also took us to a beautiful little waterfall with drinking water! Something we could all use after an hour riding through the hills and bushes...

a bit tricky to get there but worth it!

And what did I do after two hours of horseriding? I went over to Mercury Bay for three hours of hiking! In retrospect, probably not my best idea, but it was worth it ;)

Shakespeare Cliff

Cathedral Cove

Making my way to Hahei Beach

what a beautiful day!

After two eventful days on the Peninsula I would have to agree. It's a must-see in NZ :)



Before I start this post, here's a quick info for all future exchange students: check the labels "organization" "housing" and "transportation" for specific exchange info! The rest is filled with travel accounts as I'm still travelling :) Oh, and also: 1000 clicks as of today! *yay* ;)

Ok, so, Auckland *yay* Staying with Carmel has been great, she has so many fascinating stories to tell and we were having a lot of fun. She also happens to be good friends with my next hosts (because, naturally, the two CS hosts I find in all of the North Island are good friends...) and they've been in touch to plan my next week. Everybody's so helpful - I'm having the best time! We went to a couchsurfing meeting in the harbor on wednesday where we met some other surfers but mainly enjoyed our dinner and then took a beautiful walk through the harbor. What can I say? "Ich liebe die Schiffe, das Meer und den Hafen!"

Enjoying the view :)

The weirdest thing about being here is that it's summer down here, so the days are very long and my time is totally off :) No jetlack so far though *yay* I've been feeling pretty good, actually... I'm telling you, traveling westward is much easier than going east! I also found another Hamburg Süd container in the harbor :) Apparently, they are my new "breadcrumbs", since NZ doesn't have pennies.... (they just round everything and give you 10 or 20 cents instead...) The area around the harbor is really beautiful. Apparently, they've been developing it in the past couple of years and it all looks very modern and is very green - for a harbor anyways. 

Kinda reminded me of the Hafen City :) I really need to get back to Hamburg this year... On thursday, I booked a ferry trip to Waiheke. Technically, the island requires its own blog entry altogether, but I'll just keep it short: it was gorgeous! ;) I especially enjoyed the ride over there *I love ferry boats*

I LOVE the Pacific!

That's the coast of the island
I spent about four hours on the island, first taking a bus tour and then wandering through a little village called Oneroa and checked out all the cute little craftsshops. I was very tempted to buy all sorts of things, but I'm running out of money :( Luckily, the view was free ;)

Somehow, something is wrong with my camera, so if you see twoo grey spots on the pictures, just try to ignore them... I went down to the beach, where there was supposed to be a hiking trail... well.... I couldn't really find it at first and then I saw these posts with markings, so I thought "Oh, that's the trail!" and started walking. Um, well, let's just say it was an adventure :)

Bushwalk anyone?!?

As it turned out, it was also not the right track... I ended up walking in a circle, right back to the beach *lol* So, I gave in and walked up the road where I finally found one of the many many hiking trails and made my way back to the ferry.

That was a little easier to walk on...

On my way back, I saw a little sailing competition. And yep, that's how strong the wind was yesterday :)

Now I'm off to the Coromandel, where I'll spend two days in a hostel and them I'm meeting my next hosts in Tauranga! Time to relax on the beach for a bit ;) 


Bula from the Pacific

In case you were wondering. No, I did not go crazy or started to make up my own language. Bula is the traditional greeting in Fiji :)

I left Hawai'i early on Sunday morning, realizing that even early flights have their charm sometimes. In my case, it was the beautiful sunrise over Honolulu. Aloha Hawai'i!

Air Pacific brought me to the island State of Fiji and back to the future as we crossed the date line somewhere over the Pacific :) I am now 12 hours ahead of European time... weird... Unfortunately, I didn't really have time to do anything in Fiji, other than check in my hotel and take a swim in the pool. I had less than 20 hours on the island, so here are some areal shots instead. The Islands are absolutely beautiful!

The heat was unbearable though. It sure is a tropical island... *phew* I don't like heat... AND stupid me destroyed my new sweatjacket! *grr* look what I did!

So, after an uneventful stay at the Best Western, I went back to the airport early on tuesday morning (yep, lost a day on my way...) to finally board my plane to New Zealand *yay* Sure enough, I found yet another "Hamburg Süd" container on my way there :) They are everywhere! I also figured out the best part of flying outside of North America: free food on board! Considering that I'm pretty much broke by now, the meal was highly appreciated ;) And then I landed in New Zealand and these nice ladies started talking to me (after they nearly tripped over my carry on) and when I told them, it was my first visit to New Zealand, they were over-enthousiastic and said I absolutely HAD TO take pictures at the airport *hihi* they were so cute... So, they positioned me in front of the Maori Gate and clicked away!

We also took some Middle Earth Shots, of course :) I'm such a geek...

I took the bus into the city and - believe it or not - it broke down at the first stop, so I had nothing else to do but walk through the city. Auckland is very hilly, I hadn't expected that... luckily, my carry-on has wheels... I went down to the harbor (always my first stop ;) ) and enjoyed the afternoon sun a little before I met with my next couchsurfing host Carmel at her house in Auckland. I'm gonna stay here for a couple of days and then I'm off to the Bay of Plenty! *yay* All I need now is my next host....