As the first of twelve months comes to an end in New Zealand, specifically New Plymouth, I start to realize the reality and the opportunity of this trip. As we arrived, we packed as many things as possible into our schedule to see and do as much as possible in the different places that we visit. This post will be focusing on how we have settled in and what we have done, and specifically how we enjoyed New Plymouth, a town in the Taranaki Region of New Zealand.
We landed in Auckland, which is New Zealand’s largest city by population. Currently about ⅓ of all people in New Zealand live around Auckland. It was an easy place to start because it is a big city and has a lot of things we are used to, like big supermarkets, and clothing stores, and is the biggest place for international flights. We only stayed there for a few days, as we wanted to explore the lesser-citified places. The next town, where we would be staying for a month, New Plymouth, was about a 4½ hour drive away. We packed our car, and I mean packed! There was barely space for our stuff in the back, and we had bags under our feet and a backpack separating me and my sister in the backseat.
As we were on our first road trip of the year, we hit our first bump in the road.Wwe were locked out of our AirBnB and we couldn’t find the keys! This meant that the owner did not have any keys — but it turned out that the keys were with us the whole drive, in a coat pocket. So now my mom had to drive the two hours back from our first stop (Hobbiton Movie Set Tours) to Auckland and then two hours back to us. This meant two bad things; an extra four hours of driving, and missing out on a cool Lord of the Rings set tour. It was sad but in the end, it was all okay.
Our first few days in New Plymouth were just settling in and exploring our new town. It was nice to be in a town for a whole month, because we could unpack and relax. The two main things that we did in New Plymouth were: Eat, and Be Outside.
Enjoying New Plymouth: EAT
In our first month, we tried many new restaurants and had a lot of food, from Indian to Japanese, to New England cuisine. My sister’s post (Food, Food, Food) talks more about the places we have been and what we have learned. This post will give you an insight into what life in New Zealand is like (as a tourist).
One thing that was different as soon as we arrived in New Zealand was the grocery stores. The three main grocery stores are Countdown, Pak’n Save, and New World. I have been to all of these grocery stores and they have more or less the same things, but since there are only 3 big chains and two big companies, Woolworths and Foodstuffs, things can get expensive. Nevertheless, we made lots of food in our apartment.
One dish that got made a lot was Fried Tofu with Teriyaki sauce. Trust me, we made this a lot, if we had tofu and teriyaki sauce in our fridge when it came time for lunch everybody knew what was getting made. I am now an expert on frying tofu. I also made lotus root stir-fry and the vegetarian version of P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps.
New Zealand eats the most ice cream per person at 28.4 liters per year. I must be getting close because my ice cream consumption has drastically changed since I left home. I have been eating way more ice cream and sugar. A few of my favorite flavors have been: Vietnamese Coffee, Chocolate, Lemon Sorbet, and Berry Sorbet.
Whenever we visited any of the grocery stores looking for only a few things, we came out with much more than expected. My mom and I visited the stores the most, and I remember pestering her with “we are only going to get these things”, over and over again. My mind always changes once I see grapes and Mini Magnums! A cool machine that I saw at New World was a machine that peels and cuts the pineapple perfectly so it doesn’t waste anything. It tasted really good too!
As I expected, food is a large part of and will continue to be in this trip and in my life, as I and my family know, I LOVE FOOD! I am excited to keep exploring all the different kinds of foods in all of the different places we are going to.
Enjoying New Plymouth: OUTSIDE
We have gone and done many things outside in our first month, like swimming, hiking, and just walking around town. (My sister and I recently completed our longest hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, AKA New Zealand’s Greatest Day Hike — which is about 13 miles long. It was hard, but we did it. We’ll be posting about that soon!) We have also done other hikes/walks like the Coastal Walk in New Plymouth and the Cossey-Massey Loop Track near Auckland.
As we started settling into New Zealand, my mom wanted us to be with other kids, so she signed both of us up for surfing camp. I was very excited — and my sister was the complete opposite. As the time to start camp neared, we had to get swimsuits and actually wake up on time. I think we went to 5 different shops to get swimsuits, and finally, we found the right ones.
The surfing itself was really good, but it just rejuvenated things that I already know had been lost. Anyways, the waves were good and I learned how to bodysurf. There was one day when the current was really strong and we had to leave and I almost got pulled out.
Mt. Taranaki is the dormant stratovolcano of the Taranaki region.
We hiked two trails on this mountain, Pouakai Tarns and Wilkies Pools. Both were pretty; one was short, and one was not. Wilkies Pools was a short, mostly flat, and wet hike through the forest. Pouakai Tarns was a strenuous, steep, and kind of wet hike through the forest to see a lake that can reflect Mt. Taranaki — if it is not cloudy, which it is most of the time.
Through our stay in New Plymouth, I did more putt-putt in a week here than I have done in a few months in Chicago. We did, (and I am not joking), 3 different mini golf courses in one WEEK. It was so fun! Two were outdoors, and one was indoors (glow in the dark). I have gotten so much better and mini-golf and I will definitely play more. My mom hates mini golf and she still had a good time. I think that I won one of the games.