Road trip to Auckland

Last weekend, TCG and I decided to go on an impromptu road trip. I was jumping with joy when he told me that we were going on a road trip to Auckland, which is a good 650 kms away from Wellington. And I think my chin must have touched the floor when he mentioned that we will be camping on the banks of a river? WHAT? I had always dreamt of camping-in-the-wild-kind-of-adventure and finally it was coming true.

Oh and by the way, he even mentioned that I would get to drive too. What??! Wow, is this my lucky day or something?!

While I got busy packing snacks, lunch, clothes and other such picnic paraphernalia, he busied himself with Google maps, making itinerary for our trip. Instead of taking a direct road to Auckland, we were to take a different route so that we could make the most of this trip and see other tourist places on the way. And I am glad we did.

Because what was to come was sooo beautiful and breathtaking; that in my mind I hadn’t imagined anything close to that. Let’s just say that God is the greatest artist. So, we started Thursday early morning, an hour later than scheduled, thanks to TCG.

“I told you we will be late. I told you we should start early. I was telling you since yesterday, I told you that,” started I.

“Relax, we are on a holiday. What’s the rush?”

It is hard to get TCG angered or worked up or tensed easily. I am a stickler for schedules. Sometimes, much to my dismay, my obsessive behavior takes over and makes me rant, before I realize it’s pointless. And this time I did agree with him. Heck, we were on a holiday and we needn’t rush. And we needn’t strictly adhere to any schedule. After all, we just make schedules for our convenience, don’t we?

It was a bright sunny day, the kind of day that begged for a road trip. First destination on the itinerary was a place called Taupo. The drive till Taupo was so beautiful that suddenly now my iphone wasn’t good enough. I wished I had a DSLR. It would do some justice to that sheer beauty that surrounded me and that I so badly wanted to capture. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get caught up with clicking pictures and missing the view in the process. I have told you before how I suck at taking pics, haven’t I? But I still managed to click a few, because I really wanted some pictures that would fill my memories in the years to come.

 

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Yellow, green, red, brown, orange trees symmetrically dotting the roads, thousands of happy looking fat, wooly, cuddly white sheep meekly grazing the lush green meadows, furry black and white cows scattered on the fields, sun peeping through the clouds and shining radiantly on a patch of lemony-yellow trees, happy birds chirping away flocking from one tree to another, gentle, cool breeze ruffling my hair and some of our favourite Hindi music playing in the background –  Can it get any better?

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Lake Taupo is huge. I didn’t believe it’s a lake, it looked like sea. And I am sure Taupo features somewhere way on top of things-to-see-in-NZ list. The beautiful Lake Taupo is about the size of Singapore – more of an inland sea really. At various places here in NZ, there are scenic look out points. We stopped at several places to get an eyeful of nature and scenic brilliance. Lake Taupo had me in its awe. I already want to visit Lake Taupo again 😛

Next we saw the beautiful, wild, roaring Huka falls. The sea green-blue gushing water flowed at a speed enough to turn a small boat over. A lot of tourists flocked this place and all we could hear was the angry sound of gushing water and click-click of many a cameras. The Huka Falls are the largest falls on the Waikato River, near Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island. The Waikato River, NZ’s longest river, stretches a massive 425km on the North Island.

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There after we parked at a spot near the lake, saw the sun setting down on us, went around the small tourist city exploring its bylanes while the breeze blew cool against our faces, before finally parking at a camping site called Five Mile Bay and calling it a day. Luckily for us it was a full moon day and we were parked right on the banks of the river, not more than 15 feet from the water. It was all very dreamy, moon shining on the water, and nobody but us to see that magnificence. The day couldn’t have had a more perfect ending. At the camping site – all by ourselves, and not a soul to intrude.  It was like our own private little piece of haven. Adventure at its best. Could it be any more thrilling? This was just out of my imagination :). And Oh my God, imagine waking up to the sound of waves and the mellow yellow sun peeping through a heavy blanket of clouds? What a beautiful morning!

A steaming cup of coffee later, we started our onwards journey. Next on the list was a place called Rotorua, a city on the Volcanic Plateau, having world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity, sulphur hot water springs and natural spas. This place is also famous for all the adventures it offers including skydiving, zorbing and luging.
Not prepared to do anything too serious for an adventure, I suggested we do luging, which is a cake walk really; but so much fun. After 3 luge rides, we checked ourselves into a natural hot water spa resort. And now, who doesn’t like spa?

 

 

Late that evening, we started for Auckland. Auckland is just another city now, but the biggest in NZ. People of all cultures swarmed the streets. It is like any other metro. We spent a whole day in Auckland socializing, meeting with all of TCG’s friends; hopping, skipping and jumping from one place to another. And there was one question that all his friends asked me. So you like Wellington better or Auckland? For a while I felt like I was back in India. Do you like Delhi better or Mumbai? May be this cold rivalry between cities is a  global thing, I thought.

Anyway, one day is far too less for Auckland. But we managed to squeeze out a little private time just before sunset and went viewing the skyline of Auckland from the viewing deck of the famous Skytower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere.

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All in all, it was a trip that we will remember for a very long time. Until TCG takes me on a new trip and we make new memories:P

And just for the records, I like Mumbai better. Gosh, I miss Mumbai so much, I just realised that. 😐

P.S. Some images from Google, since I was too lazy to transfer photos from my phone.

New Zealand and its wonders

There is so much beauty that surrounds me that I am still not able to come to terms with it. May be such overwhelming beauty takes getting used to.

Every little nook and corner here is so nicely landscaped, so green and so picturesque. Imagine scattered sheep grazing the grasslands, quaint little wooden houses dotting the bylanes, beautiful colours of autumn juxtaposed against the lush green grasslands, quiet lanes out looking the sea and sunlight dancing off the surface of the sea in a myriad of wonderful colours!! It’s impossible not to be affected by this sheer beauty. These beautiful landscapes that make you want to be a painter.

This is where I live

I was in Singapore for almost a month before moving to NZ. Now no doubt that Singapore is also beautiful, but it’s nothing like NZ. I know that it is not an apple to apple comparison but these are the only two countries I have seen apart from my hometown. So I can’t help ‘not’ compare.

Singapore is painstakingly perfect. It’s plastic. It’s manmade. The skyscrapers, the brilliantly advanced, modern buildings are somewhat daunting. You feel somewhat intimidated standing in front of 150 storey high-rises, all glass and twinkling lights. The whole country is so prim and proper that it looks like a movie set. Moreover, in my entire duration of my trip there, I hardly saw anyone smiling. They all had frowning, grumpy expressions on their face.  I mean no offence to Singapore, it IS brilliant…but in technological sort of way. Not in a way that touches your heart. But that apart, I had a whale of a time with my family. We went around the city-state and did all things touristy, expect taking photographs. Singapore is all about malls, and women’s shopping, and luxuries, and brands, and Jimmy Choos, and Versace and Calvin Kleins and Tommy Hilfigers and Armanis and Coco Chanels and all things expensive. What is wrong with that, you would possibly ask. Nothing. Just that it gets overwhelming after a point. How much can you possibly shop?

Singapore

But I must admit that the infrastructure in Singapore is beyond awesome. The Public transport is so efficient, so reliable and so safe that is very easy and convenient to go from Place A to Place B alone at any time of the day, without using much help. The whole country practically operates on almost a Six Sigma Level of perfection. It is very awe-inspiring.

Coming back to NZ now. NZ is beautiful because of its natural bounty, because of its little imperfections. This place has a soul. People are warm, smiling, approachable and friendly. You have so many things to do here, so many beaches to see, beaches that stretch for miles, there are road trips to make, there are adventures to do, there is parasailing, there is normal sailing, there is camping, there is trekking, there is scuba diving, there is bungee jumping, there is river water rafting and what not. There is a lot to do for the city lover types also. There are bars, there are clubs, there are discs, and there are nice fancy places to eat out. There is something for everyone.

Last weekend, TCG and I made an impromptu plan to go trekking. We went to a place called Red Rocks Reserve. It was an easy 3 hour coastal trek. Yes, yes, walking along the coast for 3 hours. It was a surreal experience. These rocks were formed hundreds of millions of years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. And they are red, obviously because of iron oxidization. But there are legends that tell otherwise.

Red Rocks

Along the coast there, were three or four baches. TCG said that baches are simple beach houses, that have been around for hundred of years and have been kept in their original forms by their house owners.

Further down from Red rocks is a place called Sinclair Head, an area where hundreds of seals come and visit between May and September. Since we went in April, we didn’t see hundreds of seals, but we definitely saw a few scattered here and there lazying on top of the rocks. These were not the slimy variety of seals that I had grown up seeing on Discovery Channel. These were rather furry. An average fur seal weights upto 160 kgs. Yes.
Here, take a look.

Lazy Fur Seal

I love outdoors, and I love treks. And this one along the coast was long but easy. We had packed our lunch and ate it on the go. It was cool and very breezy and I had to run back to the car to fetch the spare sweater in there.  So in all I was wearing three layers. My t-shirt, my jacket and that spare jacket from the car. Yes, I was looking funny, but heck when it’s that cold, comfort should take over fashion, if you really want to enjoy outdoors. All in all, it was a day well spent.

And on our way back home, I got to see this. I had never seen Kite sailing before.

Human Kite sailing

For the love of jogging

Did I tell you that every evening at 5 I meet TCG below his office? His office is 35 minutes of walk from our home.  I jog to his office every day; it takes about 20 minutes to go downhill and 30 minutes to jog back up. This is how I get my daily dose of exercise and I love it. Jogging out in open as opposed to treadmill is the real deal. The feel of cool breeze brushing against your face, when you are all hot and sweaty, is a joy only someone who is used to outdoorsy exercises can tell you. Even back home in India, I used to go jogging every day, out in open…for a good 40-45 minutes. I used to live in a big complex, where I had the luxury of jogging my way to good health. .  People in the society used to know me as “the girl that jogs all the time”.. haha..Not kidding, I jogged everyday unfailingly, right till two days before my wedding.

Jogging feels so good, jogging clears your mind, and kicks in that endorphin which gives that all-good feeling about yourself and flushed red cheeks. It has been 3 days today that I haven’t jogged. The weather decided to play foul. It hasn’t stopped drizzling for the past 3 days. And I am one of those kinds who feel extremely guilty for missing a work out. For the past 8 years, I have been following some kind of the workout regimen or the other…gym, yoga, walking, jogging, cycling, floor exercises…I have done it all. And throughout these 8 years, I have had phases where I feel extremely guilty if I had to take short break from exercising for whatever reasons.

You see, I used to be a fat child. I have worked very hard, and literally slogged my ass out, to lose all the baby fat and to be the person I am today. When you have worked really hard to achieve something, you know its value in true sense.  I am someone who has been on both the ends of the spectrum. I am someone who has gone from being fat to fit. I know how lethargic and sloth-y one feels when fat…and I also know how active, agile and good one feels when fit. Do you blame me?

There are some people who have it all easy and who are blessed with superb metabolism. They can devour as many cheese burgers, milkshakes, ice creams, fries, chocolates as they want…without so much as putting on an ounce. And then there are some people like me, who put on weight even if they think chocolate. For us, it’s a constant struggle.

I am someone who is constantly thinking weight and calories. How much I fuss about weight is something all my friends can tell you. I am butt of all their weight/calorie related jokes all the time.

Picture this. We are all out in a restaurant. And by some freak incident, I give into the temptation and decide to order a chocolate milkshake. Next, I see 5 jaws dropping in front of me, I see 2 mouths making a big ‘O’ and at least one or two remarking, “Are you not counting calories today?” Sigh. Do I blame them? NO. Because the amount of fussing I have done about calories after I lost all the unwanted weight initially justifies their reaction.

So I am very happy to be jogging once again in NZ. I see oldies, well in their sixties and some even in their seventies jog with such an élan.  Their spirit to remain fit, even at that age, is truly inspiring. Dressed in shorts and racer backs, these few old ladies and men pass by me every day while jogging and smile at me. Their smile, energy and attitude are infectious. And I have also seen many ladies, well in their eighties, walk with so much ease and grace, it can put us young adults to shame.

Side note: Even at that age, the ladies here don’t step out without their makeup. Their hair nicely done, bright shade of lipstick setting their lips apart and a stylist pair of sun glasses perched snugly on their noses…and I love this spirit. Because I hate how I sometimes step out of the house myself…wearing pitiful rags and no makeup at all…only because I feel too lazy to take the effort. And then I wonder, what motivates these old ladies to be so prim and proper, even at 80. And I realize…they simply do it for their own selves.

So the point is, I have missed jogging. I want the rains to stop so that I can get back to jogging and stop feeling miserable about missing workouts and guilty about eating sinful foods sometimes.

And about NZ in general, I have made an observation. Strangers here are very warm and cheerful. You will almost always catch them smiling. The people on roads, the people in the markets, the people on the phone, and the people behind the cash counters in the stores…they are all extremely warm, approachable and happy.  They greet you, smile at you, help you, and talk to you very easily.  Isn’t that incredulous? No wonder then New Zealand ranks very high on the happiness index of the world. And not to forget, people here are also very health conscious and adventurous, age no bar.