On Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, after a mere 14 hours on a plane, coupled with Melatonin and two in-flight meals that were presumably baked pigeon, I found myself on the other side of the world. Everything in New Zealand feels differently, but oddly familiar at the same time – like an eerie parallel universe where the people are wildly friendly and the animals are not.
Not to mention, I basically time-traveled to get here and lost a full 24 hours crossing the international dateline. You’re literally reading something being written on a day that you haven’t even lived yet. Spooky, right?
I spent my first couple of days in New Zealand’s capital, Auckland, as well as Waiheke Island. I checked out museums and cafes. I went zip lining over vineyards on the island with a heart full of adventure and purse full of food. The next morning at 7 am, I missed my first Uber ride. I chased my second one about two blocks as he began to abandon hope that I was going to show up, which was totes Auck(land).
By some miracle, I arrived at my Stray bus tour pickup location, a little flustered, but none the worse for wear. I embarked on the journey of a lifetime with 24 people from all over the world – thrown into a small bus together to explore the North Island.
Being the only American, “Kate from the States,” I answered a flood of questions about politics and felt pretty insecure about my white bread accent. The next few days were filled with all types of adventures, from a hike into Cathedral Cove to digging our own jacuzzis at a volcanic hot water beach. I went to a traditional Maori performance and dinner (yes, there were Hakas), checked out Hobbiton and kayaked through a beautiful waterfall-filled gorge at a Blue Duck conservatory (so remote it needs two double A batteries).
By the end of the six days, I felt like I’d known the people on this tour for years. New Zealand began to feel a lot like home. With the foreword of my life Down Under wrapped up, tonight I catch my flight to Melbourne to begin the official first chapter. It will be an adventure worthy of a Hobbit. I can’t wait.
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