Rotorua, New Zealand

We spent the past couple of days exploring Rotorua, and it did not disappoint! The town has a huge backpacking community with many hostels and tons of outdoor activities.

We arrived later in the evening to our hostel, where we talked to the very helpful employee at our reception desk about excursions that were must do’s for the area. From our own research, we already knew that one day we would hike the huge redwood forest here, but were open for suggestions on what to do on our other full day. We immediately were sold on a tour to Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal wonderland. We hurried off to grocery store to buy the essentials for packing lunches in our backpacks….peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have become our go-to lunches.

We woke up the next morning and boarded a shuttle that picked us up at our hostel, which took us about 30 minutes outside of the town to view some mud pools. The mud was bubbling and boiling and splattering and stinky. Let’s just say, this became a trend for the day! 

Steamy, boiling mud pools

We were then taken to a different site to see a geyser erupt, which was pretty cool, however not extremely natural since apparently every morning at 10:15am someone pours salt into the geyser to make it erupt. Good for touristy pics though. 

Collage of the geyser erupting

Quick selfie with the geyser before it was over!

At last, we loaded back up and were dropped off at the entrance of the Wai-O-Tapu park.We had the option of staying for 2 hours or closer to 5 hours, and we chose the latter thanks to an awesome tip from our hostel reception desk. She informed us that there are twin streams that run together in an area near the entrance to Wai-O-Tapu, that usually only the locals know about. The cool part is one stream is really hot, and the other is cold, so where they join together creates a steamy relaxing pool that is safe to take a dip in!  We spent over an hour relaxing in the water and letting the park empty out from the morning tours before entering.

There were 25 different geothermal attractions within Wai-O-Tapu to explore and in the guide map there were explanations and the significance of each one. As we came upon each one, Jenny was responsible for reading the write-up about what we were looking at and Kerry took pics with her nice camera. Throughout the day, we were amazed at the different colors of 100° Celsius (in short, boiling) water created by reactions between the water and lots of different minerals. There were also a ton of sulfer deposits, which created quite the aroma for the entire park (in short, ew). Most of what we saw had explanations far beyond our science level comprehensions.

Kerry crossing by the Champagne Pool

The colors of the water were so cool

The Devil’s Bath – slime green!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Wai-O-Tapu, and left in awe of what all we had seen. We had also just spent the bulk of the day walking around in the blazing sun, so we were ready for some cold brews. We had our shuttle drop us off at the store so we could buy some beer to take back to our hostel to enjoy! 

Jenny entering the hostel with beer in tow

The next morning we walked a couple of miles to the entrance to the Redwood forest here called Whakarewarewa Forest. Upon entering, there were magnificent Redwoods everywhere! 

Kerry being a tree hugging hippy

We decided to take one of the longer routes called the Tokorangi Pa Track, which was around 11.5km in length, with some incredible scenery and views throughout! The hike took us a little over 3 hours and we both thought that it was one of the best things we have done so far. Spending time taking in our surroundings and being immersed in nature is something that both of us truly enjoy.

Kerry and Jenny excited to be on a hike

Jenny standing with the Redwoods

Kerry with a scenic backdrop that pictures barely do justice to

Jenny crossing a stream while in a valley on the hike 

Jenny at the end of the hike pointing at the trail we took

Once we had finished in the forest, we still had to walk back to our hostel. By the time we were there, our legs were exhausted and we were ready to throw back a few more beers! 

We had an amazing couple of very full and adventurous days here in Rotorua. We have a huge hike on Tuesday that we now feel better prepared for! 

~Jenny and Kerry 

Auckland, New Zealand

After a few days in Bay of Islands we headed back into Auckland to spend more time in the city. Our original visit was a quick overnight stay the night our flight arrived in New Zealand, so we were excited to get back to Auckland.

Our hostel this time around was Oaklands Lodge in Mount Eden, outside of the CBD. It was known for being a quieter area and in an old house. Since we arrived after reception closed, we grabbed our keys and scoped out the hostel. This time around we were in a 4 bed mixed dorm with shared bathrooms. We crashed early after a quick chat with one of our roommates for the night. Over the next few days we had different roommates each night, all of which were so kind and friendly (and also a pair that was almost half our age 😐).

The next morning we started the day with a run/hike combo near the hostel. We ran until we reached the bottom of Mount Eden which is a dormant volcano and the highest volcanic cone in Auckland. The crater itself is considered sacred, but you can hike up and around the mountain and take in the great views. 

The hike to the top was easy and another way to start building up our hiker legs for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The views of the city and surrounding areas were spectacular from the top! However, neither of us brought our cameras so we agreed to re-do the journey on our last morning in Auckland.

Jenny at Mount Eden

Kerry at Mount Eden

After a quick trip to the grocery store for essentials we cleaned up and prepared for the day. While we had lightened our backpack contents in Hawaii and shipped some stuff home, we had also come to realize that we didn’t have any outfits that consisted of much beyond workout attire. We decided to take a quick trip to Sylvia Park to grab a nice outfit or few. We both found some great bargains that came in handy on our trip to Waiheke Island the next day and will be useful for many future outings.

We headed to the downtown ferry terminal to meet up with Kerry’s friend and former coworker, Anna, and Anna’s man, Adam. They were kind enough to plan an evening outing to Devonport. We headed across the water as the weather decided to act up, but we agreed to continue with our original plans.

First we went to a cricket match where Adam was drilled with no less than 500 questions from us on how this sport was played. We drank beers, chatted and hid under a tree in an effort to avoid the ongoing rain. Eventually the weather won and the match was cancelled, but we took cover inside and had a few more beers and asked many more questions.

With Anna and Adam at the cricket match

Then we headed back to the CBD for dinner at BCC (Britomart Country Club) before we caught the last bus back to Mount Eden. Apparently this city likes to close down early! But it was ok as we had big plans for the next day. It was great to see Anna again and catch up on what was going on in our lives, get some top secret New Zealand tips and also drink some beer.

The following day we went to Waiheke Island, which you can read all about here.

On our final morning in Auckland we revisited Mount Eden, then headed to Auckland Domain for another scenic walk. Our bus was leaving for Rotorua around 3:30, so we grabbed lunch and headed back to th CBD to make our way to our next destination.

Auckland Domain

Jenny lookin’ fancy!

Jenny & big tree

Kerry frolicking among the flowers

Kerry & big tree

New Zealand continues to surprise and delight us; Each town is different yet beautiful. You’ll start noticing an overload of photos as our journey through New Zealand progresses and we discover even more! 
Keep an eye out for a post about Rotorua coming soon. Until then… cheers!

~ Kerry & Jenny

Our day on gorgeous Waiheke Island

Rated last year by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 places in the world to visit, we knew that our time here in Auckland would not be compete without a day trip to Waiheke Island. Man oh man, it did not disappoint!

We started the day with a ferry trip over to the island, then boarded the Fuller’s Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off bus, which would take us throughout the island, with stops near each winery. This was absolutely the way to go, and the bus also had a tour guide giving helpful information about the island and wineries, which helped us to form a plan for which ones to hit up.

Here is a recap of our day in photos:

Ferry to Waiheke 



Te Moto Vineyard 



dsc00065

dsc00070

dsc00086

Stonyridge Vineyard



Mudbrick Vineyard 


Cable Bay Vineyards


wp-1485416120547.jpg

dsc00115

dsc00121

dsc00136

Delicious Wine (tastings, glasses and bottles)


~Jenny and Kerry

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

We just wrapped up a visit to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and it was STUNNING. We arrived in Auckland late on January 20th (after losing 23 hours) and went straight to a hostel for a few hours of sleep. Then early on Saturday morning we hopped on a bus and headed to Paihia. The bus ride was about 4 hours and every single thing we saw out of the windows on the way was beautiful. We had heard that New Zealand was a breathtaking country but my gosh… amazing!

The weather was a bit cooler than expected so we had to scrap our plans to plop on a beach when we arrived on Saturday. Instead we checked in to our hostel and grabbed some free bikes and headed out for a hike. We biked a bit down the road to the trail head for Waitangi Track where we hiked 5 km each way to and from Haruru Falls.

Kerry riding her rental bike to the Waitangi Track

Jenny at the trailhead

Kerry hanging out in the mangroves

Jenny hanging out by the Haruru Falls

On Sunday we were dedicated to spending the day at the beach and working on our base tans. The weather had a slightly different plan though so we spent some time in the morning running for cover from random rain showers and getting tons of sand blown in our faces, ears and hair. Eventually the weather took our side and we got to lay out and relax. Then it was time to drink. 

We checked out a cute place right next to our hostel called Thirty30 and grabbed a few beers while we played cards. 

It was exactly what the doctor ordered and we kicked back for awhile and enjoyed the lagers and nice weather. After a few drinks we headed back to the hostel to take care of some extremely classy boxed wine that was calling our name. 😉
Monday was by far our favorite day in Bay of Islands. Originally we planned to take the ferry over to Russell but we opted for another route. We started the day with a short walk along the coastal track near our hostel.

On our way back we stopped by a kayak rental place and chatted about rates and decided we would spend the day exploring nearby islands via kayak. We headed out around 10:30 and pointed to a cute island where we were told there was a nice, small beach on the back side. 
We arrived less than 30 minutes later after circling most of the island to check it out. After beaching our kayak we looked around and we were immediately in love. We had a small piece of paradise all to ourselves! The beach was breathtaking, relaxing and we immediately decided to stay as long as we could. The day consisted of laying on the beach, reading, taking photos and laughing. Just what we needed! 

After we returned the kayaks, we decided that we were sufficiently burned and should stay out of the sun, so we headed back to our hostel and relaxed with some more wine and did some trip planning. A successful day indeed! 
Our time spent in Paihia exceeded our expectations! We highly recommend this area of New Zealand if you’re looking to relax in an adorable, quaint bay town with incredible scenery! 

~Jenny and Kerry 

What we ate in… Hawaii!

We’ve decided to start a series of blog posts to let folks know all of the unique, local, terrible, tasty, scary and/or delicious foods we tried while visiting different locations. We’ll often also throw in some new beers and wines because hey, we like beer and wine.

Our first post is dedicated to the things we ate in Hawaii. We tried to branch out and try new things that were unique to this island. No Hard Rock Cafe or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for us! Here’s what we tried while on Oahu…

Teddy’s Burgers
This was recommended to us by our hostel and it was fantastic! We devoured some meat and fries and were happy campers at the end. It was also nice that this was right around the corner from our hostel.

Pau Hana Market Waikiki (aka Food Truck Park)
We tried 2 different food trucks here – Fisherman’s Tacos and Barrio Korean Fusion. Both were vastly different and also wonderful food. We favored the Kimchee Fries we got at Barrio (minus the mayo on top) and the ribeye on the fries was amazing. Fisherman’s Tacos had some hefty tacos with tons of goodies on top that were quite messy to eat, but we managed to take care of it all 🙂

Rainbow Drive In
One of the foods we decided we had to try was a local Hawaiian fare called Loco Moco (which we kept accidentally calling Coco Moco). This is a delicious concoction that starts with white rice then hamburger patties and gravy over it all, topped with fried eggs and served with a side of macaroni salad. This was a “must try” for sure and it did not disappoint. We did some research on the best place near us to try this amazing dish and found the Rainbow Drive In. We’ll be back for more of this!

Of course we also tried some new beers that we have to tell you about. As many of you know, we both love Coors Light. And while we found plenty of Coors Light on this trip, we also tried a few new beers.

Aloha Beer Company’s Aloha Lager at Growler USA
We were walking to the grocery store our first day and stumbled upon Growler USA (a bar with tons of beers on tap) and figured we should catch the end of the Cowboys vs. Packers game and get some cold beer in us. The grocery store would still be there in an hour or two when we were done. This was a great decision since we found Aloha Lager and loved it!

Maui Brewing Co. Pineapple Mana at our hostel
Courtesy of a dorm mate that left us a few beers. They were interesting, not our normal type of beer, but free so why not?!

One thing to note was that most of our meals and beers really were not that expensive. We had heard the island was pricey, but it turns out if you share meals and look for bargains, it’s really not that hard on the wallet. It also helped that our hostel had free breakfast each day and free pizza for us on Tuesday night.

Cheers!

~ Kerry & Jenny

A Hike up Koko Head Stairs

Since scuba certification wrapped up on Tuesday, we decided to spend Wednesday doing some touristy things. Our first stop of the day was to the Arizona Memorial to pay tribute and remember the attack on Pearl Harbor and the lives that were lost. This was a touching memorial that was well worth the visit.

wp-1484800939626.jpg

The Arizona Memorial (as seen arriving by boat during the tour)

wp-1484867027284.jpg

The base of gun turret #3 on USS Arizona

After we left the memorial, we headed back to Waikiki to grab lunch at a food truck park. Then we decided to take a hike. Our original Hawaii plans were focused around beaches and hikes, but then we decided to get scuba certified and things changed. Luckily we had enough time for one hike so we decided to go big and visit Koko Head Trail.

wp-1484867944541.jpg

Kerry posing for a pic at the trailhead of Koko Head!

wp-1484867346682.jpg

Jenny and Kerry taking a breather!

Which is also known as Koko Head Stairs. Because wow. Stairs. Lots of stairs.

Some facts on Koko Head Trail:

  • The top of Koko Head is about 1,200 feet above Hawaii Kai.
  • People say it’s 1,048 steps to the top. It seems like a TON more. And then you have to go back down them.
  • The trail is really steep. You think it’s steep at first and then it just gets worse.
  • When you get to the top the views are totally worth the sweat, panting and shaky legs.
  • The hike down seems like a walk in the park after you have a chance to recover while taking in the views at the top.
  • The total hike is only about 1.5 miles round trip, but when you make the decision to start this hike at 1:30 pm in the blazing heat it seems like much further.

We started the hike after a huge lunch and at the hottest part of the day. As some people have said, it’s “not so much of a hike as it is a workout with a view”. There were lots of pit stops to catch our breath, to hide in a tiny spot of shade, to take in the view, to snap a few selfies and to get really excited about cloud cover or a slight breeze.

wp-1484867973310.jpg

Incredible views at the top!

We made it to the top in about 40 minutes, then wandered around in awe. It was breathtaking. We could see so much and so far away and everything we saw was beautiful and completely worth the 1,000+ stairs we trekked up. After a break to enjoy a significant breeze and to take some photos, we made our way back down. This was pretty simple and only required paying attention (and some pretty crafty crab walking by Kerry). When we made it back to the starting point we were sweaty disasters, but so happy that we did it.

wp-1484867954659.jpg

Jenny reflecting on how lucky we are to be on this incredible journey of a lifetime

If only we had time for more hikes in Hawaii… but today we leave and head on to New Zealand! We’ll just have to come back and experience more of Hawaii in the future.

~ Kerry & Jenny

Scuba Certification in Hawaii

We are officially scuba certified! We spent the last two days (Monday and Tuesday) doing our open water dives with Island Divers here in Honolulu. It’s been amazing!

When we decided to get scuba certified we found out pretty quickly that a lot of the providers in Dallas could not do our full certification before we left in January (this was mostly our fault given we decided to do this pretty late). So we were looking for alternate plans. What it came down to was that we would start our certification in Dallas at Scuba Toys to complete the classroom and pool dives. Then, being our genius selves, we decided to finish our certification and the required open water dives in Hawaii. The thought was we would actually have clear water to scuba in and get in some “free” and amazing dives. Boy, were we right! Best. Idea. Ever.

Day 1 (Monday) we went for a run along the beachfront, had a free breakfast at the hostel and hit Waikiki beach (2 blocks from our hostel) for an hour and a half before our Island Divers shuttle arrived.

wp-1484801570033.jpg

We then met Nacho, who would be our scuba instructor for the day. Once we arrived at the scuba shop we finished some paperwork, got our gear and headed out on the boat.

Our first dive site was at Koko Crater, where we were promised that we would get to see some sea turtles. They were not kidding. Nacho gave us some tips and reminders on prepping our gear and then we suited up and hopped in! As we made our way to the bottom we started spotting sea turtles immediately. We did a few sessions to refresh us on some skills and then we started swimming around and seeing what we could find. And it was tons of huge sea turtles. And a few fish. We completed our dive after about 30 minutes and reboarded the boat to head off to our next dive site.

DCIM118GOPRO

Dive site #2 was Turtle Canyons. And there were no turtles… odd. We did a few more sessions, practiced out of air emergencies with our buddies and then took off for another swim. Nacho found us a baby frog fish that we got to pass around and it was adorable. He then pointed to the distance and had the most excited look on his face. Not too far ahead of us were 2 spotted eagle rays that were ginormous. We decided to swim along with them for a bit before we had to end our dive.

wp-1484801400341.jpg

At the end of day 1 we were so happy, exhausted, proud of ourselves and ready for some beers.

Tuesday started off with another run along the beachfront, free hostel breakfast and 2 hours on the beach to work on our tans and relax. The sun was out in full force today and we were sweating within minutes. We then were picked up from our hostel by our new scuba instructor for the day, Jim, and taken to the dive shop to get our gear and do some quick skill lessons before boarding the boat. We had to learn to navigate with a compass, as we were required to do this at the surface and underwater near the bottom.

DCIM118GOPRO

Kerry performing an out of air ascent – she’s got skillz!

We went to the same 2 dive sites as yesterday, however the conditions were a little different and it seems the marine life really came out to show off today. We saw a TON of turtles, even bigger than the ones yesterday. Jim took great care of us and did a fantastic job of pointing out different creatures hiding out in the coral. There were a lot more fish swimming around us, sea urchins on the ocean floor, and we were able to snap some great pics on the GoPro.

wp-1484801839480.jpg

Underwater Selfie! (we discovered after the fact that waving looks kinda dumb…)

Mahalo (we’re fancy using island lingo) to Island Divers Hawaii and their entire crew for taking great care of us. They showed us some really cool dive sites and helped us to feel comfortable and confident while finalizing our scuba certifications. If you ever find yourself on Oahu wanting to go for a dive, or work on any certification, we highly recommend Island Divers Hawaii for any of your scuba or snorkeling desires. Shout out to Nacho and Jim – you guys rock!

wp-1484802479664.jpg

As we took the boat back to the shop on Tuesday, we took in the amazing scenery and talked about how lucky we are to be in Hawaii, scuba diving and getting to go on this adventure of a lifetime.

Aloha for now!

~Kerry and Jenny