Life is a Highway: Literally. I’ve driven at least 3K in kilometers.

Actually I think between Katie and I, we’ve driven at least 3,5oo kilometers in Australia and New Zealand.

It is now Day 22 of traveling. I have a lot less money (and surprisingly things/luggage) than I did 22 days ago (thank you summer jobs, Wake Forest, and parents for making sure there was money in the first place). I have eaten a damn ton of rice and beans (and probably have some vitamin deficiency now), taken far and few showers (I smell marvelous), slept in various cars and tents (in various weather conditions might I add), and seen some of the most amazing places in the world. If this isn’t nice then what is (again bless my school for paying for me to be here)?

Bruce Highway, Queensland, Australia

Our journey commenced December 1st when we picked up my brother (Kellen) from the Cairns airport in Far North Queensland. Our mission: to drive over 2,000 kilometers to Sydney in 12 days time, and to enjoy the passing scenery and live in the moment of our journey. We chose to camp at free campsites near the Bruce Highway (Route 1) down the east coast of Australia, and to eat minimally as to save money (beans and rice anyone?).

While driving, we passed through a few major cities, including Brisbane and Gold Coast. Weather unfortunately did not allow for us to stay long near Brisbane, though we traveled to Gold Coast and stayed in a suburb area called Surfer’s Paradise. It was indeed a surfer’s paradise (as the name might imply), and while it was expensive, it was an amazing city to stay in.

Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Some of our final stops in Australia included the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney and then the city itself. The best way to describe the Blue Mountains goes something like this: imagine the Grand Canyon in the U.S. Now, imagine that with a lot of greenery and much older and (in my opinion) more impressive. We visited the Three Sisters, and iconic viewpoint, as well as Govett’s Leap Lookout. The lookout had a trail that we ended up hiking, which followed the top of the canyon around to a distant viewpoint in the cliffs. 10/10 I would absolutely recommend this lookout; it’s very underrated and potentially more impressive than the Three Sisters.

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Sydney Opera House (in background)

The city of Sydney was also a great stop. We only spent a day there, as we were flying out to Auckland in New Zealand the next day, but walking around the city was a blast. Kellen and I managed to snag some Grill’d Burgers (probably the best chain store in Australia with mouth watering zucchini fries and mushroom burgers for those veges out there) and walked to the Sydney Opera House and viewed the Harbor.

New Zealand:

December 13th, we flew over to Auckland and stayed outside the city for the night. The following day, we drove to Matamata, where some of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed. Since we are all very obsessed with the LOTR books and movies, we decided to visit the Hobbiton movie set and geek out together. Kellen thought it was only appropriate to do the tour of Hobbiton barefoot. Kudos, braaah.

Hobbiton feat. Bag End
Katie and her Hobbiton brewski

There’s something about New Zealand that makes the water especially blue… maybe it’s the lack of an ozone layer, lack of mad pollution, or something I haven’t really considered (or researched…). Whatever it may be, pretty  much every natural wonder that we encountered was incredibly picturesque. There was a moment when I told Katie that my photos of the terrain reminded me of the photos I saw on a lot of travel instagrams. Arguably, my instagram is very travel and nature based…

Relating to our LOTR obsessions, we made it our goal in New Zealand to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The terrain in this crossing was used in the LOTR films as Mordor, with Mt. Ngauruhoe standing in as Mt. Doom (which apparently has a very steep 30 degree slope… that explains much). The crossing itself is 19.4 kilometers, and with the addition of hiking Mt. Ngauruhoe, it is around 25 kilometers. It just so happened that our crossing day fell on my 22nd birthday, which made the trip even more special. We started our crossing day with a 5:30 wake up call to catch a 6:45 shuttle to the national park, and ended it around 15:00. Then we consumed a damn ton of food (second dinner anyone?). This crossing was probably the highlight of my trip for many reasons.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Mt. Ngauruhoe (LOTR Mt. Doom)
Tongariro Alpine Crossing

After the crossing day, we ventured to the West Coast on the Forgotten Highway (which is essentially a mountainous road winding through the middle of nowhere run by cows and sheep, such a beaut). We camped a bit away from Mt. Taranaki and ventured into one the waterfall trails at its base.

The Forgotten Highway, North Island, New Zealand
Mt. Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand

Home 2.0

Near the end of our group travels, we met up with one of our SFS buds in Auckland (s/o to Matt) and took a day trip to Piha beach in the Northland Region. A few of us climbed one of the cliffs barefoot to get the above view of the beach (when in New Zealand, do as the hobbits do), and we all ended up climbing the middle rock slab in the midground of the shot. It was a great way to end our group travels, as earlier this week, I dropped Katie and our wee station wagon off at the airport. Kellen and I will remain in the Auckland region until the 26th (doing who knows what but what a way to spend the holidays). I’m definitely sad to see the end of the threesome-Fellowship, but also incredibly happy and thankful to have spent it with two awesome buds.

So that’s the deal-i-o with the past three weeks of my life, in case you are actually interested. For those in the U.S, see ya on the flip-side come the 26th (but actually I will be home on the 26th because of the international date line…). Happy holidays from Auckland!


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