New Zealand has been at the top of my never-ending bucket list, so you can imagine just how excited I was to go on this trip. My expectations were high, hearing from friends how there is nowhere like it, and marvelling at the beauty of the country seen through many images of my friends’ exploits.
As much as I preach to fellow Topdeckers that we can sleep when we’re dead, or in reality just taking a nap on the coach journeys, I found that incredibly difficult this time round. To do so would be to miss out on the picturesque surroundings that you encounter around every road you drive on.
Each town just as small as the next, but oh so big in character, you find yourself surrounded by jaw-dropping views no matter where you are. Whether you’re surrounded by a cascade of mountains with lush green grass and stunningly blue skies or standing on a pristine beach on a small island whilst also overlooking many other smaller islands. It’s absolute bliss.
Feeling at home in New Zealand became a theme, especially when walking my 5’3 petite self around Hobbiton, picking out which house would be perfect for my height (I checked, it was all of them).
As much as my bank account might have hated me, I was saying YES emphatically to a never-ending list of incredible optionals.
✅Taking a cruise through the Milford Sound? Yes please!
✅Quad-biking through Tongariro National Park? HELL YEAH.
✅Kayaking til your arms drop through Abel Tasman National Park? I’ll drink off the pain later on.
✅Black Water Rafting to see maggots’ shiny poo? Sure, why not (I think the official term for them are ‘glow worms’).
If I’m going to experience New Zealand, I was going to do it properly. Besides, at least half of them would be once-in-a-lifetime escapades, and – for want of a better phrase – YOLO. Cringe.
The most quiet and serene of excursions were just as mind-blowing as the loud and daring ones.
Chilling in a jacuzzi that faced directly opposite a breathtaking view of the mountains in Queenstown first thing in the morning set up the perfect day, which was then finished by a delectable buffet against a sunset backdrop of the city. Couldn’t have had a more relaxing day if I tried.
FEEL REAL Moments
One of Topdeck’s Feel Real inclusions was an unforgettable night learning about Māori culture on the most magnificent traditional marae.
Eating a tasty hāngī meal, witnessing the glorious and emphatic Haka performed right in front of us, and listening to the fascinating stories of their lives and those of their ancestors, whilst sleeping altogether in one room under the same roof as if we were back to our teenage years of camp. Trust me, that never gets old.
If you ever have the chance to experience your birthday on a Topdeck tour – DO IT. Even being thousands of miles away from my family and friends, it was everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Bringing in my birthday at midnight with my new Topdeck Whanau (Māori for family), travelling to Marlborough for a vineyard tour and wine tasting (of which my glass never seemed to empty, no matter how much I drank), then travelling to Kaikora and seeing out the evening in an Irish bar – yes, even in the most remote towns of the world, you will find an Irish bar – with great live music and drinks galore. I turned 28 in style!
Eliminating any elements of the previous night’s alcohol with a refreshing and exhilarating snorkel swim around the city’s beautiful seals and trying (plus succeeding!) to catch a glimpse of one of my favourite animals, penguins. I may have shed a tear here.
And I can’t forget to mention our epic tour song – September by Earth, Wind and Fire – but how could I forget? Wink wink, nudge nudge. IYKYK, etc.
Mems that last a lifetime
I still can’t quite believe how much each trip keeps getting better than the last. Maybe it just feels like it, that in the moment you feel so euphoric that you don’t want it to end. Maybe it’s that each trip is just as amazing as the last, and you’re already planning the next one to make sure you feel that way again.
My new Topdeck whānau have since had many a Zoom call for all of us to keep each other company, and yes, we’ve had the obligatory quiz nights (or days for those of us on the other side of the world). From Australia, to the UK, to west coast America and beyond. My Topdeck trip turned out to be the last New Zealand tour for Topdeck before everywhere went into lockdown.
However, this just gives me many more months of researching, weeks of planning, nights of itinerary coordinating, and days of squealing with excitement of future adventures yet to begin, and many more Topdecks in the pipeline.
Itching to have some FEEL REAL moments of your own? Find more info on our trips to New Zealand here.