Written by Amanda White
Tuesday was bonding day for the NEIP-ers!
We formed two teams—the Average Feijoa’s (Or, if you like, Fei-Joe-a's) and the Fellowship of the Kiwi—and embarked on our Amazing Race throughout Auckland. We ate hokey pokey ice cream, spoke to strangers in Maori (which was mostly saying “Kia Ora!” to runners and backpackers...), and "sunbathed" on North Wharf. Both teams took creative pictures and enjoyed all of our exploring and wandering.
After the Amazing Race, we joined back up at YHA to prep for grocery shopping at Countdown. The Avg Feijoas bought lots of pasta and sandwich fixings for the remainder of the expedition. Some of us spent a chill evening in, chatting and getting to know our hostelmates, and others went out for one final evening of Auckland exploring.
Wednesday dawned early for our first day of touring and industry speakers! We met bus driver Stacy beside our spacious 19-seat Haka Tours Bus, then got to hear from Jatendra of Haka Tours. He shared about the history of Haka Tours and Lodges, and was a great start to our expedition. We then headed out of Auckland for the rest of our trip—an exciting moment that meant our expedition was truly beginning! We spent the rest of the morning on the bus, observing New Zealand’s incredibly diverse landscapes and weather that seemed to change by the minute. Stacy distinguishes North from South Island by describing the former as “the Shire” of New Zealand and the latter as the more majestic and mountainous scenes from Lord of the Rings. The rolling hills certainly reminded me of my time in Hobbiton! (It was rather challenging to get pictures from the moving bus though…)
After a quick pit stop in a town that is world famous in New Zealand for its corrugated murals (!), we made it to Lake Rotorua which was one of the most lovely and peaceful places I’ve ever been.
Rotorua also was home to our next industry speaker, OGO Rotorua. When Kelly started his presentation, he simply said, “We push people down a hill in a big, giant ball.” His casual and straightforward style of speaking was accessible and enjoyable, in the bustling lobby of OGO. Five of our NEIP-ers opted into the experience, as did Anna! The rest of us took pictures and watched from beside a lovely fire.