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hello! i’m juli!

welcome to design to explore! I document my adventures in travel, design, and food.

in the land of kiwis (aka New Zealand)

in the land of kiwis (aka New Zealand)

This past week I spent driving through New Zealand with my two best friends of abroad, Monica and Eva. We started in Queenstown, then rented a car to go to Mt. Cook, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Christchurch and a million views in between. It was the most amazing week, so read my post then check out the video I made documenting our week at the end! 6.09 NEW ZEALAND

Today we left for New Zealand, Monica, Eva, and I were about to embark on the trip, and classic, we all waited until the morning of to pack, so that was extremely stressful, but we all managed to finish right on time to head to the airport. The flight was pretty short, but soooo bumpy for the last hour that Monica almost vommed and I wasn’t feeling too hot myself, but we made it in one solid piece.

We got to Queenstown and dropped our bags off at the hostel before heading to Fergberger, which apparently holds the world’s best burger according to CNN according to Eva. We immediately went and were so lucky that there was no line and a table to sit at, as all of our friends who went previously informed us that they waited over an hour and ate on the sidewalk. The burger did live up to its expectation. Was it the WORLDS best burger, not sure, but was it a really good burger, 100% YES.

After the burger, we went back to the hostel to attempt to pregame and go to a bar, but we were so full and tired, that we ended up just walking around the town and hanging out before heading back to get some sleep. We had a big day ahead of us tomorrow and we needed all the energy we could get…

6.10 adrenaline and exhaustion

Since Queenstown is the adrenaline capital of the world, today we were all off to do adventure activities. Monica was going to do the world’s first bungee jump and Eva and I were off to do the world’s biggest swing. I was super excited, especially after skydiving I was ready to do something crazy, but Eva on the other hand was pretty nervous, since I kinda forced her into doing it whoops!

We got strapped into harness and then walked out to the swing through a very tiny cable bridge. Once we were out there, I volunteered us to go first, against Eva’s will, but it was better to go first than to watch people plummet into a canyon, so we got strapped into the swing and we were off…. The video does the whole ordeal justice…..

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It was so much fun, and I really think Eva enjoyed it too, at least just a little bit. So once we were done and all reunited, we headed back to Queenstown to hike the Queenstown Hill. To do this we too the gondola up-ed halfway, because we didn’t have time to hike base to summit. We started hiking an accidentally got on the wrong path, but luckily Eva and I noticed so we headed back before it was too far to get on the correct path.

This hike was the most vertical hike I have ever encountered, and it was called an “easy” hike. I swear, we would hike for 2 minutes before Eva and I needed a breather, meanwhile, Monica was legitimately high off of nature bolting up the mountain, leaving us in her trail dying and gasping for air.

Eventually we made it to the saddle and it was great, the views were absolutely insane. It was also pretty cold, and gusts of wind would just absolutely freeze us to the core, but it was all worth it. The pictures don’t even do it justice…..

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When we started to walk down, we realized how far we had hiked, as it felt like we were walking down the mountain for what felt like forever, we got to see some sheep in the wild and we got to pee in the most scenic spots. By the time we reached the gondola lodge, we were all pretty frozen and pretty exhausted from the 4 hour hike, and this is just a warm up for what we are going to do later in the week….

Since we skipped lunch, we thought we deserved a huge ass dinner and headed to a fancy ass restaurant (without knowing it) in our hiking gear for some ribs. Little did we know, that these ribs were absolutely MASSIVE. Eva and I spit a rack that was GINORMOUS and Monica got her own rack that seemed to be double the size of her head. Easily the most delicious ribs I have ever eaten, but we were definitely in food comas.

Because the food comas had commenced, there was no way we were able to go out. We attempted to hit the bars, but none of us could stomach a beer without the risk of throwing up the delicious meal, so we just decided to get some shut eye as we had another long day planned.

6.11 milford sound

After facing a car catastrophe the night before, we had woken up and gotten our rental car for the day and our plan was to drive to Milford Sound, go on a cruise and drive back. Even though Milford Sound was technically 46 miles away, because the road is so windy it took us 4 hours to get there, and we stopped maybe twice as we had a cruise to catch.

We literally were driving for an hour before I needed to take a break and nap, so Monica drove for a bit while I got some rest. After I got some rest, I took over the driving, and we were driving through the most beautiful landscapes ever. The roads were pretty windy and sharp, but we made it in one piece, and JUST IN TIME for the cruise, as we hopped on board and they pulled away a minute or two later.

The cruise was also amazing as the views were spectacular, but of course, there was a PA system were some lady was being a tour guide through the entire ride, giving us lots of random facts about the lake we were motoring through. If you tuned her out however, it was quite a peaceful cruise and again, stunning views.

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When the cruise was over, there wasn’t much to do, so we started our drive back. Since we weren’t pressed for time, we took it slow and were able to stop along the way to take some photos and enjoy the scenery. When the sun set, we started jamming out to One Direction (because that was the only music on Eva’s phone and she needed to use the USB to charge) and here we discovered how inappropriate some of their songs were, we were all EXTREMELY shocked.

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By the time we got back to Queenstown we were pooped and hungry, so Eva and I went back to Fergberger for another burger. This experience was not as pleasant, but nonetheless, I was hungry so I enjoyed myself. We ended up walking around queenstown that night and just chilling in the hostel as we were exhausted from the 8+ hours of driving and sitting somehow.

6.12 queenstown to mt. cook

The day started with us getting on the road to Mt. Cook and officially starting our New Zealand road trip. We even had such luck, that five minutes into driving we spotted a rainbow and made our first photo pit stop on the side of the road. Then we continued on our way to our first stop Lake Wanaka. Again, we cannot get over how beautiful this country is, as it feels like we are driving through a post card, the mountains and the clouds all together is just crazy insane. Even though in some patches we hit rough weather, we were able to enjoy it and make many stops along the way.

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When we got to Wanaka it was down pouring, so we sat along the lake and ate some snacks. Monica decided to get out and go for a walk despite the rain, while me and Eva chilled in the car and just walked a little bit before wanted to return to dryness. We continued our drive, continuously driving through different sections of sun and rain, we drope the the Lindis Alpine Pass which was pretty beautiful, as it was full of dusty orange mountians, but the shitty weather at this point hindered our ability to stop and really capture the moment.

After about three more hours of driving we made a stop for lunch at a random place called “Wrinkly Rams” where we found the best meat pies and chocolate chip cookies. We hung out here for a half hour or so to take a break from the driving and it was quite the nice pit stop.

Eventually we made it to Lake Tekapo and thankfully it wasn’t raining at all! So we took advantage of the dry time to go and explore the lake a little bit. We first just looked at the lake, then headed to the main street to use the bathrooms. Eva found some tour information, and learned that there was a small church along the water, which was extremely beautiful, then we walked towards the water a did a lil photoshoot. Monica was really struggling as she was freezing her ass off (she’s from south Carolina and hasn’t really experienced a true winter, so Eva and I give her crap for it in the best way possible, also its like high 30s here and the wind chill does get cold, but its not that bad).

Also at this pit stop, I went into the most futuristic bathroom that I have ever experienced. It was a cubicle thing, I pushed a button to go in then an automated voice goes “The maximum occupancy of this stall is ten minutes, the doors will open after that” and then midway through me going to the bathroom the voice COMES BACK and says “Please move around the stall to indicate occupancy or the doors will be opened”. So there I am on the toilet, FLAILING my arms around trying to indicate my occupancy and what comes next? The speakers start playing fake nature sounds like a bubbling creek and birds chirping. WHERE THE HELL AM I? ARE THESE THE PUBLIC RESTROOMS OF THE FUTURE? Overall, the weirdest bathroom experience I have EVER encountered.

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After this we were headed to Mt. Cook, it was about a three hour drive and it became pretty painful near the end because it started torrential down pouring. This made me slow down a lot as a driver because windy roads + rain + driving on the OTHER side of the road isn’t easy, but we made it to our hostel in one piece. The weather just got worse after we got there, so we decided to stay in and make some ramen noodles for dinner and hang out.

6.13 inclement weather and adjusted plans

The original plan for today was to hike Mt. Cook, but as we woke up the weather wasn’t any better. When we looked out the window you could barely see across the parking lot as the fog and rain were so heavy, and then the hostel man told us that hiking was not a good idea and suggested we go to a museum. We said F THAT and got in the car and drove back to Wanaka, where we would be staying that night, as the weather reports said there would be good weather there. So off we headed, and we never even saw mt. cook because of the fog… smh….

We drove along and already within 30 minutes the weather was monumentally better, cold but better. So we made a stop around Lake Pukaki, it was a glacier water lake making the water extremely blue from glacier flour. Then we stopped along the side of a lavender farm, although the smell of lavender wasn’t overwhelming, when the wind was strong enough you could get a slight wiff. We stopped a few more times on the way before heading back to the Wrinkly Rams for food, as the day before it was just so good for some reason.

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Doing this, we missed a major rain storm, which was great to be inside for, and we got some solid breakfast food. We didn’t stay too long, as we didn’t want to miss our window of opportunity for good weather, and we were on our way. We stopped at the Lindis Alpine Pass along the summit, since the day before we had terrible weather, and then eventually made it to Wanaka where the weather was actually extremely nice.

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We checked into our hostel and dropped our bags before heading off to do a quick 2 hour hike. Eva and I again struggled within five minutes of the hike, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as the Ben Lammond Trail in Queenstown. When we made it to the top, we stopped for some photos (here we realized we are basically doing a photoshoot around New Zealand, but why not???). We hung out at the top of the hill for a while, met a nice older new Zealand couple who let us pet their dogs and give us some dinner recommendations.

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The hike was pretty short, so afterwards we drove to the famous Wanaka Tree. At first from far away it was an underwhelming tree, but as we got closer and saw it with the mountains in the background it was quite beautiful. It’s this random, leaf-less tree in the middle of the lake essentially, and because it was low tide, we were able to walk out to it. All in all pretty cool.

We still had some time to kill before it was an acceptable time to go eat dinner, so we drove around the town and sat by the lake and just hung out. It was cool to drive around and see some of the local houses as they had some interesting designs and were super modern for such a small town.

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6.14 making (glacier) shit happen

We woke up at the crack of dawn and were on the road by 6:45am this morning, as we planned a glacier helicopter hike in Franz Josef, which was a 4 hour drive from Wanaka, where we stayed the night before. So, we took our groggy asses out of bed and started driving. I was unusually awake and peppy as I blasted Hamilton through the car, and gave Monica and Eva a lesson in American history (thanks to Tommy, shout out).

We saw some amazing views on the way, but since we were pressed for time to make it to the glacier tour by 11:30, we made limited stops. By the time we got there, we were a little bit pooped but ready to start the adventure, until we walked into the tour office and a big sign saying “We apologize but todays tours are not operating due to weather conditions”. Cue huge disappointment considering it was the most beautiful day weather wise that we have been in New Zealand. The skies were clear, it was sunny, somewhat warm, and just beautiful so we were completely confused.

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Upset and tired, I wasn’t taking no for an answer, so I suggested we find another helicopter tour as we could see helicopters IN THE AIR FLYING AROUND. Literally the first store we walked in told us they were doing scenic flights and could put us in the next group, so clearly we took that opportunity. We paid, and walked out to the helicopter, it was pretty cool and there were two other people in our helicopter, a mom and daughter from Texas.

Once we got up we flew around for a bit and it was pretty incredible, there was so much snow and we were so close to the mountains. Halfway through, we were let out and allowed to hang out on top of the glacier and take some photos. There was about a half foot of fresh snow and we were like kids playing in it.

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We got back in the helicopter to finish our tour, and this is when Monica and I got soooooo motion sick. The pilot was weaving in and out of the glacier and it was just extremely unpleseant. When we landed, Eva said it looked like we were hungover despite the fact that we haven’t touched a lick of alcohol all week.

To settle our uneasy stomachs, we went to get some solid food and then headed to the hostel to take a quick nap before we went on a hike. The hike was to a different glacier viewing area, and we went pretty late in the day so we just hung out since the track was empty. We climbed up on these mountain of rocks and just chilled.

Considering all these little towns we are going in are basically one road, our options are pretty limited in terms of nightlife, so we just got dinner at a bar restaurant before heading back to the hostel to hang out and get ready for our last day on the road.

6.15 last road views

Today we graciously let ourselves wake up at 8am, which was pretty luxurious compared to our 6:15 wake up calls we had been doing throughout the week. We got all packed up and had a quick breakfast before heading back out on the road. The only deadline we had today was making it to Christchurch by 5pm to drop off the car, so we took our time driving the 5 hours to get there making lots of stops.

We stopped in one town called Hokitika for lunch, and it was a cute beach town. But other than that, we didn’t really do much except drive and take in our last views of New Zealand.

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6.16 well Christchurch is um interesting

Today was our last day in New Zealand L We had a flight for 6pm back to Sydney, so we had some time to kill in Christchurch, but we haven’t heard great things about the town before coming here, we had just been told that theres nothing to do. Little did we know, that everyone was right. There literally was nothing to do, we even asked people working at the coffee shops and they just told us to walk around……

So that’s what we did, luckily we stumpled upon a little market with a bunch of food trucks, and since we literally knew there wasn’t much else to do, we hung out there for like two hours. We walked in and out of the stores and sent some post cards, overall we just had a chill day because the past week was pretty action packed.

We headed to the airport that evening, and I had to say goodbye to Eva at this point. She was heading to the north island to do a 10 day tour and I won’t see her again because I will be back in the USA by the time she gets back to Sydney. So there Eva, Monica and I were all hugging in the Christchurch airport as this was the final time our trio would be a trio. We shed a tear and then went our separate ways and it was pretty sad….

If you want a more visual experience of my travels across New Zealand, take a look!

https://vimeo.com/222045739

My European Adventure Starts TODAY!

My European Adventure Starts TODAY!

sydney + whitsundays

sydney + whitsundays