24 hours in Siem Reap

If you are anywhere close to Cambodia make a stop in Siem Reap. When we were on that side of the world, we spent most of our time in Thailand but we were next door to Cambodia and I thought how can I not just take a peek into that country. So we flew over and stayed for 2 nights, but only had 1 full day to explore. Here’s what we did.

Where We Stayed

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We stayed at Borei Angkor Resort and Spa. The place was in a decent location not far from Siem Reap Night Market and Pub Street, price was reasonable, and service was friendly. I recommend it! I loved that they arranged a driver to pick us up from the airport, provided our own tuk tuk driver to pick us up whenever we wanted to leave the resort, and the hotel itself was beautiful and comfortable. Buffet breakfast was included, and it was delicious.

What We Did

When you arrive at your hotel tell them right away that you want to see Angkor Wat. They can arrange for you to purchase your ticket at the official ticket booth that day or early in the morning before the site opens to tourists for sunrise.

We woke up early and left the hotel in our tuk tuk around 4:30 am to get to the ticket booth when it opened at 5am. There were many people there already in line to get tickets too. Once you’ve got your ticket remember to always keep your ticket with you throughout the park, the guards may check for your tickets at each temple.

Angkor Temples

Visit the many temples inside Angkor Wat. It can be a long hot day so bring bottles of water with you and some cash to buy some from the vendors outside the temples if you need some.

Angkor Wat

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All the people that wake up early to catch the sunrise.

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Make friends with the monks.

Bayon

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One of the entrances to the next temple.

Baphoun

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Ta Prohm

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Phnom Bakheng

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Watch a Traditional Khmer Performance

We were able to enjoy a show at our hotel. A meal and Khmer souvenir scarf was included.

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Visit Pub Street at Night

Shop at the night market and try to haggle for souvenirs or really cheap clothing. There are plenty of eateries, bars and clubs here. Sidewalk massages are around and so are fish foot massages.

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The fish were much bigger in these tanks. I thought they were gonna eat off our feet!

Take a Break at Your Hotel

I thought it was much hotter and humid in Cambodia than it was in Thailand. The day after we visited the temples I just wanted to relax. We enjoyed the pool and indulged in a treatment at the hotel spa.

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What we Ate

You can’t travel halfway across the world and not try the food! Cambodia has plenty of it. Unfortunately our favorite place we ate at has now closed, but you can always ask for these traditional Khmer dishes at other restaurants.

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Loved drinking fresh coconut juice with my meal.

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Khmer Lok Lak
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Khmer Amok. Traditional Cambodian fish served in coconut shells.

Cambodia was a lovely place. Wish we had more time to explore!

1.5 days in Auckland

After exploring most of New Zealand’s natural landscape, we finally reached our last destination, Auckland. Known as “The City of Sails,” Auckland is a big city by the coast where many people go sailing and catch ferries to the surrounding islands. There’s lots to do, but we weren’t here very long and had to limit what we wanted to see and do as it was the end of our trip and had already blown through most of our budget. Here’s what we did.

Where to Stay: Ponsonby

We stayed in the Ponsonby neighborhood. We found a cute apartment on Airbnb owned by an older couple that was in the perfect spot. Ponsonby is a cute neighborhood I thought had a great hipster kind of vibe to it. Visit a few shops and stop for coffee and a snack.

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Little Bread and Butter Bakery

 

How to Get Around: Inner Link Bus system

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If you’re staying in Ponsonby, jump on the bus and go around the city. The Inner Link is the easiest way to get around Auckland. $2.50 a person and wait time is 10-15 minutes. The buses are clean and comfortable with AC.

Where to Go:

Visit the Sky Tower

The bus will drop you off right in front of the tower. Go to the very top to get a great view of the city and the coast. You can be a daredevil and walk along the outside of the very top of the tower, or go base jumping from the top! If that’s too adrenaline pumping for you, then stay and eat at one of the restaurants at the top and just enjoy the view.

Britomart

Along the harbor go to Britomart for designer boutiques and eateries. You’ll find high end designers like Chanel and New Zealand designers like Juliette Hogan. Lounge around in the green space on the bean bags to relax and people watch. 6949dbd7-mainimagehome.jpgimage

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium

This isn’t the best aquarium I’ve been to. It’s old and could use a few renovations. If you have kids this, would be perfect. There was one thing that attracted me to this place. PENGUINS! Book in advance the penguin discovery experience and you will go inside behind the scenes to learn about the penguins and get up close on the ice with Gentoo and King Penguins.

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Go to the Beach

There are a few beaches that are just a stones throw away from the city. One of them is at Mission Bay. Here there is golden sand and green space to lay on and a promenade for shopping and eating. There are trees for shade where you can easily put up a hammock, like we did.

Auckland Art Gallery

If you love art, go to this museum with free entry. It’s open 10am-5pm Mon-Fri.

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Auckland War Memorial Museum

Learn about New Zealand and the Maori Culture here. Try to catch the Maori cultural performance here if you haven’t seen one yet.

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Viaduct/ Harbor front

Stroll along the harbor and look at the many sailboats parked in the marina or grab a ferry and go out to one of the island for a day or few. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants for some seafood and watch the sunset. Stop at one of the souvenir stores and sample some manuka honey. imageYou’ll see this stuff everywhere, in everything. Manuka Honey has been used as an antibacterial and for many other health reasons. Hence, the high prices.

What to Eat:

Genta

Located a block away from Britomart, this place had inexpensive, delicious food in a Japanese atmosphere. We ate the food so fast that we didn’t even take a picture.

Get some ice cream

This area we grabbed some ice cream as it was hot in the afternoon.image

Miann

Try one of many of the fancy desserts in Miann , located in Britomart.

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Dizengoff

If you’re in the Ponsonby area try one of the cafes there for breakfast. At Dizengoff they have a delicious salmon benedict.

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And that’s a wrap! I hope when you guys go to Auckland you’ll have more time than us to see this city than we did. There’s lots to see and do that we wish we could’ve done. There’s always next time…

 

Travel Photography and Vlogging Gear: What We’re Packing

Choosing the right photography equipment can be confusing with so many different companies churning out quality cameras. We’ve had many people ask us what we use for our photos and videos. Here’s the scoop!

Canon 5D Mark III

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The 5D is a professional grade full-frame DSLR camera. It has a larger sensor than the lower models, which means more light and better low light performance. The increased autofocus points improve focus and help you get the right picture the first time. Programmable modes and buttons allow us to do more things both faster and easier. We’ve had this camera for a few years and we’ve loved the images it’s produced for us. Last year Canon released the  5D Mark IV which is the newest model. It has upgrades in megapixels, video, built in wifi and GPS. We’ve been so happy with ours that we don’t see it necessary to splurge on that one just yet.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L ll USM Zoom Lens

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For travel photographers, this lens has been a favorite. It’s the newest lens for us and t’s also known to be simply one of Canon’s best lenses. This is superb for wide angle shots that are needed to capture landscapes and night photography. It gives sharp, clear images with better contrast.  It’s worth every penny!

Here are a few shots from New Zealand taken with this lens:

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

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Here’s another zoom lens that’s been a favorite to take on vacations. We’ve taken it on every single trip. It’s just as good as the 16-35mm, but can zoom in further.

We took this lens to Hawaii and got these great shots in Hana:

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

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Here’s another Canon lens favorite. It’s a heavy lens at 3.2 lbs but it comes equipped with a tripod collar to hold both the lens and camera steady on the tripod. It captures subjects sharply and cleanly without having to get too much closer to the subject. It has an ultra-fast auto-focus system and image stabilization which is great for capturing photos of sports and wildlife. We don’t bring this to all our trips unless we feel it’s necessary due to its weight.

We brought this lens to Maui, Hawaii to capture photos of whales. These are a couple photos we got:

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And here are shots from Meteora with the lens used to photograph the monasteries on the cliffs:

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens

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If you plan on taking portraits on location this prime (fixed) lens is an excellent portrait lens that has the bokeh, the 3d look, the beautiful L lens colors, and transition from bokeh to sharpness everyone wants. Also, the amount of light you can capture with this lens is superb. Photos might not be as sharp wide open, but it is sharper than the 50mm f/1.8 and makes images look nicer with a creamier bokeh and beautiful colors. Autofocus is fast and quiet and the amount of light it can capture is perfect for low light conditions.

We first tried out this lens in Thailand and got these shots:

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

71fEjITeanL._SL1500_For the photographer on a budget this prime lens is perfect. This one is also good for beginners. First of all, this is the cheapest of all the lenses, but it still provides quality images. Like the f/1.2 it is great for portraits, giving a nice bokeh in the background, and good for low light photography. Traveling with this lens is better because it is very lightweight, being made of plastic and you won’t have to worry too much about it getting messed up since it only runs about $110. Autofocus is fast but can be a little loud compared to the f/1.2.

Here are shots used with this lens:

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DJI Mavic Pro

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Aerial photography is now easily accessible with drones. DJI has been a leader in consumer drones with their Phantom line, but last year the Mavic Pro was released and we jumped on the chance to get our hands on this right away. This is lightweight and compact without sacrificing quality of photos or video. With 4k filming capabilities, we are able to achieve cinematic footage for our videos on YouTube.

We took the Mavic to New Zealand and here are the shots we got:

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Canon G7X PowerShot Digital Camera

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The Canon G7X Powershot has been a favorite for many YouTube vloggers. We love that it has a flip out screen so we can see ourselves when recording and it also adjusts well with backlighting. Watch our Youtube videos here.

 

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This has been a great tripod for traveling. It’s lightweight and easily transforms to a compact size to just attach it to your backpack. We use our tripod always to take photos of both us together.

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JOBY GorillaPod

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This is another tripod we love. We use this on our DSLR and our point and shoot camera for vlogging and photography. It’s easy to hold, sturdy, and flexible. The legs can be twisted and spread as close or as far apart as you want to angle the camera to its desired position.

You obviously can’t take all the lenses with you when you go on a trip. Know where you are going and what kind of pictures you want to take to minimize excess weight. We always take at least 2 lenses, sometimes 3. Hope this post helps you on your decision for purchasing new gear!

*Each product highlighted above are affiliate links and all opinions are our own.

A Day in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

It’s easy to get away from the city if you’re staying in Auckland. We decided to head west and visit Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. It’s less than an hour away and there’s lots to see and do.

When we first got there we visited the information center. It’s a great spot to pick up a map, get suggestions on which trails to do from the staff, and pick up souvenirs.

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Karekare Falls

First stop, we decided to go to Karekare Falls. It’s the easiest water fall to go to with less that a 3 minute walk to the waterfall. There’s a small area in front of the waterfall to sit and relax. We were able to set up a hammock and eat a snack under the trees.

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Mercer Bay Loop

Afterwards, we headed to Mercer Bay Loop. We enjoyed this short trail that took about 2 hours. It took us on top of a cliff with beautiful views of the ocean. It starts off in a shaded area, but then opens up to full on sun with a few areas that are steep.

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Kitekite Falls

Moving north up the coast in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park we stopped at Kitekite Falls Track. This hike is about a 1-2 hr hike depending on how fast you are. Once you start your hike, you’ll notice that the environment seems much different from that along the coast. This area is more a rainforest, and it did rain on and off on us the entire time we were hiking.

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The falls are a bit away, but it seems like this one has more people actually going in the water than the previous waterfall we visited. untitled (224 of 238)untitled (225 of 238)

Once you’ve reached the falls, you can either continue the second half of the loop back by going across the water. This ways is a little bit more adventurous. There is a path that can lead you up to the top of the falls or you can continue to the the end of the loop and go down some stairs. The stairs can be a bit muddy after the rain. You will also have to cross a river by walking on the rocks, which I found to be very slippery when wet.

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Piha

To end the day we headed to Piha to catch the sunset. Piha is a great spot to watch surfers. When the tide is low, its also a great spot for the kids to play in the sand and for couples to stroll along the beach. We were able to see a rainbow appear right in front of us! untitled (230 of 238)untitled (231 of 238)

We walked along the left side of the beach and found a path that lead us up to a lookout with views over the beach.

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We watched the sun go down behind the large rock formation on the beach and we headed down before darkness came in. We reached our car with a little bit of light and then headed back to the city to get dinner. It was a great end to another productive day with epic views of New Zealand.

Watch our vlog below!

 

 

Things to do in Maui

When planning a vacation, remember you can’t go everywhere. When we decided to go to Maui for a friend’s wedding we decided to extend our trip to explore the island. When looking what we could do, there were too many options to choose from. Here’s what we did.

Whale Watching

Depending on what time of the year you visit, you can get on a boat and go whale watching. We went with Captain Steve’s Rafting Adventures out of Lahaina. We chose this company because it had great reviews on TripAdvisor. The rafts were smaller than the bigger company’s therefore we were able to go out faster, further, get closer and stay out longer to watch for whales. We were not disappointed.

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Visit Lahaina

On the Northwest side of the island sits the small town of Lahaina. Here, you can stroll around the town to shop and eat at of the many delicious restaurants. In town you will all see one of the oldest banyan trees in Maui.

1-48Also, if you’ve made reservations, you can see one of the best luaus on the island at The Old Lahaina Luau.

The Road to Hana

The infamous road to Hana is known for having very narrow, windy roads that hug the coastline of Maui’s Northeast coast. This may take 1-2 days if you want to take the road before and after Hana. There are many waterfalls to visit on the way to Hana but unfortunately it was raining so we did not stop for the water falls.  Stop at Coconut Glen’s for delicious vegan ice cream and stopped at some fruit stands on the side of the road for banana bread.

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Visit the  black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park.

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Hike down to the Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach.

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Past Hana, stop at Kapahulu and visit more waterfalls, Seven Sacred Pools, and a bamboo forest.

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Swim with the Sea Turtles

The sea turtles are everywhere in Maui. A lot of people will pay for a snorkeling trip to go on a big boat with a lot of people to go swim with turtles, but we found a place called Turtle Town where you can swim with them for free! This place on a map is actually called Maluaka Beach and it’s on the southwest side of the island. We just rented some snorkeling gear from a swim shop (they’re everywhere) right next to a gas station in Kihei and just jumped into the ocean. Look for the turtles near rocky areas. We saw about 6 or 7 in a short amount of time!

Rent a Vintage Porsche for the Day

Everyone wants to drive around Hawaii in a convertible Mustang or a Jeep, be different and drive in a convertible vintage Porsche from Maui Roadsters! We got nothing but thumbs up from people on the street or driving on the road, and people yelling at us “nice car”.

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Visit the Lavender Farm

Its best to go when the lavender is blooming, but the gardens are open year round. Take a stroll around the property and then go down to the cafe and try lavender coffee, some pastries and buy souvenirs.

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Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

We stopped here to see the baby goats! Pay for the tour and the staff will take you around the property to feed the goats, milk them and then sample the delicious goat cheese. The cheese is so good that Obama had some shipped over for his inauguration festivities when he became president.

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Eat at Mama’s Fish House in Paia

One of the best restaurants to eat at is Mama’s! Set on a private beach serving the freshest seafood, this place has been a favorite for many visitors to the island.

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Eat Hawaiian Shaved Ice

Last but not least, treat yourself to Hawaiian shaved ice. Our favorite was from Ululani’s in Kihei, but they have other locations on the island. Their ice melts smoothly in your mouth, they have a variety of delicious fruity flavors to mix, and you can have a scoop of ice cream at the bottom of your cup.

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So that’s what we did in Maui!

How are you saving for your next trip?

Who doesn’t want extra cash and a better way to save it? I always thought that just having a separate account from our checking and savings was enough for having extra money to spend on miscellaneous things, but I realized whatever money I was putting into that checking account on the side was doing nothing for me. My money was sitting there doing nothing until I needed to pull it out. Later a friend introduced me to a mobile app called Acorns. At the time we were new to investing, just having dipped our toes into the world of trading stocks, and learning about this new way of micro-investing sparked my interest. I wanted to know how I can take whatever money I had and make it grow on its own. I’ve now been using Acorns for 2 years and I can say that’s its been good to me! When I needed extra money for our trip to New Zealand, I didn’t have to worry because I knew there was money in my Acorns account, and it was more than what I had invested. Now I’m saving up for our next trip!

Acorns works by using “round-ups”, taking spare change from rounding up your purchases made by your credit or debit cards to the nearest dollar, and investing it. You just link your checking account and Acorns will automatically place that change into an investment account for you. You can also deposit more money to invest or withdraw money whenever you want with no penalties or fees. You can also choose what type of portfolio you want depending on how much risk you want to take. Once that’s done you can just watch your spare change add up and grow! Here’s a video from Acorns that explains everything:

I like Acorns because it’s easy and a great way for anyone starting out in the investing world. You hardly notice that you’re saving a few dollars here and there, so you won’t miss the money unless you’re really tied up for it.  If your Acorns account has less than $5,000 there is a fee of $1 a month. If there’s more than $5,000 then the fee is 0.25% a year. Just remember, the more money you have in your account the faster it will grow. Be smart with your money and make it work for you! Don’t let it sit there and do nothing.

So….if you’re interested in opening an account, Acorns will give you $5 with your first investment if you register using this link: Join Acorns Today . It’s gotta be one of the easiest $5 made ever! If you go to Acorns and open an account on your own, you won’t get the $5. Once you’ve opened your account you can easily check it on the mobile app or on your desktop. Warning: you might get addicted!

And if you do open one, let me know and tell me what you’re saving for! I’m curious!

*These are affiliate links. So yes, I’ll get a cut too. 😉

 

 

 

Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike

There’s so many exciting things to do when visiting New Zealand. All over New Zealand helicopter rides are offered to tourists to view the vast landscape and step on areas difficult to reach by foot. We chose to do a heli-hike, a helicopter ride and a hike, with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. There are 3 glaciers on the south island of New Zealand that helicopter tours offer to do the heli-hike on: Fox Glacier, Tasman Glacier, and Franz Josef Glacier. We chose to do Franz Josef because entrance to the hot pools at Fran Josef was also included with the price of the heli-hike!

We booked our hike in advance online. From doing research, I learned that almost 30% of the heli-hikes get cancelled because of fast changing weather surrounding the glacier. If the ride was cancelled you could either get your money back or choose to do the valley walk to the glacier with a partial refund. When arriving, we were lucky it wasn’t cancelled. It was a bright sunny day! They outfitted us with jackets, waterproof pants, boots, a pack with our crampons, hats and gloves. Sunscreen was available and recommended to use in the changing room.

 

Once we were all ready, we were lined up by weight to ride in the helicopter. I guess I was one of the lighter passengers because I got to sit in the front seat! I was so excited because it was my first time on a helicopter. The ride to the glacier was smooth and short but the views were beautiful. The closer you get, you can see all the tiny people walking on the glacier.

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Once we got off the helicopter, we quickly put on our crampons under our boots. These made it easy to walk around on the slippery ice. For those that didn’t have steady footing, our guide made sure to help us. We followed him over the ice and down into crevasses as he axed a path for us to follow. We were also able to drink fresh glacier water!

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It was amazing and a little scary to be on the ice. You could hear the water moving inside the glacier and every once in a while you could see and hear rocks and ice falling in the distance. The glaciers are quickly retreating. Only a few years ago it was possible to hike up to the glacier, but because of the changes of the glacier it is not safe to do that anymore and now it is only possible to reach the glacier by helicopter. But, it was an unforgettable experience to be able to set foot on one of nature’s wonders that could possibly disappear due to climate change.

Almost 3 hours after we started (it went by fast), we loaded up into the helicopter again and headed back to the town. We changed into our swimsuits and got into the hot pools. There are 4 hot pools with all different temperatures depending on how hot you like the water. It was a great way for us to meet other people, but if you’re looking for something more private, you also have the option to pay extra for a private hot pool. Either way, soaking in the hot water was so relaxing and highly recommended if you have the time after your hike!

 

Hiking up to Roy’s Peak

We left Queenstown in the morning after breakfast. We left much later than I would’ve liked, but it turned out to be a good thing in the end.

We headed north towards Wanaka and passed by Lake Hayes. It’s just a place we happened to stop by on a whim. It was a bright, sunny day and as we were driving by I could see the lake. I thought it would be a good spot just to fly over the lake with the drone. What a surprise! Because there wasn’t any wind, the water was like a mirror and there was a perfect reflection of the hill and the mountains.

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Lake Hayes

Afterwards, we went on our way to Wanaka. The main reason I wanted to go was to hike up Roy’s Peak. I was kind of worried because by the time we got to the town it was about 1pm. We needed to get a bite to eat and some snacks and water for our hike. So we stopped by Subway picked up some sandwiches and filled up our water bottles at the nearest water fountain.

From what I researched, it takes about 5-6 hours to hike up to Roy’s Peak. From what we heard from people that actually hiked it, it was more like 6-7 hours, and painful. Nonetheless, I still wanted to go because from what I’ve seen, the view was amazing. We started our hike around 2pm. A lot of people were already headed down. Some of them said they had started their hike at 6am. The hike was steep with switchbacks all the way up and right away we got tired. It didn’t help that there wasn’t any shade on the way up. We decided that every 30 minutes we would take a break.

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For a while it seemed as if the view wasn’t changing and every time I looked up and saw how much more I had to go, I felt like turning around and calling it a day. We were about halfway up and the view looked good enough. We kept going. I didn’t want to regret coming all this way for nothing. Then, all of a sudden we turned and we had a straight path to our destination!

There wasn’t too many people there, which was great! We had heard that when there’s too many people a line forms so that everyone could get their selfie at the top. We didn’t have a line at all. It’s a good thing we left late that morning! We took our pictures, sat down to eat our sandwiches and enjoyed the view of Mount Aspiring National Park and Lake Wanaka, and watched other people take their pictures.

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We headed down as the sun started to go down. People were still on their way up, but they had camping gear with them so they could spend the night! I wish we had the time to do that. Going down hill was tough. It was steep and my knees and my toes were starting to hurt. I couldn’t walk the whole way and wanted to just hurry down. So every once in a while I did a little jog to get down quicker.

Before we left the area we made a quick stop at Lake Wanaka and took a few pictures of That Wanaka Tree before the sun went down completely.  Wish we had more time to explore the place!

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