The best thing about traveling isn’t the amazing architecture or rolling hills or weird foods. I mean, those things all have their place and play a massive role in your travel experience, and I love them all very dearly….but the real ‘oomph’ of traveling is the people you meet and the experiences you have with them. Sometimes they’re drunk and messy, sometimes they’re deep and meaningful, sometimes they’re terrible and awkward…but those connections really make a trip memorable.
This past weekend I went to Great Barrier Island with a group of CouchSurfers (and ended up meeting a couple more guys at the hostel) and had one of the best weekend I’ve had in a while. I’ve been saying that I feel like a total non-traveler lately; I live in New Zealand, which means I work, do laundry, clean the bathroom, buy groceries and do all sorts of that boring ‘life’ stuff here. I’m definitely not leading the exciting traveler life that my friends back home think I’m leading! So getting away with a group of strangers to a remote island was really needed.
After arriving on Saturday, Jamali, David and I went for a walk into town and found ourselves on a secluded rocky beach. We were just hanging out talking and not talking, enjoying the view and sunshine, when Jamali placed a small rock on top of a bigger rock, and gave us each five tries to knock the rock off by throwing pebbles at it. For such a simple game, it was heaps of fun! I spent a good long time on that beach with these two stranger boys (meaning, boys I didn’t know…not strange boys) throwing stones at other stones, drawing in the sand with our feet, and just generally shooting the shit.
Saturday night was a delicious feast back at the lodge with Chris and Vivian, two other CouchSurfers we met up with. Cooked over an open flame, and eaten under stars and a new moon (and accompanied by lethal margaritas made by David) we talked and laughed and got to know each other. Vivian, 18 and on her first big adventure, talked about how excited she was to be away from home, and Chris, an expat German currently calling Auckland home, talked personal training and kept shoving sausages at me telling me to eat (NOTE TO READERS: next time a gorgeous German personal trainer tells you to eat his sausage, please just do it. For me.)
Sunday was the real gem of the trip. Our group got up and, together with the two James’ we met at the hostel, hopped in a shuttle to head off for a trek to the hot springs. Our driver dropped us off and gave us some insider information on the best thermal pool, and we were off.
The trek was amazing. We stumbled on a beautiful waterfall that was too freezing to jump under (I’m still regretting my choice not to! New rule: whenever I see a waterfall, I go under it), and were treated to a few great river crossings which I enthusiastically said were team building exercises. No one else laughed. I thought it was *hilarious*.
I spent time talking with my new friends, learning about their lives, and ensuring them that no, I was alright, it was just a little bit of asthma that makes me unable to breathe but I’m okay JUST KEEP GOING I’LL CATCH UP.Getting to know people was awesome; everyone was really different, really friendly, and really great company on the two hour trek.
We found the secluded hot pool, and it was probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen/done in my life. Honestly, if you ever go to Great Barrier Island, please write me and I’ll tell you how to find it. Totally secluded, mid-chest deep on 5’4″ me, surrounded by moss, and filled by a waterfall. It was…bah. Guys. It was the best.
We all got in and marvelled at how hot the sand was, how hot the rocks were, and just how cool the entire thing was.
And then all the guys took off their shorts/speedos.
I was in a natural thermal hot pool with six naked men.
I fucking love traveling.
I, wearing my “remember when you were depressed and bought this ugly one piece bathing suit because you hated life” swimsuit, was unable to partake in the bottomless fun lest I expose my luscious lady lumps, but that didn’t stop it from being the best thing that’s ever happened.
…Until the naked personal trainer fed me chocolate covered peanuts while I warmed my toes on the hot rocks. I could have cried I was so happy.
After the hot pools, we spent the night getting drunk and talking, a few people had sex, and I learnt a magic trick. Again, I fucking love traveling.
Sunday was the best. I don’t think I’ve had a day with so many highs and laughs and properly awesome conversation in ages. And Monday was equally as awesome as we just spent it lazing around on a beach and soaking up the sun while we waited for the ferry. A perfect and relaxing end to a fantastic weekend.
In the end, my trip to Great Barrier Island turned out better than I ever could have hoped. We were INCREDIBLY lucky with the weather – it was forecast to rain the entire weekend, but we had sun for all but a couple hours on Sunday night. Sure, the wind was insane and my tent flapping in the breeze kept me up all night, but the ground was soft and worth it.
The Island was absolutely stunning and not developed much – there are multiple tracks for trekking and biking, and it’d be great to go back and spend a week there exploring. Our hostel was…meh? The facilities were a bit crap, but the owners were super great; friendly, open, accommodating, and always willing to have a drink at the bar. They made up for the lack of knives in the kitchen and lukewarm water in the showers.
I made some great friends this past weekend who I’m really hoping to see again, and everyone just seemed…solid. I had some fantastic discussions with the James’ (both absolutely lovely, one stupidly hilarious and great to talk with, and one who taught me a magic trick so obvs I’m going to marry him ), was inspired by Chris’ infectious optimism and lust for life, loved Jamali’s obvious passion for people, laughed at David’s many stories and solid delivery, and had a great time talking to Vivian about travel and remembering what it was like to be 18 and full of life. Really guys, these people are superstars.
I came away from the weekend with a massive smile and some fabulous memories. The people I met are legit awesome people; open, friendly, interesting and a ton of fun. It was truly a highlight of my trip so far, has entirely refreshed my wanderlust, and reminded me how much fun it can be to jump without knowing what’s on the other side.
Most importantly: hello, I was in a hot pool with six naked men. I seriously need to get myself a two-piece so if it ever happens again I can join in on the fun.