Hi lovely people, a few weeks ago I got contacted by AirAsia Indonesia; they asked whether I want to join them for a familiarization trip to New Zealand. Do I want to? Heck are you kidding? NZ has been in my bucket list for ages, but somehow it was never crossed off the list because… well, there hasn’t been any chances yet. You can bet I said a big YES in a heartbeat. So preparations were made, visa was applied and warm clothes were packed (it was wintertime in NZ), and here I was, in the northern part of one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with a bunch of people I’ve just met on this trip.
Oh, they are also some of the weirdest, craziest, most hilarous and sweetest people I’ve ever been traveling with.
We landed in Auckland around evening and had a good rest before waking up early in the morning to head to Waiheke Island, the first destination on our itinerary. Waiheke island can be reached in 30 minutes from Auckland city by ferry. It was a fun and windy ride (which passed quickly as we kept taking photos and posing like maniacs), before we finally arrived to a place that looks like… a green paradise.
Peter, our local guide greeted us with a wide smile on his face and explained a bit about Waiheke; the island of food, olive oil and wine; I would add, gorgeous sceneries as well. As we cruised the island in his van along the northern route, we passed idyllic cabin houses, glorious turquoise cove beaches, pristine vineyards and spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf.
I can instantly felt the Waiheke’s blissed-out bohemian vibe. This island is surely blessed by nature, and it’s unbelievable that this place is only a short journey from the hustle and bustle of Auckland. Have flown a long way from Jakarta, I’m glad Waiheke is our first stop before embarking on our four days journey.
Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
Our first (coffee) stop was at the charming topiary-filled garden with a Provence styled brick building belong to Mudbrick Estate. I felt like I was in Southern France countryside instead of a little island on the pacific. Once we arrived it started to drizzle a bit so we hurried inside the restaurant. The cozy interior (and some cups of flat whites) definitely relaxed us from the traces severe jetlag and windy ferry ride; there was a brick fireplace that kept us warm and it just felt like Christmas morning… in the middle of August.
Right after we finished our coffee, the sun started to shine and we rushed outside with our cameras to enjoy the views. We found an immaculately tended lavender garden on the back of the restaurant building; planted up on the hillside with the turquoise blue ocean in a distance. I can see why this estate has become a popular wedding venue, it is truly romantic and beautiful.
Our next stop is Rangihoua Estate, the multi-award-winning producer of Extra Virgin Olive Oils on Waiheke Island. Over here we learnt about the background of the company, the cultivation and harvesting of olive trees, and the process of olive oil manufacturing using the traditional cold pressed technique. It was amazing to learn how much love and intensive labor goes into the end products, truly an insightful and very enjoyable experience.
To be honest I never really realized any significant difference in olive oil, but after tasting the sample of their award winning oil, I could definitely taste the difference in quality. It was so rich in taste and aroma, very different from the supermarket brands I used to buy #duh. They also offered samples of their olive based tamarind chutney and herbs spreads. I just kinda stood there shamelessly, sampling all the spreads til the last drop, until I decided to buy a whole jar of herbs spread. Can’t wait to turn my boring butter baguette slices into a some gourmet cuisine with this!
Their ranges of skincarem handmade soap and beautiful ceramicware looked so tempting but I managed to resist the shopping temptation on this very first day #proud.
Our next stop was also where we finally had our late lunch: one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed vineyards, The Stonyridge. The first olive trees and Bordeaux varieties were planted here back in 1982 by Stephen White, the happy and welcoming owner (seems like everyone is just happy and so laid back here.)
Stonyridge has famously produced vintage wines that have been rated among the very best in the whole world. The reputation has gathered many celebrities, artists and public figures to drop in over the years. There were photographs of the famous faces on the wall, including Quentin Tarantino (!), I couldn’t hold my excitement. BIG fan.
Our shared platter – a board of hot and cold delights including prawns, roasted vegetables, grapes, cured salmon, brie, soft goat cheese and olives – was out of this world. But the local Te Matuku oysters were the true winner of today, nothing come close. Well the sauvignon was superb, but I wouldn’t pretend to be a wine expert here. We tasted several red and whites and I stopped on my first sign of tipsy/sleepy.
We spent our last hour in the island playing around the nearby Onetangi beach. Well, playing is such a loose word. I didn’t mean kicking our shoes and jumping into the water while being sunbaked. It was still windy and cold so the best we could do is walking on the beachside, trying to imagine how the sand feels on our feet (instead of our boots), gazing at the wide blue sky and contemplating the neverending millenials existential crises.
There it goes guys! We caught a ferry back to Auckland later that day and had dinner in the city. Gotta rest early because we were heading to even more fun places the next days! Stay tuned on my next New Zealand Journals about the magical Hobbiton, Waitomo Glowing Caves and Rotorua: the heartland of Maori culture. Coming really soon! xx
All photos by me, Pashagraph and Clara, thanks a bunch guys! Our daytrip in Waiheke was arranged by Ananda Tours Waiheke.1