Stewart Island, New Zealand

Quiet. Secluded. Cold.

There it is, separated by one hour of a rough ferry ride from the tip of South Island (Bluff), the third and often forgotten island of New Zealand.

The Stewart Island, or “Rakiura” in the Maori language, means “glowing skies”. It refers to the southern lights, or “aurora australis”, which unfortunately did not happen during my time there.

The main reason I visited the island is that it would be the southernmost point of the globe that I have ever been. I usually travel to the north, evidence by my travel map, about 80% of my pins appears at the north of the equator. But as now I live in the southern part of the world, I want to visit its southernmost part, the closest I can be to the Antarctica.

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Stewart Island on the map

And I like it.

Empty beaches, fearless birds, peaceful walking paths heading to the amazing viewing points, and very few people in sight. Peaceful.

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Observation Rock, one of the island’s viewings points

My favorite moment was when I sit in the Oban Park by the beach, gazing the horizon, listening to the wave, and being exposed to the wind. I could do it for a whole day if it wasn’t so cold.

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The garden by the beach

More than 80% of the Stewart Island area is the national park. It hosts one of New Zealand’s great walk. Oban is the name of its township. It is very small. There is only a handful stores, a few restaurants, a limited number of hotel/hostel, and one grocery/convenience store. Kai Kart is its famous fish & chips outlet and it is only open a few hours a day. I observed a very simple life here, probably 80% of the people in this island are tourists, but the kind who want to connect nature only. There’s only one ferry service to access this island (link below) or hop on their helicopter for a faster but more expensive option.

https://www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz/stewart-island-experience/experiences/

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Sunrise in Stewart Island

 

Journey to The Shire, Hobbiton, Matamata

Lord of The Rings (LoTR) trilogy is one of my favorites movies of all time. It’s the movie that I could re-watch over and over again. I love the plot, the actors, and the setting. Actually, it is also one of few things that inspired me to study in New Zealand. Being so close to Middle Earth – a dream that all LoTR fans share, I guess..

So, naturally – Hobbiton was high up on my travel bucket list, which I have gladly crossed on March 18, 2017, less than a month since I stepped my foot in this country. To go to Hobbiton from Auckland, simply take a bus to Matamata (or alternatively rent a car). Bus connection to Matamata is provided by Nakedbus or Intercity. Bus fare is varied, depend on luck, it’s possible to get $1 fare one way but I got mine for $19 for a return journey. It takes around 2.5 hours to get to Matamata from Auckland. A full 2.5 hours of blue sky, green hills, farms, sheep, cows, the majority of New Zealand scenery.

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The scenery along the way

 

Once arrived in Matamata, the bus stop is in front of the I-Site Office (45 Broadway Street), where Hobbiton tour ticket can be bought here (price: $79/adult). Or alternatively book in advance at:

Hobbiton Tours

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Matamata I-Site Office

 

Matamata is a very small city, which I heard from the tour guide that it almost did not exist before the Hobbiton was built. So timing is important here, as nothing much to do in Matamata. It is literally only one street lined-up with fast food restaurants and a few stores. The Hobbiton tours itself only take around 3 hours in total, including the return journey from Matamata I-Site to Hobbiton location (30 minutes one way), which is already part of the tour.

The Hobbiton tours itself only take around 3 hours in total, including the return journey from Matamata I-Site to Hobbiton location (30 minutes one way), which is already part of the tour. It is a fully-guided tour, so we have to stay with the guide and the group during the entire tour, which honestly I did not like. There were chances to take pictures and everything – but since there were so many people, we had to keep moving, so I felt like in a rush in the entire tour.

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in front of a hobbit hole

 

Despite all of that, the place is really beautiful indeed. Even with so many people there, I could feel the serenity of The Shire. The place is very well-maintained and the details are preserved, it was just like we have seen in the movie. My favorite place is the bridge near the Dragon Inn where I can see the lakes and hobbit holes from afar.

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My favorite spot

 

Anyway, it is a movie set, so wherever I pointed my camera, a good picture is guaranteed. Just make sure to check the weather before booking the tour, the fun won’t be the same without the sun!

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Me and travelmates: Saras, Yurike, Mas Irfan, Bang Ihsan

 

Auckland City Tour

It has been almost a month since I moved to Auckland. In between my study schedule, I always try to go to new places to explore. Luckily, it is not a hard thing to do in Auckland. I read before that in New Zealand, we’ll never too far away from somewhere beautiful – and it is not a myth!. So I listed below the places that I have visited around Auckland. The best thing about these places is that they’re still within <10 km from the city center – so approximately only 5 – 20 minutes by bus.

  • Auckland Domain

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  • Auckland War Memorial Museum

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  • Mount Eden

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  • One Tree Hill

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  • Mission Bay

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  • Parnell Rose Garden

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  • Albert Park

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$5-ish Moslem Friendly Meal in Auckland City

I move to Auckland as student on scholarship, after 10 years working with full income. Therefore I have to adjust my lifestyle, including finding the cheapest place to eat.

To be honest, it’s not easy thing to do in Auckland. First,even the cheapest food here can be categorized expensive in Indonesian currency. And second, even it’s cheap, it still has to comply with halal criteria.

So after a week in Auckland, here are the list:

  1. Domino Pizza, the vegetarian option. Its value-range pizza costs only $5 (8 slices). Their vegetarian options include: Cheesy Garlic, Simply Cheese and Veg Trio. There’s also classic Margharita for $6. They have a lot of branches and there are 2 branches in Auckland CBD (near Queen Street).
  2. Kebab, wrap or rice dish. Most of kebab stalls in Auckland CBD offer halal option. I know 2 stalls: Star Kebab on Queen Street and King Kebab in AUT that offers student deal $5 on weekday 9am-9pm.
  3. NZ Kebabs Sensational Chicken on 11a Mount Street. In addition to kebab and rice dish, this place offers Chicken and Chips, started at $5.

I will update the list when I found new places.