When I was studying abroad in England, I met so many people and made so many more friends than I thought I would. Erin and Quinn were in my psychology classes, and as fellow study abroad-ers, we sat with each other and quickly became friends. During spring break, we travelled around Fritaly together, coining ourselves ‘The Lipstick Brigade’ because we all had a habit of constantly rocking bright red lips. When it came time to leave England, I was heartbroken – not to leave the country, but to leave two of my now closest friends. They’re both from the States: not exactly a short distance from NZ. So I was stoked beyond belief when mid-2015 Erin announced she was coming to NZ to work as an au pair for a year. While we were based in different cities, we were only a one hour plane ride away, so Erin & I managed to spend a few weekends together again. And then, for some bizarre reason that I am eternally grateful for, an airline was offering ridiculously cheap airfares from the States to NZ, so in February 2016 Quinn booked flights to spend a week in NZ.
Quinn obviously wanted to see a bit of NZ (alluring as I am, you don’t do two 30 hour flights just to hang out with someone), and Erin lived way up the North Island, so we decided the best course of action was to road-trip up the country to meet Erin and reunite the Lipstick Brigade once more. We made a cursory lunch stop in Bulls, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a town built on puns. It could have been one of those sad one-road country towns you drive through (never to), but instead they embraced the wealth of puns at their disposal and made their town glorious.
When we finally met up with each other, it was beautiful and I remembered why we’re such good friends. We’re all really different people, but for some reason we work perfectly together. A lot of other people I know who studied abroad made great friends, but as lame as it sounds, I feel like the Lipstick Brigade is more like family.
Emotional interlude aside, we spent the week doing wicked cool NZ things (a lot that I’d never done before) to showcase the beauty of this country. As Quinn is a huge LOTR fan, we obviously had to go to Hobbiton. I cannot recommend that tour enough; I like LOTR but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, but the tour was so unbelievably beautiful and interesting. If you’re ever in the Waikato region, definitely check it out. We also saw the glowworms at Waitomo caves (another beautiful experience you need to have in your life). You’re not allowed to take photos in the caves, but trust me – it was stunning.
Te Puia was also on our travel list. Te Puia is a Maori cultural centre just out of Rotorua and is home to some seriously cool geysers. The North Island has a lot of geothermal activity (seriously, like half of the central cities are literally on top of volcanoes) so despite the smell, it very impressive. They also have a kiwi house there, so Quinn got the highly coveted experience of seeing a real live kiwi. There we saw a cultural performance involving several traditional Maori songs, a demonstration of Maori fighting techniques, and a haka. I’m a Pakeha who lives in the city, so it was also super cool for me to see the cultural performances. Seeing a haka live is another experience I think people need to have in their lives.
Huka Falls in Taupo was another place we visited, another must-see NZ location. Taupo also has several hot pools, so we explored those and had an early morning swim (another awesome aspect of being in a geothermal area!). After Taupo, Quinn & I drove back down to Wellington, and so had a day checking out the glory of my city. I think all of New Zealand is perfect, but Wellington is hands-down my favourite place in this country for sure. We did the typical touristy things (Te Papa, waterfront, Cuba Street, cable car, Botanic Gardens, Oriental Bay), and went to my favourite food/drink places (for reference: Fidel’s, Enigma, The Library).
This time saying goodbye didn’t hurt nearly as much as it did the first time. After only 2 years we managed to all get together again, and I feel like there will be countless more times I’ll have the Lipstick Brigade by my side.