BrandonoBrien.com

Brandon O'Brien

Travel and Adventure Journal

I wanted a place to journal all my travels and adventures around the world. I always enjoy going back and reflecting on my past travels and getting to relive them through my words and photos.

Flying back home after a great trip - New Zealand 2019

Sunday, December 1, 2019 @ 10:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 8/9

We needed to be at the airport a little before noon today so we could get checked in and ready for our flight back to LA. Rather than try to make food at the hotel, we went to a coffee house where we had some coffee and pastries. After that, we did a final grocery run to buy some snacks to bring back to family and friends. I bought some Tim Tams which my mom ended up loving when we brought them to Christmas.

The flight was uneventful and we made it back to LA in the morning. Sam and I opted to stay an extra day in LA to unwind from the international trip. We ended up taking the metro up to Pasadena where we had some Himalayan food for lunch. After that, we went pretty close to where she grew up and walked around for a while before taking the metro back to the hotel and passing out a little early. We did walk around the hotel area and got dinner at a hole in the wall asian place. Our flight back to New Mexico was bright and early the next morning. Fortunately we were a stone's throw from the airport and didn't need to worry about getting there on time.

All in all, the trip was extremely fast but we were able to see and do a lot. New Zealand was a beautiful place and definitely one I want to go back to. The culture and landscape are both extremely impressive and it's worth a visit if you get a chance!

Tags: new zealand, los angeles, honeymoon

Posted from: United States

Back to Auckland - New Zealand 2019

Back to Auckland - New Zealand 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019 @ 9:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 7

We left Queenstown around noon today and got into Auckland a little before 2pm. It took us a while for the Uber to get us from the airport to our hotel in Auckland. When we finally checked in, we realized it was HOT in there. There wasn't an A/C and the only relief was two little floor fans. Oh well, time to open the windows and go explore the town for the small time we were there.

The first thing we did was walk through town and found a place selling Boba tea. Sam and Anne both got some and then we continued walking around and went through Albert Park which was a nice lush green area in the middle of town. From there we stopped for a beer at a place called My Bar before heading over to the Princess Wharf to view the bay.

We weren't sure what to do for dinner until we found the Tanuki Japanese Restaurant which had really good reviews. We made a reservation and were seated pretty fast. We had a good time talking about all our experiences on the trip over some nice sushi and Japanese beer. After dinner we stopped for some frozen yogurt and then walked back to the hotel.

By this time in the trip we were all pretty tired from covering so much ground over the last week. We called it an early night in prep for catching our flight home tomorrow.

Teaser photos:

Walking around Auckland
Walking around Auckland
Asian restaurant for dinner
Asian restaurant for dinner
Getting some Froyo
Getting some Froyo

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Tags: new zealand, honeymoon, auckland

Posted from: New Zealand

Bungee Jumping and Beers - New Zealand 2019

Bungee Jumping and Beers - New Zealand 2019

Friday, November 29, 2019 @ 9:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 6

Today was a thrilling day. Mike and I had made plans to go bungee jumping at the birthplace of bungee at the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bungy Center while Anne and Sam went horseback riding in some of the areas they filmed Lord of the Rings.

We dropped the girls off in town first thing in the morning, then packed up some beers and made our way to the bungee center. The plan was to each get a jump in, then find a cool overlook to have some beers and unwind from the adrenaline rush while we waited for Anne and Sam to finish their horseback tour.

The jump takes place on a bridge over a river with a free fall distance of 141 feet. When we got to the bungee center and paid for our jump, they took our weights, wrote the weight on our hands, then weighed us again several other times to make sure they set the correct tension/length on the jump cord. They had us wait on the bridge but you can't really see off of it which kinda helped with the nerves. We could hear a few people ahead of us jump, but couldn't see them actually go off. After a final weighing and them asking us if we wanted to try and touch the river, we got shuffled to the area where we actually got our feet strapped in. While this was happening, we still couldn't really see the river or over the edge. One person went before me and I heard them give a 5 second countdown when you got to the jump position. If you don't jump by then, they kindly push you off, lol.

I got fully strapped in and sat there for a minute or two before someone told me I was ready. As I was hobbling over to the jump platform, I got my first real glimpse of the full height of the bridge and the size of the plank I had to walk out on. As I was hopping to the end of the plank, they started the countdown. I certainly didn't want to get pushed off so when I got to the edge I just went for it and jumped.

The rush during those few seconds of free fall was really intense. The cord caught and bounced me back up, then I had a little more free fall before they slacked the cord and a boat came out to catch me. It was a pretty cool system they had. Once you were done with your jump, they had an inflatable raft that comes out, grabs you and takes you back to some stairs at the river's edge. I remember my head feeling extremely tight from the blood rush, but I was extremely happy I went through with the jump and ended up unscathed.

Mike jumped after me, then we met up back on the stairs, both on an adrenaline high. They tried to sell us some photos and videos of the jump, but we opted not to get them. Mike did buy us both a used piece of the bungee cord which was pretty cool to see. It's just a bunch of strands of elastic all bound together. Apparently they replace those pretty frequently and sell some of the old stuff as a souvenir.

As I mentioned earlier, they ask if you want to try and touch the water before the first bounce. I said yes but apparently they didn't have things worked out enough and didn't actually get my hands wet. We did see another guy who ended up slamming about waist deep into the water. When we were back in the tourist facility, he was getting looked over by some medics. Apparently he hurt himself when he slammed into the water. I'm glad I ended up not touching vs going too far, lol.

Mike and I set off for a nice overlook to have some of the beers we brought. We drove around for a little while until we finally came across the Crown Range Road Scenic Lookout. There were some incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We each enjoyed some beers while winding down from the jump. There was still some time to kill before Sam and Anne were done with their tour, so we found a wide river to walk along. It was really weird though, as we were walking down to the water, some birds were not happy and kept dive-bombing us. It would have been a cool area to hang out, but we only stayed long enough to snap some pics and be on our way.

When we all met back up at the Airbnb, Sam and I walked into town to check out some shops. We saw a few earlier and noticed how cheap the prices were. Sam ended up getting a jacket but I didn't find anything that I thought I needed.

Teaser photos:

Bungee jumping at AJ Hackett
Bungee jumping at AJ Hackett
Post bungee beers
Post bungee beers
The beer spot
The beer spot
Getting attacked by birds
Getting attacked by birds

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Tags: new zealand, honeymoon, queenstown, bungee jumping

Posted from: New Zealand

Nontraditional Thanksgiving in Queenstown - New Zealand 2019

Nontraditional Thanksgiving in Queenstown - New Zealand 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019 @ 10:11 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 5

We had another quick travel day today, flying from Christchurch to Queenstown. The flight departed Christchurch at 10am and only took an hour to get us to Queenstown. We landed and got our rental car, then drove to the Airbnb to check in. This was probably the nicest Airbnb I've ever stayed at (and maybe will ever stay at). The views of Queenstown were freaking spectacular. They had a hot tub with the same views which was equally great. Definitely check out the pics for the views we had.

We left the Airbnb to see what Queenstown was all about. We started off walking around the tiny beach and harbor area of town. We came to a pub called Ivy & Lola's where we stopped for a beer and to admire the views of the harbor and mountains. Afterwards, Sam saw someone handing out some seeds to feed the ducks so she had fun feeding and trying to pet them.

We saw they had a big luge setup at the top of one of the peaks so Mike, Sam and I went up to do that while Anne stayed in the overlook area. The luge was really fun, but we kept getting trapped behind people that were going really slow. Even with the slowdowns, it was still a fun time and we got a few good thrills.

We got back to the Airbnb and then Mike and I went over to the local grocery to get something for Thanksgiving dinner. We decided on muscles with veggies, bread and wine. The dinner turned out being really good and was a nice alternative to a full Thanksgiving dinner. We enjoyed our meal with the incredible views I mentioned earlier in this post.

After dinner, we went down and sat in the hot tub for a long time. Being as far south as we were and the time of year, it was still light well past 10pm. Unfortunately the hot tub was on a timer and the jets / heater turned off at 10 so we weren't able to stay out there even longer.

Being in Queenstown for one day, Sam and I both agreed this is what we had in mind when we thought of New Zealand. The dramatic mountains everywhere, the adventure sports, the chill nature of the town, etc all perfectly matched our ideas of New Zealand.

Teaser photos:

New Zealand Pilsner
New Zealand Pilsner
Sam feeding ducks in Queenstown, New Zealand
Sam feeding ducks in Queenstown, New Zealand
Skyline Luge in Queenstown
Skyline Luge in Queenstown
Thanksgiving Dinner at the Airbnb
Thanksgiving Dinner at the Airbnb

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Tags: new zealand, queenstown, honeymoon

Posted from: New Zealand

Christchurch and Akaroa - New Zealand 2019

Christchurch and Akaroa - New Zealand 2019

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 @ 10:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 4

Sam and I started the morning with another run. We didn't really have a plan but saw there were some paths to the north of where we were staying. We started jogging along and eventually came upon a footbridge that got all mangled during the earthquake in 2011. When we finished the run, we stopped for some pastries at Grizzly Baked Goods and then made our way down to Akaroa.

On the drive to Akaroa, we saw a little cheese shop that had some picnic tables out front and some nice views of the bay. We stopped and got some cheese, salami, crackers and wine and made a really nice little pitstop. Akaroa is known as a French settlement but nothing about the place would have made you think there was any French influence there. It's still a really quaint harbor town that was fun to explore. We started by checking out a little park and then walking around the harbor area.

Sam and I opted for a tour of the bay while Mike and Anne went to a vineyard. The boat tour was really nice, showing us a lot of the coastline that we never would have seen from the car. After we finished the tour, we met back up with Mike and Anne at a restaurant called Bully Hayes where we had some beer, muscles and paella. It was getting a little late and we still had to drive back to Christchurch, so we packed back into the car and set off north again.

When we were driving to Akaroa, we saw a huge beach called Birdlings Flat and decided to stop there on the way back to the hotel. The beach didn't have sand, but instead was nothing but eroded rocks. For some reason, Mike had the idea that we could drive onto the beach but we quickly realized that was a horrible idea as the rental van started to sink into the rocks. Rather than stopping and getting stuck, he was able to keep the van moving and got us turned around and back into the parking area. We were all pretty worried there for a minute that we might have to call a tow truck to get us out, haha.

Today was Sam's birthday so we stopped at a supermarket and got her some cake to celebrate!

Teaser photos:

Twisted bridge from earthquake
Twisted bridge from earthquake
Cheese, meat and wine at Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese
Cheese, meat and wine at Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese
Playing around in a park in Akaroa
Playing around in a park in Akaroa
Cliffs in Akaroa on a boat tour
Cliffs in Akaroa on a boat tour

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Tags: new zealand, honeymoon, christchurch, akaroa

Posted from: New Zealand

Wellington to Christchurch - New Zealand 2019

Wellington to Christchurch - New Zealand 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 @ 10:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 3

We flew from Wellington to Christchurch this morning, departing around 9:30am and getting into Christchurch at 10:30. Air New Zealand is amazing and runs like buses would in most cities. If you're flying domestic, you don't need to go through any kind of security checkpoint (which blew our minds when we just walked right up to our gate from entering the airport). The fares are also extremely cheap. This flight for example was $29. A similar duration flight in the US would have easily been 3x that much.

After we landed in Christchurch and got our car, we went to the Air Force Museum of New Zealand and checked that out for a while. Mike and Anne love checking out places like that and it was a good way to spend an hour or so (we had to wait a little while to check into our hotel anyway). There was a group of veterans at the museum all meeting up for some tea. It seemed like they made that a regular tradition and was neat to see.

On the way to our hotel we stopped for a snack at a place called the Fermentist. They had a lot of gastropub style food and we opted for some fried cauliflower and beer. When enough time passed that we could check into the hotel, we drove over there and got checked in. The photos and reviews on Hotels.com made it seem like it was going to be a really nice place, but we could tell upon entering the lobby that it wasn't quite going to be the case. We got into our room and were greeted with a really bad smell, which we later determined was caused by the shower shooting water onto the ground and then making its way into the bedroom carpet, keeping it soaked. We ended up opening all the windows while we went out to walk around Christchurch.

We stopped for more snacks and drinks at a place called Fiddlesticks, then walked over to the botanic gardens, where the roses were in full bloom, and then went to the Canterbury Museum which had a lot of native artwork.

We decided to get some Thai to go and ended up eating on the patio of our hotel room. The Thai was pretty good, but lacking a lot of spiciness.

Teaser photos:

Sam, Anne and I at the Wellington airport
Sam, Anne and I at the Wellington airport
In prison at the Air Force Museum of NZ
In prison at the Air Force Museum of NZ
The Fermentist for a snack
The Fermentist for a snack
Native art at the Canterbury Museum
Native art at the Canterbury Museum

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Tags: new zealand, wellington, christchurch, honeymoon

Posted from: New Zealand

Beachtown, Sketchy Roads and Wineries near Wellington - New Zealand 2019

Beachtown, Sketchy Roads and Wineries near Wellington - New Zealand 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019 @ 10:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 2

Sam and I woke up with a plan to go for a run. We got started and ran down to the south side of the area where we saw the beaches on the Cook Straight. It definitely reminded me of some of the towns you'd see in Northern California along the coast. We continued to loop around and ended up running through a really cool little downtown in Island Bay. We weren't ready for how steep some of the hills here were. We're used to some steep roads and trails in Santa Fe, but holy cow, these were to the point where you were really just walking. It's amazing cars don't just go flying out of control down the streets here.

After our run, we drove up north to Paraparaumu beach where we had brunch at Marine Parade Eatery. We checked out the beach (which was full of driftwood) and then started a drive over to the Martinsborough winery area. We had two options to get over to Martinsborough... 1) Backtrack an hour and then drive more established roads. 2) Take the mountain roads (Akatarawa Rd) and save ourselves a ton of miles of driving. We ended up taking option #2 which in retrospect was probably a pretty poor choice.

The mountain road we took was a very narrow one lane with extremely steep grades and cliffs on either side. This made any attempt at passing almost impossible, but at least we only saw one other car the whole drive. Fortunately we didn't die and made it out of the mountains and into the plains of the wine country. The first winery we stopped at was called Poppies. We did tasted some samples and then got a bottle to share along with some cheese and bread. They had a really nice seating area overlooking the vineyards and it was a really nice experience.

From there, we went to a winery called Schubert where we sampled some more wine and bought a few bottles. We joked with the guy serving our samples that we were on a shared honeymoon and I don't think he knew how to take it, lol. We also told him how we got here via the Akatarawa Rd and he said we were extremely brave. The locals avoid that way at all costs due to frequent landslides and closures. I guess we did get really lucky! In chatting with him, he was talking about how a lot of Chinese people were buying up vineyards in the area as a way to get their cash out of China, but they weren't taking care of the vines properly and were generally running the vineyards they purchased into the ground.

We should have taken that last point a little closer as we were on our way to our last vineyard of the day, Vynfields Wine. We pulled into the place and noticed all the vines were either dormant or dead. This was a stark contrast to all of the other vineyards we stopped at and saw along the way. The second clue was that we couldn't find a dedicated parking area anywhere. We just kinda parked by the big white house that we assumed was the winery. The third clue was when we got in the winery and couldn't find anyone to help us. We called around a little bit and finally an elderly Chinese man who couldn't speak any English came out and showed us a list of some wines we could buy (no samples here). Between the four of us, we sampled a red, a white and a Rose. The red and whites had definitely turned and the Rose was extremely harsh. We didn't even finish the wines and left rather disappointed. (Note: I just checked and apparently the place is under new management as of early 2022 and hopefully has turned their operation around).

Rather than eating out tonight, we thought we'd get some groceries and cook something back at the Airbnb. We picked up some meat to grill, some asparagus, mushrooms and fries. It was a pretty nice dinner which we had with some beers.

Teaser photos:

Cool manhole covers in New Zealand
Cool manhole covers in New Zealand
Tons of driftwood at Paraparaumu Beach
Tons of driftwood at Paraparaumu Beach
Wineries in Martinsborough
Wineries in Martinsborough
Sam enjoying a milkshake at the Airbnb
Sam enjoying a milkshake at the Airbnb

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Tags: new zealand, honeymoon, wineries, wellington

Posted from: New Zealand

Settling into Wellington - New Zealand 2019

Settling into Wellington - New Zealand 2019

Sunday, November 24, 2019 @ 10:00 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Day 1

We landed in Auckland around 9:40am local time, then had about two hours to kill before our 11:30 departure for Wellington. Anne got us into the Air New Zealand lounge where we had some snacks and a beer. The lounge was really nice and it felt great to be out of the plane seat. Our flight to Wellington arrived around 12:35pm, which gave us most of the day to get settled in and explore a little bit.

The first thing we did was get the rental car and check into our Airbnb to drop off our bags. The place had a theme of a 50's diner, complete with ice cream and malt to make some milkshakes. After we got settled in, we got in the car and headed down into Wellington proper. First we stopped at a place called Choice Bros to get a beer and snack. I was eager to try as many New Zealand style pilsners as I could, so I had my first one here. New Zealand pilsners are pilsners that are heavily hopped with all the fruity and tropical hops that New Zealand is known for.

After we finished at Choice Bros, we went down to the waterfront and stopped at a place called St. Johns Bar where they had some outdoor seating over looking the harbor. We got a drink there and hung out for a little while, even though it was overcast and cold. Fortunately this was almost the only day during the entire trip that we didn't have really nice weather (which is really odd for New Zealand).

We started to get hungry so we set out to find a real dinner. We tried to get into one restaurant but it was going to be a pretty long wait. Across the street from that restaurant was Mt. Vic Chippery, a pretty typical fish n chips joint. We decided to check it out and were treated with some really delicious fish and chips. After dinner we were all feeling pretty beat from the long travel day, so we went back to the Airbnb and called it a night.

Teaser photos:

Hanging out at St. John's Bar and Restaurant
Hanging out at St. John's Bar and Restaurant
Harbor in Wellington
Harbor in Wellington
Fish n Chips at Mt Vic Chippery
Fish n Chips at Mt Vic Chippery
Mickey greeting us at the Airbnb
Mickey greeting us at the Airbnb

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Tags: new zealand, honeymoon, wellington

Posted from: New Zealand

A Day in L.A. Before New Zealand

Friday, November 22, 2019 @ 11:50 PM in 2019 New Zealand

Since Sam and I booked a separate flight to LA from the one leaving LA to New Zealand, we wanted to make sure we landed in LA with plenty of time in case of any delays or issues. Our flight landed first thing in the morning (6:20am) in LA, so after getting out of the airport we set off toward Manhattan beach where we ate a huge breakfast at Uncle Bill's Pancake House. After that, we set out to walk along the beachfront for most of the morning. Unfortunately it we weren't able to drop our bags off at the airport so we had to carry our luggage with us while on the beach.

We made it all the way down to the Redondo Beach Pier where we had a snack at the Shrimp Lover before starting our walk back north. We aimlessly walked around until Mike and Anne were done with working and met up with them at the Hermosa Creek Brewing company for some beer before dinner. For dinner, we ate at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila where we had some nice Mexican food.

Our flight didn't leave until almost midnight, but we figured we'd go ahead and hang out at the airport since we had no where else to be. We finally boarded our flight and got settled in for the long haul direct into Auckland!

Teaser photos:

Walking around in LA
Walking around in LA
On the flight (with a couple randos in the background)
On the flight (with a couple randos in the background)

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Tags: new zeland, los angeles

Posted from: United States

Flying home - Day 12 - Costa Rica

Flying home - Day 12 - Costa Rica

Monday, January 23, 2017 @ 10:00 PM in 2017 Costa Rica

Content coming soon

Teaser photos:

Iguanas running around
Iguanas running around
Park in Liberia
Park in Liberia
Lunch in Liberia
Lunch in Liberia

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Tags: costa rica, liberia

Posted from: Costa Rica

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