After deciding that the big city vibe of Auckland wasn’t exactly for me, I booked myself onto a coach heading about two hours south to Hamilton. From the (admittedly very minor) research I’d done, Hamilton seemed to be a decent spot to settle in for a few days, so I booked myself into Backpackers Central Hamilton. This was to be my first experience of a hostel and I was feeling surprisingly optimistic about the whole scenario, having booked myself into a girls only dorm (didn’t want to throw myself in at the deep end of a mixed dorm quite yet.. boys are gross)
As I stepped off the coach in Hamilton and looked up, the first thing I noticed was an “adult shop”, of which I would go on to count two more. For such a small city this both baffles and amuses me greatly, I guess Hamilton folk are filthy! I made my way to the hostel and was shown to my room. The aforementioned girls dorm could definitely not be mistaken for anything but that, as the door had been painted a charming shade of pink, as had the lockers, the drawers, the wall and the bunk beds! Niiiice.
I decided to go and see what Hamilton had to offer via the path along the Waikato river, which was really lovely. But I’ll come back to that. I swerved back towards town in search of refreshment and quickly found myself in the local shopping centre, which was much like any other shopping centre, and got myself a massive, delicious Fanta (which, by the way, is way more luminous orange here than back home, why?)
The next day I set out for Hamilton gardens, which the map told me was about a forty minute walk away. I set out along the river path, as you could follow it all the way to the gardens, and the scenery was beautiful. I was really taking my time getting to the gardens, mainly because I couldn’t believe how pretty the riverside walk was. At one point I stopped dead in my tracks as I noticed two little red and yellow parrots in a tree and literally, audibly uttered the words “oh my god, parrots!”Eventually I made it to Hamilton gardens, which were very beautiful. They had lots of special themed gardens, like an English country garden and a Japanese garden of contemplation. My favourite was the Italian renaissance garden in which, strolling through it, you genuinely felt like you were deep in the Mediterranean. It was lovely and what with all the other theme gardens it felt like a little trip around the world! There was also a traditional style Te Parapara garden, adorned with Maori wood carvings. I’m ashamed to say that my Maori cultural knowledge isn’t the greatest at this point, but I’m really looking forward to learning more about it during in my time here in New Zealand.
After a few hours of wandering and after enjoying a small picnic in the gardens, I set off back up river, this time on the other side, so as to take in the many parks along the way, six in total! The scenery was just as lovely but a niggling concern about the sun started to creep in as I could feel my face lapping up the rays. I’d foolishly ignored the advice of a fellow traveller who’d mentioned that she’d got sunburn during her walk to Hamilton gardens and now all I could hear was her warning circling my head! As I arrived back, I headed straight for the mirror and, to no surprise at all, I was red as a tomato and darkening by the minute! (Currently a nice shade of crimson, just FYI, but ey, it’ll turn into a lovely tan in a week or so!)
Feeling like a prize idiot, I set out to acquire some sun cream for future adventures and found a selection of ONLY factor 50+ products. Turns out the ozone is much thinner down here and so the sun’s rays are much stronger. Pale old me knew this and did nothing about it, so I deserve this burnt ol’ face really, don’t I.
All in all, Hamilton has been a nice gentle place for me to find my feet, I think the jet lag has finally worn off! Ready for the next adventure now..