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Living in the Waikato

My name is Ana Bakovic, I am 19 years old and I am currently living in New Zealand working as an Au Pair.

When I decided to become an Au Pair in New Zealand, almost 9 months ago, I imagined myself living in Auckland like many other Au Pairs do. Most Au Pairs live in Auckland and Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city. It is busy and it has got many beautiful beaches. Before I came here I didn’t know any other cities or places, but New Zealand has got a lot more to offer.

My host family lives in Hamilton. Since I had no idea where Hamilton is, I googled it. It is a city in the North Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Waikato region. Before I came here, I was scared I wouldn’t find any friends. I didn’t know if there are any “Coffee Groups” like there are in Auckland. I didn’t know anything about Hamilton and Waikato, but when I came here it turned out to be a great decision. Hamilton is very central which is great for travelling, because there are a lot of places  I can go to from here. Also, there is a “Dessert Night” once a week for all the Au Pairs living in the Waikato region (around 60 in total at the moment) to meet others and make friends. I met almost all my friends there! Most of them live close by and I can either walk to their place or take the car. I start working at 12 pm, which gives me plenty of time to meet my friends in the mornings. Not all the other Au Pairs have time in the morning, but all of them have enough time to meet their friends during the week. Also, I travel a lot over the weekends. There is a lot to see and to do around Hamilton. Most of the popular destinations in and around the Waikato region are about 1-2 hours (by car) away. I met a few Au Pairs at the orientation days who live in Auckland and when we go and travel together they come down to my place first, most of the times, because it’s easier to start from here.

Hamilton has become a second home on the other side of the world, which is exactly what I wanted. I’ve got lots of amazing people around me and lots of great places to go to. I love meeting my friends for coffee at all the amazing cafes around here or just walk into town and go shopping for a while. Hamilton and the Waikato region has got a lot more to offer than people think. As I said, I didn’t know anything about Hamilton before coming to New Zealand and now it has become a second home.

I love the fact that, no matter where you are in New Zealand, you’re never far away from the ocean. Back home, in Germany, we had to drive quite a lot of hours to get to the beach. Now it’s only 40 minutes to get to Raglan and 1,5 hours to Waihi Beach or Tauranga and Mt Maunganui. I like going to Raglan as a day trip over the weekend. Raglan is a lovely little town and has got amazing beaches. Lots of Au Pairs go surfing in Raglan.

My friends from Auckland came all the way down to go surfing for the day because Raglan is famous for its great surf schools. We went surfing there a few times now and we’re really enjoying it a lot.

Did you know that there are around 249 waterfalls in New Zealand? It’s amazing. No matter where you are, there are always waterfalls somewhere nearby. There are at least 4 or 5 within the Waikato region. I have been here for 9 months now and visited more waterfalls than in my whole entire life. There are a lot of great walks to many different waterfalls and almost every weekend trip includes at least 

one. The photo has been taken at the Whangarei falls on our way to the Bay of Islands.

New Zealand is great for everyone who likes to be outdoors and do stuff. There are walks, beaches, and waterfalls. You can go skydiving, swinging, bungy jumping or do the white and black water rafting. I had so many different things on my “must-do-list”. I probably can’t even do all of them, because there are just too many things 

I’d love to do. One of the things I definitely wanted to do was the “Black Water Rafting” in the Waitomo Caves. Waitomo is only a 45-minute drive from Hamilton, which is really handy. The Black Water Rafting is a 3-5 hour rafting through the glow worm caves in Waitomo. There are a few different rafting you can choose from, but they are all about the same. You get to see millions of glow worms. It is so magical. I could barely believe my eyes.

There are many different things around Waitomo, Hamilton, and Waikato in general. I love going to the Hamilton gardens, take breakfast with me and have it there as a picnic. There is a great spot next to the little lake behind the cafe. Me and some other Au Pairs like to spend our mornings there.

Sometimes we go to the “Blue Springs” and do a little walk. You can choose from a 15-minute walk or a 3-hour walk, depending on how much time you’ve got.

And for all the Hobbit fans, Hobbiton Movie set is only 45 minutes away and a great place to visit. I didn’t watch the movies and I’m not a big fan of fantasy in general, but Hobbiton is definitely worth a visit. Especially just before dark when the whole set turns into magical colours. You get a tour and a guide shows you and your group around. Our tour through the Hobbiton Movie Set was amazing and it’s always going to be an experience I’ll remember.

As I said, I did a lot of travelling within the Waikato region, but not only. I go on trips with my friends nearly every weekend. We did so many of them now and looking back on all the things we have done so far is just amazing. I remember my first few weeks when I couldn’t wait to go and travel and see all those things this beautiful country has to offer. When the  first long weekend came up, my friends from Auckland and I, went to the Bay of Islands and did some travelling up there. We stayed in Paihia and visited all the amazing places around

the Bay of Islands. We went to Cape Reinga, the very north of New Zealand, to Russel, to the Giant Sand Dunes, the Mermaid Pools in Matapouri, to Henderson Bay and to the 90 Miles Beach. There are so many things to do up north, one trip was not enough. My favourite place in the Bay of Islands was Henderson Bay. It’s probably the most amazing beach I have ever seen. The sand is bright pink and the water has got a really nice blue colour. There are never many people there, because it’s not very popular. It’s nice and quiet and the best place to calm down and relax from the busy working days. Our trip to the Bay of Islands has been amazing and I went up there a few more times after that, because we liked it so much.

When I travelled on the South Island with my brother we went to a lot of nice places as well.We went down south for a week. We rent a car and started from Christchurch, went all the way down the east coast to Queenstown and Milford Sound and then up the west coast back to Chrirstchurch. We saw penguins, amazing beaches, incredible mountains like Mt Cook, and lovely little towns with great cafes. My favourite walk was the Hooker Valley Track at Mt Cook. It was so beautiful and the mount looked amazing. All the roads near Mt Cook looked like a windows desktop. I thought all those incredible nature photos from  New Zealand must have been photoshopped, but they are not! We stopped several times just to enjoy the view, breathe in the fresh air and to take photos. The South Island is completely different in its own way. When my brother and I were there, it was winter. It was freezing, but I loved how magical everything looked. My favourite place in the

South Island was Queenstown and Milford Sound. We had amazing weather and Queenstown has so much to offer. I did the Nevis Swing when we were there. It’s a 300 meters free fall canyon swing. I was so scared when I saw other people doing it, but it has been on my list for such a long time and I really wanted to do it. So I did. The feeling when they drop you and you fall is just incredible. I loved swinging in between the canyons.

Everyone who reads about New Zealand is going to get to know about Milford Sound. It’s about 3 hours away from Queenstown. It’s a fiord and it’s known for towering Mitre Peak, rainforests and waterfalls. We went on a guided boat cruise and enjoyed Milford Sounds beautiful nature. I don’t think I have ever seen 

something so beautiful. I remember the cold wind on the boat and the crew giving out tea to warm us up. It was so nice to enjoy the great view with a hot cup of tea in my hands.

You need more than one week to see all the great places down south. We have spent one week there and I am going to go back in January just before I go back to Germany. I can’t wait to see all those places again and to explore even more of the beautiful south island.

For all those who are looking for something more challenging, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the Tongariro National Park is a must do. The Tongariro Crossing has been on my list for ages. A friend and I were about to do it in April, but then we couldn’t due to weather conditions. A few months passed, it got cold and then I finally did it in October. Weather was perfect. We had a clear blue sky all the way up. We could even see Mt Taranaki from the top. The National Park is about 2.5 hours from Hamilton. We went down on a Saturday night, stayed at a Hostel and then did the Crossing the next day. It was so much better than I expected. It was challenging and exhausting, but the view was worth it. I did it with another Au Pair who lives close to me and we were both so glad that we have finally done it. We just did it slowly without rushing anywhere. At about halfway through, when we were having a break, there was just no noise at all. It was so quiet. We closed our eyes and there was no wind, no one talking, no birds, just nothing. I have never experienced such silence. It felt like someone just cut off all the noises from the whole entire world.

When my best friend Julia visited me in October/November we went to many nice places and I showed her around a little bit. She stayed with me for a month, which is not enough to see everything, but she saw many beautiful places. It was so nice o have her back for a little while and to be able to show my best friend where I live at the moment. I loved to share a part of my journey with Julia.

On our second weekend together, we went to Wellington. Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city. Many Europeans think Auckland is the capital just because it’s bigger and more popular. To be honest, I thought so too before I decided to come here. Wellington is located in the south of the north island. We took the red little cable car to the botanic gardens, went to the famous Te  Papa museum and discovered a nice beach near the Wellington harbor. The Te Papa museum was really impressive. It’s about New Zealand’s history. Julia and I did a few different trips when she visited me and we explored a little bit more of New Zealand’s sights together.

I have seen a lot of beautiful places, done so many amazing things and met so many great people. I am very lucky to have such great opportunities and to be able to live abroad for a year on the other side of the world. I love learning about New Zealand and its beautiful culture. My must-do list is very long and there are so many things I still really want to do before going home, but New Zealand will stay on my list forever.

Written by Ana Bakovic.

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