I tagged along with Alan for a work trip to Auckland a few years ago. I’m always interested to visit new places, but really had no interest in Auckland until I researched it a little. I quickly discovered that there was an amazing little island called Waiheke 17.7km off the coast from Auckland and just a 30 minute ferry ride.
According to Wikipedia “it is the most populated, with nearly 8,730 permanent residents plus another estimated 3,400 who have second or holiday homes on the island.” We booked a tour guide, expecting a full mini bus – but were fortunate enough to be the only tourists! Our guide drove us around the entire island, which was a fantastic way to see how diverse the landscape was. There were cute little private coves, lush farmland, and over two dozen wineries – which has helped it developed the nickname ‘Island of wine’. I’d always been fans of New Zealand whites (notably the Marlborough region), but this really cemented by love of NZ reds – particularly Syrah.
As with most of my overseas trips I always try and meet with a local photographer. I was fortunate enough to have a fellow Polaroid lover and all round awesome gal Teresa showed me around Auckland. She picked us up from our hotel in the city and we made our way towards the western beaches. I had no expectations, and really had done no research. I’m really not great with car travel, and it didn’t take me long to get car sickness from the 45 minute windy drive towards the coast, but my gosh was it worth it! First we arrived at Karekare and explored one of the waterfalls. Being late in the afternoon, and not being too good at taking shots in low light conditions – none of my photographs really turned out. We then decided to try and catch the setting sun.
Being from the east coast of Australia, sunsets over water aren’t all that common an occurrence to witness. So this was a pretty special moment to witness the sun setting over the water. My first surprise was actually the colour of the sand. I am use to growing up near some of the whitest sand in the world, so to come across a dark volcanic grey sand really made me feel a long way from home! But the light was absolutely incredible. The sand just glistered in the late afternoon sun… If the moment wasn’t magical enough, as soon as I peeled the first shot of 669 film I was just blown away. The way my Polaroid 180 camera picked up the light was amazing, and in true 669 style, the colours were incredible.
Really early in our road trip planning for England, I knew I had to go via Wales. Just a quick google search always revealed amazing scenery, stunning sunsets (thanks to the west coast!) and the ever lust Snowdonia National Park.
Not long after leaving Manchester we crossed the Welsh border. Immediately we started seeing town names displaying both English and Welsh versions of the names. English on top, Welsh at the bottom.
Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Snowdonia – well, you can’t count driving around the edge I suppose? But the sights we did see has made me want to go back. Conwy is a typical tourist spot: beach side down, gorgeous ruins of a castle and fantastic bustling town. Despite all this, it’s still up there for my favourite spots. Alan had somehow forgotten he’d been there before, and let’s be honest – forgot he’d even been to Wales full stop (shall we blame the craziness of Contiki tours and not knowing which borders you’ve crossed?), so I explored Conwy Castle alone. Seriously this place was amazing. It’s my perfect castle. And when I say perfect, I’m not after any pristine castle with intact render. I’m after a castle showing it’s age. Missing mortar, crumbling archways, but intact stairwells. To me, being able to climb up the damp windy stairwells just get the heart pumping. And as soon as you take that last step and see the view, you can suddenly imagine how much this town has changed whilst this medievil structure has remained. Over 800 years of history and I’m standing on top of this structure… Incredible I tell you.
Llandudno was another favourite location. This beachside town boasts a west coast sunset and an amazing pier, full of amusement park rides and games. I’d never been to anywhere with a pier like this, and I know Brighton has a world famous one, and even New York – but in my defence, I haven’t ventured to the east of London, and haven’t even visited the US yet.
We arrived late afternoon, checked in to our accommodation, and immediately dropped our gear and wandered around the pier. The light was so magical as it lingered for hours… I don’t often find I have the opportunity to take that many photos while the light is still perfect, so I really does stick in my mind.
Although we missed Snowdonia, we did make our way to the next castle we stumbled across – Dolwyddlan Castle. This castle was situated on private property, and with very little signage it was a little confusing. We arrived just as a farmer was loading in hundreds of sheep into a truck and as the skies opened up. We soon got directions and made us way past the farm house and on a windy wet path – seemingly in the wrong direction. The path was slippery, so we jumped between the grass, gravel and path to make sure we didn’t slip. Once we got past the mini rainforest, we had to cross the field. So close to the castle I then managed to completely stack it. I slipped backwards and just managed to avoid a humongous and still warm cowpat right next to my hand. Slightly bruised tailbone, I swallowed my pride we finally explored the castle. There wasn’t really all that much left of the main building, but we carefully made our way up a small set of stairs into the ruins. And this was the view that we were struck with. I only had chocolate type 100 film loaded into my 180, and although it works perfectly with the texture and mode of the location, it doesn’t do justice to my memory of the colour of the scenery.
Wales, you’re definitely on my list of places to visit again. I just don’t feel like I saw enough of your beauty!