zealand

SS Brunch with Aurai

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I first came across Aurai before I travelled to New Zealand and I was initially drawn to the name. Aurai are subtle, gentle and difficult to find and they travel across the world through the sea bringing messages to the Gods. Now that I have returned and seen the wonderful country and learnt more about its rich culture, I am more humbled than ever to be able to introduce Natalia, who is the creative force behind this swimwear company which just launched its first collection this summer. Natalia was born in southern Brazil, where she graduated from University and started her career. She moved to Milan, where she pursued a Master’s Degree in Fashion Management at IED and worked in the buying office at La Rinascente. Currently she lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.

In a world where everything is go go go, why are you attracted to the philosophy of ‘slow fashion’?

My interest in ethical fashion stemmed during my University years from a deep concern about questionable practices within the fashion industry and interest on new approaches in the way we produce and understand fashion. I understand the fascination with famous brands and fast fashion but it’s not a secret anymore the human and environmental cost of our current fashion system.

Besides the environmental concern, the slow fashion movement reinforces that workers should be respected and receive fair wages, designers and brands should be authentic and visionary to influence positively the market, and that customers should be provided with information and encouraged to make better choices when buying.

The way that businesses are conducted has never been more important, and although I won’t save the world making bikinis I feel that I have a responsibility to make it as better as I can. Hopefully I’ll inspire other brands to do the same and people to support small makers.

If you want to learn more about AURAI’s practices click here

In your debut collection, you experimented with fish leather, tell us briefly how the fish leather is made into a swimsuit?

At AURAI we are always searching for new technologies that can help us to develop more sustainable and creative products. I decided to experiment with fish leather after I learned that a local leather company had developed a way to treat fish leather, which is a by-product of the food industry and that often ends up polluting rivers and lakes, disturbing ecosystems and causing consequences beyond known solutions. I thought it could be not only interesting in terms of design and innovation but I also wanted to support their effort in creating such an amazing product.

How do you juggle being a creative and a business woman at the same time?

It’s a learning curve for sure, but nowadays I truly believe that my creativity makes me a better business woman and that my analytical skills help me to design and develop better products. It’s all about balance so I face it everyday as an opportunity to become a more resourceful professional.

My favourite print from the collection is the Koi Fish, what do Koi Fish mean to you?

I’ve always been passionate about Eastern history, culture and aesthetics and I’ve always loved the legend of the Koi Fish, this small but strong creature that swim against currents to the top of the mountain. It represents ambition, courage, perseverance and all the obstacles and successes we encounter in life, so it was a perfect visual symbolism for a first collection 🙂

Any hints on what we can expect in your next collection?

My next collection will be about a ‘journey to the ocean’, the sensation of wonder and delight that comes with touching the sand with our barefeet and feeling the cold salty water on our skin. The prints will tell this story while some pieces will receive beautiful handmade macramê detailing and contrasting ties. My passion for surfing will also be more in evidence in the form of a rash guard and an one-piece suit.

If you are interested in Aurai pieces, now is the time to have a sticky as they’re doing a big sale here. 

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Topdeck NZ Northern Explorer

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When I was initially researching this trip, I looked high and low for a review about this specific Topdeck tour but I couldn’t find anything that answered all my questions and was also recently published. Now that it has been almost a month since my return, I wanted to create a post for anyone who is looking to do the Northern Explorer tour in the future. I will be covering accommodation, food, attractions and the people 🙂

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I booked my tour a few months in advance with STA travel but you can also book online directly through Topdeck’s own website. I would definitely recommend doing it in person through an agent because you can ask as many questions as you please, the price is exactly the same and you don’t have to pay the whole trip up front, only a small deposit. If you don’t want the hassle of booking flights and buying insurance separately, STA are happy to hook you up as well but if you want to save some money you can grab those through Webjet which is what I did.

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Accommodation

My friend and I went together so we upgraded to twin share which was an extra hundred each. This was a really great decision on our part because our room was always much nicer and we would always have access to our own private bathrooms and amenities. I think the accommodation was fantastic in terms of variety, as you can see we stayed in a ski resort, a Maori Marae (which is the sacred meeting place) and also a small boat!

These are all the places we stayed at:

  • Pre-Accommodation at Travelodge Hotel, Wellington
  • Skotel Alpine Resort, Mount Ruapehu
  • Maori Marae, Rotorua
  • Sudima, Rotorua
  • Rock the Boat, Bay of Islands
  • Tanoa Paihia Hotel, Tanoa

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Rotorua Museum of History & Art

Attractions

I paid for three optional extras: Hobbiton, Hell’s Gate mud spa and Rock the Boat. There is a ton of other cool things that you can also participate in such as white water rafting, zorbing, inflatable kayaking and bungee jumping.

Hobbiton: to read more about my Hobbiton experience, you can visit my first New Zealand post here.

Hell’s Gate: was a nice experience after having skipped way too many showers on this trip! We spent an hour in the hot mud and springs where our noses accommodated to the sulphurous scent of Rotorua.

Rock the Boat: this was my favourite part of our entire trip! For 22 hours we went on a tiny little boat and saw all 144 islands with a very enthusiastic local crew. There was a paint balling introduction, fishing for dinner followed by night kayaking which was breathtaking. We paddled out at 10pm and the water was filled with phosphorous algae so when we dipped our paddle or arm in the water, a beautiful trail of glow in the dark algae moved along with us. We also lay in our kayaks and looked up at the glowing night sky and it was quite magical 🙂 After kayaking, the brave kids jumped in for a swim. It was cold but so worth it because as we swam, the algae continued to glow and everyone felt like a mermaid. Once all warmth had escaped our bodies we jumped back out and sat by the fire. The next morning we went snorkelling and hiked up a lush island barefoot. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many adventures in under 24 hours!

The activities that were already included in our tour were just as great and the night at the Marae was my favourite. Some of the things included a hike in Tongariro which you can read more about in my previous post here, a rugby lesson at the NZ Sports Academy and a night learning about Maori culture including the haka and poi dances at the Marae.

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If you choose not to participate in an activity you have the option of exploring the city yourself. None of the activities are affiliated with Topdeck so you can do as little or as much as you would like. Here’s a snap of me ‘skydiving’ and another of my friend bungee jumping.

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Te Papa Museum

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Food

Breakfast is included every morning at the location of the accommodation for the previous night. We had a combination of cold and hot breakfasts and three dinners were included. Lunch was always up to us and we were given the opportunity to go to grocery stores and stock up on water and snacks if we were heading somewhere remote.

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People

For the trip we had a tour leader, a driver and an extra person who did both jobs whenever the main people were tired. No tipping is required and they were all very helpful. Most of the the other travellers were Australian like myself but around 30% were from overseas. We had a big group of almost 40 including people from the UK, US, Germany, France and Switzerland. The best way to describe the environment would be like a big school camping trip. I know tours like these have a reputation for being party tours but I think it usually depends on the group itself. This was a bit of a quiet group so there was no pressure to drink if you didn’t want to and the places we travelled to lacked night life so there wasn’t much on offer in terms of after hours entertainment.

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Waiotapu Geothermal

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Overall, Topdeck tours are very fast paced adventure packed trips. If you want to see lots of scenery, I wouldn’t recommend going on one because we were only allowed 10 to 30 minutes tops at some scenic lookouts. However, they are very well organised so you don’t have to do much thinking aside from getting to the bus on time.

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Huka Falls

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I never have much use for souvenirs so I only bought one thing for myself – a kiwi charm (only available to purchase in New Zealand) to finish off my pandora bracelet for 2015.

Hopefully this whopper of a post was helpful for some people. If you have any questions in general about Topdeck tours or more specific ones about the northern explorer I would be happy to answer them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with a fashion post on Friday! Lets hope this weather clears up a bit too eh?!!

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The Real Middle Earth

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I have returned from the real middle earth, hair slightly still smelling like the sulphurous hot springs of Rotarua and sleep deprived with enough photographs to share with you but not too many because I was trying to see stuff outside of my camera lens. The Hobbtion Movie Set was one of the attractions that I was most excited to see and it was a wonderful little half day adventure that took around 4 hours in total and $110 NZD. It is located in Matamata which is an hour’s drive from the city centre of Rotarua and there’s a big tour bus which takes you from the souvenir gift store to the movie set. Once you start seeing the rolling green hills dotted with sheep, you’re almost there! Our tour guide and bus driver were wonderful and very knowledgeable about the films (they shared a lot of filming secrets) and at the end they shouted us drinks in the Green Dragon Inn. In the future, I would love to go back and do an evening tour because seeing the sun set and tip toeing around the hills with lanterns sounds like the most magical experience! There’s not much else to say so I’ll let the photographs do the talking and I’ll be back with some festive blog posts next Monday!

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