My 24th September 24th

My 24th September 24th was also my 2nd consecutive birthday abroad. I made a special effort to spend my 23rd birthday in Reykjavik on Saturday, just in time for an Icelandic night out (rúntur, as it were). I wanted to treat myself a bit for my 24th, so after looking around the Auckland area, I settled on the popular Waiheke Island. It would turn out to be one of my best decisions since arriving in New Zealand.

I mean, it also would’ve been cool to fly to Wellington (23rd birthday in northernmost capital, 24th in southernmost).

But I’m happy with the way things worked out.

I used Hostelworld to book 4 nights at top rated backpackers Hekerua Lodge. After a short 30-minute ferry ride from the city (slightly longer than the ride to Rangitoto), I decided to walk the 50 minutes with all of my gear (as opposed to taking the $3.50 bus) because I’m a slight masochist. I just wanted to know if I could do it (I could).

As soon as I stepped foot in Hekerua, I could tell it was going to be a great trip. I immediately felt right at home – and I was ecstatic to be outside the city.

Flash Forward to the next day ➡ some of the WWOOFers return from town with a party pack – 4 party hats, kazoos, squirt guns. One of them was turning 25! I said, “Happy Birthday, what a coincidence, my 24th birthday is also this weekend, on Sunday!” One of the guys present (who wasn’t even staying there – friend of a friend of the hostel) said, “Hey, not cool man, don’t steal her thunder!” I felt bad.

Flash Forward Again ➡ It’s Saturday morning, and we’re all a bit hungover. Turns out – it wasn’t even her birthday! She doesn’t turn 25 until April, and the girls were just messing around for fun! And I’d felt a fair bit guilty for mentioning my birthday on Friday when I could’ve easily waited until today… Oh well, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit…

That night though, a group of us were drinking beer in the Jacuzzi when Tom, the manager, asked me why I’d come to Hekerua. So I said that I’d be turning 24 on Sunday and this whole trip was meant to be a birthday treat for myself.

Now we finally flash forward to September 24th

Everyone was ready for a big Sunday night bash.

Tom was going to cook his world-famous lasagnas as a community dinner for $5 a person (worth it).

Sunday morning came at last – and the first to wish me a Happy Birthday were my travel (read: hiking) buddies for the previous couple days – the Argentinian sommeliers Anto and Noe. 

My 24th September 24th
They were unfortunately leaving that day – and so were forcing me into being a morning person.

We celebrated with my signature and stylish egg breakfast – Egg-in-the-Holes – and I managed to not have a beer with breakfast ‘just because’. Eventually they had to leave to go explore Southeast Asia (and drink heaps more wine, I assume), and I was left to continue my celebration with the rest of the hostel. 

Conquer Fear my 24th September 24th
I began celebrating my birthday with a Chilean, 3 Argentinians, a Brit, a German, and a Kiwi.

By afternoon I had begun celebrating in earnest, and was having beers out on the deck (with the occasional tequila shot thrown in) with the other backpackers and friends of the hostel. We chatted, made merry, and played drinking games. As you can imagine, it was a blast. 

Tom soon arrived on scene and began crafting lasagnas.

At some point, I had happy birthday sung to me in Spanish (feliz cumpleaños a MI).

As afternoon crept into early evening, more and more people showed up after their day’s adventure or work shift. Soon there was a whole mess of people drinking and having a good time. At Hekerua, weekends barely exist – all the different work schedules means someone’s always having a weekend and so there’s much drinking to be done. Sunday was no different – plenty of people were up for some festivities. And people were HUNGRY for lasagna.

At long last – after many beers had been emptied by a pack of ravenously thirsty backpackers – Chef Tom finished his lasagnas and we were ready to eat.

Before we could dig in, however, he organized everyone into one last raucous chorus of Happy Birthday. And it was spectacular. I’m someone who could usually take or leave the whole ‘sing for me on my birthday‘ thing – but in this case the day had been so fun and I was amazed that all of these people I’d just met had been able to make this birthday into such a memorable event.

Very grateful for all of these wonderful people helping to make my September 24th celebration both rowdy and unforgettable…

 At this amazing community meal, there were many different countries represented.

Which I always think is cool. We had people from the UK (2), USA (yours truly), Germany (5), New Caledonia, Canada, Netherlands (2), France, Japan, Belgium, and New Zealand (2). What a sweet mix! 

Conquer Fear my 24th September 24th
Coming together for a big community lasagna meal was both wonderful and delicious.

I think the craziest part of the whole affair was that everyone dined to their heart’s content – including me (and I can EAT) – and yet there was still a full lasagna leftover at the end. Tom truly went all out, and it was incredible.

After dinner the drinking and merry-making continued well into the night.

Ah, wait, I’m forgetting a part – the part where I had to walk the plank! It’s apparently a tradition at Hekerua Lodge… The birthday-person has to walk across the long table and then jump into the pool. I imagine it’s much more fun in summer, when the water isn’t Arctic-level frigid. So I made sure that the Jacuzzi would be available after-hours to warm me up. 

I’d had QUITE a few beers by this point – and this looks MUCH less graceful than it felt…

I completed my duty as birthday-person, reveling in the sweet warmth of the Jacuzzi for a bit after the shockingly cold plunge into the pool from above. I’ll admit, I had some great fun. It was the polar opposite of my 23rd – during which I told maybe 2 people that it was my birthday and just enjoyed a low-key night out. This was the other side of the spectrum, and the other side of the world. They were both special in their own ways…

But this day showed me the potential of Hekerua and of Waiheke.

I just had a blast on this island every damn day… I ended up extending my stay to eventually be NINE nights instead of the original four. Many thanks to everyone that was present to help make my 24th birthday so memorable. I guess I’ll have to try and top it next year.

September 24th, 2018?

Could be anywhere

Who knows what I’ll be doing for my 25th…

Originally Posted October 19, 2017

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