New Zealand-start til now (playing catch up...again)
Rotorua, New Zealand
Sunday, November 13, 2011
New Zealand-start til now (playing catch up...again) 11.11.11
New Zealand I haven't even been in NZ for a week yet and I've already seen half of the country thanks to our wonderful family friend, Peter. He could not have been a more generous and accommodating (and fun) host and friend to spend the past week with! I arrived late Saturday night and he picked me up from the airport and we drove through downtown Auckland and had a good people watching session. The next day, we toured all around Auckland…and I mean ALL around! He lives in a cute area called Ponsonby that reminds me of Federal Hill with trendy pubs and cafes. We saw all the monuments, museums, and neighborhoods of Auckland. We also drove to the beaches (only about 30 minutes away) Piha and KareKare, where they filmed the movie "The Piano." They were breathtaking and a great way to start the tour of the country. We ended the day at his favorite pub, a tapas bar called Bonita Bar. The next day, he drove us to the Bay of Islands which is beyond beautiful! (Google it—or just see my FB photos). We toured the area where they signed the Maori treaty in the 1800s and then called it a semi-early night. The next day, we went on an eco-cruise to the "hole in the rock" and saw dolphins, a whale, seals, and amazing islands (stopped on Ohei for lunch and a quick hike). After that, we drove back to Auckland for a night and then turned around the next morning for Waitomo Caves where we went on a tubing tour through the caves to see glow worms. SO fun! The glow from the worms is actually the poo from larva flies…not too nice sounding like that, but they sure have some pretty poo! During the tour, we befriended a fellow American traveler, Amanda, so we had her and her friend, Hillary, join us on our journey up to Coromandel that evening. I got to drive part of the way (on the left) and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! Granted, I've had over a month to get used to life lived backwards, but never actually driven…it was fun! We all survived and made it to a hostel before heading to a local pub for a delicious dinner. I got NO sleep that night because it one of the guys in my room was snoring. No fun! Peter and I took off early the next day to meet his friend, Dave, in Thames for coffee and a quick tour of the town then we made our way to Rotorua where we toured a real living Maori village. Our tour guide, Ringa Ora grew up there and her family still lived there but she lived in the city now. She was very insightful, sweet, and open to any and all questions (of which I had a lot, as always). It was really educational and fascinating to a culture nerd like me. The village is situated on geothermal land to the hot springs are all over. They even cook food in the springs. We had corn on the cob cooked in the water and it only takes 2 minutes to cook! They tie the corn in bags and toss it in. They also have "Maori microwaves" that are on top of the springs and cook entire meals in minutes using the steam. We also got to see the geyser there. At the end, Peter gifted me a green stone necklace that is meant to bring good luck and he even had it blessed there for me. I was very grateful and wore it today with pride! Afterwards, we checked out the hot springs at the Polynesian spa but decided against going in and went for a quick Thai dinner instead so that Peter could head back to Auckland. I stayed at Base hostel and requested an all-girls room so that there was less of a chance of a snorer keeping me up all night….No snorers but there was a nightclub right next door that blasted music all night…two nights in a row of no sleep, yay me! At least the room was nice. It was for 16 people but only had 3 of us (me and 2 girls from Hong Kong) so it was nice. I had my own little alcove room. It also had 3 sinks in a line that made for a great wash, pre-rinse, rinse clothes washing station and a balcony to dry. The sinks and a bathroom and shower were IN our room…this is unheard of for a hostel and was SO nice! I didn't get a chance to go to the grocery store before it got dark so was having the only food I had for dinner, tea and cashews, but the girls took pity on me and gave me an orange. I had hoped for an early night (and some sleep), I didn't get either but at least I was able to be productive on the wifi all night and even got to Skype one of my friends I met traveling. This morning I went for a run along the lake in Rotura, went to the grocery store, and then ate and played online until the bus came. I started the first day of my hop-on hop-off bus pass tour today with STRAY travel. So far, so good. We loaded on the bus outside the hostel at 12:30 and set off for Taupo. Along the way, we stopped at mudpools (too hot to touch), natural hot springs (we did swim in and play in the mud there!), and to view Huku falls. Dropped some people off for skydiving and then arrived at our hostel, Urban Backpackers. Everyone on the bus is young and traveling and I've met some nice people already, including 2 fellow Americans (believe it or not, we're a rare breed over here!) My afternoon was spent at the grocery store (I feel like all I do is buy food, eat, pack, repack, reorganize my pack, then repack it again and repeat process). It's a good thing I actually find organizing things therapeutic and actually enjoy this process 'cuz I do it about 4 times a day. Tried to post pix online but internet was too slow. My dinner tonight was completely invented with cheap things I bought and I have to say it turned out quite well. It consisted of pasta, a bean medley, orange pepper, tuna, and a feta and chive cheese all mixed together. Luckily it was pretty darn yummy and healthy since I'll be eating it for the next 3 days. Had to buy food for 3 days since there won't be any super markets in the next town we head to, outside the national park. I'm getting up early tomorrow to go to a spin class at the gym here then we're off to the national park outside the Tongariro Crossing which we hike Sunday and is world famous…can't wait!