So I need to raise the bar on my journal here. New Zealand is not the easiest for me to write about as it's the first disappointment I had on my trip. Really, this is inevitable. Travel long enough, and not everywhere will be great. Looking back, Africa, Mexico and Cuba were just incredible for me, so New Zealand had an uphill battle regarding expectations anyway. For me, when something is over hyped, that's a killer. I never liked Michael Jordan, The Spice Girls, or The OC. My darkest thoughts in New Zealand ran something like this: 'they have a gorgeous country, are terribly conceited about it, and many people feel that they can be just as drunk, ignorant, loud, and tremendously hebetudinous as they want, because of this fact.' My brightest thoughts regarding NZ were that: 'I could basically walk up to a strangers door, knock and say I was a backpacker, and they would take me in, feed me, drive me around, and give me travelling money when I moved on. Oh, and they have giant, trophy trout EVERYWHERE.' I'm afraid that my time in NZ would continue to be this bipolar.
Looking back, it would have been better for me to (1) buy a camper van or (2) find someone with room in a camper van right from Auckland. It's by far the best way to go in NZ. The reason I didn't is because I was travelling alone, and I thought it would be harder to meet people, and I hate mechanics. In the end, it wouldn't have made it any harder to meet people. Oh well - lesson learned and applied in Tassie.
12/31/07: So I had made a few friends in Paihia and we agreed to meet in Auckland on NYE. Bee, Theresa, Hailey and I headed down to Danny Doolittles - surprise an Irish bar - for fire works. I also got a call from Val and Rich, two that I met in Africa, and we were able to catch up as well, a really nice surprise! The celebration in Auckland, however, left allot to be desired. We went out from DD and on to Viaduct Harbor to watch the fireworks. The four of us were the only ones to cheer once the clock hit the new year. Everyone else basically stood there and walked away after it was over. No hi fives, no cheering, nothing. And the fireworks weren't great. I mean, should Providence really out-do Auckland for First Night? The news team did come over and film us, so I am pretty sure we were on NZ TV that night.
The only happy people for NYE!
1/1/08: On the bus getting out of Auckland ASAP. Headed to a place called Waitomo to check out the caves. That night I stayed in Juno Hall, a quiet, clean backpackers.
1/2/08: The famous glow-worm caves, which are actually the larva of flies, and not really worms at all. Yummy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glowworm). You can go "black water rafting" here, and while this conjures images of white water in black caves, what it really means is that you sit on a tube and float at about 2km per hour down a small underwater stream. However, it's still really cool. The small points of light everywhere mimic the night sky, and if you want to find out if you are claustrophobic this is the place to test it. Crawling on your stomach down 10 meter tunnels in pitch black is not easy.
The caves are just below
After the caves I took a bus to Rotorua.
1/3/08: There is geothermic activity all over New Zealand, and Rotorua has some of the most and as a result, the town reeks of sulfur. But the hot pools are nice. For $20 you can spend all day at the Polynesia Spa, with a series of pools designed to make it easy to get up to the hottest 43 degree Celsius pool. That night I went out with Dave, an English bloke I met at the caves, and I had a very strange encounter. Duffy was on his Thursday night pub crawl through town. That's Duffy, WWII veteran from Jamestown, RI, who was somehow able to pick my accent and knew I was from RI. He was quite a character, having been in New Zealand for 33 years with his second wife and second set of kids.
Just a random hot pool
1/4/08: Didn't do much today. Walked around town, got online, ate food.
1/5/08: Today I something called "sledging." This is where you have something similar to a body board with handles, and you use this to go through white water, rather that using a raft. While it was allot of fun, the rapids were nowhere near the "class 4" claimed on the brochure. After the Zambezi no rapids seem large to me. I didn't get pictures of this because they wouldn't sell individual shots, and they wanted $70 for the set. Hmmmmm.
1/6/08: A bus to Taupo.