North America to the North Island - 22 March 2005
Kia Ora everyone!What an adventure it has been to get to this beautiful country! After a 5hr flight to LA, an afternoon at The Getty Center (including a quick nap in their garden) and a 13hr flight to Auckland - I finally made it one piece!!
I arrived before Eric and had plenty of time to recoup and rest - we had some very gracious Kiwi hosts for our 1st 2days in NZ - Jodelle, Mark and 9wk old Joshua! It makes such a difference to have a hot shower, warm bed and local hospitality to welcome you to a new country.
Eric arrived in the afternoon and the Bridgeman family of Mt.Eden, NZ showed us around their hometown of Auckland, introduced us to fine home cooked Kiwi cuisine and helped us get organized for the rest of our 2wk adventure.
What have we done so far, well...
If you can read this as fast as we have done it all, then you'll be just as exhausted as we are :-)
We rented a car, left Auckland and drove south 3hrs to Waitomo to explore the glow worm caves, learned to abseil (rappel), took a rafting cave trip and rock climbed, all in one afternoon!
We first had to dress in the most ridiculous outfits - we all looked like purple Ummpaloompas from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory - NO JOKE! We were taught how to abseil - basically lowering yourself down the side of a cliff on a zip line, a bit unnerving but great fun - after wards we got in our tubes to coast thru the caves in complete darkness to see the light of the glow worms. What r glow worms - they r larvae of the fungus gnat (kind of like a large mosquito) which live inside the cave and feed off of the small flies and bugs that fly in, getting caught in the long thread like tails that hang down from the ceiling of the cave. These of course are NOT long enough to touch any of us, in fact they arent visible to the naked eye unless you are right up against it and they are only about 1inch long. But the beautiful thing about them is the light they give off when they are hungry or scared. Inside the complete darkness of the cave, gazing up at these worms is almost like gazing up at the night sky - absolutely stunning!
Once we rock climbed our way out of the caves, we ate and moved onto the next town...Rotorua (2hrs drive). Rotorua is known for its thermal sulfur springs and u can smell it a mile away! Eric thought they had a sewage problem until I explained to him what the smell was :-)
Our only day in Rotorua was taken up by Zorbing and enjoying those thermal springs. Zorbing is SO much fun - its something Ive wanted to do for the last 15yrs and was thrilled to finally do it!! U put yourself in an over sized hamster ball, add some water and roll yourself down a large hill...getting knocking around from side to side the entire time, now knowing which direction you are going in either! It was so much fun - we both did it 2x! To relax after all of that knockin' around we went to Hells Gate, which is a thermal reserve with the largest hot thermal waterfall - it honestly smelled like rotten eggs the entire time we were there, but you get used to it quickly and the thought of a private mud bath and spa at the end for both of us - helped get us thru the park quickly!
Once we left Rotorua behind (rotten eggs & all!) we drove down south to Tongariro (3hrs drive). We splurged and stayed at a hotel called the Grand Chateau - one of the best hotels in NZ, that is fashioned after a English Country House, in the middle of a mountain side - you can see it from miles away! Tongariro was the home for much of the film Lord of the Rings - Mt. Ngauruhoe AKA Mt. Doom! The Tongariro Crossing, a very popular day hike takes u up to the base of Mt. Doom w an option to hike to the top, as well as into the craters of Mt. Tongariro where u can hike up to the Emerald Lakes and the Red Crater. We made it to the top on the most glorious day - but the last 20mins. it was a torrential downpour! The rain couldnt have come at a better time either... we were just finished w the most difficult headed straight down for what seemed like forever!
With Tongariro crossed off the list, we headed down to Wellington(5hrs drive) for a night in the capital city of NZ and to catch the ferry to the South Island the next day. Wellington is a terrific city which reminded us of San Francisco... in fact much of NZ seems like San Francisco - the roads wind around SO much! You get nauseous taking each turn around the mountain side, going up and down and up and down....literally like an amusement ride!
Our ferry crossing (3hrs) to the South Island doesnt look good...overcast and rainy, but is still supposed to be a beautiful sail across nonetheless! Will let you know how we survive the other side - kayaking, hiking, wine tasting, skydiving, bungy jumping and jet boating!
Hope all is well at home on the other side of the world!