Category Archives: New Zealand

Rotorua Day 3/Auckland Day 1

There’s a difference between chloroform and chlorophyll. If you took ninth grade biology, you’d know that chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants. Chloroform, however, is the “knock out drug” associated with heinous crimes.

This morning we listened to our tour guide, a Maori native, as she weaved a traditional grass skirt, boiling the grass to remove what she referred to as chloroform. Hm.

The village we toured was called Whaka Village, although the natives pronounce “Wh” with an “F.” You sound it out. This village is a natural hot spot, full of geothermal activity, with geysers and hot springs everywhere. As the 40 degree wind bit into my jacket, we sought refuge near the hot opaque steam and Hangi boxes (where the food is cooked underground.) We saw the bathing pools, yes, communal, but warm.

Off to Auckland. We finished watching “Whale Rider” which made more sense once we’d seen true Maori culture and traditions in Rotorua.

We’re racing past lush pastures filled with sheep and cows and valleys and hills. Sound picturesque? Well maybe, but it seems more characteristic of Ireland. They’re playing Kiwi Radio (Kiwi is a term for a New Zealander.) 80s and 90s pop, and it brings us back to Michelle Branch, Sugar Ray, and all things Kidz Bop. How can anyone sleep through Dave the Maniac Bus Driver’s speedy driving?

We stopped in Matamata, more commonly known as “Hobbiton.”

We took pictures with a statue of Gollum in the Hobbit Hole, then raced to the bus. No one wants to be the unlucky soul who has to sing, per Matt’s directions. A short game of Matt’s trivia, and once again I’m left to my own thoughts.

***

When you’re alone, it’s funny how the mind can be the scariest demon of all. Left to your own devices, it can be a dark abyss of loneliness. And while I’m homesick for my family in the worst way, I’m quite enjoying the freedom my mind has when not restricted by my day-to-day. Flashback: Venice. And I think: How much alone time have I missed out on in an effort to surround myself with people who seem to eliminate my sorrows?

I’ll give you a “for instance.” I’ve never eaten a meal alone. Never gone out to eat, that is. I don’t count eating PB&J in the comfort of my own home. I know exactly why I haven’t too: A long time ago my friend advised me that people are more likely  to over gorge on their own. Well if getting fat is my main concern, then I’m going to have some bigger issues later on in life.

As the song goes, “Like a Drifter I Was Born to Walk Alone.” I’m happiest when I’m able to think, think clearly, then share my thoughts in the blogosphere. Less Facebook, reduce the texting, more “me” time. How can I be the best sister/friend/daughter/niece/granddaughter I can be  if I’m not the best person I can be?

***

We finished our drive to Auckland and visited a volcano which hasn’t been active in 700 years. We got to the hotel at 3, and had free roam of the city until 9. We walked around, shopped, got out Starbucks fix, and went to the hotel to rest around 6:30. All the stores closed down at 6:00, so we saw no point in staying out to roam the concrete jungle.

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Rotorua Day 2

Today we woke up at what we thought was 7:10, 40 minutes past our alarm. We hurried to get ready, quickly answered our late wake-up call, and ran down for breakfast. To our surprise, we were the only ones there. Little did we know, our clock was 20 minutes ahead, and I had forgotten to change the time on the alarm…Shh!!

We headed out into the cold sulfur weather, bright and early, toward the awaiting duck boats. Yes, that’s right. We traveled halfway around the world to take a duck ride tour. We learned about “Rachel’s Springs”, named after the woman who discovered silica is good for the skin. These springs are 100 degrees Celsius, 212 degrees Fahrenheit. According to our tour guide, Daffy (yeah, you heard me), the springs are great for swimming, assuming your plan is to swim once, and only once, ever again, very quickly…

The ducks were built during World War Two and were the first amphibious vehicles…you learn something new every day right? We went in two lakes, one called Blue Lake because the pumice at the base of the lake reflected blue in the sunlight. The other lake was called Green Lake.

The ducks dropped us off at the Jade Factory where we watched jade being carved and I bought earrings for Mom. We loaded the bus after and drove to the gondola ride that took us to the top of a mountain–keep in mind, it’s the middle of winter in New Zealand. There, we went on luge runs: SO FUN. Something struck me about racing down the mountain–while I probably could get this anywhere at home, you can say you’ve done it in New Zealand only once.

Next stop: the Agrodome. We watched a sheep-shearing show. The narrator was funny as he sheared the sheep quickly and without hassle. He showed us 19 different kinds of sheep, milked a cow, herded geese with the help of his dog, and fed baby goats.

We got to take pictures with all the animals, then once again got on the bus for Agroadventure- a park with five extreme rides. I didn’t partake since it was freezing outside, and I really enjoyed the warmth of my North Face. Then to the hotel for relaxation.

Actually, my roommates and I hung around down town Rotorua for an hour or so while the other girls headed to the mud baths and mineral springs for their afternoon. We had a good time sprinting across a five lane highway…three times. We got dinner at Pizza Hut (I know, I know) and returned to the hotel room finally for some rest.

Rotorua Day 1

Our 5:30 am wake up call got us up and out the door to make a 10am flight at Nadi Airport. our flight was delayed an hour so we has time to walk around and shop to use the rest of our Fijian Dollars. In my opinion, a useful investment was the ukulele I bought…but we’ll see how quickly I can pick up a new instrument when I’m home. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but only time will tell how useful it is. Afterwards, we sat in the waiting rooms and I calculated how much money I had spent. If all my conversions were right…yikes.

After our lengthy flight to Auckland, New Zealand, we raced to a bus to endure a three hour ride to Rotorua. No stops. No chances to eat. No bathroom breaks. It was then we were introduced to Maori culture, via the movie “Whale Rider.” “Whale Rider” tells the story of a Maori girl growing up in her tribe, facing the trial and tribulations of being a girl destined to be chief (which is typically a man’s position.) And like all other culturally enriching movies, it was awful.

Kia Ora! Arrival: Rotorua smells like rotten eggs and methane. Really it’s sulfur from the geothermal hot spots. But even now it’s impossible to get over the stench. (Later on we sprayed perfume all over the room to get rid of the smell.)

We dropped our bags in our rooms when we arrived at 6:10pm. At 6:30 pm,we had to go to a Maori Hangi Feast. Hangi means a meal cooked underground- very cool! Despite the quick turn around we made in Auckland, we made it. The food was good, some common like lamb, others rare. We tried sweet potatoes that came highly recommended called Kumara. Then we tucked into desserts. All gross.

Then the entertainment began. Four women, five men dancing in their tribal costumes, and singing in their native tongues. It was all well and good, til the songs became easily recognizable and the lyrics mysteriously changed to  a different language. it went from a cultural experience to a Disney show in no time. Cheesy as anything. Afterwards, Matt reviewed our itinerary for the next day and we went to bed, exhausted from a long day of travel.