New Zealand – Taupo

March 7, 2007

Lake Taupo was big and beautiful.  It was odd considering it’s smack in the middle of the North Island.  I’m used to thinking of the big cities being on the coasts.  The city was very pristine, organized, and felt more Americanized than the others for some reason–a good area to walk around and shop in, there’s not a lot of that in what we saw of NZ.

I unfortunately didn’t get a good picture of the lake :/  but here are some random pictures 😀

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Gotta love the variety of vegetation

I think these next three were actually on the way to Wanaka ^_~

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They had a park and a superloo.

REALLY important...

Superloo!

And the circus was in town.

Not far from Taupo is The Prawn Park which is NZ’s version of a cheap tourist attraction.  But it’s really not overrun enough to be touristy.  We enjoyed it.  We got to stick our hands in the water and feed the prawns, fish for them (didn’t catch anything), and got a thorough edumacating.  There was a geothermal foot bath but I don’t think the other water activities were open.  There was a nice walk round the park following the “Fun, this way!” signs.

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Shawn the Prawn is my buddy

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We are The Prawns

 

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Rotorua

March 7, 2007

This place was awesome!  I could have spent a week here but unlike other areas in NZ, I wouldn’t want to live here…. It’s an active geothermal area and besides some worries about volcanoes and stuff, it stinks! Though nothing unusual happened while we were there, there was a small volcanic explosion/collapse just outside of Wellington.  That was probably the most exciting thing we saw on the news while there.  Instead of murders and child molesters like we hear about in the US, most NZ news was comprised of “tree fell, no one was hurt.”

We ended up in a hotel with very friendly owners on the main drag.  The room was twice the size of what we’d get for the price in the US and the shower was in the middle of the bathroom…no door, no curtain, no tub, just…hanging out there next to the toilet.

We went to Wai-o-Tapu but there are many geothermal areas to explore.  I was tempted by Hell’s Gate and had dreams of mud baths. Pictures really do not do it justice, especially the contrast of expanses of rock after miles and miles of verdant greenery.  There are also subtle mineral colors in the rocks that the camera just doesn’t pick up well.

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Engulfed by clouds of steam, it felt prehistoric...

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Walking in some areas was like walking on the moon–the craters, the greys and whites, the light-weight feeling of porous rocks

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The famed champange pool

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Of course, if you’re in Rotorua you must Zorb.  I’d love to do it again but it was kinda pricy, about the same as a parasail but a shorter less adrenaline-filled trip.  Still, it was worth it.  There are a variety of ways to do the zorb, we went with two people in it which is required to be partly filled with water!

We get in this hamster wheel of a bubble and they put the plastic cork in it to seal us in then say “Okay, now, RUN!”  Not the easiest thing to do inside a bubble but then we were off and tumbling!

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We stopped off at Rainbow Springs Nature Park.  Again, compared to a zoo in the US it’s not impressive in size but it is impressive in beauty.  You can also go back at night for a lighted tour!

If we had camped, maybe we would have see wild kiwi but no such luck so this was our only sight of one.  No pictures, it’s noctural.  It waddles very hilariously and the entry fee was worth it just to see that!

Below is a Kea.  This bird is rather terrifying.  There are signs warning tourists that Kea’s have been known to dismantle cars.  But no advice on how to prevent that!  They’re like raptors, you look in their eyes and can tell they’re figuring things out… plus they’re pretty large, about macaw size.

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A previous evolution of this lizard had three eyes!  Now it just has a spot on its head which is sensative to motion.

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There was a fish pond with random albino fish too.  Below is a Moa, extint now but one of those links between birds and dinosaurs.  My hair is fading horribly ):  I love red but it just doesn’t last.

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Now on to the Buried Village, the very reason why I wouldn’t want to live so close to geothermal activity 😉  When I was in history classes, the two things that stuck out to me were the Mayan ball game and the destruction of Pompeii.  So until I can get to Europe, this is my Pompeii.

There was a nice cafe where we had our lovely tea.  I had Wild Raspberry and was raving about how it was the greatest tea I’d ever tasted and I wanted to take New Zealandish tea home with me.  My friend says, ‘Um.  That’s Stash tea.  You can get it at the grocery store.’  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to find the Wild Raspberry kind ): ):

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I love being able to take self-guided tours.  Everything had descriptions of the history and you can stop to examine what interests you and avoid what doesn’t.

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There is something that utterly fascinates me about overgrowth, the act of nature reclaiming what man stole.  It’s humbling.  As much as I’m amazed that people can create things like the great pyramids and NYC, I’m more amazed at the erosion that follows and the damage that can be done by little green plants.

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If you take the long way back around, you find a waterfall and get a spectacular (not pictured :/ ) view of the volcano that buried the city.

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Coromandel

March 5, 2007

The road around Coromandel is kind of terrifying.  It’s narrow and drops right into the water.  Narrow enough that when I’d look out the window, I couldn’t see the road, all I could see was water.  For the next few days I ended up jerking away from nightmares that we fell into the water.

We stopped partway for the awesome monster tree.

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Creepy!

Hanging from the tree was an ET fetus D: Creepy!

Did I mention the drive was breathtaking?

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With a webpage like this you expect Coromandel to be a booming city.  It’s not.  It’s a little place with a couple restaurants, an i-site and…I’m not sure if we found a grocery store.  I expected 309 to be a highway with tons of exits.  It’s not, it’s a dirt road.  However, it is still pretty kickass (or more kickass).

Waiau Waterworks made it all worth while. There’s a sign there that says “poke it, it might do something cool.”  I’m a geek when it comes to machinery that’s simple enough for me to understand and everything at this place is mechanical, mostly hydromechanical, from a music box to squirting bikes. I had a blast and would do it again.

There were also weird sculptures everywhere.

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Danger: Men at Work

  • Get in there!Get in there!
  • Witches get high tech

    Witches get high tech

    And a cafe with very friendly birds and neat tables.

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    Change your center of gravity and it spins you!

    Change your center of gravity and it spins you!

    Air bikes go round and round, up and down

    Air bikes go round and round, up and down

    I wish I had more pictures of the gadgets but we were too busy playing 😉

    Shell art!  There was one I wish I’d bought, not this but a driftwood frame with shells and and and ;_;

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    I think we would have enjoyed Coromandel more if we had planned more specific activities to do there.  We went in expecting that kind of thing to be easy to find but everything was so spread out you really have to know what you want to do and where it is.  We were also hoping to have a beach day but it was rainy again.  Notably there are places on some of the beaches where you can dig your own hot spring.


    Northland – New Zealand

    March 3, 2007

    I didn’t quite realize this before I arrived, but the Northland and North Island aren’t the same thing.  The Northland is the peninsula at the north part of the North Island while the North Island is….the whole island above the South Island 😉

    Auckland isn’t quite on the peninsula, but it’s close enough to be a gateway.  It was a blessing after LAX which, after getting stranded there overnight, I’ve decided is my least favorite city.  It’s grimy, ghetto, overdeveloped and in general gives me a bad vibe.  Auckland is the opposite, it’s clean and organized with a lush helping of vegetation.  It does feel more business-like and worldly compared to the other cities in NZ, it’s hard not to think of it as the capital especially compared to the actual capital–Wellington, which seemed smaller and more artsy.

    But Auckland can be fun too.

    terrifying hippo fetus D:

    Everything was a lot smaller than the US and at first I felt like I was missing something but thinking about it–what was I missing?  A wide variety for my selective tastes?  Come on, when do I ever shop at Walmart.  I’m picky enough that I buy most of what I need online from computer parts to fun stuff.

    Once out of Auckland we headed North and moments outside the city you get a hint of the Real New Zealand which is painfully gorgeous.  We stopped constantly for pictures and just to take everything in.  Pictures really don’t do it justice, the scenery is a spiritual experience.

    It was very green and usual unspoiled…the picture below is unusual in that there are signs of life (cows!):

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    Everything is very well marked.  We followed signs to little pathways through the forest to find a waterfall.  Like this, this little patch of heaven is just right on the side of the road:

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    Alex told us to keep an eye out for Cafe Eutopia but we missed it on the way up to Paiha.  Paiha is representative of these cities, it seemed no more than a square mile (or less) but so lovely.  There is a LOT to do in the Bay of Plenty area, more than I thought there was.  Lots of water sports, jungle treks, and the like.  Not so much when it’s rainy though and it was.  That was my biggest disappointment of the trip because we were going to sail out into the ocean to swim with wild dolphins but the sea was just too choppy for it.

    We did walk on the beach some.

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    Then we drove around the Northland with our handydandy map (they’re everywhere, and free. Thank you, i-site!) which marked places of interest like the Four Sisters, a series of Kauri trees that grow very close together.

    We felt a little lost walking in here

    We felt a little lost walking in here

    Two sisters, one little yellow Zellie

    Two sisters, one little yellow Zellie

    In our wandering, we found Sheep World but it was closed.  I would have enjoyed seeing one of the Border Collie trials, especially great for an article to write for the Pet Salon.

    Sheep toilets

    Sheep toilets

    The park at Sheep World

    The park at Sheep World

    We also found Cafe Eutopia which was delicious!  Very old style fairy-tale esq, I’ve never eaten anywhere with so much character.  You cross a bridge to get inside and it’s so bright.  The tables are in little alcoves, not quite rooms, and people have written on them in chalk.  This is my favorite restaurant in New Zealand.

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    Inside Cafe Eutopia

    Inside Cafe Eutopia

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    We were supposed to stop in Whangerai for the Bushwhacka adventure which sounded great–abseiling, 4×4, bush whacking, Kiwi BBQ, etc…. well, my alarm didn’t go off and we we late.  REALLY late.  It didn’t help that it took longer to get there than we expected and we past it.  Like 10 times.  At least I THINK we passed it because when we did finally turn in at this little sign all we found was a house and a herd of chihauhaus.  If it hadn’t been New Zealand, we would have been terrified of running into axe murderers.

    The other thing of note about Whangerai is that it’s the closest to a ghetto that we found while there.

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    Though we did see worse graffiti.  My friend said it was a cultural thing and not negative (and she loved seeing stuff that could have been in the background of The Tribe).  But it just pissed me off.  You’ve got this absolutely breathtaking country, cleanly cities and you want to ruin it all with graffiti?  I could understand if it was something artistic, I’m a big supporter of artistic graffiti, but what we saw was just scribbles, pointless scribbles.

    Our first hostel.  The doors were left open at night.  Some of the other hostels we stayed at had private rooms, some in better or worse condition ;p

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    Welcome to New Zealand

    March 1, 2007

    Sometimes I have an aimless drive for adventure.  I knew I wanted to travel but wasn’t particular about where until my friend started telling me about New Zealand.  Sometimes it seems like The Perfect Country.  We had to go.  So, I spent several years saving up and when I got my first job and then my first vacation, New Zealand it was to be.

    After a slumber party of a plane ride, we arrived in the land of The Tribe, Lord of the Rings, and Vegemite just before daybreak.

    Apologies in advance for my existence in some of these photos ^_~ between fading hair color, bulky clothes for the cold, and no make-up…ick.  The Mexico pics are a bit more flattering to me haha  /vanity

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    Once on land, the ground felt…weird.  Like it was ever so slightly moving.  I thought it was from sitting on the plane for so long but my friend said it’s something about being on an island, you can feel the ocean’s movement beneath you.

    I have never breathed air so delicious, it was like ambrosia for my lungs.  I kept having to stop and just breathe.  Especially once we got out into the countryside.  It felt so good.

    Back when the trip was in planning stages, I posted to Holiday Wishes for some tips and ended up meeting Alex who has become a great friend.  So once we got through the maze that is customs, Alex and his wife Carol were waiting for us.  Very cool  to come to the other side of the world and have people you’ve never met be right there with this sign:

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    Zellie & Beth

    (even cooler when you see the same awesome people and their kitties at the end of a trip for a bbq and blueberry tea!)

    In the two weeks we were in New Zealand, we stopped at two McDonalds–probably the only two on the island.  The first was just after landing because it had a “McCafe”….TEA. (The second because it was the only thing open in Greymouth at 10pm that didn’t look like a red neck bar D: )  This was very exciting for us because we love tea.  Especially hot tea.  Yes that is a euphamism.  No I won’t tell you what it means.

    Anyway, so after  CAFE McDonalds’, they took us up to One Tree Hill as the sun was rising.  In that instant I knew I wouldn’t want to go home (I did cry when I had to board the plane back).

    One Tree Hill

    One Tree Hill

    auckland