Monday, February 7, 2011

What a Trip

This has been an intense week. I met up with a fellow Fulbrighter (who will be getting her master’s in cross cultural psychology focusing on deaf culture), and together we took two days to drive to Auckland from Wellington. We stopped in a cute town called Whangerei (the WH is an F sound, but more on Maori pronunciation after orientation begins today), where we climbed a huge hill and a tower and experienced the craziest wind ever, and then we headed to Waitomo – the home of the infamous caves from the last post!

After the caves, we headed to Auckland where I got my third exposure to New Zealand hospitality – my sister-in-law’s, sister’s in-laws had me over for a night and invited me back anytime I am up in Auckland again. I have never met their son, though I do know his wife (my sister-in-law’s sister) quite well. The New Zealanders are amazing and wonderful. I feel so blessed to be here.

The next morning, my first travel buddy and I met up with two other Fulbrighters, and we started by heading up to the Bay of Islands. Along the way, we found a gorgeous and wonderful café totally by chance (yes, I know, the universe was watching, but it felt like chance in the moment), full of yummy veggie food. Did I mention that one travel buddy is vegan and the other is vegetarian, not to mention I would prefer to eat veggie 90% of the time, and the last guy also likes veggie? It worked out well for that stop. J We also stopped at some famous toilets, decorated by mosaic and a perfect opportunity to get out of the car and stretch our legs!

The bathrooms and my travel buddies (Tom, Sunshine, Elli)

Our next stop was Waitangi, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, which is the “agreement” between the Maori and the Europeans. I will have a lot more to say about this after orientation, so here is just a beautiful shot of the locale, and the history will come later.

Maori war canoe overlooking the amazingly beautiful lake with a really cool tree!

The Bay of Islands was a bit like a San Diego beach town, but our hostel was nice, and we had a beautiful sunset walk. The next morning I woke up early, walked alone for a bit, and then we got on a boat to see some dolphins. My travel buddies wanted to swim with them, but that ended up not being possible because the only ones we saw had too many juveniles with them, and if people get in the water the juveniles forget to eat (too excited by the people), and they do not get their blubber layer, and they could get hypothermia – better just to stay on the boat. But we could put our heads directly over the edge of the boat and look right down into the water. It was awesome!

Then we headed back towards Auckland, with a stop at some beautiful waterfalls along the way. I mean, why not?

Back in Auckland, we bypassed the city and encountered some more kiwi hospitality. Here goes: one of our travel buddies worked at a science camp for a few weeks, met someone there who lives outside of Auckland with her parents. He asked if we could stay, and she said yes. When we arrived, however, it turned out that there just was not enough space at her parents’ house, so they sent us to their friend’s house, who not only gave us all a mattress but breakfast and my first encounter with vegemite as well. Vegemite is about the scariest looking creation in the world, but then I read the ingredients and realized it is brewer’s yeast and salt, which is chalk full of B vitamins, so I tried it. It’s salty, but not too bad. Go Brits!

Back on the road, we headed up to the Coromandel Peninsula, a much nicer beach town in my book, with a more relaxed and less surfer vibe. We found another great veggie restaurant where we had lunch and breakfast the next morning with a beautiful Dalai Lama quote on the wall – “Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.” How true, how true. After lunch, we rented some bikes, and biked to a hiking trail, then hiked along to a beautiful lake. Then later, we hiked some more, waded through some incoming tides, and headed out to one of the Top 10 beaches in New Zealand. Getting back was a bit interesting, but we made it before the tide came in. Go us!!

From Coromandel, we headed to Rotorua, the geothermal capital of New Zealand with a stop at some falls along the way and a beautiful beach we happened upon because we needed a rest stop (read pee break). When we arrived in Rotorua, it was hot and humid, so the other three went for a swim in Blue Lake, and I headed out on what many said was a 2-hour hike and made it back in just under an hour. It was a GORGEOUS hike through native bush around the beautiful lake, and I had a blast walking around getting rejuvenated by the trees (I do not swim if I can avoid it).

The last day of the trip we headed to the sulphur pools in the morning, which were amazing, and they overlooked the lake and the mountains, and it was misty and lovely. Then three of us headed to the Wai-O-Taupo Thermal Wonderland halfway between Rotorua and Taupo. I was not sure I wanted to go in, as it was sort of expensive, but it was well worth it. We saw pools of geothermal water that was crazy colors, much of it bubbling and steaming, and the craziest green water I have ever seen. I swear it was neon. This photo does not do it justice, but it is the best my camera could do.

From there we headed to Taupo where we sat on a beach, some swam, and then three of us walked up the river to watch crazy people jump off a platform, plummeting towards their death only to be wretched back up by a rope attached to their ankles. For added “fun” they could ask to have the rope long enough to dunk them. The other option (which sounds less scary but still probably not on my list) is the swing, where you sit in a harness, whereupon they drop you down into the same chasm (actually off the same platform at a different point), and you swing back and forth until they haul you back up. At least on the bungy, you get off on the ground.  Craziness, I tell you, but those are the adventure tourists, and Taupo is home to bungy jumping.

Finally, we ended our time together with a lovely sunset walk through Taupo, and the next morning we got up early, and drove to Wellington. Really, we got up early, got in the car, they fell asleep, and I drove to Wellington, but it was great. We got back in time to return the car before we got charged extra, and we had the day to catch up on life. Today is when Fulbright orientation starts!

Ok, one more finally – I need to say that this blog has no affiliation with Fulbright. Anything I say is my own and is not supported by Fulbright in any way. This blog is really about fun and personal adventure, and if you would like to read my more professional blog (still not Fulbright-affiliated), please visit it at

Bad news - I lost my McDonald's internet (used up my bandwidth), and the waterfront internet is too slow to allow uploads of photos, so the rest will be uploaded later. Until then, check out the photos on facebook that I have posted. Here are some public links:

Namaste and Blessings!

1 comment:

  1. wow, it seems you have been enjoying your time in NZ so far! Glad you enjoyed your first encounter with vegemite, I love the stuff ;-)
    Also re: you living off gluten and dairy since being in NZ, most people seem to here, especially dairy. Think that's why NZ is the third fattest nation in the world!? Ekk
    Enjoy the rest of your time in NZ :-)