Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Zealand - Part II

Traveling throughout New Zealand (and Australia) is so easy compared to the United States.  Their airlines are super-efficient; they load you onto the plane and you’re off in a minute.  Security is much more lax than in the US.  We were able to accidentally take scissors and a 12oz bottle of water through security and aboard in our carry-ons without anyone batting an eye.  The lovely thing about airports in both Australia and New Zealand is you don’t have to remove your shoes, belts and multiple layers of clothing.  And they never ID you for anything, they just take your word that you are who you say you are.  Although this could potentially cause more harm than good… 

Before we get into the good stuff I have to share a few computer mishaps, which always seems to happen to me, which added some stress to this last week in New Zealand.  The first was when my computer wouldn’t turn on, eventually did and said my system could not be recovered and my data may or may not be recoverable.  What?!!?  I had 17GB worth of pics and video (a bit extreme, I KNOW) and 60 pages worth of travel journals that I had been keeping.  I was having a mini-breakdown.  My computer felt so hot that I was sure it was about to burst into flames.  I closed my computer giving it and myself a little time to collect ourselves, and when I turned it back on later all was recovered.  Yay!  The second mishap was after I spent 2 ½ hours in an internet café trying to upload pics to Facebook and I was very frustrated because it kept freezing and being slow and then the upload stopped and I would have to restart it.  Then it was finally working and it said that I had one minute remaining to complete my upload and the girl running the internet café accidentally logged me off.  I sat there watching everything close out in front of me while there was nothing I could do and I promptly burst into tears from frustration.  It was a rough time!
PLEASE NOTE: The following photo is a DRAMATIZATION

But other than that the week that Mom and I spent in New Zealand on the North Island was pretty great!  The time that we already spent in New Zealand was on the South Island and we made one last stop on that island in Kaikoura before heading north.  We chose Kaikoura primarily because it’s a hotspot for marine wildlife and we were going to take a whale watching cruise.  Unfortunately high winds and a “severe sea sickness warning” thwarted our plans, so instead we spent the day playing mini golf, walking through creeks and strolling along a beautiful beach that was covered with smooth dark gray stones.

We crossed onto the North Island via ferry that was big enough and nearly nice enough to be a cruise ship, and settled into our home for the next couple of days, Wellington.  We arrived on the day of the Sevens parade, a huge deal in Wellington.  There is a huge international rugby tournament in town on the weekend and it is kicked off with a lunchtime parade down Lambton Quay.  People dress up in extravagant costumes and paint their faces.  The teams come through on floats with some aspect of their country preceding them – bagpipers for Scotland, a cross dresser impersonating Queen Elizabeth for the UK, Air New Zealand flight attendants for New Zealand, and Colonel Sanders for the United States.  By the way, did anyone know that the United States even has a rugby team??  I feel ashamed to admit that I didn’t!  That night we met up with my cousin Ryan who has been living in New Zealand for the last 7 months!  I think something about world travel runs in my family!  It was so fun to hear about his experiences since he’s lived as a kiwi and to hear all the New Zealand sayings that he has now added to his vocabulary.  Read about his adventures at

Auckland, New Zealand is a land made up of 48 volcanoes that have risen from beneath the sea at various times throughout time, some 60,000 years ago some only 600 years ago.  The lava flowing down the mountains and onto the land has since grown grass and trees out of it and was formed into a city.  Knowing that at any moment a volcano could blow and the city could be completely wiped out added a little unrest.  An exhibit at the museum showed a simulation of how such an event would rock the city.  It creeped me out and left me wondering if every footstep I took was really a tremor.  Luckily though today scientists track every movement of the earth and there would be a significant amount of warning before occurrence. 

Also in Auckland in a moment of desperation and in need of something American my Mom and I went to Denny’s for lunch.  Just the fact that there was a Denny’s in New Zealand made me want to go.  My mom’s favorite part was that they had ice in the water, something that most kiwi restaurants lack.  Speaking of ice, we went to an ice bar on the pier and enjoyed drinks in glasses made of ice along with everything else in the bar including tables, chairs, walls, the bar itself and numerous sculptures.  It was a nice relief when we stepped out from the 0 degree bar into the 70 degree temperatures outside.  I don’t think that we were the target audience for the bar though as the walls in the lobby were lined with pictures of drunk people posing butt naked on the various emu ice sculptures, in their underwear and flashing the camera, but it was an experience anyway! 
When we emerged from that we found ourselves in the middle of a celebration for the Chinese New Year, which felt strangely like a Chinese variety show that you see on TV.  We went to the Auckland Museum and went to our second Maori cultural performance.  This one was very authentic and I finally learned something about the Maori people who were the indigenous people of New Zealand who got screwed over by the British.  The treaty the Maoris signed to supposedly retain the rights to their land was an act of deception by the British who wrote one version for themselves and another version for the Maoris.
We took a ferry across the bay to Devonport along with a number of New Zealanders who were going to their vacation homes for the weekend on the little island.  We ate dinner at a great little Italian place near the water and enjoyed the ambiance.  We also took a trip to Waitomo to go to the Waitomo Caves.  We walked down into the sandstone caves and boarded a row boat which took us into the complete darkness to showcase the thousands of glowworms which were attached to the ceiling and lit it up even brighter than a starry sky on a clear night.  We trekked to Rotorua which had a strong smell of sulfur hovering over the town.  This type of sulfur is supposed to be good for your heart so we took plenty of deep breaths.  Rotorua is home to thermal geysers which reach 228 degrees and bubbling mud pools which reach 222 degrees.  It was so interesting to see such amazing natural phenomena.   

We also witnessed our third sheep shearing demonstration in Rotorua and got to walk among the llamas, alpacas, sheep and cows.  I tried to feed an ostrich, but as it pecked very hard at the food in my hand in a moment of panic I threw my food to the ground for the bird to get itself.  This brought me back to the moment when I was three and I caught a fish at the trout farm and as soon as it wiggled on my fishing pole I dropped the whole thing, screamed and ran away.  Ah, the memories.  I really enjoyed petting these animals which you don’t get the opportunity to interact with every day, although I still don’t know the difference between an alpaca and a llama.
I’ve been occupying my free time, of which there has been very little, with a book by Bill Bryson called In A Sunburned Country about my new favorite place to be, Australia!  My brother got it for me for Christmas and I wanted to wait until I had been there to really be able to enjoy it and I love it.  Thanks Ben!
I couldn’t have imagined a trip as wonderful as the one we’ve been on for the past month to the spectacular countries of Australia and New Zealand.  I truly feel so lucky to be able to have the opportunity to travel to these amazing places.  Only time will tell how long it will be before I go back to Australia for another long trip, but I’m hoping it’s much sooner rather than later!  :)

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