Archives for the month of: May, 2014

13- Sand Dunes

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On our way back down from Cape Regina, the Northern tip of New Zealand, Markus and I visited the giant sand dunes on Ninety Mile Beach. I have never seen dunes this massive. It felt like we were in the middle of the desert right next to the beach.

Most people come here to sand board, but we were a bit ill prepared. We rummaged through the car to find a suitable substitute for a boogie board, and the closest thing we could come up with was a squashed empty beer crate Kathi wrote on as her hitchhiking sign to Tauranga. I can tell you from personal experience that the polished cardboard side of our old Steinlager case wasn’t as slick as we needed it to be. Our ride down was far more stop and go than we would have preferred, with far more stopping than going. Markus dug a small bum track, and when I followed, I forgot to hold on to our make shift sled and instantly wound up planted in the sand. Two thumbs up for the accelerated downhill run instead.

12- Abbey Caves

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Markus and I carried on up to Northland, and found ourselves at the Abbey Caves this afternoon. After an unexpected hail storm, this was the perfect rainy day adventure. Like a total amateur, I stuck with wearing my jeans while I laced up my hiking boots for whatever I had no idea what to expect. It was a great Kiwi farm land type walk to commence our adventure at the first cave we arrived at, the Organ Cave.

There were rocks everywhere as we clambered over the boulders and descended into the Earth. We followed a stream of water further and further away from the light of day, both trudging through ankle deep water that was warmer than I expected it to be. When we stopped to turn off our head lamps and admire the glow worms lining the ceiling, it was spectacular, almost like our own personal planetarium. This was infinitely better than any tour we could have gone on. Independent exploring to create our own adventure was definitely the way to experience a NZ glow worm cave.

11- Wendy's

Friday, May 9, 2014

Markus, Franz and I got to meet back up with Linette for a Friday night out in Auckland. I thought a picture of our 4am visit to Wendy’s might be a fun additive to my blog. And might I add that the Wendy’s here has nothing on the Wendy’s at home. But at least they try.


10- Coromandel Sunset

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sometimes meeting new backpackers is as easy as “Hi! Do you want to be my friend?” in a few more mature choice words which typically include looking for a hitch in any given direction. At breakfast, Markus and I invited Kathi and Franz for a cruise around the Coromandel peninsula just to see where we would wind up. With little direction in mind, we arrived at the untouched New Chum Beach where adventure commenced. We knew it was a half hour walk from the car park, so we grabbed our picnic fixings and I carried on in my jean skirt and flip flops ever so unsuspectingly.

We had to cross a small stream at the first beach, and when we reached nothing but rocks on the other side, we thought we had missed a tidal crossing since the water was so high. There was a fenced piece of farm land with a “No Trespassing” sign. Franz had the bright idea of cutting across the land because there was “no sign saying we couldn’t.” I guess being the only native English speaker in the group, nobody believed me that no trespassing means you cannot enter. So we did it anyway. “I’ve gone 6 months in New Zealand without getting arrested, and I would not like to start now!” “It’s not like you’re in the States. Nobody is going to shoot us here.” Agreed. Here, if the cops couldn’t give us directions, they would probably give us a ride wherever we were looking to go.

You know how lush green farm hills in New Zealand always look so pristine and flawless? Well, this one was far from it. This was trench central with cow mines the size of my face in the most rugged of terrain. At one point, there was even a huge split in the land from what looked to be earthquake damage. I fell into plenty of concealed holes buried with splintery prickly things that hurt, and I didn’t realize until after the fact that I lost a toenail in all this nonsense.

I followed the other three up a hill overlooking another colorful scene very typical of NZ. There were more fences blockading us from the steep cliffs below. The guys walked in either direction to look for an opening, but when they came to the conclusion that we were trapped, Franz called the manager back at our backpackers from the night before to ask for directions. Looks like if we had read the sign in the car park, we would have known to follow the rocks we first came across to eventually find a foot path to this special beach. It was a complicated process for us to finally find New Chum Beach, but I guess getting there is half the adventure. If you are the land owner of the farm that we illegally encroached on, it wasn’t my idea, and I am extremely sorry. But thanks for the view!

We wrapped up our day with a couple beers and a fantastic sunset outside Coromandel Town. The Italian redeemed himself with a good idea. Cheers, Franz!


9- Hot Water Beach

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

After the Crossing, I headed back North to scoop up Markus from Mount Maunganui so we could travel the Coromandel together. We stayed in Hahei where we met some new friends to discover the mysteries of Hot Water Beach together. At this unique beach, you can mine hot water for two hours on either side of low tide to create a personal spa pool in the sand.

When we arrived, we had three spades between five of us, and we had no idea what we were doing. We aimlessly tried to figure out where to dig or even how to find hot water, and as the masses of tourists trickled in, I started to wonder if this was another Kiwi conspiracy in the making. We poked around for a bit, but it didn’t take us very long to find the jackpot. You knew you dug a good one when steam came pouring from your discarded sand. The manger at our backpackers told us that if you dig directly over a vent, the water temperature is 65°C or 145°F, and he wasn’t joking. They should rename this the Very Hot Water Beach!

At first the waves were still crashing close to our excavations, swallowing the newly built architectural designs, but the boys had a genius idea to build a protective wall. We were already the envy of everyone else. We also quickly figured out that in order to make our beach hot tub a comfortable temperature, we needed to mix our very hot water with cooler water. So I found my job with digging (with my foot) a tunnel to connect the two sources, not even 4 or 5 feet apart.

It probably took us a good half an hour to get situated, but it was worth getting there early. I felt like we were such primitive pioneers with everyone else trying to copy our technique. Once the beach was crowded, we found great joy in people hurrying over to our cold water pool only to find that it was not even a little bit warm. Our hot tub comfortably fit all five of us, but what was most interesting to us was how the waters didn’t so much mix, but more or less stayed to each respective side. If one person laid down dividing the hot water from the cold water, you could distinctively feel a difference when they stood up. We were fascinated with how bloody hot it was. And I mean, really freaking hot! Like so hot it burned your feet if you accidently stepped in the wrong puddle. It never got old watching some unfortunate soul act like a human Mexican jumping bean, screaming profanities in the process of trying to race into the chilly ocean to cool down.

The night was hazy, and mixed with the steam rolling off the hot water, it felt like a true spa, and so relaxing with the sound of waves crashing next to us. Here is a picture of the five architectural geniuses: Franz from Italy, Me, Kathi from Austria, Markus and Eric from outside Philly.

8- Tongariro

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I rearranged a lot of plans to make today happen, and I am so happy I did. The Tongariro Crossing far exceeded any of my expectations. This hike was one of my best NZ experiences, let alone one of the best day hikes I have ever completed. I hate that some of the best things I have done here are the same things that everyone else has too, but I reckon they are great for a reason.

Our German friend “Dumbledore” and I met back up with Omri in Taupo to tackle this 19.4km trek together. The views from the Mangatepopo car park alone were incredibly stunning, and by far the most beautiful I have seen on the North Island. Mount Ngauruhoe, or Mount Doom from “Lord of the Rings,” towered before us with traces of snow all around. There was no civilization as far as the eye could see, just these semi ominous volcanoes before us. At the start of the track, there was a sign classifying the current volcanic activity as normal, but warned us to be aware that the status could always change at any given minute.

By the time I finally staggered to the peak of the first crater, the surrounding views left me in awe. Omri treated us to tea at the top, and introduced me to the “Tim Tam Challenge,” which ended in my chocolate cookie crumbled and melted in my freshly brewed hot beverage. The snow on the crossing certainly added a special element to the day, and it was fun to share it with someone from the desert land. I showed Omri how to craft the perfect snowball and even taught him how to make a snow angel.

During our play time, we met a Canadian chick named Caitlin who joined us for the rest of the day. As we exited the first giant crater, the melting snow and unstable volcanic rock on the steep terrain of the ridge made it an uneasy climb up two more ascents, but the reward was indescribable. Mount Doom now stood behind us with the white crater below. Red rock ash covered the nearby mountainous walls, and before us a huge lake surrounded by snow appeared to our left with the Emerald Lakes on our right. The only obstacle in our way was another volcano warning sign and a very steep and slippery slope down.

At this point, we had found vapors ventilating from the ground below us, and we wondered if it would be better to navigate this narrow path alongside the steam on our left or the cliff’s edge to our right. I attempted to descend in the middle, but failed miserably as I slid down the muddy slush on my bum, and arrived ever so gracefully at the base of the first emerald lake. I could imagine this would make for a good swim spot in the summer, but seeing as the other lake was frozen over, I wasn’t about to go splashing about.

About half way through, we parked it for lunch at the last large lake. Up until that point, everything felt like immense scenery overload. This picture does not even attempt to do the Tongariro Crossing any justice, but here we are, Me, Omri, Dumbledore and Caitlin, with the good stuff behind us.

6- Johan, Lynette, Vanessa, Me, Severen, Markus

Friday, May 2, 2014

Meet my new Rotorua family from the Funky Green Voyager! For the past week, we stayed up playing simple card games and drinking beer. I have never in my life met such a group of fantastically blatant cheaters, and I loved every second of it. This is our family dinner before spending the rest of the evening soaking in Kerosene Creek. From left to right we have Johan from Sweden, Linette from Germany, Vanessa from German, me from Virginia, Severus Snape from Germany and Markus, who is also from Germany. We are missing “Josh” from Italy and Omri from Israel.

5- Redwoods

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It was a beautiful fall afternoon to explore some local walks in the Redwoods Forest. I found myself seeming ant-like amongst such massive, towering California redwood trees. This magical park made me feel so tiny in comparison. My roommate suggested hiking the yellow track which leads to a great view overlooking the city, the Rotorua Lake and the Te Puia thermal reserve. I saved some money on visiting this geothermal attraction, and got lucky with my timing as I got to watch the huge Pohutu geyser blast hot steaming water 30 meters into the air for about 15 minutes. Thank you, Canadian roommate for the great idea.

4- Mitai

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I went to a Maori dinner performance tonight at the Mitai village, and learned a few things about the native culture of New Zealand. What was most fascinating to me was the significance of their tattoos. They hold four birds very sacred, the (I can’t remember), parrot, owl and kiwi bird. The (I can’t remember) gets tattooed on the forehead, the parrot beak which represents good speaking goes on the nose, and designs of the resident kiwi bird on the cheeks. The women wear the owl on their chin. Tattooing your face is highly prestigious, and exhibits knowledge and status, something one would work very hard to earn. Years ago, such tattoos were engraved on the skin with chisels. If someone from the tribe couldn’t handle the physical pain of getting these tattoos, then they did not deserve to possess them. Interestingly enough, if anyone outside the indigenous culture gets a Maori tattoo, the native tribe finds this a huge honor. You just better understand what it means.

I Now Know How a Hamster Feels...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 offers loads of excursions and activities at massive discounts. I highly recommend it. Emily and I booked a half priced thrill with Ogo, and took off to go zorbing in the crisp autumn morning. When we pulled up, we found ourselves hillside with sheep nearby. It appeared to be a pretty lame incline, but I can tell you from experience that it is far more fun than it looks.

We stripped down to our bathing suits in the brisk breeze, and jumped in the van for the short ascent up. Dude man filled our sphere with warm water, and we superman dove in head first. Emily plunged in on top of me, and we got trapped in this massive plastic bouncy ball together. Said dude man pushed us down the hill, and everything instantly turned into a blur. We scrambled to every which corner of our cage, pummeling each other with feet and elbows, and I think at one point Emily was proper sitting on my lap. As we rolled further down, it was a bit terrifying to have zero gage of where we were or how much of the 250 meter track we had left to endure.

That minute and a half rolling down felt like ages with the utter amount of chaos that was going on between the two of us. Absolute fits of laughter split our sides from neither of us having any idea where we would slip and slide to next. Forget trying to stand up and run around, I straight tumbled around on my bum. We eventually poured out, and a bit exhausted, so we warmed up in the hot tub to decompress. Who knew that rolling down a small hill in a giant ball would be so amusing?! Definitely go with a friend. Getting kicked in the face is part of the fun.