Goodbye cruel North Island

Trip Start Jul 26, 2004
Trip End May 31, 2005

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Originally we had written part of this travelogue on the North Island. Our intention was to send it just as we made the jump to the South Island of New Zealand. Unfortunately we have been unable to get to an Internet station until today. We thought it might be a good time to update you on our progress, but we will stick to our (mis)adventures (and there were quite a few) on the North Island as we are running out of Internet time. Our South Island update will come soon after we arrive in Australia.

With the exception of one day in Napier, it was nothing but grey, wet and cold during our stay on the North Island. Now we realize that this will not draw a lot of sympathy from you who are not in New Zealand but we had it so good in Fiji: sun,surf and Fiji Bitters. Now we sound like bitters. To add to it we are both so sick of our clothes. Yes, we know you probably go through similar closet quandaries, but we have less options than you do. Enough cyber whining let's get on to the update...

We landed in Auckland from Fiji trying to answer many questions: why are we put on this planet if George Bush is planning on invading it one country at a time? Who is winning the Amazing Race? And...oh yeah, How do we travel the two islands that make up New Zealand's mainland? After hanging around backpackers garages looking to buy any piece of crap that would survive the distance we were to put on it( and one in which Lara could see over the dashboard), we did a u-turn and rented a vehicle, Toyota Corolla (sound familiar? SEE ROY 4?). Lara nicknamed it the Big Pig (license plate BPG 191) and Chris nearly killed them both trying to negotiate the city roads and highways on the other side of the road. It is difficult when you plan on passing someone and end up on the shoulder.

Our first stop was a town called Tauranga where we hiked up Mount Maunganui. Mount Maunganui is an inactive volcano on a point of land by a bay facing the eastern coastline. The hike provided a great view of the surfers below and the sheep grazing in the fields (sheep will be a constant theme in our NZ travels). Volcanoes, active and inactive make up most of the NZ mainland. It was the second inactive volcano we had visited, after climbing Mt. Eden which is located in the centre of Auckland city.

We've noticed that several of the towns have Maori names and are occasionally difficult to say... Sounds funny but you've just got to read them, we are trying to explain where we want to go to the confused looks of the local Kiwis (Actually telephone conversation: Us: Hi we're looking to stay at your hostel. How do we get there? We're coming from Tauranga. Them: Did you say Tauranga or Turangi? Us: Huh? Them: Are you American? Us:If we sound stupid, yes- we are ( sorry American friends and relatives).

That night (Tauranga) we were surprised to have a television in our hostel room and even more surprised to catch our favorite show The Amazing Race on it, and EVEN MORE SURPRISED to see that the race had arrived in New Zealand. They flew into Auckland (which we had just left) and went to Rotorua (the town we were going to the next day). Wow!

The next day...
More rain and cold when we arrived in Rotorua. We decided to Zorb (like they did in the Amazing Race) and got some gossip about the Amazing Race (the zorbing was shot off location to keep it top secret back in January). For those who don't follow The Amazing Race and have had difficulty looking up zorb in the dictionary (Chris' grade five trick) - it is defined as a huge inflatable ball which people place themselves into and launch themselves down a sizeable hill. Being already wet we chose the wet zorb which meant two people could get locked into the ball with some warm water (not for those who need to visit a washroom) and they get launched down a big hill. It was a short ride but one of the highlights of the trip so far. We were swooshing around the ball as it spun. Soooo much fun. Check out our pictures. Columbus Boys' Camp should look into getting one.

We tried to warm up at the hot spring pools in town. The whole town of Rotorua smells like sulphur, or Gilly after a visit to Xoximoco's Mexican Food in Detroit, because of the tectonic plates that allow some heated gases to rise (at least the town has an excuse Gilly!).

We travelled on to Wai-O -Tapu which has more fowl smelling gases but the effect is colourful bubbling pools and bursting geysers. It was quite a colourful and interesting stop.

That night we arrived at the National Village Park, which is in a national park called Tongariro, where they shot (first Lord of the Rings reference) some of the Lord of the Rings movie. It is also a ski town -they ski on an active volcano that erupted as recently as 1995. We hiked a couple of short trails (in the rain of course), took pictures of the landscape which was used for the setting of Mordor in the film (2nd LOTR reference). It was the perfect spot to film it because the landscape was awe inspiring in a grim way and the day was grey (did I mention that it rained?). We stayed in a great ski lodge that night that was reminiscent of the Beehive, our Collingwood getaway. We half expected the Danster to show up-You never know with the Danster. We did meet a couple from Auckland who offered us a place to stay on our way back through there. Kiwis ( the people)are nice. The fruit is also good too.

On our way down we took a picture of Mt. Ruapehu -which was the inspiration for Mt. Doom (3rd LOTR reference) and found that it had cursed us somehow. As we were descending the mountain the brakes of our car gave out!! Chris was able to slow it down and reach a service station where it was towed the rest of the way down. Nerves a bit frazzled we stayed in Turangi for a night at a hostel with its own climbing wall while we waited for our rental company to bring us a new car.

When it arrived Lara hoped for better luck driving and named this one "The Big Pug" (license BPG 195) and we were off to Napier. Napier has the distinction of having the biggest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. In 1931 an earthquake leveled the city. Whatever buildings were left standing were razed to the ground in a fire one hour after the quake. Being in the midst of the global Great Depression, Napier chose to rebuild itself in the style of Art Deco to symbolize its rebirth. We know all of this because we took a walking tour of the town. Now we don't claim to be great art afficianados but it was cool to walk along this seaside town with its sunshine (at last!), palm trees and Art Deco buildings.

From there we drove to Wellington which is the most cultural city in New Zealand. Because of our car troubles we had only a night there which ended up being perfect for us...

We would like to preface this by saying the hostels we've stayed at so far had been quite unique and fun and really great- ( thanks Mama Ruth for the BUG book- spot on). One was an old motel with individual ensuite units, one was a ski lodge that reminded us of the Bee Hive (just not rounded), one was an old historic Art Deco hotel. This one was a dump and our travelling sense was tingling (first Spiderman reference -oops wrong movie). We had to give up the keys to our car (??!!!) and after a freezing night, woke up to find that our car had been broken into! The funny thing was the window wasn't broken and our trunk was open - they stole our groceries(?)!. Who had the keys? The hostel. Who would want OUR groceries? Remember, we CAN'T COOK! Of course the slimy guy running the place wouldn't accept any responsibility and was belligerent and argumentative. We had a ferry to catch so we spent our morning at the Police station, standing in line behind three other people who had their cars broken into. Wellington is a really nice metropolitan city but in our short time we didn't see it. We boarded our ferry and sailed off with our Big Pug to the South Island.

Now we don't want to leave you with the sense that our car troubles and the weather have gotten us down. In fact, we really enjoyed the North Island, and things just keep getting better on the South Island. But you'll have to wait until we've finished our adventures here before we tell you. It'll give you something to look forward to (because we know you've got nothing going on in your lives!)

Just a note that we've added some people to our travelogue list. If there is anyone else we're missing please feel free to add them. The more the merrier.

The Things We've learned About Travelling on the North Island of New Zealand:

1. Kiwi fruit tastes better than Kiwi birds.

2. At busy street corners in Auckland, the traffic lights stops all traffic and people cross in all directions. Chris giggles at this as he thinks people are going to crash into one another as they cross diagonally. Or at least he would like to see it.

3. Lara sucks at Charades.

4. There is no one left in Germany. They are all travelling- sorry Thomas!

5. There are many exciting and amazing activities to do here but everything costs $$.

6. Don't joke with the immigration/ department of conservation. They are very serious about what you bring into New Zealand and will wash your boots but not your undies. Lara tried.

7. In New Zealand Te Puke is not something you do after your stag or stagette, it is a little town on the east coast whose town name makes Chris giggle. He's so mature.

8. We've learned that our travelling instincts are correct - if we both feel that something is dodgy (like a hostel in Wellington) it is!

9. Chris sucks at Charades.

10. If a hostel is listed as a "homely" place it does not mean ugly, it means home-like.

11. Driving in New Zealand is an extreme activity. Kiwis (the people not the birds or the fruit) are not shy to pass you even if someone is coming the other way, down a hill in the midst of a two lane highway, while curving through in a hairpin turn. Toronto drivers are nothing by comparison.

12. Our sheep count on the North Island stands at: 1 234 924 white sheep, 43 black sheep and 4 brown ones. Hey, they are long drives.

13. Thank you Alias for the Ipod...New Zealand radio is awful.

Finally, congratulations to Josh and Cheryl on the wedding. Again, it killed us to miss it, and we can't wait to hear how it went. Congratulations as well to Geoff and Toni on Baby Victoria ( yay, a new niece) and Donna and Steve on Baby Dylan. Of course there are quite a few of you expecting while we are away- another new nephew on the way, included amongst them. Please keep us updated and don't feel shy, you are more than welcome to call your new loved ones Lara or Chris.

Finally, really this time, Chris wants to congratulate Canada on the World Cup, and Lara wants to congratulate Sarah Jessica Parker on her Emmy win. Please make sure the messages get to them. Thanks.
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