The Introduction

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Monday, December 5, 2005

Every morning when I wake up and I have to go through the annoying process of packing everything just so, I wonder if I'll be able to handle eight months on the road. Then I get out into the action, seeing beautiful things, meeting amazing people and all of a sudden I think I just might make it through again. Lots has happened already, but I'll try and keep this (relatively) short and sweet.

I got into Auckland at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am, roughly 24 hours after my flight from JFK to LAX took off (as a quick note, American Airlines sucks. They don't give you food for the six-hour flight and the only movie they showed was "Must Love Dogs." Although Qantas treats you nicely, their movie selection was also shite. I wound up watching Wedding Crashers two and a half times). I figured it would be more ideal to shake off the jetlag on a beautiful surfing beach than a city that everybody seems to hate, so I subjected myself to two hours on a bus, three hours in a bus terminal and another hour on a bus to get to Raglan. Oh yeah, I also left my fleece on the bus. Not a good way to get the trip rolling.

Raglan, though, put me at ease. I walked around for a few minutes, basically enough time to see the whole town, and already I was feeling better. Raglan is a two-block town that you could wind up being bored in after 10 minutes or wake up one day and realize you've been there a month. The hostel I stayed in was fantastic. There was a big open grassy area in the middle with hammocks and a table with all the dorm rooms circling around the outside. Within a couple hours of checking in, I had already gained two couches to crash on once I'm in Europe.

One of the guys I met, a hilarious Irish guy from Cork, came up with one of the best ideas I've seen to make remembering people a lot more fun. He puts a title at the top of a journal page and you have to write a one-page story that loosely has to do with the title. You can't think, just write till you fill up a page. There's some deranged stuff in that journal.

The next morning I took a kayak out and paddled around the harbor a little just to get some exercise and relax at the same time. I then headed back to Hamilton -- the place where I had to wait for three hours -- with a German couple from Cologne I met. Again, I stayed at a wonderful hostel with a great owner who socializes with everybody and knows EVERYTHING about the area. She put together a free BBQ, and since I was the only guy present it was my job to run the thing. And since it's a crime to be at the barbie without a beer in your hand, she kept me in free brews the whole time. After that, I went bar-hopping with this local Kiwi I had met in the Hamilton Gardens in the afternoon (you'll laugh, but the Gardens were actually pretty damn cool -- they had a section of themed gardens with some really interesting Chinese, Indian, Renaissance and so on sculptures). Scott the local took me out with his girlfriend (he's got a four-year old son, but his wife died last year of cancer) and three of her friends bar-hopping in a city that no one goes to but was actually quite lively. By the end of the night, his girlfriend was trying to get me to hook up with one of her friends, but she had a two-year old at home, and frankly, that's where I draw the line. When I told Scott that, he said, "No worries mate. You're American, you'll show her a whole new world." As he walked away, he added, "Like contraception."

I woke up three hours later, amazingly hangover-free and headed to Waitomo, a one-block town famous for its caves that are covered with glow worms (they look like small neon green dots, and in fact, they are glowing maggot poo. You won't find that in any brochures). The big attraction in Waitomo is to go black-water rafting. Basically you go into a limestone cave in a wet suit with a big inflatable ring and you walk through some parts and then stick your ass through the ring and float down the river the other times. There are no rapids, but there are a few waterfalls that you get to jump off of, including one that's about 3 or 4 meters high. Unfortunately my big jump was ruined by this idiot girl that was trying to push through the line, nearly fell over the fall and took me with her. The only other problem was my ring was way too big and I couldn't paddle, so I was worse than useless. It wasn't so bad because it gave me a chance to flirt with the cute American guide who was getting a kick out of me (purposely) acting like a dufus and appreciating the fact that I don't weigh 400 pounds.

And that's that, in a million words or less. Now I'm in Rotorua, a city famous for its hot springs. Which means it has that lovely sulfur smell wafting through the city. Nothing like the smell of rotten eggs in the mornin. Smells like victory. Well, now I'm off to get rolled down a hill in a big inflatable ball filled with water.

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