Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NZ Adventures 9: Auckland

Everyone else headed home a day before I did. So we headed for the airport as a group and met Ben and Mel one last time before we headed home.


We swapped NZ dollars for US dollars, gave back some of the things we had of theirs and then headed to take everyone to the airport.

It was sad to say goodbye to so many of the new friends I had made during the week. I hadn’t met Jean, Dolly or Gene before the trip and it was a lot of fun hanging out with them. I knew Marilyn and Dan before the trip and we had fun as usual.

After dropping everyone else off, Dan had a bit of time to hang out in the city so we had lunch and walked around the pier.

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A few hours later though he left too. I went exploring. I didn’t have much on my to-do list, but I wanted to go to the top of the Sky Tower and see some of the city.

In my exploring, I found a protest. I’m still not entirely sure what they were protesting, but I thought it was interesting.

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A few protesters.

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I waited until a bit before sunset and headed for the tower.

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The elevator had floor windows.

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With the cloud cover, sunset wasn’t too incredible. Though I did find the lines of light from the clouds pretty cool.

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They also had windows in the floor.

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I enjoyed watching people’s reaction to the windows. Some people held onto the railing for dear life as they walked over it. For some it was no big deal. But my favorite was the 3 young boys who were jumping on it. When I asked about it, I was told they were practicing for bungee jumping someday (you can do that from the tower).

From one location, you can see a countdown until the next time they will drop a bungee jumper. I got to see one.

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I was amazed because she was just a little girl, maybe the same age as my little sis. She looked so happy to be out there.

Everyone else had the same idea for timing as I did, so it was fairly busy that afternoon.

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Even with the cloud cover, the light was pretty nice.

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We interrupt this blog for a tea break . . .

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It was delicious!

Unfortunately the light inside and the light outside were two different colors of light.

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After the tower I found my way to a café and had a yummy chicken and citrus salad. I loved that it was HUGE.

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Of course, being at a café, I couldn’t resist having my new favorite – slice!

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Sunday was my last day in NZ and my last day in Auckland. After really, really enjoying worshiping in English the Sunday before I searched on the internet for a church in the area where I was staying.

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Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that NZ had a great number of Pacific Islanders and found myself at a Samoan church, with a congregation who mostly spoke Samoan. I snuck out part way through the service because I couldn’t understand it.

Then I headed back for main Auckland.

I thought the waterfront area was so pretty.

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One last slice before it was time to leave. This one was Hokey Pokey.

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Goodbye Auckland!

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After all the fun I’d had in NZ and the new friends I’d made, I wasn’t ready to return to Japan.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NZ Adventures 7: Waitomo

Our next day was spent in the Waitomo area. We talked Steph into joining us the night before, so we had one more for our adventure. After breakfast we headed for Waitomo to meet the famous NZ kiwis at a Kiwi house.

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At the kiwi house (and bird zoo) I was super surprised to find out that Kiwis are nocturnal – which is why they have a house. They have the lights timed in such a way that two kiwis are out in the morning and two in the afternoon. They use the lights to fool them into thinking that it’s night during those hours.

The bird zoo was cool because there were a bunch of cool birds. But there were TONS of ducks. It turned into a joke “Hey Gene, did you see the ducks?” And he, of course, would ask me back.

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They had a Pukeko! We were excited since we could finally see one close enough for them to not just look
like black spots, way out in the distance.

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Fejoas! Depending upon who you ask in our group they either taste like starfruit or the smell of rubber. I liked them and thought they tasted more like starfruit.

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That day, I decided it was time for food experiments and jam is WAY less interesting than real fruit, so I went for a fejoa and peanut butter sandwich. It was surprisingly delicious!

Apparently NZ folk don’t fancy PB&J as much as us North American folk. This shows Steph’s feelings about her PB&J trial.

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These signs were always interesting. The person with the black arrow has the right of way . . .

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. . . over the one-lane bridge. One-lane bridges were super-common on our windy, two-lane road adventures.

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With another super windy drive, we found ourselves at Marakopa falls. They were huge and gorgeous.

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We continued on the same road to the Waitomo Peninsula to see the beach with the black sand.

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I had never seen black sand before, so I was a bit amazed.

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It was fun chatting with Steph as we walked. Since I got to NZ just in time for the wedding, I hadn’t had much of a chance to chat with her before.

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Jean decided to have a seat on her shoes and inspect the sand on her feet. I made her show me so you could see how black it is.

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One last look before we headed back.

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When we got back to the head of the beach, where I had left my flip-flops, they had disappeared. We were all a bit surprised because there hadn’t been many people on the beach with us.

After watching the beginning of another un-sunset, we headed back to pick up Dan and ended up eating dinner in the car.

Monday, June 11, 2012

NZ Adventures 8: Rotorua

After a fall she took the day before, Dolly and Gene decided they wanted to rest and not come on the last group adventure together.

We decided on Rotorua. When we got there it was pouring. The one day we had a massive amount of rain during NZ’s supposed “rainy” season.

We decided to play mini golf. As with any game where math is even slightly involved there’s no point in aiming to win, instead the goal becomes beat Dan. I managed to do it on one hole – I got a lower score! Don’t let this fool you too much though – I probably got double or triple Dan’s score in the entire game!

With as much rain as was coming down, we were basically mini golfing out of small lakes. Holes like the one below were almost impossible.

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The group after spending a good hour or so in the rain.

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After getting entirely soaked, Dan and I decided to go down the hill in a Zorb. It seemed like something that should be a bit scary, but I was surprised at how not scary it was – it was like going down the hill in a huge water slide.

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There we are!

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After a morning of zorb-ing and mini golfing it was time for lunch. We ended up at a weird part of town in a little strip mall with a meat pie shop, sushi shop, Subway (there were TONS of Subways in NZ) and Domino’s Pizza. I was firmly against Japanese food when I could eat so many things that I can’t get in my tiny town. So we chose Domino’s.

Domino’s had a deal on for two large pizzas and some sides. As Americans, we were quite surprised at how small the large pizzas were.

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Rotorua is a hot spring town. Luckily, after lunch the weather cleared up so we were able to walk through a hot spring park and enjoy the much warmer weather – and slowly dry off.

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So much steam!

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I wasn’t missing Japanese Onsen too much until we found the hot water pools for soaking your feet. After a cold, wet morning a soak in the onsen sounded kind of nice.

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I liked the signs on the garbage cans. Isn’t the penguin cute?

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This was a super-forest-y bit of the drive on the way home.

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The next few photos are for all of you Lord of the Rings fans . . .

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The sisters hanging out outside the information center/gift shop.

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Unlike Japan, I hadn’t felt the need to take a photo of the bathroom until I found this sign.

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On the way home an absolutely gorgeous sunset broke out. It was a bit of a challenge to capture the light as I saw it, but Dan managed to stop the car at the perfect time to get it exactly as we were seeing it.

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Look at all those light beams.

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Dan and I decided we needed to make sure to get a picture of sheep since the sheep population is larger than the human population.

They posed perfectly for me – I wondered if they were sheep models.

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When we got back to Paeroa, we thought we’d better do the last of the tourist things we hadn’t done yet and get our photos with the enormous L&P bottle.

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Then it was dinner time. We went to a fun pizza shop where the guy almost has more hats than wall space.

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I got ginger beer. Probably a year ago I wouldn’t have liked it at all, but a friend here has gotten me hooked on honey-ginger for tea in the winter and it felt so good on my throat that I’ve recently found myself really liking ginger things. This was DELICOUS.

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I got Spankopata for dinner. I think it’s Greek, but it was delicious and so full of garlic that I probably could have kept vampires away for a week – but I haven’t had anything with that much garlic in a long time, so it made me really happy.

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After dinner, it was back to pack for our departure from the B&B the next morning.