10/3/14 at 1759 (Bangkok time)
First time on a Qantas flight . . . dreams do come true.
I feel so safe . . .
10/3/14 at 1940 (Bangkok time)
"That's what we all want, isn't it? A woman to be quiet with?"
10/5/14 at 1635 (Auckland time)
Maori inscription on the Auckland carpet translates to "Auckland Airport and the people of Paorae welcome you"
- *Paorae refers to the face of the land surrounding the Manukau Harbour
New Zealand tourism offices worked with Weta Workshop to create this 16 foot tall dwarf statue, made specifically to greet new arrivals to Auckland Airport
After about 30 hours of travel with multiple flight delays, I made my way to the windy, chilly city of Auckland yesterday. My AirBNB hosts Michelle and Derrick are a super sweet couple from Malaysia who welcomed me and offered to share their dinner. It was simple but deluxe at the same time: green onion and egg omelet, bean sprouts with soy sauce, and boiled chicken. I changed into my PJs to relax, watched "Transformers 2" with them (explosions, pink lipstick, and dinosaur transformers), did some laundry (wash only, hung to dry in the chilly weather outside), and then enjoyed some fantastic sleep. It's a chilly room with a makeshift heater bedside, where I hung a pair of my socks on a hanger so they'd be dry by morning.
I walked around Auckland, splurged on a macpac raincoat that is also helping to keep me warm in this "unexpectedly cold" climate, and enjoyed a local coffee with danish while on the ferry to Devonport. While there, I visited the free Torpedo Bay Naval Museum and explored a local craft fair. I'm now waiting for the ferry back to Auckland where I'll visit Ponsonby Road. It's been glorious so far!
Fresh coffee to keep me warm before the chilly ferry ride to Devonport
10/5/14 at 2350 (Auckland time)
After a long day, I am finally having dinner!! I walked around and explored, stopped by the local grocery store for dinner. When I got to Derrick & Michelle's house, I couldn't figure out the oven though. I tried multiple times, and even looked up the manual on-line to make sure the images on the turn knobs were meant to do what I was assuming they were meant to do. I could hear the air turning on but the oven was not heating. Well, when Derrick and Michelle got home, they helped me figure it out . . . apparently the oven will not apply heat until the time is turned on as well. Finally . . . my schnitzel is ready to be eaten . . .
10/5/14 at 2355 (Auckland time)
Realization: as I move on from each place, I have deleted that previous destination's timezone from my world clock on my iPad . . . except for Ponta Delgada. I can't do it, not yet at least.
10/6/14 at 1358 (Auckland time)
Woohoo, I have a rental car again! My driver's license arrived via FedEx this morning at about 9:30 AM (thanks Mom & Brad!), I had the car rented and accommodations made ASAP, packed up and headed out.
Grateful to New Zealand for having this sticker reminder on my rental car!
Oh, and booked my Hobbiton tour too, of course. ;-)
The lady at the car rental location recommended a warehouse savings store nearby where I could pick up an inexpensive suitcase. I found a sturdy one for $50 USD, picked up a roll of bubble-wrap to protect my future purchases, and found some CD compilations to help pass the travel time on the road as the radio was a no go in my discount car rental. Of course, also picked up some snacks for the road. I'm now sitting in a little place called the Acorn Cafe, sipping a cafe latte and munching on my lunchtime panini before I hit the road . . . I feel so free . . .
When the radio doesn't work, discount CD compilations will do just fine
10/6/14 at 2036 (Whitianga time)
Memories to be written before forgotten . . . sharing my Tuatara London Porter with the Australian couple next to me, small restaurant with a smaller bar, next to the open water, small sailboats, crackling shells underfoot instead of sand. Speaking of wine and hops, malt and bourbon, origin of the word "porter", hearing how they make their own wine. The disappointed groan from him when he heard I did not drink any wine in Portugal. I was originally at a different table in the restaurant but was unceremoniously moved to a "smaller table, please" as I was there alone. Some things are meant to be . . .
Today I sang along with Harry Belafonte, Phil Harris, and Ray Parker. Enjoyed the scenery, which presents as a mix between the shires of Hobbiton, the farms of the Açores, and the cover of a Six Feet Under DVD. I have never seen such a variety of expressive trees before. Dead, alive, green, yellow, reaching up, or lying down. I stopped the car, watched the wind blow on the dewy grass, making it ripple & reflect the sun like the Tasman Sea. Awestruck, silent, beautiful, simple.
I arrived to my hostel facing the water, settled in, met my German roommates who are celebrating a completed university run with 8+ months in New Zealand and Australia (and reminding me again that Germans have it right), then I headed out immediately. Wind exploration and play, stopping by the historical sites,and enjoying the ignored presence of large intact seashells littering the shores of this place.
P.S. I get it. Buzzed writing is so much more fun than sober writing. I understand you, writers of legend.
10/7/14 at 1854 (Oropi time)
I've just arrived to the beautiful home of Talulah and Keith, my outgoing AirBNB hosts. Their son Louie is here and two Kiwi women who are renting a room as well. Their sweet dogs Harry and Penny are outgoing, happy little things. There's a cat who has "three names" and two donkeys out front which I haven't quite caught the names of yet. The home is welcoming, near a forest of trees & trails, adorned with Talulah's vibrant paintings of landscapes, abstracts, and surreal portraits.
Earlier today I picked up a hitchhiker outside of my Whitianga Backpacker's "On the Beach" hostel, almost before he had a chance to stick out his thumb. He was headed to Coromandel and I was looking for a drive. We drove the windy roads, stopped occasionally for a view and a picture. He offered gas money, which I declined but appreciated.
I then made my way down south to Matamata, where I enjoyed the Hobbiton movie set tour. I'm not a big LoTR or Hobbit fan, although I did enjoy the films. Now that the tour is completed and I've been able to literally touch a piece of the films, I want to rewatch them!
Getting ready to check out the Green Dragon Inn
Green Dragon Inn
Getting ready for a dinner of vegetarian chili and brown rice. I'm feeling quite relaxed and at home here with Talulah and Keith . . .
10/8/14 at 1457 (Rotorua time)
Enjoying a Swine Lager at the Pig & Whistle in Rotorua. The "historic pub" is in a beautiful building that was originally a police station, built in 1940 and adorned with Maori motifs on the external portion of the building.
I slept in a bit this morning, made myself some breakfast, then accepted the offer for an early morning walk with my two New Zealand roomies who also staying in the house.
We went on a trail through the woods, which ended up being a 45 minute loop. The ladies are exceedingly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area, having done hikes and walking treks for over thirty years now. It was a beautiful morning, slightly overcast, and faintly chilly . . . perfect for a walk through the woods.
Headed out to Rotorua quite a bit later than planned and was held up a bit due to an accident, the details of which I (oddly enough) received on my foreign car radio. We were then routed around Lake Rotorua and entered the town from the opposite side. Now on to explore . . .
10/9/14 at 0048 (Taruanga time)
Off to bed . . . whew, what a fantastic day!! After the Pig & Whistle, I did an hour long hike through the Redwoods here in Rotorua, enjoyed being "back to the nature" again. I didn't know there were Redwoods here so that was a nice surprise! There was hardly anyone in the woods, so quiet. Felt amazing to be walking amongst the giant trees.
Then I booked a Maori experience for tomorrow where I'm excited to try hangi and see the Maori warriors. I then did a mud bath at Hell's Gate, one of the few that allows the experience under the stars. My skin feels amazing and I feel so relaxed. =)
Hell's Gate, gorgeous and relaxing in the moonlight
Afterwards, went to Croucher microbrewery in downtown Rotorua for a drink and they had a live band playing. The place was packed and it was good fun.
Now I've booked the White Island Tour (active volcano where you have to wear a gas mask?! Sign me up!) for Saturday, requested accommodations, and am off to bed!
10/9/14 at 1815 (Rotorua time)
Waiting for the Mitai Maori Village show to start. I slept in a bit, which is always fantastic. Then I made my way to Mount Maunganui, a dormant volcano at the edge of the sea in Tauranga. I had picked up a chai latte beforehand and sipped as I walked around the base trek. It was beautiful with large trees sprouting between large chunks of volcanic rock, powerful waves splashing against them. I continued to wander and marveled at once again finding an area of "sand" that was pure seashells crunching beneath my feet.
The view from the base trail of Mount Maunganui
Jack Dixon's shells
I drove through Tauranga a bit, enjoying driving their version of PCH (highway 2). Then made my way to Rotorua where I wandered through a small geothermal park, then enjoyed their Thursday night market, bought a fierce pillow and enjoyed a lemon and passionfruit crepe as an appetizer.
Oh, the smell of sulfur . . .
It's almost time to check in for the show. I'm excited to try some hangi!! I also opted for the optional addition of walking around Rainbow Springs so I can see their nightlife; the girl at the counter told me, "It's mainly to see the kiwi." Sold!
Our enigmatic, multilingual host
Showing off the hangi *mouth watering*
The entrance of the warriors
The tribe's local geothermal hot spring, with glowworms present
10/10/14 at 1354 (Te Puke time)
So sad to say goodbye to Talulah and Keith this morning. They were wonderful hosts and I felt so welcomed, so right at home. Before leaving, I gave Keith my decades and film CDs to import whatever music he wanted. He had always commented how he loved the music from the 70's. I gave him back his book of poems that he had let me borrow for my stay. I dropped him off in town to pick up his car that was being serviced, we said our goodbyes, and I was on my way.
I stopped at Kiwi360, where I took the $20 tour. We were driven around the farm area in a large kiwi caravan (literally in the shape of kiwi fruit, which was awesome in and of itself). It was a 30 minute tour of the "park-style orchards", where we stopped occasionally to sample pineapple mandarins, feel and wander among various types of kiwi plants, and even allowed to pick up some fresh avocados that had fallen to the ground.
Travel, kiwi style.
Perhaps the most interesting part for me was seeing the kiwi plants that had been affected by the Psa virus, which was originally from China but transferred to New Zealand from Italy. We were told about how the farmers gathered to sue the government for "allowing" the infestation to come in and affect the crops. A new growth of kiwifruit is sprouting up at this time and will hopefully flourish.
A Psv affected kiwi plant
Now I'm sitting at the Kiwi360 cafe having ordered a simple lunch of fish & chips, washing it down with some Sparkling Feijoa elderflower mineral water. To be followed by kiwi ice cream, yuuuummmm . . . .
10/11/14 at 0825 (Whakatane time)
After much driving, I made it to the spa and B&B known as the House of Many Faces last night. I'm so incredibly sad to say that my White Island tour of the active volcano has been cancelled for today due too high winds, making it dangerous for the boat ride to the island. =(
Last night when I arrived, I got to sit and chat with my hosts, who do ballroom competitions. They showed me their awards and video footage of their impressive dips and twirls. They also showed me footage of some of the younger couples competing and we had a good bit of conversation about Dancing with the Stars. Sad to say I am only staying one night with them. The offer was there to stay another night if I wanted and to try the White Island Tour again tomorrow. Sadly, I think it's best for me to move on south and continue my journey.
I think I may head to Wellington early . . .
10/12/14 at 1544 (Wellington time)
Yesterday I made the 10 hour drive from Whakatane to Gisborne to Napier to Wellington. And I kinda loved it. I went through my various mix CDs, enjoyed the scenery, let my mind wander. I stopped over when I was hungry or thirsty and munched on little bits of groceries I had in the car. I'm sad to say I don't think I'll be in New Zealand long enough to see my free avocados from the Kiwi360 orchard ripen.
In Wellington, I am staying with Jane and John through AirBNB in an absolute gorgeous 100+ year old home in various states of remodel. Their style is quirky and vintage, and I feel right at home. They left the key out for me late last night and I let myself in. Turns out they were at a church charity beer tasting and they came home in quite a good mood, telling meet about the brewer in their group, sharing beer (the kind of which I don't remember), and playing Elvis songs as we flipped the cushion where their pup had emptied her bladder.
John and Jane's pup
I've enjoyed Wellington so far, driving by the bay, visiting the Weta Cave and taking their tour. They had an interesting short film in the shop that talked about the various films Weta has worked on. I picked up a couple Lord of the Rings souvenirs too, of course. =P
I wandered through the Te Pau Museum and then picked up a ticket for the play the Pitmen Painters. I'm sitting at the Circa Theatre now, enjoying a drink and a bit of karamu frittata before the show. Then, I shall be on to their cable cars . . .
10/13/14 at 1644 (Waitomo time)
Random thoughts of the day:
- I have a gravitational pull towards those with cleft lips, presumably due to positive experiences in the past; I am OK with this
- my theory that driving along the coast is best done with the James Bond theme playing in the background remains tried and true
- I think I shall for ever now have random cravings for a Hungarian apricot and plum chimney cake
- gas stations that do not honor mislabeled coffee prices make me upset
- gas station employees who shrug and do not correct mislabeled coffee prices so it's not an issue in the future for other unsuspecting drivers in need of caffeine make me further upset
10/13/14 at 2251 (Waitomo time)
Yesterday, I also explored the botanical gardens near the top of the Wellington cable cars. It was fun wandering and helped me to fall further in love with Wellington. I ended up having a late night African dinner and enjoying some good conversation with the counter man at the restaurant before calling it a (late) night. Then this morning, coffee with John and the pup before heading out for a long day of driving.
I went up to New Plymouth first but was disappointed to find that (like most of NZ) everything closes at approximately 4 PM, so I missed the shops. The stretch of beach was not much to see either. I headed on to Waitomo direction so that I could see the glow worm caves, as the glow worms at the Maori experience in Rotorua had really mesmerized me. After about 3 hours of driving, I finally found a cafe open where I ordered a bacon-egg burger, which is apparently the same as a egg and ham burger with mayo. I took it as take away and drove up the road till I came to a large open beach littered with various bits of bleached white driftwood. I enjoyed my dinner with apple-blackcurrent juice (sure, why not?) and then wandered down on to the sand. With the setting sun, I had not realized what I thought was a muddy beach was in fact a black sand beach. It was my first time being on black sand and it was so intensely fine, I couldn't stop playing with the sand. Amazing Mukao Beach . . .
Now I'm settled in my AirBNB room with Shirley, who also has a puppy Bella and is fostering a new mama cat with three tiny 3-week old kittens. I'll be leaving early in the morning for the glowworms and then to make my way to Auckland so unfortunately don't have so much time with Ms. Shirley before I head on. Crazy to think this 2 month trip will be over in just one day . . . it's been fantastic, it's been beyond what I can describe.
10/14/14 at 0332 (Waitomo time)
I can't sleep. Maybe it's because I'm excited for glow worms. Maybe it's because I know it's my last day in New Zealand and my last day for this whole RTW trip. Or maybe it's because I know there's a giant thick black spider under my bed that I failed to kill when it lowered from the ceiling near my toes . . .
10/14/14 at 2159 (Auckland time)
I am staying once again with Michelle and Derrick from AirBNB in their home near the airport, now facing the daunting task of packing away all of my souvenirs and mentally/emotionally preparing for my return home. I am ready but then again perhaps not . . . ???
My last postcards from my last destination of my RTW trip . . .
Today was ideal and emotional for me. I started the morning early, fresh breakfast on the table and good conversation with my host Shirley. We talked for hours of travel and cultures, relationships, and life plans. I was sad to leave when the time came but was excited to head down too the Waitomo Caves.
The glowworms exceeded my expectations and created a sense of awe in all of us there. Truly beautiful. In the boat we were asked to be silent and in the background we could hear faint drips from various corners of the cave. The smell was wet but not musky, instead it was fresh and brought thoughts of spring. I cannot imagine what the experience was like for those exploring the cave decades prior, when they first came upon such beauty unexplained.
Do you see any glowworms?
Exiting out of the Waitomo Caves
I then continued on to Raglan, a sleepy little surfing city with "hippie" stores and a fancy technologically advanced public toilet. Then on to Auckland, but not before stopping at a local waterfall point I saw a sign for along the roads.
Bridal Veil Falls
I had a simple dinner of yellow and green kiwi fruits, lemon pepper tuna on red bellpepper topped with fresh avocado from the orchards of Kiwi360(!). I was so excited that one of my avocados ripened in time to be eaten! I donated the other one to Michelle and Derrick.
And now . . . shower. Pack. Sleep, return rental car, fly home. Wow. It's over.
Gifts and souvenirs of New Zealand
Dew Drop Inn before my Hobbiton tour
Seasonal whitebait frittata at the Dew Drop Inn
Burnt seaweed Hot Water Beach
Found the elusive kiwi bird!
New Zealand officially has the best public toilets I've ever seen!!
And the last self portrait of my RTW trip on my last night of packing . . .