Monday, March 28, 2005

Sydney Again

Our second trip to Sydney started off a little rough. When we arrived we couldn’t find a place to stay because St. Patricks day was coming up and almost all the hostel rooms were full. We finally found a YHA in an expensive area of town and caught a taxi to take us there.

The next day we went to the Powerhouse Museum where they had an exhibit of Lord of the Rings props and costumes. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed but we saw the costumes of most of the important players, including their swords and props. We saw scale models of some of the sets, and framed drawings from the conceptual artists.

The rest of the museum focused on innovative science, technology, and design. One of our favorite exhibits was about conservation, from which we learned that our westernized lifestyles are extremely wasteful. There are so many options to help us become more self sufficient and consume less such as recycling, half-flush toilets, solar energy, wind energy, and recaptured water to name a few. We hope to implement some of these systems in the future considering our area of Texas is badly in need of conserving water, and in general we all consume too much.

Our next stop was the aquarium where I have to say the best parts were the shark tanks and the coral reef aquarium. There is so much beauty hiding beneath the oceans and these experiences allow you to walk beside, above, and below all the life we rarely witness.


Hitchin' a Ride

A Close Look

Reef Aquarium

For St. Patricks day, we went to a pub and had a steak and some beer as we played trivia. I don’t even think Walter (my brother the trivia king) could have pulled us out of that trivia was highly biased for Europeans. We started off good naming all ten of the celebrities partially pictured, missing only one (they wanted Sporty Spice’s real name). And it went slowly down hill from the body temp (Celsius of course), name these pictured logos (only 3 or 4 were American), and an assortment of rugby questions that I can’t even remember. Needless to say, team Noguess had no clue and came in last place.

The next day, we contacted our next hospitality hosts John and Karen Hall and found out that we were in for a weekend trip to the blue mountains. They took us to a huge produce market that had all kinds of fruits and vegetables that seemed to stretch for miles. When we reached the blue mountains, we went to some botanical gardens and learned a bit about the local flora and fauna. Later that night we arrived at their families home where we had a close encounter with alpacas and saw some kangaroos in the wild.

John and Karen at the Three Sisters

After a good nights rest John’s brother Tony brought us fresh, delicious fruit muffins and then dropped us off at a trail head for a three hour bush walk. We walked down step after step passing by waterfalls and breathing in the wonderful eucalyptus trees that surrounded us. We stopped for lunch in the most beautiful picnic spot in the world where two waterfalls converged into another beneath, and bold cliff faces wrapped around, embracing us in a huge bear hug. We hugged the cliff face back as we descended into a valley and proceeded around the mountains and up some incredibly steep stairs. Overall is was an exhilarating experience.

Our Lunch Spot

Behind the Waterfall

The Stairs Go On Forever

On the way back to Sydney we got to cuddle some cute puppies that John and Karen had bought while we were on our bush walk. We shared another wonderful meal and we had a great night’s rest to prepare us for our trip the next day to Bangkok, Thailand. But before we left, I had to get one last look at an art museum.

One Of My Favorites

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Well, you take the good with the bad.

From the airplane flying into Cairns we could see what looked like white outlined Islands out in the water. We later found out that those were the outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, the attraction we were coming to Cairns to see. What we didn’t expect was the mountains and jungle that awaited us as we were landing. The airport looked as if it was cut out of the rainforest surrounding it, but would soon be swallowed up again if given half a chance. The trees around the terminal were unlike any we’ve seen before, and the hot humidity hit us like a tidal wave as we walked out of the airplane. We had definitely gotten closer to the equator during our flight, I think I was sweating within a few feet.

Lyall, the contact that Liz (our host in Auckland) had set up, was waiting for us in the lobby holding a handwritten sign with our names on it. He was an older gentleman with a big smile, and a charming personality. He soon led us to his car and was giving us an animated history of the airport and surrounding area. I must say it was immensely better than catching a taxi. I felt as if I knew Cairns by the time we arrived at his lovely apartment. Lyall has excellent taste, and we were incredibly comfortable as we settled into his spare bedroom. Promptly joining him in the living room we learned about the cyclone that had been churning off the coast for a few days. The television was bleak that evening as all the news was about it, and how it had matured into a category five storm. This means that the cyclone (we would call it a hurricane) had winds in the 260 km/hr range (I have no idea how to convert it to miles per hour), category five is apparently as bad as it gets.

Well, you take the good with the bad.

The next day we decided to risk the bad weather (which was not really supposed to hit for a couple of days) and take a scenic train to a village up in the mountains called Kuranda. We bought a package that included the train up, a gondola ride back down, and an aboriginal cultural center called Tjabukai.

Remember the flight from Auckland? Well, the train was about the same. We got as far as a little suburb called Redlynch when we broke down. We spent the next few hours switching our view from the front of the train to a horse that was grazing in a field. I don’t think he ever presented any angle of himself to us besides his rear end. It was suitable to the occasion. I definitely felt like a horses ass after paying seventy dollars to ride on this “scenic” tour.

Front of Train and Horses Rear End

Eventually another engine was brought from behind to take us back to a little place we had passed called Freshwater. From there we were loaded on buses and taken up to Kuranda (after a nice long wait on the bus of course). When we arrived we were dropped off at the butterfly sanctuary (across town from the train station) without so much as a discount for a future trip, or “let us buy you lunch for your trouble.” I was not happy after finding a place for Joy to eat (she was starving), I marched off to the train station. She stayed behind (probably best) as I went to make things right.

When I arrived at the train station I was surprisingly the only person at the window. This did not seem to matter at all to the station attendants, as they just continued to eat their meals as I waited at the window. I was not happy. Eventually I got the attention of one of the “workers” and asked him what they were planning on doing to compensate their breakdown. They were apparently doing nothing...he told me it wasn’t their fault that the train broke down. I replied that it wasn’t my fault either, but I didn’t pay seventy dollars to take a bus to Kuranda. He eventually offered to refund my money, but by this time I was REALLY NOT HAPPY. I said that the way I figured it, if their time was worth twenty dollars an hour (the ride was one hour and forty five minutes, thirty five dollars a piece), then my time was worth the same. As we were supposed to be in Kuranda by 10:15 and it was now 12:30 I figured they owed me quite a bit of money. He didn’t see it that way, and told me he didn’t have the authority to do such a thing. I asked who did. He told me a name of someone in Cairns to talk to with the implication that I should go down there. I politely asked him to ring him up that person. The station attendant didn’t look happy as he started for the phone, and made a comment that he wasn’t even supposed to offer the refund. In that case I told him, you had better give me the refund before we call the other individual. He paid me the refund and then dialed the man in Cairns...he was looking quite unhappy.

When I told the man in Cairns my plight, he didn’t seem to have a clue as to how he might reimburse me for my wasted time. I said he could get me a voucher for my gondola ride (worth about seventy dollars),but he replied that it was housed under a different company. I told him he could give me the money to pay for the gondola, but he said he couldn’t just give out cash. So I put forth a novel idea that I had assumed would have come up much earlier in the day, why don’t they give me another free ride when the train is running? As fast as he jumped at the idea, it seems they could have saved us each a lot of time by offering the concession to the bus passengers as we came up the hill. I figure that even though they gave me my money back, and a free ride, they got off way better than they should have because of all the other tourists that didn’t get anything but a long hot thirty-five dollar bus ride.

Well, you take the good with the bad

Kuranda was a little touristy village full of shops with inflated prices and the typical Australian souvenirs (boomerangs, outback hats, and didjeridoos). The locals seemed bored with the outsiders constantly on their streets, especially those of obvious indigenous decent. Even the shop keepers were slow in giving service, and acted as if they were doing us a favor by selling us overpriced ice cream. Considering we were providing their livelihood, I wasn’t impressed.

The gondola back down the mountain was incredible. It was called the skyrail, and is the longest gondola ride in the world. It took us over the rain forest and the rivers below. It led us by a giant waterfall, and stopped twice along the way to allow walks through the jungle. I was very impressed.

On the Gondola

Barron Falls

Next, we arrived at Tjabukai the home of the dreamtime experience. We proceeded to a presentation where Henry (an aboriginal Tjabukai guide) talked about playing the didjeridoo. Other activities included learning about important aboriginal plants and skills, and how to throw boomarangs. After this, we watched several shows about aboriginal life including creation, cultural, and historical storytime events.


The next day was spent at Lyalls because it was raining. The news indicated that the cyclone would probably hit safely north of us, but we still received a lot of rain, and a little wind from it.
Well, you take the good with the bad.

Friday morning we took our free train ride to Kuranda (it made it all the way up this time). It was a very beautiful ride, and beside the inconvenience’s it took to get underway, it was a very nice experience. We passed many beautiful views, and a couple of nice large waterfalls along the way through a true tropical rainforest.

Running Train

Passing a Waterfall

It rained most of the time we were in Kuranda this time, so we ended up calling it a day and took a shuttle back into Cairns for two dollars a piece. The rest of the day was spent indoors weather watching. Overall it was a pretty fun day though for four dollars.

Lyall continued being an excellent host, cooking delicious meals (usually very spicy), taking us on drives around the area, and teaching us interesting tidbits.


We did manage to spend a bit of time walking along the estuary, where we found many interesting things to look at.


Our next hosts were a large wonderful family. Kerry was a surveyor and an artist (quite a good one I have to say), and Anne was working on a degree in Psychology. Hmm...sound’s familiar, we really enjoyed learning about the similarities and differences in our chosen fields. Joy was clued in about the Cairns art scene, and Anne and I compared notes on the psychology field in each of our countries. Did you know that one could be a practicing psychologist in Australia with a bachelors degree (honors program that is). Well you can, but they earn it, examining a bit of the work Anne was doing I realized that the education system in Australia is much more grueling. Anyway, Anne’s interest was childhood foster care, and with my similar experience with direct care for individuals with intellectual impairment, we never ran out of conversation. That was a good thing, because the sky never seemed as if it would run out of rain either.

Kerry and Anne

Well, you take the good with the bad.

Kerry an Anne had four children living at home; Oriel, Joel, Belinda, and Jonathan; and two more already grown. Oriel was an animal person, she was very inquisitive about our native animals and informative about those in Australia. She was in the Girl Guides (Australia’s version of Girl Scouts) and I think she reminded Joy a bit of herself at that age (Joy was a Girl Scout). Joel was very active, and always hungry. He was in gymnastics, and considering his activity level I imagine very good at it. Belinda was quite a socialite, and on par with girls around the world, very mature for her age. She already had a job at fifteen years old. Jonathan, on the other hand, reminded me quite a bit of my friend Richard. He loved computer games, and role playing Dungeons & Dragons. When I told him about Richards job working as a “computer security guard” he claimed that that would be the perfect job for him. He even looked like Richard a bit.

The Kids (Oriel, Joel, Belinda, and Jonathan)

When we finally got to go out to the reef it was still not exactly as calm as usual, and the ride was quite bumpy over the waves. Joy planned ahead, and had taken her sea-sick pills. I must admit that I even felt a bit queasy for a while, but our bodies were soon used to the rocking and dipping of the boat.

When we did get out there, there was a quick presentation on how to dive, then we were in the water snorkeling until our number was called. It was all to fast paced for Joy. She couldn’t get used to putting her face under water and breathing. We were in a deep area leaving the boat, and it didn’t help her looking down into seeming bottomlessness. When our number was called we were geared up and in the ocean with tanks and breathers in a few minutes. Like I said it was a bit to speedy for Joy’s taste. She decided to skip out on the dive. She needn’t feel bad because one of the other guys in our group also decided not to go. It was an altogether alien experience.

Though it was nerve racking, I did go on the dive. At first it didn’t seem as if the breather was giving me enough air, in actuality I was breathing way too fast. Need I say I was a bit excited. Anyway, once we were underway it was wonderful. The dive guide linked arms with the two remaining divers in our group and took us down. Occasionally signing for us to equalize our ears and letting us take pictures. It was a good thing he was in control, I couldn’t really get the hang of directing myself in the water. I would be floating, sinking, or drifting constantly the wrong way. The guide would then grab me and pull me along in the right direction pointing out items of interest. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.


Big Clam

After the dive we had lunch and the boat was on it’s way to another reef. It was an incredibly rough ride, and Joy was clutching my arm the whole way. She was not having fun on this trip, and when we did arrive at the other reef she didn’t want to go out. I went out and found a nice shallow area full of brilliant colors and teaming with life, I knew she would like it. When I went back to the boat and told her about it she finally decided to try again. This time she loved snorkeling.

Joy Snorkeling


If she would have had this experience at first I think she would have made it for the dive.

Well, you take the good with the bad.

The last day at Cairns was spent checking out some art communities that Kerry had helped found, hiking along some rugged trails, and exploring the botanical gardens. It’s amazing what will grow in a rain forest! Anyway, though most of our time in Cairns was spent waiting out the rain, we had some great experiences!

Well, as you can see, we took the good with the bad.

Tanner Noguess

Friday, March 11, 2005


At three fifty in the morning we were awakened to the beep beep beep of our little digital alarm. Of course we were bright eyed and bushy tailed despite the multi-lingual party below our window until 1 a.m., we had an international flight departing at 7:45 to look forward to!

We got some bogus information from the hostel attendant...the airbus was supposed to be there at 4:35, right? Wrong. It didn’t come until after 5. To make matters worse, the hostel doors were locked behind us and so we were at the mercy of all the interesting locals that roam about in the wee hours (surprisingly quite a few).

One meeting in particular haunts my mind, a couple of Maori fellows stroll up, one in what I suspect to be a second-hand suit, the other with his hand behind his back. One grunted good morning, and Tanner replied good morning back. After a bizarre staring contest between the eldest Maori and Tanner, they continued to walk down the sidewalk and then halted about fifteen feet away to have a private conversation. I instinctively moved behind Tanner and then he buzzed the hostel desk attendant so I could wait inside while he stayed and watched for the bus. Thankfully the thugs moved on and we eventually safely boarded the bus to the airport.

At the back of the check-in line, which I assure you at 5:30 in the morning is at least two miles long, we wait. Then at the security line, we wait. Then at our gate security line we wait. And then once we have boarded our plane, we wait. And then we wait some more.

It seems that a mechanical device is malfunctioning. They fix it over an hours time and then we start to take off. But instead of speeding up faster and faster, we start getting slower and slower. We taxi back to the gate and you guessed it, we wait.

Finally they let us off the plane to get some food with the free food vouchers they handed out because of the inconvenience. Unfortunately only two places accept the vouchers and there were at least two hundred people on our two story plane. So at the back of the food line we wait.

Suddenly a voice comes over the intercom to update us that we will be updated shortly. This story continues at the same speed until we finally board the repaired airplane after 2 in the afternoon, a considerable wait from the original 7:45 departure time.

But enough about waiting, now I would like to tell you about the Australian Zoo in Beerwah, home of the crocodile hunter himself Steve Erwin. Crikey! Look at the size of that croc...well, actually it was a tiger...three tigers to be exact. They were swimming around in the water at the crocoseum and chasing giant red balls and stuffed sacks that the staff were taunting them with.

Chasing Tigers

After this fierce but cute display of pouncing, it got cuter. Three warm bottles of milk were brought out and the tigers instantly reverted back to their infant states.

Big Baby

Next came the croc show which we hoped would be led by “the boss” as the bus driver affectionately referred to him, but Steve was nowhere in sight (except for on every wall, poster, t-shirt, and bill board in a seventy acre radius).

Joy, Steve, and Tanner

We settled for the run-of-the-mill zoo staff to entertain us by dangling strips of meat in front of a giant, vicious, terrifying croc named Norman.


Have you ever had a cappuccino with a kangaroo? Well, Tanner has.

Cappuccino with a Kangaroo

It was one of the best zoos we have been to because they encouraged up close and personal encounters with many of the animals.

Fortunately however, they didn’t force us to pet the world’s most venomous snakes, and number one on the list was appropriately labeled the "Fierce Snake”.

Interesting Name for a Snake

The Most Venomous Snake in the World

But they did encourage us to cuddle a koala...he even left a little present on my shirt.

A Couple with a Cute Cuddley Koala

The Asian Small Clawed Otters also put on quite a show, the most dominant one was named Bonnie.

Bonnie and Her Sister Did Everything Together

Old habits die hard and people who know me best know that I love getting pictured with any gator or croc.

A Big Croc

After the zoo, we returned to the beautiful home we were staying at in the company of Adam and Renee.

At Adam and Renee's (they're the couple on the left)

We enjoyed spending time with them listening to their music, experiencing local food and drink, and comparing regional colloquialisms. It was always entertaining to listen to their accents and then watch the baffled look blossom on Tanners face. For instance at the last hostel we were at, when the attendant informed us that we were to use shared facilities, I laughed as Tanner exclaimed “What do you mean shed facilities, do we have to go out back to use the restroom?”.

Joy Noguess

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Bay of Plenty, Waiheke Island


As I was saying, when I saw Graham’s Bassitar (my own name for the instrument) I knew I had found a kindred spirit. I actually have the pieces to build one in my closet. Having the idea that it would be the perfect instrument for someone such as myself that loved to play the bass and the guitar, I found a place on the internet that actually made the body for a double neck bass/guitar. I ordered the body, the pick guard and one neck from there; I bought the other neck from a company that had better prices. The plan was to buy the pieces as I needed them, but those ended up being the only pieces I bought. When started trying to put a polyurethane finish on the body and necks I quickly discovered I was in over my head, so, in the closet it sits. Maybe I’ll finish it someday under close instruction.

Back to our trip, Graham and Kay were heading to the Bay of Plenty to check up on a little “batch” that they were in the process of buying. They asked if we wanted to go along, so of course we eagerly accepted.

The trip was incredible, I finally got to see a waterfall, and the landscapes we passed through were exactly as I had imagined New Zealand. The road we were on went through forests, and beside flowing rivers (yes there were even white water rapids).


A “batch” is what we might call a cottage back home, in another context, maybe a hunting cabin. They are places built to be holiday homes, rather than permanent living quarters. They are light on insulation, but heavy on location. Anyway, the one that Graham and Kay are buying is almost directly across the street from one that is already owned by Graham’s father. We stayed at his father’s while we were there.

The location was incredible. The back of the property led down to an estuary that emptied and filled with the tide. When we arrived the tide was out so we walked across it and onto a little path that led us across a road, over some sand dunes and finally out onto a lightly populated beach (I have in fact never been to a beach with fewer people on it, it felt very private), it was beautiful.

Low Tide

The Beach

Joy couldn’t help but collect the shells that caught her eye.


The rest of that day was quite pleasant. We helped paint some of the cabinets at their new place, ate a simple supper, played some music (everyone played a little Graham, Joy, and I played guitar and sang; Kay played a recorder flute), and examined the stars (the southern constellations are quite a bit different).

There are actually a couple of little cabins on the property, and Joy and I were given one to stay in that night. Talk about hospitality! We have been happy to sleep on a floor during this trip, and here we were with our own house. Ahh...such luxury!

The next day we woke up to high tide. The area that we had easily walked on the day before was now under five feet of water. We went out sailing for a while, than Graham tried to teach me to windsurf. He’s an excellent teacher, but his student didn’t have the best balance. I spent most of my time climbing up out of the water!



We went back to Hamilton that evening, had a wonderful meal, and spent one last night with Kay and Graham. We learned that they had walked across Spain following the course of a famous pilgrimage called the Camino Santiago Compostela. It sounded like a truly profound experience, perhaps on day Joy and I will try it. I really enjoyed our time with Graham and Kay. I found them to be interesting and inspiring. Their lives are full and rewarding, even the church they attend appeals to me, it is multi denominational consisting of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian (I think it demonstrates uncommon spiritual depth that they manage to make such a concept work). Personally I found Graham to be quite a role model and discovered that my desire to become a teacher when I return home was further solidified by his example.

A Meal with Kay and Graham

The next morning was spent on a bus back to Auckland. When we arrived we left our backpacks in a locker at the bus station and went exploring. After lunch we went to spend an hour or so at the Auckland Museum. We ended up spending the rest of the day there and even got our own private tour by a true native Maori (I had asked so many questions at the information desk that they finally introduced me to an expert). He was incredibly informed, and could actually recite his own family lineage for twenty-six generations. I think most Americans would be hard pressed to go back four, yet we consider ourselves more advanced? We learned more about the Maori culture in that afternoon than in all the rest of our time in New Zealand combined.

After the museum we collected our backpacks and took the ferry to Waiheke Island. Liz (our first New Zealand host) had arranged for us to stay with her ex-husband Don at his place. He picked us up when we arrived on the ferry and took us out to his incredibly comfortable little house. His wife Merle was quite entertaining, being a well traveled artist, and we had a great time.

A Painting by Merle

Island life is quite relaxing, and Don really made the most of it. He spent his time fishing, boating, and boat building. He’s a truly philosophical person that, unlike so many others, has found a life that makes him happy. He had been a successful insurance salesman, that had at some point bought a modest yacht. As he spent more an more time on it he realized that he was working his life away and that if he could just simplify he could have much more freedom. He sold his part of his insurance partnership, bought into some real estate, and moved onto his boat. He and Merle ended up living on the little yacht for several years. They had no refrigerator, and could only take sponge baths, but they were free. Don is really into Henry David Thoreau, and figures that he got it right when he wrote Walden. Don believes that most people burden themselves with costly desires, and though he and Merle no longer live on a boat, they definitely live well within their means. They are truly a couple that will never be enslaved by possessions or economy.

Merle and Don

Don has a good friend named Alan that lives an even more minimalistic lifestyle. Unlike Don, he never even built a nest egg before he dropped out. He owns and lives on a boat, washes his clothes by running in place in a wash bucket, gets his electricity from a solar panel and wind turbine, and only works enough odd jobs to keep himself in rice, beans and vegetables (he’s a vegetarian). He’s very well read, clean, and tidy. He has a cell phone, and a laptop (that he charges with solar power), and considers himself a truly free man. They laugh at all their neighbors that are off working in Auckland everyday to pay for million dollar houses and yachts while Don and Alan live up the Island life in their absence. After meeting them I think they may be onto something!

After enjoying the Island for a couple of days we spent a couple more uneventful nights at an Auckland hostel. A day was spent looking at art galleries and resting up, then we were off to Brisbane. But that’s another story!

Tanner Noguess

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Rotorua, Waitomo Caves, Hamilton

We are experiencing so much so quickly that it seems that there is little time to write about it. Consequently, I have fallen far behind on the blog. I apologize, but will try to catch up by writing about many days of experiences in one post. If the rate of narrative seems a bit too fast, then it will give an idea of our frantic pace.

New Zealand is a land of adventure, even if your not the white water type. In the course of our time here we’ve been to Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Waitomo, the Bay of Plenty, and Waiheke Island. We’ve had great experiences, and met kind people in each place. They all truly deserve individual posts, but due to the time constraints of our current lifestyle I must try to fit them into one long one.

After our visit to Middle Earth (Hobbiton) we stayed one more night in Hamilton before moving on to Rotorua. These were the first nights we actually had to pay for lodging, and along with the touristy activities we were doing put us way above budget. We also found that staying with people from and besides being economical, was also much more comfortable both in terms of amenities and security (or at least our perception of it). When we began our trip we were not sure about staying with strangers, but we’ve discovered that we’re much more comfortable with the “stranger’s” that have opened their homes to us than the “stranger’s” at hostel/hotels. For instance I find that I’m very comfortable pulling out my laptop at our host’s houses, but I wouldn’t dare at a hostel. We have developed relationships with our hosts that we would never find at the finest of hotels.

At Rotorua we went straight to the tourist info center where we booked a Maori village dinner show that provided us with a voucher to the natural hot springs. We were also informed of a reasonably priced hostel around the corner that we walked around to, booked a room, and dropped off our backpacks.

A little Mexican food restaurant hit the spot (it was quite a bit different than we were used to but good, even though I had to pay for pickled jalapeno’s because they didn’t come with the meal) and we were off to the hot springs. Our voucher covered the price of an all day entry to the hot springs, but we realized that the same price provided thirty minutes in a private pool. We opted for quality above quantity and went for the privacy. It was so private in fact, behind a locked door and a high wall, that we opted to keep our bathing suits dry.

Hot Spring Pool

Later in the evening we went to the Maori dinner show. It was much like the Polynesian Cultural Center, but I was not as impressed. The village itself was nicely built, but the performers seemed a bit half-hearted, and the food seemed more European (lamb, potato’s, rolls, salad, etc.) than traditional Maori. Overall, it was a fun experience but probably not worth the price.

The Challenge

The Village

Our bus driver for the event was quite fun. She led songs throughout the trip back into town, and had the riders sing songs from each of their cultures. We heard English, Irish, and Japanese songs among others, and sang Angel Band when it was our turn. It took Joy a while to build up her courage, but when we finished singing we got quite an applause (I think we were the only singers to employ harmonies). The driver dropped us off right at the door of Cactus Jack’s, the hostel we were staying at.

Inside the hostel we quickly found Gary, a young Scottish man whom we had met in Hamilton. He was riding a bicycle through New Zealand and had surprisingly ridden from Hamilton to Rotorua. The trip had taken us two hours by bus, and we were quite shocked to see him. Cactus Jack’s had provided a voucher for a free beer at a local pup to each of it’s guests, so we invited him to go cash them in with us. It proved to be a fun, interesting evening and we hope to run into Gary again sometime. We’ll definitely keep in touch, and I think that we’ve convinced a fellow international traveler to join an internet hospitality club. The more the merrier!

The next day we had planned to ride the bus to Waitomo caves, spend the night there, and ride the bus back to Hamilton the next day. Finding that most of the people on the bus were actually going to the caves while the bus waited, then continuing on to Auckland (via Hamilton), we decided to change our plan and continued on to Hamilton after exploring the glowworm filled caverns. Due to the sensitive nature of the worms no pictures were allowed inside the cave, but we did get a couple of pictures of the entrance and exit. The caves were definitely worth the price, I have never experienced a sight like the thousands of glowworms lining the ceiling like stars in the sky. I have also never been in a cave where part of the exploration was in a boat floating through the caverns. It was much like a theme park ride, especially when we emerged from the cave mouth on a slow flowing jungle stream.

Cave Exit

In Hamilton we scheduled another night in a hostel, but arranged to stay with some hospitality club members the next night. J’s Backpacker is a nice hostel, and Fiona (the owner/operator) is a wonderfully nice person, but it is a hostel all the same. We were looking forward to staying with our future hosts.

We made the most of our evening by going to a free showing of a Shakespear in the park. Love’s Labors Lost was a wonderfully performed play with an excellent group of three musicians playing along. The actors went above and beyond the script with their expressions and body language, while the musicians switched furiously between an array of well worn instruments. It may have been a free show, but the performance was invaluable. We pitched in when they passed the bucket, but it was worth much more than we contributed.

Art in the Park

An Awesome Carving

The next day was spent exploring Hamilton’s art gallery and museum while we waited for our host to get off work. We left our Backpacks in the care of Fiona, and off we went. Joy very much enjoyed the gallery, and we spent quite a bit of time exploring it. I liked the museum quite a bit better, especially the Maori artifacts.

When Graham picked us up at J’s Backpacker I liked him immediately. He was a bearded computer science teacher with a wonderful disposition. When we got to his house and I saw his double neck bass/guitar I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

Kindred Spirits

The evening was spent in an impromptu jam with Graham, a quick dinner, a meeting with Graham’s wife Kay, a walk through the park (including gardens inspired by regions around the world), and an unplanned meeting with Graham’s father at a poet/comedians performance in the park.

Again, if it seems that my narrative is moving too quickly then you will get a feel for our life at the moment. There is much more to tell, in fact, there is much more to tell about Graham and Kay, but I feel that I have written enough in this particular post. So, you’ll have to wait to hear about more of our adventures in New Zealand until I finish writing of them next time.

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