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 hospitalityclub.org and globalfreeloaders.com 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.
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.
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.
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.