Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Zealand recap part 1

We had to make it over to Apia in Western Samoa after work in order to make our 10pm flight to Auckland. Of course when we got to the airport at about 430, no flights to Apia had made it out all day. They were all canceled due to bad weather. So with 4 or 5 canceled flights, you'd think we'd be screwed, but most of the people on those flights apparently just decided, 'oh well, guess we aren't going, let's go get some Vailima'. So we made it on the second flight over there. I was extremely relieved. I thought for sure we'd not make it over in time for the flight. In a real place, if we missed that flight, well we'd just get the next one. This is Samoa, the next flight to Auckland was about 4 days later. I still can't believe we made it.

So we got into Auckland airport in the middle of the night. They threatened to not let me into New Zealand because my passport is so thrashed (it has been in the ocean, been in my pocket during summer in Europe for probably 12 weeks and has had a few unfortunate washing machine experiences. After examining it, I think they figured that if anyone was going to make a fake passport, they probably wouldn't use a picture of themselves with really bad bleached hair, so I was allowed to pass. Also, I'd signed my signature page with a blue marker.

After getting some sleep, we headed to a grocery store! It was awesome!!!!!! They had fruit that didn't smell or look rotten and none of it had decomposed into liquid while still on the shelves. It didn't taste rotten either. I'd almost forgotten what tomatoes are supposed to taste like. I guess tomatoes come in varieties other than the mildew/dirty garage flavored ones that are so popular in American Samoa. They also have more than 5 kinds of skunked beer in New Zealand. Crazy, I know.

After a couple grocery stores, we headed for Waitomo to go on a cave rafting trip. That was cool. You float through a cave on an innertube with stops for some crawling through tight spaces and to get drenched by underground waterfalls. You also get to jump off of a couple other underground waterfalls. Maybe the coolest part is the glowworms. They have these glow in the dark worm things that look like LCD lights everywhere on the ceilings. The trip was about 3 hours long and was really fun for the whole thing.

Then, after almost running out of gas,

we headed to our campground for the evening in Tongariro National Park. It was cold at night. It was a nice and novel feeling to feel a little cold; and I hadn't been real camping in over a year. (fales are almost like camping though--- hell, my house has no walls, so it is sort of like camping I guess). We had some delicious non-rotten food and steak and good beer. Wonderful.

The next day we hiked the Tongariro Crossing. It was probably the coolest hike we did the whole trip. It is about 17 km long. That's pretty long but they have it set up so busses take you to the trailhead and then pick you up on the other side so you don't have to come back the way you came.

A couple parts were really fricking steep. Steeper than Mt. Ellinor:

The hike is through an active volcanic area. There are a few main volcanoes and there are steam vents and hot springs all over. One of the main mountains is Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings:

Here's Naomi giving her best Gollum acting job:

After a really steep section, you get up to a fairly high elevation on top of a ridge. (6000 feet is pretty high for New Zealand) It was pretty windy and really cold up there. Once you start coming down there is steam coming out of the ground all over. It is conveniently located there to warm you up:

There are all kinds of weird formations there and steam coming out of everywhere.

Also there are these alien planet looking little blue green lakes:

On the way down the other side you can see a big lake at the bottom of the mountains that is probably bigger than Tutuila. Behind it, where it looks like sky is another huge lake, way bigger than Tutuila: Lake Taupo:

We camped by a gorge with a cool, and kind of scary, foot swingbridge (suspension bridge for real English speakers).

We also had our only campfire of the trip because they were banned everywhere else.

They were banned at this place too, but we didn't figure that out until later.

Our next stop was Wellington. But on the way we stopped in Martinborough for some wine tasting. Their wines are not bad. They're certainly way overpriced, but so is everything in New Zealand. I had to drive so I had to only visit a few wineries, but still "needed something to eat!" before going on.

We had to go straight to the library in Wellington because Naomi missed work so much.

I have to go have dinner, so I'll get back to this in another installment.

I was wrong about the Super Bowl I guess. That's pretty shocking considering my string of picks this year.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back in the AS

I'm back from New Zealand. It was pretty great: I'll post a bunch of pictures and give some descriptions soon.
How's it going?