Saturday, April 7, 2012

The North Island, NZ

The first stop on our tour of the north island was Hahie and Hot Water Beach.  When I first began to plan this trip I read about an RTW family and their stop at this beach.  It has been on my list of must do’s ever since.  First we picked up our rental car (diesel because gas is about $9.00 a gallon here, diesel is only slightly less.)  Then we headed for the Coromandel.  New Zealanders love and are very proud of this area.  We could certainly understand why.  After driving a couple hours we arrived at our cute little house at a place called The Church.  There was no one there to check us in; they just have you put an X by your name and help yourself into your house, which was adorable.  I was sad it was for just for one short night.

After dropping our packs we quick grabbed a couple of shovels and headed to the beach.  This natural phenomenon takes place for two hours on each side of low tide, and we were just in time.  Then, and only then, really hot water percolates up through the sand and you can dig yourself your own personal hot tub in the surf.  It is a bit of a trick to get the right mix of hot and cold water and no one managed to dig very deep.  It was actually super comfortable though lolling about in the warm water, rather more like a hot puddle than a hot tub.   We all really enjoyed this experience, but especially Mark who turned it into more of a hot sand beauty treatment.  We couldn’t help wishing we had something like that in Malibu.

The next morning we got up and hiked to Cathedral Cove.  This area is spectacularly beautiful, end stop.

Next we drove to Rotorua, stopping at Waihi on the way because of what looked like an American car show.  Turns out it was “Oldies Day” in a town that is known for gold mining.   The boys enjoyed the cars, and we all enjoyed the 50’s band that performed in the historic pump station.  I joined in on a line dance that was suspiciously like the Electric Slide.

Rorotua is known locally as Rorto-vegas.  It is very touristy and famous for three things: its sulfur-smelling hot springs, the local Maori culture, and the crazy adventure activities on offer.  If you have been following this blog at all you know the adventure activities were the main attractions for the kids, and Barbara fit right in.  First though we checked into the Malfroy Motor Lodge, with the important perk of a very stinky egg smelling hot pool (what follows is only pic I have of this accommodation.) 

The next day Mark took the kids luging and zorbing.  Both activities have you barreling very quickly down-hill, the first in a go-cart type contraption and the second in a large plastic ball.  They all reported having a fabulous time.  As I didn’t go, I have no pictures to show you.  Instead following are pictures of my 2-hour solo walking tour of the town.

boiling mud in the park

Our final stop of this leg was a camping park in the Waitomo Caves area.

There we signed up for a black water rafting trip through the underground glow worm filled caves.    Rather than river rafting this was actually inner-tubing, interspersed with bits of hiking through the dark caves, as the water level was unusually low.  The thick wetsuits we donned were already wet from previous users and the boots and the requisite helmet with headlamp were unweildy.  Not only did we look ridiculous, but we were also very uncomfortable.  Still though the caves were beautiful when we able to focus on that, and the glow worms a very cool and strangely romantic phenomenon.

While in Waitomo we happened onto the one day each year that is the Great New Zealand Muster taking place in the nearby town of Te Kuiti.  It's running of the sheep was touted to rival Pumplana's bulls.  Well it didn't, but it was still an interesting day.  Wilder was chosen from the crowd to participate in a sheep sheering contest and interviewed afterward by the local press.  It was fun when we googled him a few days later and found the article.

On our last day driving Barbara back to the airport in Auckland, we headed back up the coast, stopping at a lovely waterfall and at the super cute beach town of Raglan for lunch.

Saying goodbye to Barbara was sad, but we still have another 5 days to see more of our new favorite, New Zealand, before we catch a plane across the Pacific to Chile.  Right now we are beginning to feel a bit like horses headed for the barn.


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