Monthly Archives: September 2011

Travel notes, Monday September 19

To my great delight and amusement, my favorite placebo, melatonin, was effective once again, allowing me to sleep right through ‘til morning. No jet lag for this kid! Awoke at about 6:30, and was on the road by 7:30 or so. Walked down to the dunes to check out the beach, stopped at the local bakery and got a fresh bacon-and-egg pie for breakfast, and away I went.

I decided to drive up towards Lake Taupo, in the center of the North Island, up near the volcanoes. There is lots of stuff to do in that area, including jet boats. At some point or another I had decided that my New Zealand trip would not be complete without a jet boat ride, so I thought perhaps this would be my chance.

Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative today. Clouds built all during the morning, and by the time I was nearing Lake Taupo it was starting to drizzle on and off. I had known before I left California that the weather was not going to be ideal, however, and had consciously decided that I would try not to let this deter me.

Keeping this in mind, when I reached the Aratiatia rapids, I donned my raincoat and went on the short hike out to see the rapids. They were quite a spectacle, worth enduring the dampness. These rapids are directly downstream from the spillway of a dam, and this spillway is opened at scheduled intervals throughout the day. When they open, the river changes from a gentle gurgling stream to a raging, emerald-blue torrent. And then goes back again in 45 minutes or so. Peculiar, but spectacular!

Just up the road was Huka Falls, another spectacular cascade, and the site of a jet boat attraction. I started to get cold feet, but when I saw families with little kids signing up, I gathered my wits and bought a ticket. It was a huge kick in the pants, tons of fun! Only thing that could have made it better was a sunny day. Oh well…

Stopped in Taupo for a late lunch. Had an awesome hamburger, juicy hand-made burger on homemade roll, with cheese, bacon, egg, and all the fixings. Never had a fried egg on a burger before, I’ll have to say it was actually pretty good! Decided to continue to the south end of the lake, then up towards Tongariro, one of New Zealand’s most famous national parks.

On the way I stopped in Tokaanu, which has a bunch of hot springs. I decided to try the mineral baths, kinda fun, soak in a tub of hot minerally water for 20 minutes or so. Definitely relaxing, more so than I thought it would be. Afterwards, there was a short walk around all the springs, mudpots, vents, etc. It was dusk, and the mood of the place was very primeval – tropical woods, dark, moisture dripping from the branches, bubbling mud pots and clear springs, with steam everywhere. Very jurassic-feeling.

Drove up the mountains in the foggy dusk, not much to see. Hoping that the weather has cleared enough in the morning to catch a glimpse!

First day in New Zealand!

Rugby fever has definitely gripped New Zealand – I could sense it before the plane even took off. The airline magazine, the posters on the jetway, and even the safety video features the All Blacks. In Auckland airport, you could buy a full size rugby ball for two dollars – from a vending machine!

I got bitten by the fever myself, and decided to head down to Hamilton to try to obtain a ticket for this afternoon’s match between Wales and Samoa. Unfortunately, there were no tickets to be had, the match was completely sold out. I did, however, run into a bunch of guys from the Wales team at their hotel, where I had stopped to ask the concierge about tickets. But that was it… so I had some coffee and then hit the road.

Speaking of coffee, I am definitely taking advantage of the fact that New Zealand has a thriving coffee culture. Starting from the cappuccino I got from the Airstream trailer parked right outside baggage claim, all the coffee I have had has been excellent – and not a Starbucks in sight! Thank goodness, too, because I certainly need it.

After giving up on the rugby game, I decided to head up to the Coromandel peninsula. The drive along the coast was outstanding, and I had some grilled local oysters for lunch. After yet another coffee (something they call a “flat white”, which seems to be somewhere in between a cappuccino and a latte) I continued my drive, up over the spine of the peninsula and over to Cathedral cove, which is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in NZ.

Cathedral Cove was a forty-five minute walk from the parking lot, through meadows and a semi-tropical forests. The beach definitely lived up to its billing. On the way back, I got caught in a downpour, while my raincoat was staying nice and dry in the car.

Fish and chips in the motel room for dinner, rinsed down with Speight’s New Zealand Ale. Early bed time tonight!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Getting ready to fly off to Auckland. Going to do a three day press event with some other companies at the Rugby World Cup. Being a rugby player myself, I have always wanted to travel to NZ to experience the rugby culture there. So this is my big chance!

I’ll only be there for a week, and will only have a few days to explore before the event starts, so I am looking to make the most of it! We’ll see what sort of adventures I find… Or, what sort of adventures find me!