NOW We’re On Holiday…

This might have to go down as the best New Years Eve ever…

We drove back out to where we arranged that taxi. It was a cold morning, and I was a little nervous, as I was in shorts and a tshirt with a bathing suit underneath. The boat was a lot of fun, it took us to a few places before dropping people off at the destinations that they had selected. MK picked a place called Anchorage Beach. Most of these places you could only get to by boat, but there were a few that you could hike to, but none with roads. MK ran around and played and as it warmed up I sat on the beach, covered in spf 60 and bug spray, but happy nonetheless. I read a book and listened to music. We were out there the whole afternoon, then MK noticed I was still a little red despite my constant reapplication of the spf60 (not that I minded…) We went to sit in the shade and eat the little dinner I had packed. Out of the sun it was freezing, so I went back out. It was about time for the taxi anyway.

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At home, we noticed that MK had forgotten to put sunscreen on his feet, which were fried. I couldn’t stop laughing. We managed to clean up and head out for dinner and drinks for New Years. The town Nelson that we were near had a nice bar that we had a good time at, but they didn’t do a countdown. We had our own. About three times, just to be safe.

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The streets were pretty busy and the whole day and night was so amazing.

Check out these pictures, the difference between high and low tide at the same place:

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And Now For The South Island

Turning in a rental car has never been so difficult. They weren’t open, or by the ferry, or anything that would have made sense. We barely got on the InterIslander Ferry in time. It was a four hour trip that I mostly played Nintendo DS during, while MK fought for a view outside. Our new car was some ridiculous sporty Ford.

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We got in to Picton around noon. There was a little rain so we stopped for lunch and I had some really great oysters. It was immediately noticeable how much prettier it was on this South Island. The views were amazing, the water was even clearer, the boats parked on the coast were bigger and nicer. We hiked to Split Apple Rock. We made plans for the next day to take a water taxi, the only way to get to some of the coves by where we were.

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The Menu Is All Downhill From Here

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Longest drive yet: to Wellington. On the way we got to see a windmill power plant thing, that was the coolest, those things are huge. And of course there is no wasted space in NZ so there’s all these little sheeps wandering around under them oblivious…

 

So, after all the rare hits and mostly misses our diet had been getting, we made the hardest decision of our trip: we had lunch at McDonalds. I swear to you, I never eat that stuff here, but it was the only meal so far that I didn’t feel sick after. So, as you can imagine, we had it like 5 (ok, you got me, maybe 15, we were there a MONTH) more times. Just a little cheeseburger…MK actually had some healthy chicken wrap. The burgers that you’d get in a local shop anywhere, they serve with beetroot on the meat, and goat cheese, which I just can’t stomach. So McDonalds helped a lot. There were a couple Subways we made it to too. That was it for chains, and I feel guilty, but I’d rather eat that garbage and enjoy my trip.

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We took a trolley car to the top of the city, and walked down through the Botanical Gardens, which unfortunately turned into a death march we thought we might not survive. 35 minutes turned into an hour and a half or so back to the hotel. Don’t know how we managed that, but I’m pretty sure I walked off my McDonalds calories!

MK also made us stop at the Kaoira Forest on the way, which I mention only because (my little nerd) he bought a book that told him that that was one of the places that the Lord of the Rings was filmed. I think he was expecting a castle or something, we walked out to where “Rivendell” had been and saw: some grass. Not that exciting. I forgot to mention that we walked over swing-bridges on this hike:

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Sure You’re Art Deco

Napier was right on the coast, like almost everywhere else. However, when a huge earthquake came in 1930-something, they couldn’t get to any water at all and most of the city’s downtown area got torched. Therefore, it had to be rebuilt. Art Deco was the cheapest style there was, and since the government decided not to assist, that’s how they went.

Why am I telling you all this? I got up this morning and went on the tour of the Art Deco city. We stared at building frescoes. As you can imagine, all that excitement made us need some coffee, so that’s what we did next. They steam your milk for you and call that a “flat white”. We drove off to a few more wineries and had lunch at the Clifton Bay Cafe. On this drive, it was amazing to see all the wild quail and pheasant on the roadside and on our walks. Not sure if you’re allowed to shoot them or not…

It was one of the sunniest days that we’d had yet so we sat on the beach for a little bit. The wine and sun made us head home for a nap before we went back out for dinner and a tour of the city at night, which has all that art deco lit up in bright neon lights.

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You’d Be Tired After All That Too

After yesterday, we were exhausted. We headed down the east coast to Napier. We had the day to do whatever we wanted, and of course, all we passed by was wineries, so that’s what we did all day.

I didn’t think it was very much fun. They serve you wine begrudgingly, and we were even buying some. Whatever. All I had to show for that afternoon was a headache. My wine preferences have always been a) not tasting like dirt, b) not too oaky, and c) good but cheap. They do make unoaked chardonnays in NZ and that’s what I liked the most. But I pretty much only judge wine and a, b, and c and don’t need to really talk about it. That’s all you do at a winery. Oh that and pay $37 for a plate of bread, dip and a bit of cheese.

We found a local pub that was probably the best meal yet, then drove to Bluff’s Point and the Botanical Gardens. I forgot to mention to you that it doesn’t get dark there until about 9:30pm, which really threw us off at first. And continually, as we never remembered to bring a watch or pay attention to the time.

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What Is Boxing Day Anyway?

We started our day out at Paradise Valley, the springs that feed many of the lakes, produce drinking water, and where most of the brown and rainbow trout spawn. I’ve never seen so many fish. There were neat birds, deer, llamas, alpacas, goats, more sheep, and even lions. Probably my favorite animals were the wallabies. I really thought about trying to steal one.

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Our next stop was Te Puia, a little attraction with Maori history and stuff. I got to see a kiwi. I didn’t know that they were nocturnal, and that I had no chance of seeing one in the wild, so the one they had there was as close as it gets and I’m calling it a real sighting. Te Puia had many active geysers that we made it just in time for. We hiked around and saw mud bubbling, and yellow dirt and rocks and all that stuff, all the smoke coming out of the ground, you get the idea. MK deleted the mud pictures, sorry folks.

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Boxing Day was a big sales day, we went to a store called Rebel Sports to check for sweet deals. The entire store was 25% off and every item was after that about 49% more than I would pay for anything. It was ridiculous. We went next to a Skyline Gondola ride up the highest peak in Rotorua. We had lunch at the top overlooking the town view. MK convinced me to take the luge sleds to get down, which was pretty funny.

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As if stopping at Sheepworld wasn’t enough, we got to go to “Agrodome” and see sheep being shorn and doing tricks and sheep dogs and other farm animals and little lambs. Cute. And smelly. You only make $1.50 per sheep as a sheep shearer. No thanks!

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All the geothermic activity makes you think one thing, right? Spas. I thought so. So our next stop was the Polynesian Spa. Threw on my suit, jumped in the mineral pool, and…unimpressed. The water was yucky. There were bus loads being dropped off every few minutes, and parts with kids running all around. We found one slightly secluded pool, but still were pretty disappointed, so we ended up cutting that a little short.

After a quick shower to get mineral and stranger water off πŸ˜‰ , we headed to Mitai. We walked through the land of the Maori tribe to the village they had created where they performed a great singing and dancing show. They also showed us traditional fights and games, training exercises and tools. We then were ushered to a great tent for our hangai, the traditional feast. They dig a big pit and cook everything all day. We had kumera (sweet potato) chicken, lamb, stuffing, salad, and potatoes. After tea and dessert, we walked back in to the forest to see the eels and trout in the water, and yes, the GLOW WORMS in the forest.

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I have been slightly obsessed with glow worms ever since the first one I got when my little brother was born, letting me know that everyone liked me better. So when I found out that there is some worm that glows in it’s larval stage, I really wanted to see that. Didn’t know they were real…But the thing was there all in these dark wet nasty caves in the middle of no where that cost a ton of money to get to. I got to see them for free. Stickin’ it to the man, woo hoo. That pretty much made my night. Unfortunately, I can’t share that with you because the pictures didn’t come out, so ha ha, I got to see them and you didn’t…

I’m so mean πŸ™‚

A Different Christmas

We were given a coupon for a complimentary champagne breakfast. Mmm, you’re thinking. Not so much. The champagne basically served to help you choke down the food that was not delicious. I guess you take what you can get when you are asking a stranger to make you your Christmas morning meal.

We drove to a town called Rotorua, the most geothermic(ly?) active place in NZ (read: smells like sulfur sometimes). Most of the shops were closed. We had decided not to pay US$180pp for a dinner the hotel was offering, so we went to a gas station and bought some Cups O’Noodles. We walked around the downtown area, which was nice. It was on a lake that blends with the erupting thermal vents. We walked around the hotel property, and sat on their dock and watched the swans.

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The funniest thing was that there was a movie on, Christmas with the Krunks. I never normally would have watched that, really, but it was that or cricket, which I believe I already mentioned is as exciting as watching an ice maker. The movie is about a couple deciding to “skip Christmas” and go on vacation. Yeah, like us. So, after our noodles for dinner, we had a bottle of wine and decided we’d celebrate Christmas the next day. It was, after all, Boxing Day, and we had a big day planned.