11/22/2007 - 12/06/2007
New Zealand is amazing! I have been having such a good time the past two weeks that I've hardly had a free minute to write, so I've got lots to report and lots of pictures to share.
I got onto the Stray Bus on the November 22nd and met a lot of great people right away. We had a trainee driver on our bus, Chris, who was basically taking a trip around NZ to learn the route and everything, so since he was a trainee we subjected him to as much hazing as possible. He had to wear a bright pink shirt saying "Party Girl" at all times as well as some other things not suitable for publication. The first night we stopped in Hahei ion the Coromandel Peninsula. It was a small town with some good beaches. The best was Cathedral Cove, about a 45 minute walk down the cliffs. It had these incredible rock formations caused by the surf, but unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera. we spent the afternoon just hanging out on the beach.
Sunrise at Hahei
On the 23rd, we drove to Raglan, on the west coast of the North Island, reputedly the best surfing in NZ. It's been featured in Endless Summer among other films. I had a surfing lesson, which was a lot of fun. We all managed to get standing up and it's definitely something I can practice some more on my own. Chris had to wear his pink shirt over his wetsuit, so that was pretty funny.
On the 24th, we drove to Maketu and stayed overnight in a traditional Maori marae or meeting house. The locals put on a dance show for us and taught the guys to do the haka, which is a Maori war dance. If you've never seen it, look up "all blacks haka" on YouTube to see the NZ rugby team performing it before a match. It's incredibly intimidating. We also ate hangi, food cooked underground with hot stones.
Performing the hongi, the traditional Maori greeting
Me with the local boys after learning the haka
On the 25th we drove to Taupo, which was a cool little resort town. In the summer, everybody goes to the lake and in the winter, skiing is only 30 minutes away, so there's always lots of stuff going on. A couple people went skydiving that afternoon, but I'm trying to save some money and I've already done it before, so I passed.
Early the next morning, we drove to Tongariro National Park, the second-oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone. I had decided to do a 3 day trek through the park, and had met some people on the bus, Sofie from Sweden and Blake from Washington, to do it with. The scenery in the park is amazing. It's an active volcanic area, so there's a wierd juxtaposition of wasteland from lava flows and forests right next to it. One of the volcanoes, Mt. Ngaurahoe, was used as Mt. Doom in Lord of ther Rings. We stayed overnight in small huts in the park and had a great time. We finished in Whakapapa on the 28th and hitchhiked into National Park Village, where we met up with some other people from the bus who had stayed behind as well.
On the 29th, we drove to Wellington. I went out for Indian food with Emma and Becky, two girls form the bus and went out on the town. We caught the ferry to Picton on the South Island the next morning and drove to Marahua, right outside Abel Tasman National Park. We were supposed to stay there for two days, but we had caught up the bus in front of us and I decided to head out with them on the morning of December 1st because I knew a lot more people from that bus.
We drove to Barrytown on the 1st, which is a tiny little town on the west coast with nothing in it but one pub, so Stray has a tradition of having a costume party. We stopped at a thrift store on the way down and I ended up with a nightgown and a fur coat, which I think actually went very well together!
Me and Siobhan in Barrytown
Me, Danny and Tony in Barrytown
On the 2nd, we drove to Franz Josef, which is one of the only glaciers in the world that is currently growing. I went on a full-day glacier hike the next day, complete with crampons and ice axes, which was really cool, but pretty tiring. We were the first group up, so our guide had to stop a lot to recut steps that had melted overnight. We made our way through some pretty tiny wormholes and ice caves formed by flowing water, one of which was so narrow we had to take our packs off and I really didn't think we were going to make it out.
Jonny wriggling through a crack
Descending with crampons and rope
On the 4th, we drove Makarora, a small town in the middle of the South Island. It was similar to Barrytown in that there was nothing there and we made our own party, in this case karaoke, although I did end up wearing the fur coat again. After a long night there we drove to Wanaka on the 5th. Wanaka is this amazing small town on Lake Wanaka. The views from the deck of our hostel over the lake to the mountains in the background are incredible, and the town is just a really chilled-out small town. I would seriously think about spending some time here working here if I had the right visas. Maybe next time. We're staying here for a few days before heading to Queenstown and are so far having a lot of fun.
As usual, I have tons more photos that I didn't have space for in the blog on my photo site, www.dtoga.myphotoalbum.com, especially some really good shots from the trek in Tongariro NP. Check them out and let me know what you think. I'm going to try to write more regularly from now on so that I don't have to recap two weeks worth of action. Talk to you all soon.