Monday, April 18, 2011

Mid-Semester Break: Auckland and Rotorua

As the first half of my semester comes to a close here in Auckland, I get to celebrate my survival of an earthquake, two UNI transfers, and a tsunami warning with a visit from my fabulous sister. Katie was due to arrive in Auckland at 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, but unfortunately when she arrived in Sydney her flight was delayed and did not arrive in Auckland until 3:00 am! Poor Katie, but regardless of the late hour I welcomed her at the airport and shuttled her home to a nice and comfortable bed.

For the next two days, Katie was pretty much on her own because I had two 9-5 workshops for my fish hook class. Katie took this time to explore the city, and take the same dolphin and whale cruise that I took before. We went out to some wonderful dinners, and tasted the sweeter side of Auckland at my personal favorite gillato place called Giapo. After my last workshop ended on Wednesday, Katie and I spared no time and were on a bus at 8 am the next day to Rotorua.

Some of you might remember that I spent my first week in New Zealand in Rotorua, and had a blast, so I bursting at the seams to share that same experience with Katie. We even decided to stay at Kiwi Paka the same backpackers I stayed at during the AustraLearn orientation. The moment we walked in the door Bev, one of Kiwi Paka's finest employees, welcomed us with smiles and hello's, and she even recognised me from my previous stay! Over the next several days, Bev became our NZ Mom introducing us to another fellow traver, Brian, and she took time out of her day to take us Zorbing (I will explain what that is in a minute), and she dropped us off and picked us up at the redwood forest.

Bev introduced Katie and I to our first NZ adventure together. Zorbing, a New Zealand invention, basically involves a human sized hamster ball, some hot water, and a big hill. Katie was reluctant to try this NZ thrill, but once Bev offered to take us and Brian, another Kiwi Paka resident, we couldn't say no! So, we opted to do the wet ride all together. This means that Katie, Brian, and I all rolled down the hill in the same ball together. Oh right, and inside of the ball was about ten inches of warm water. Bev said she could hear Katie screaming down the entire hill. I can't say that I'm surprised cause we were having such a blast!

After zorbing, Bev took the three of us to the redwood forest where we spent about an hour walking around and enjoying the lush forest, but our day did not end there. We then went to the Thursday night market where we picked up some Rotorua made, wine, cheeses, and sliced venison. Then we were whisked off the the Tamaki Village for a hangi meal and introduction to Maori culture. After feasting on lamb, chicken, fresh veggies, and pavlova (the traditional NZ desert) Katie and I were more than happy to crash into our nice and warm beds.

Friday morning, we were up by 7, and by 7:45 were on a bus out to Waitomo for some blackwater caving! I was particularly excited for this adventure because I really enjoyed my last caving experiences, but I knew that this trip just might top it. It's called blackwater caving because running through the cave is a small river, and in order to get through the caves a person needs to tube for some parts of it. So, Katie and I donned some rather cold and wet wetsuits found a tube that fit our backside rather tightly and descended into the wet caves.

In Ruakuri Cave there are two drop offs where a delighted caver (such as Katie or myself) gets to jump off the edge of a small ledge backwards into the water, and if you happen to be a little hesitant don't worry cause one of your caving guides would be more than happy to give you a slight push off the edge. Another highlight of this particular tour is the blackout section. When you jump off the little ledge you jump with your bum in the tube, so that you land comfortably seated in your tube. After the jump the guides instructed us to turn off all of our head lamps and look up. Above our heads are hundreds of little greenish-white lights that look remarkably like stars. The constellations of glowworms light up the cave ceiling and its our job to follow the tinny living illuminating creatures out of the cave paddling with our arms through the cave's until we reach the mouth of the cave.

After caving we decided to have a picnic dinner of cheese and wine that we bought at the Thursday night market. Brian joined us and so our evening of debauchery began. After finishing of two bottles of wine, Brain, Katie, and I are ready to go! We walk the five minutes to Rotorua's Lava Bar, where some free shots and a little too much beer makes it a night to remember! Feeling a little worse for the wear the next morning Katie and I are up by 6:45 and on our way to a big and greasy breakfast before our white water rafting trip. We dine at Milly's a local restaurant, and our hung over tummy's were more than thankful. After breakfast we met our rafting guides, and were anxious to get onto the Kaituna River which in one of New Zealands most highly rafted rivers, and host to fourteen drops the most famous one being a seven meter drop which is about twenty-three foot fall! Katie and I had a blast. Our entire raft was submerged after the largest drop, and three of us (including myself, and our rafting guide) we launched from the raft!

After rafting, Katie and I attempted to rent bikes and bike out to the Blue Lake, but bad directions and the encroaching darkness made us alter our plans just a bit. So instead of biking out to one of Rotorua's hidden lakes, Katie and I contented ourselves to bike around Lake Rotorua at sunset, and treat ourselves to some ice-cream. After such a wet and wild experience Katie and I were excited to set off for our next destination, Dunedin!

I can't wait to tell you all about our time in Dunedin, but the clock is ticking and Katie and I are not going to waste a second of it! Once I'm back in Auckland I will recount the rest of our adventures, (which hopefully encludes some skydiving!) and show you heaps of picture!

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