New Zealand Day 4

24th of March, 2007
[written two days later]

Back on the bus for another morning. Our road time today is about five hours, of which we’ve covered about half as I write, heading to Wellington from Taupo. We’ve just stopped at some cafe in the middle of nowhere, called Flat Hills, for 45 minutes. It’s

It’s been pretty quiet on the bus this morning – a lot of seedy people. No-one’s puked yet, I don’t think, but there’s plenty of plastic bags on hand.

The caves at Rotorua [[ Waitomo ]] were really amazing. I’d love to do the longer tour – really check them out properly, and do some more clambouring about. I asked Danny about it; he’s done the tour we did but not the longer one. Unfortunately they never get to Rotorua [[ Waitomo ]] early enough to do it. If I come back some day I’ll have to.

So, on Frid Saturday we left Rotorua Waitomo for Rotorua. We stopped first at the Agrodome, where they put on shows that are educational but comical. They introduce about 19 var breeds of sheep, show how to shear a sheep, milk a cow, herd sheep (and ducks). It was quite a laugh – Kiwis have a very dry sense of humour, at times, very ironic [[ & sarcastic ]], it’s good.

From there we went just across the road, basically, to the Zorbs. Giant plastic balls about three or four metres in external diameter, with an inner sphere, in which up to three people sit, about two meters metres in diameter. They have warm water inside so you can slide about freely. The hill you go down is probably all of about 100 metres in length, so the ride is over in about ten or fifteen seconds. But it’s great fun – everyone really enjoyed that. I went with Albert & Maureen, whom yelled loudly all the way, which was funny.

Then from there we continued on to Rotorua itself, I presume, to catch the gondola up the hill, where they have – aside from the incredible view, a luge track. Three, actually, all running down the hill in varying lev degrees of difficulty. We each had two rides provided, but we had to take the “Scenic” track first as beginners.

The luges were a little dinky, with BMX handlebars, so from the photos I’d seen I didn’t expect too much. They were actually pretty cool, and certainly went fast. Since you had steering it was your job to follow the track, which was wide enough in most places for a couple of luge’s side by side, so you could race quite happily.

The scenic track wasn’t that bad, actually. I went full out straight off, thinking I wouldn’t need to worry about braking, but that fallacy was soon quashed. My c luge was a bit weird, I think – while I po passed about a dozen people on the way dov down, but then came to a stop a near the end when my brakes seemed to lock up. So, everyone I passed caught up to me, eventually, and “helpfully” knocked me down the hill. :)

The second time around I went down the advanced track, right after Mark. He’s a sparky from somewhere in Victoria – sou somewhere between Ballarat and Bendigo, I think it was.

It was cool racing him – I bumped him a few times, and vice versa, and we passed each other a few times, but in the end I reached the end first. :)

I would have gone a couple more times at least, but we didn’t have the time, sadly.

At this point I drew a line marking where I’d stopped writing momentarily. And the next bit starts talking about stuff again, but it doesn’t really remind me when it was. So, I cheated and went to the Contiki website to review the itinerary. Hopefully it hasn’t changed since – it doesn’t appear to have, though they now do this silly thing where days 1 and 2 are “Depart for New Zealand”… grr… probably think they’re being smart by knowing I’m looking at their website from the U.S. Bad presumptuous web designers, bad!

So I’m going to assume, as noted, that this is all talking about day 4 still.

We’ve arrived in Wellington now – I’m currently sitting in the basement carpark of our hotel – the Abel Tasman waiting for the only washing machine in the place to become free. Brilliant system, that.

On the upside, our room – 201 – has a door out onto a bare concrete area outside, which might be a cool place to hang out.

It’s funny how after a few days of excitement, things become a bit of a blur – I’m trying to remember what we did after the gondola down, but it’s coming too to me only slowly.

Actually I lied – there are actually two washing machines here, but one was signed as out of order. But two people from reception just came down, completely at random, and showed me how it works – you have to pull out the knob first, before putting your money in, otherwise it eats the money.

Two italics make a normal.

So now at least my washing is happening, so I won’t be stuck here quite all night.

So after the gondola we went to visit the hot springs, where you can walk up quite close to one of the geysers. It stinks like sulfur all through the town, but of course is strongest next to the geysers & springs.

We also did a quick lap around the town at some point, stopping briefly at one point to look at a heated spring, which had water in it bad but the hot sulfur and whatever else bubbling up through it.

This broken grammar might be indicative of extreme fatigue. I do remember by this time starting to feel the effect of so little sleep for so many contiguous nights. :)

⎡⎡ Even today 4% of NZ’s electricity comes from hydrothermal. ⎦⎦

We also looked at, from across the bowls, croquet and boche lawns, some random tudor-style manshi mansion building, which is apparently the most photographed building in NZ, so I guess it has some strong historical significance, but all I can remember about it is that it used to be the public baths.

This would be “The Bath House”, Google confirms, which is now the Rotorua Museum. We didn’t go in, oddly.

D’oh! While I was explaining how to use the 2nd washing machine to Shaun, I noticed there’s a bag of washing powder already in the laundry. And I paid a dollar for it like a chump! Bah! Sea Shawn also stole off with (accidentally, I think) my washing bag – just a plastic garbage bag, but now I’ve got nothing to take them back up to the room in.

Shawn’s from Victoria – his parents live about 100km northwestish of Bendigo, but he himself lives in Bendigo itself. He’s cool – I first met him in the Waitomo pub, playing pool against him & Leah. He’s good looking, in a kind of cute scruffy way, and has apparently been covered in girls every night. He’s cool though – he’s very photogenic, and it seems his standard thing is to impersonate a monkey as a way of approaching people.

From memory he’s a builder, but I’m not certain.

So, at the hot springs where we stopped there’s a lot of Mauri stuff – standard museum things, but with some pretty cool technology – like one exhibit of Mauri musical instruments that plays a recording of each instrument when you hold your hand over it.

They had a meeting house there, as well as several smaller buildings including a granary & woodshop, where they have Mauri creating carvings – statues and whatnot – although we didn’t have time to watch anything.

We also got to watch some Mauri men & women perform a traditional welcome dance for all the tourists – and there were hundreds of us – which was really cool, but at times funny and I felt I shouldn’t laugh, when they widen their eyes and stick out their toung tongues.

Here again there was a break.

Apparently clothes don’t l dry within twenty minutes in a dryer. More waiting.

I’m not sure if this was really a genuine realisation, or me being sarcastic given the machines only ran for twenty minutes at a time (per dollar, from memory… how I hated that stupid little laundry).

So, after the springs we hit the hostel for an hour or so after dinner. The hostel wasn’t too bad all in all, but the clear star attraction was the pool, heated to ~40°C by the hot springs. When I first stuck my foot in it actually burned slightly, like a freshly-run hot hot bath. It was beautiful in, although it was so hot that you had to hang yourself out of it most of the time. But it had ledges round half of it, so it was a good setup for just sitting back and chilling.

Which I did for a bit, chatting to a French guy who didn’t speak English all that great (not from our tour, by the way) and two Canadian sisters who’s names I just can’t remember [[ Genelle & Nyla & Janelle ]], since I was never actually introduced to them. One works for Ratheone, the big Canadian military technology company. Their mum is from NZ, I think they said.

The plan for dinner was to hit some hotel restaurant where they put on a Mauri show after dinner – I think it was called a Haigi. That was pretty cool – lots of dancing and singing from a group of seven women and about six men, dressed traditionally and apparently all descendant from two famous Mauri from the legend area, from a love tale, which was part of the enactment of the evening.

One of the girls didn’t look all that Mauri – probably part European – but was pretty darn attractive. She was either inexperienced or not very skilled, though, as she took part in only the easier routines.

They performed many dances, but of course the most well known was the Haka. The women also danced with these ball things on strings (which it turns out were just shopping bags with sponges in them; presumably they were traditionally made some more natural way. That was pretty cool.

They also had a lot of the girls stand up on stage and take part in the string-and-ball thing, although it was quite tricky so while lai enjoyable they weren’t all that good.

They also got a lot of guys up on stage to perform a very simple Haka, which was similarly bad and amusing.

24th of March, 2007
[written three days later]

I felt a bit funny at the Haigi (?) dinner – the food wasn’t much what I like, and while the entertainment was good, the conversation just wasn’t happening at our table, so things were a bit boring and awkward.

I was very happy when we left – I’d been keen all night to get back in the pool and just chill. Plus I wanted to try the net again, since both computers were occupied when we first arrived. While waiting for that I wrote some of this journal.

I did eventually get onto the net, and despite the really crap computers rebooting and crashing several times, managed to read my email and send one to mum, dad & their parents, just to say I had at least arrived safely.

I had drunk a bit of water after arriving back from dinner, as I’d been feeling a little headachy. After a while, having written a bit and sent those emails, I went to the pool.

24th of March, 2007
[written four days later]

The pool that night was cool. Nearly everyone from our group was in it by the time I got there. More or less as soon I as I hopped in Roxanne offered a massage, which I think was just her way of finding out which guys gave good massages, as she had me return the favour, before moving on to a few other guys with the same thing.

It was so relaxing in the pool. Some of the guys – Nick, among others – were a bit boistrous at times, wrestling and jumping in (to a 4-5 foot pool), but they largely kept to themselves so although I was worried about them getting us kicked out – officially the pool closed at midnight – they didn’t really bother me.

I chatted with a few people – Roxanne, for the first proper time; she really loosened up that night, as well as Andy, Brandon, Christine, and various others at various points… Mark as well, I think.

There was also a guy called Justin, I think – although Brandon & Christine can’t recall if that’s his name, despite the four of us chatting with him for an hour or more. He was call cool – a teacher or somesuch travelling with a high-school sports group. I thought he was someone from our group that I just hadn’t ne met yet. I can’t remember where in NZ he was from. He was there with his friend and/or colleague Fergi (or Fergus, or similar) whom I didn’t speak to myself.

People were in and out a bit all night, but a few had left by the time I did, sometime in the early morning. I noticed Andy & Lyndsay talking off at some tables on the way out, so I went and ja chatted with them for a bit.

Lyndsay is an architect from Las Vegas, whom I think does c concept art & illustrations. I first talked to her earlier in the day on the bus, I think – or it might have been a prior day. Prior to that she’d kept largely to herself, sitting alone on the bus. She’s much more open & outgoing in now though – just took a little while to get comfortable & meet people.

There’s a lot more people I’ve met thus far, and I can’t really recall the exact details any more – things are becoming something of a blur. There’s Nyla (blonde) and Genelle (brunette), two girls from Canada whom I’ve already mentioned bref briefly.

There’s also Nikki, a 2nd girl from South Africa – also Capetown, same as Skye – who’s not shy as such, but seems to keep to herself for the most part.

And probably many others – I can’t remember who I’ve written about.

At this point I kept writing but started on about the next day, so that’ll be in the next transcription.

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