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Melbourne

After 2 days of waiting on mother nature to issue my pardon and allow flights to continue, I have finally found myself in Melbourne! I was feeling a bit down tonight when I finally landed, and after a lengthy shuttle trip to my hostel, I resolved to pick myself up and venture out into the city. After a brief conversation with the hostel staff, I decided to check out the Brunswick neighborhood. With my coat and scarf wrapped around me as tightly as I could manage, I headed out into the cold, dark night. After about 3/4 of a mile I started seeing a variety of shops (all of which were closed), restaurants, and a large number of cafes. Brunswick had an immediately obvious “hip” vibe to it, and, as I would later discover, was the “hipster” area of town. I continued my trek, pausing occasionally to peer through a shop window, or admire some graffiti, until finally arriving at my destination: Bimbo Deluxe Pizza. Bimbo’s multiple stories are littered with couches, coffee tables, and chairs, and felt more of an old victorian home than a bar and restaurant: I loved it! I ordered a pizza (on special for $4) and a beer (not on special for $8), and began chatting up a guy who was placing his order beside me. After conversing for a few minutes, I had found that Chris (my new bar buddy) had just taken his final exam for paramedics school and was out celebrating with his classmates. He invited me to join them, and we spent the next hour or so chatting and enjoying a few beers. After we had finished our beers, one of the girls in the group (known as “Russia” due to the fact that she was from Russia) exclaimed “I want to go get a lap dance then go home and go to bed. Let’s go to the strip club!” First night off to a good start. We all jumped in the car and headed downtown to her favorite club, stopping at the ATM along the way so she could get some cash to pay for her pleasure. Chris and I decided that we didn’t really want to pay the $20 cover at the club, so he suggested we instead head to the Crown Casino on the harbor which boasts $4.50 drinks. At this point I was just sort of following the evening wherever it took me, so I agreed to join him. The casino was quite nice, and reminded a lot of vegas. I had one last drink with Chris, and after watching him drop $300 into a slot machine in the course of 30 minutes, decided to call it a night. Upon returning to my room, I was greeted by my new roomates Ariel and Danielle, both of whom are from LA. If this wasn’t coincidence enough, Ariel’s family is from Minnesota, and the lady (who’s name I didn’t catch) sleeping on the bunk above me was also from Minnesota. It continues to amaze me just how small the world is.

Day 2. Joined by my new friends from LA, I set out to explore the CBD (central business district): the heart of the city. We hopped on the free public tram (which runs a loop around the entire CBD) and made our first stop at the Victoria Market. The market is comprised of a large number of booths, selling everything from clothing, to souvenirs, to produce, and basically resembles a huge flea market. After a bit of poking around the maze of booths (basically all selling the same things), we jumped back on the tram and headed to South Melbourne to check out Eureka Tower. The tower is the highest viewpoint in Melbourne and provides 360 degree views of the entire city. Needless to say, the views were spectacular, and really helped to give an understanding of how the city and surrounding areas were layed out. Once we’d had our fill of the views, we set out to explore a bit more of the city. Melbourne CBD reminds me a bit of the best parts of New York City and San Francisco all rolled into one, without any of the grunge or seedy bits. The streets are connected by small alleyways, which are littered with cafes and graffiti. This was one of my favorite things about Melbourne: no matter how much you explored, there always seemed to be a new alleyway, cafe, or bar you had yet to discover. The other thing I noticed about the city is just how fashionable all its’ inhabitants are. It was almost a bit strange; almost every person you passed was dressed quite chic, and they all seemed to have the same general sense of style. It was almost as if everyone had gotten together and said “ok, this is how we’re going to dress,” and everyone just agreed. That being said, I feel quite at home here. In fact, this is possibly the first city I’ve found thus far on my trip that I could see myself living in.

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After spending most of the afternoon exploring the city, the girls and I parted ways for a bit and planned to meet up a bit later for dinner. I continued wandering aimlessly and eventually found myself in a rather unique shopping mall. The building had a huge, cone-shaped, glass roof, and in the center of the interior stood a large brick building. Apparently this building was once used to create lead shot for firearms and was maintained for historical purposes (it now houses a number of chain clothing stores). I met the girls back at the hostel around 7 and, on the advice of the hostel staff, we made our way to a restaurant in Chinatown called “Mr. Dumpling House” for dinner. The line was already quite long by the time we arrived, but we resolved to wait it out, assuming that given the sizable crowd it must be worth the wait. The wait  turned out to be a bit more frustrating than any of us anticipated. The problem was that there were only 3 people in our party, and many of the tables in the restaurant sat 6 or more. Rather than breaking up the tables and seating us (along with the other party of 3 ahead of us), the hostess decided to instead seat 8 larger parties ahead of us, while we sat idly by and watched. After a little over an hour we finally got seated. We were all quite hungry at this point and placed our order straight away: 3 plates of dumplings, and one order of spring rolls (bringing the total number of dishes to 4 for those of you following along). The waitress returned about 10 minutes later with our first plate of dumplings which we excitedly consumed within a few minutes. We then sat and watched as she brought tray after tray to all the surrounding tables, yet the remainder of our order never came. After almost an hour had passed, the waitress approached me and asked if we had received the rest of our order. I told her we had not, and again repeated the items that were still missing. Another 10 minutes went by, and she again returned to ask whether we had received the missing dishes. I, once again, informed her that we had not. Another 15 minutes and the dishes finally arrived! Now full, and rather content despite the horrible service, we prepared to leave. It was at this point that the manager approached me and began asking about how many dishes we had received. I repeated multiple times that we had received exactly what we had ordered and expressed my unhappiness with the wait, but he was somehow unsatisfied with the situation. As it turned out, he thought that we had received the dishes more than once and were trying to scam them. He asked me to join him downstairs, then requested that I sit and review a security tape with him to determine whether or not we had received the dishes more than once. After 10 minutes of watching him fast forward and rewind the security tape, he simply said “ok, that’s fine.” Obviously I was less than happy with this, but at that point I just wanted to leave and continue with my night. After waiting for our bill (which did not arrive), we went downstairs to the manager, who quickly printed it out for us (in the full amount, no discounts, no apologies). We paid and left. On a side note, the dumplings were amazing, and quite cheap, and despite all the bullshit we had to put up with I would still recommend this place. Next up was a stop at The Croft Institute, a small, hard to find, cocktail lounge not far from the dumpling house (I had done a bit of research and supposedly this place was supposed to have the best craft cocktails in Melbourne). Wandering through a few dark, graffiti-covered alleyways we found ourselves at a dead-end, the only thing in sight was a small, illuminated sign reading “The Croft Institute.” This was the place! After battling through the crowd, and having a good conversation with the bartender (a 20 year old guy named Chris who plans on heading to SD after he turns 21), I ordered a drink called “The Mad Professor,” and the girls ordered something with absence which was served in a rocks glass with a syringe in it (minus the needle). The drinks were quite good, but the place was packed, and at $20 per drink, we decided to head on to our next stop: “Section 8.” Section 8 is an outdoor bar (down yet another alley) surrounded by a wire fence, with a few tables, and a bar. It was great! We hung out there for a while, enjoying another tasty beverage, then decided to call it a night.

Shothouse

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Day 3. The girls took off for Tasmania today, and I spent the entire day wandering around the city. Melbourne CBD is a very lively place to hang out. Street performers and musicians fill the sidewalks, and there people everywhere. I found a Scotch & Soda store (one of my favorite brands) and snagged myself a fancy new shirt (I’ve been feeling like a bit of slob wearing nothing but t-shirts and the same fleece day after day). After spending the entire day walking, I made dinner with one of my new dorm mates, then decided to head to bed.

Day 4. My friend Nikesh has been sending me all of these “friend suggestions” on facebook, and I finally worked out that he was trying to connect me with friends of his who live in Melbourne. I sent them each messages, and managed to connect with Dyxie, who invited me to join her and a friend in Port Melbourne for brunch. I gratefully accepted, and hopped on the train to meet them. We enjoyed a nice breakfast, then they showed me around the area a bit. Afterwards, I walked from Port Melbourne to St. Kilda where I caught the train back downtown and returned to my hostel.

Day 5. I woke up long before the sun, walking a half-mile to a neighboring hostel to catch a bus that would take me on a tour of the great ocean road, and the twelve apostles. The day was long, the weather was cold, and the sites were beautiful. To be perfectly honest though, after living on the west coast for nearly 8 years, the site of the Australian coastline wasn’t as stunning as it might otherwise be. After 12 hours tooling about on the bus, I found myself back at the hostel, and made it another early night.

 

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Day 6. My last day in Melbourne. In the morning I went on a tour of the old Gaol (aka Jail), and learned about the history of Australia’s most famous criminals. I then killed a few hours bumming around the park, watching a movie, and hanging with a few friends from the hostel. I wrapped up the day by finishing up some laundry, and joining some friends from the great ocean road tour for dinner and the Little Creatures Dining Hall. After returning to the hostel, I found that the morning flights (including mine) had been canceled due to the same ash cloud that had me stuck in Christchurch (it strikes again!). I re-booked my shuttle to the airport, and have decided to just head to the airport tomorrow afternoon and hope for the best…

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Change

I’m finding it difficult to just let go of the worries and concerns of my ever day life and truly sync into the rhythm of my trip. While I am meeting a lot of great people, loneliness and separation from those I care about are an issue that I am constantly battling. I’m not really sure why I cling so tightly to things over which I have no control, but I know that I need to let go more and let the cards fall where they may. It’s funny how life can throw you off balance like that. It seems that every time I feel that my feet are firmly planted, and I am comfortable and confident on my own, something (see also someone) comes into my path that sends me tumbling, gasping for breath, and trying to find my footing. Given enough time, I become entwined with this entity, as if anchored by their presence. I suppose that is what love is. Letting someone into your life, joining, becoming one. The difficult part is not losing yourself in the process. Not becoming reliant; symbiotic. How do we overcome feelings of jealousy, fear, anxiety, longing, need. How can we become intimate with others, allowing them to see us for who we truly are, at our best and worst, bare, naked, exposed, without also becoming completely vulnerable? Maybe that’s the whole idea: when it’s real, true, love, that none of these things matter because you are just so thankful to have that person in your life at all, whether they continue to be there or not. Or perhaps it is quite the opposite, and these feelings just don’t arise when it is right. Patterns are emerging, and my eyes are being opened ever-wider. Will I find the courage, the answers, the reasons to induce change? I hope so.

– Written at 30,00 feet. Things seem so much simpler here…

 

 

 


Queenstown and Milford Sound

IMG 3059Today we left Wanaka and make our way down to Queenstown: my final stop on the Kiwi Experience. We drove for about 20 minutes to “The Puzzling World,” a tourist trap full of optical illusions and a labyrinth nth (see also giant maze) that we couldn’t manage to tackle in the course of 45 minutes. It was a good time, and reminded me of being a kid again.

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We drove a few more hours to Queenstown, checked into Nomads backpackers (one of the nicest hostels we’d stayed in yet), then headed out on the town. The next few days were spent wandering around the town during the day, Fergburger (the local burger joint that The Bareback Bar and Grill in San Diego is based on), and partying at night. There isn’t a whole lot else to do at the moment (ski season hasn’t started yet), so I just sort went with it. Heidi, Jack, and I decided that we wanted to check out Milford Sound, so we chipped in and hired a car for a day. The drive took about 4 hours and brought us through some stunning scenery. Thanks to Krysha and Stu, I had a connection with Kahu (they’re friend who happens to captain one of the tour boats). He was kind enough to hook us all up with free passes for the cruise around the sound. After a few hours on the boat, some breathtaking views, and a really cool experience with a pod of dolphins, we piled back into the car and began our return to Queenstown. We ended up picking up a hitchhiker from Paraguay and driving him back to Queenstown with us. He was very greatful, and helped to provide some fun conversation on the long ride home.  A  few more nights trying my hardest to relax and not go out drinking (a ridiculously hard task at our hostel) and my Queenstown experience had come to an end.

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Frans Josef Glacier

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Today we arrived in Franz Josef, a sleepy little town at the base of an enormous glacier. I booked a full day hike on the Franz Josef glacier, so after grabbing a bite to eat and doing a bit of prep-work for the day ahead, it was off to bed. The next morning started bright and early, and to my surprise (and extreme gratitude) the sun was shining! The forecast had called for rain, and after weeks in the cold and wet weather, the idea of spending the entire day hiking in rain was not exactly one that I met with enthusiasm. After eating a solid breakfast, I met up with the rest of the crew, and headed down to the guide company to prep for our hike. After a brief overview of the day ahead, we were outfitted with crampons, boots, rain pants, and jackets, then hopped on the bus and took off toward the glacier!

The first 45 minutes were spent walking along the valley floor, surrounded by the towering mountains and the numerous waterfalls running off their faces. The view was spectacular, and would only continue to get better as the day progressed. Once we reached the base of the glacier, we stopped to strap on our crampons and test our skill at walking on ice. Led by our guide (carrying a pick axe and shaping the trail as we walked) we made our way out onto the glacier. The next several hours were spent hiking, crawling, and generally exploring the ice and all of its’ varying features. The deep blue ice was breath taking, and truly an experience that I won’t forget.

If you do ever make it to Franz Josef, make sure you book the full day hike. A lot of people fear that this will be too much work, or that they simply aren’t in shape for a full day of hiking, but trust me when I tell you that you can do it. If you do opt for the half day tour, you will spend most of the morning walking in the valley, then will find yourself sorely disappointed after realizing that the tour has to turn around shortly after you finally step foot on the glacier.

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Lake Mahanipua

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Tonight we stopped at Lake Mahanipua, home of the infamous “Pu Pub.” The pub got its’ name partly due to its’ location (at lake MahaniPUa, and partly due to the fact that it’s built in a building that once housed public toilets. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Les, a very spry 87 year old man with shaggy white beard and a rather crotchety demeanor (pretty much me in 59 years). Les is the long time owner of the Pu Pub and the attached hotel where we would be spending our evening. He gave us the run-down on the rules, told a few off-color (see also awkward) jokes and stories, then sent us off to find our rooms.

One of Les’ stories started by informing us about the cameras he had placed around the hotel and bar. He went on to describe a very special evening he had captured on film involving a guy standing in the corner of the bar with his pants around his ankles and a girl around his waist. To quote Les, he was “getting a nobber.” What did he do with this film you ask? Well, he printed out still photos of the event and pasted them all over the bar so that everyone could share in the magic. The moral of the story: Les sees all, and if you decide to “get funny” he’ll put that shit on Youtube and make you famous (his words) lol. Les is a legend!

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We found our rooms, dropped off our bags, then set out on a walk with Kat to see the Lake and the Tasman Sea. The lake was stunning: a huge pool of mirrored glass surrounded by lush green mountains. We spent a bit of time taking some photos, and taking in the views, then proceeded back across the highway just in time to see the sun set on the Tasman Sea. After our walk we returned to the hotel, and joined the rest of the crew for a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables, corn on the cob, and Les’ famous venison stew: it was amazing!

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After dinner it was time for the big party. As a way to promote the pub, and encourage a bit of good fun, Les’ and the Kiwi Experience team put on a themed party in the pub each time the bus stops there (which is pretty much every night). Our theme was the letter “P.” Dressed as pirates, police officers, and my costume “Pin the tail on the donkey,” we all headed to the pub got the party started. Someone suggested we all go around and take turns quickly introducing ourselves, stating our name, where we are from, and our favorite sexual position (this proved to be interesting). I was also quite surprised to hear how many ladies report “reverse cowgirl” to be their favorite. This fact also provided a good bit of fun when Senna (a very attractive blonde girl from Holland) shared that she did not know what reverse cowgirl was. The reason this was fun was because Heidi decided that the best way to explain was by simply laying Senna down in the middle of the bar and showing her. Needless to say hilarity (amongst other things) ensued. After more than enough cocktails had been consumed, we wrapped up our evening at the Pu Pub and headed off to bed.

Pin the tail on the donkey Les


RIver Valley – New Zealand

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River Valley is  destination that often missed by most travelers, and I find that quite sad as it has honestly been one of my favorite stops of the trip thus far! It is only a few hours from Taupo, so if you find yourself in the area, then this is a must. The drive is very scenic (assuming you are coming from Taupo), first taking you around the banks of Lake Taupo, then through the mountains of the Tongariro National Park, and finally winding through the hills  and fields of the River Valley. Your destination: The River Valley Adventure Lodge; a small, family-owned lodge on the banks of the Rangitikei River.The lodge is quiet and comfortable, and has a small bar, a guest-kitchen, and fully staffed kitchen serving up some absolutely amazing meals (we had a roast dinner while we were there). Beyond this, they also offer a number of guided activities such as whitewater rafting and horse trekking (see also horseback riding), as well as a number of good hikes and leisure activities.

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Our bus pulled into the River Valley lodge just before dusk, and we were quickly shown to our rooms where we dropped our bags and returned to the lodge for some R&R before dinner. At 6PM the cook served up a proper roast supper of roast beef, garlic mashed potatoes, a mixed vegetable medley, rolls, cabbage, and gravy. Everything on the table was made from scratch, and I don’t expect I’ll have a better meal for some time… After dinner, we sat around the large stone fireplace in the center of the main lodge, played some guitar, had a few beers, then called it a night.

Having gone to bed a bit too early the night before, I woke up around 5AM and just could seem to get back to sleep. I had to be up and ready to go by 8 for rafting, so this wasn’t the end of the world. I packed my bags, made a bit of breakfast, then met up with Tom, our rafting guide. After a brief overview we all grabbed our wet-suits, helmets, and other gear and made for the river. Bear in mind, Tom was the only one in our boat that had any rafting experience, and we were about to head down one of the few rivers in NZ that offer grade 5 rapids (this wouldn’t be allowed in the states). We all piled into the boat and Tom gave us some instruction on how to properly row, duck, jump, as well as a few other commands we would need to know to safely navigate the rapids, and with that we were off! Over the next 2 hours we made our awy through some absolutely breathtaking canyons, surviving the rapids, and stopping along the way to jump off a 40 foot tall boulder into the freezing cold river. It is truly an experience I will never forget…

After returning from the rafting trip, I had just enough time to grab a (much needed) hot shower, and a bite to eat before boarding the bus for Wellington…


Wellington

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I’m not quite sure why, but I find city’s, alive and buzzing with people, to be some of the most depressing places on earth. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being in the city, I just find it strange that when I am the most surrounded by people is when I feel the most alone…

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We arrived in Wellington (aka windy Wellington) last night and nothing much to report from the evening. We hung around the hostel for a bit, then bummed around the neighborhood and found some dinner before heading off to bed. The next morning started with a blustery walk around town, stopping to pick up a few extra warming layers before we get further south, and into colder weather. I spent most of the morning exploring the city, then met up with Jack and Heidi to check out the Te Papa museum. The museum was great! There were 7 floors of exhibits covering everything from ecology to local history, and to make things even better, it was free!

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After the museum, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I headed back to the hostel to do some laundry and rest up for tomorrow.


Waitomo Round 2

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I once again found myself up at the ass-crack of dawn today (this is becoming somewhat of a trend). With a few hours to kill before the bus was scheduled to depart, I walked to the grocery store and picked up some grub for later on in the day. On the way back to the hostel, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a sausage roll for breakfast. Sausage rolls seem to be pretty standard fare breakfast food, and, though a bit on the greasy side, are quite tasty! With breakfast and my caffeine fix handled, I grabbed my bags and went outside to find the bus. When I got downstairs there were 12 other people, my new bus-mates, already waiting. I was somewhat glad that the group was on the small-side as it made it much easier to get to know everyone. After some quick introductions, our drive “Mar” showed up, and we all boarded the bus and began our journey to Waitomo.

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Everyone on the bus was extremely nice, and within a half-hour I knew everyone quite well. About a half-hour into our trip to Waitomo, we stopped off at a ranch to see a “Sheep Show.” 4 of us decided to attend the show: Jan and Paul (a retired couple from Australia), Joanne (a spinning instructor from Sydney), and myself. Now normally this isn’t the type of thing I would do, but when in Rome (or NZ)… The show was quite comical. We got to learn about all the different types of sheep, see how they are sheared, and watch an amazing demonstration of how sheep dogs are used for herding. In the middle of the show, I was pulled up on stage with 3 other audience members. We were each handed a baby bottle with a bit of milk in it, and were then informed that at the count of three we were all to have a drinking contest. When the count reached three, the presenter shouted STOP, then proceeded to unleash a small group of baby goats onto the stage. The drinking contest was a joke, and the bottles were there for us to feed the goats.The smallest of the goats, a tiny little guy not much bigger than a chuihuhua and covered in soft black fur, came tumbling towards me on very unsteady legs. I tried to feed him, but he was so excited the bottle kept missing his mouth and splashing milk on his face. The whole experience was great! Towards the end of the show they brought the dogs out on stage to show off their herding skills, this was by far the most impressive part of the show! They demonstrated how a single dog can herd upwards of 2000 sheep, they are able to do this by climbing on the backs of the sheep to make their way through the herd! To demonstrate, they had the dogs run back and forth across the backs of the sheep, and at one point the dog simply stopped and layed down on the back of one sheep, hilarious. After the sheep show, we all got back on the bus and continued our ride to Waitomo, making one more brief stop to see the longest swing bridge in New Zealand.

We arrived at the hostel in the mid-afternoon. The weather in Waitomo was quite a bit warmer than Rotorua, and the sun was shining. I decided to take full advantage of the weather and went for a run up a scenic trail near the hostel, passing through cow pastures along the way. The view from the top was spectacular! On the way back down the trail, I stopped to do a bit of bouldering on the remains of some rather sizeable formations in the middle of the pasture. After a long hot shower, I joined the rest of my bus-mates in their room for a beer and some conversation. Later we grabbed dinner down at Curly’s pub, then finished off the night with a couple more beers back at the hostel.

Tomorrow we’re off to Taupo: “Adventure Capital of the North.”


The Quick and Dirty on Cellphones Abroad

While traveling outside of the U.S. you will most likely find that having a cellphone can be quite helpful. Personally, I didn’t need any fancy bells and whistles, I just needed a very simple phone that would allow me to keep in touch with people I met on the road, call hostels and tour companies, and send/receive the occasional text. Unlike the U.S., most (if not all) other countries use cell phones that accept SIM cards, and from what I can tell, these phones are all also “unlocked.” What this means is that you can buy a phone in NZ, pop in a SIM card from and NZ company which will give you and NZ phone number, then when you move on to a new country, you simply get a new SIM card which gives you a new number. This way, you can take your phone from country to country, and you simply have to pay a small fee for a new SIM card.

In New Zealand (where I obtained my phone) there are three major providers to choose from: 2 degrees, vodoafone, and telecomm. All three of these companies offer phones, and various types of service. I ended up choosing Vodafone since they offered what they call an “add-on” package which allowed me to pay a flat amount of $35 for 100 minutes. The minutes allowed me to call any phone in NZ without having to worry about per minute usage fees which was nice. To me, this seemed to be the best option.

That’s really all there is to it. If you want to take care of this before you leave, you can pickup a cheap phone online (ebay). You just have to make sure it is globally unlocked, and accepts a SIM card. Nokia makes a great phone and will most often meet both these requirements.


Waitomo and Rotorua

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I woke up early this morning so I could hit the hotel gym before hitting the road. After packing our bags, Christine and I walked across the street to a small cafe for a bit of coffee and my first internet connection in the last 8 days. We spent the better part of a half hour catching up on emails and enjoying our coffee before returning to the hotel to pack up the car. After getting our bags, and ourselves, situated, we hit the road to Waitomo. The next few hours were filled with winding roads, green pastures, and rolling hillsides.

We arrived in Waitomo around 1PM. Fog draped landscape like a heavy blanket, and it began to rain lightly. After finding that the tours at the Blackwater Rafting company were full, we continued down the road to Waitomo Adventures, where we booked or 4 hour Blackwater Rafting tour.

The tour was amazing! The full tour at the Blackwater Rafting company turned out to be a blessing as the smaller Waitomo Adventures offered a much more personal and fun tour. The guides were great, pushing us to really dig in and explore the caves. We spent the 4 hours of our tour crawling, swimming, and tubing our way through the caverns. This has been one of my favorite experiences of the trip thus far, and I would highly recommend that anyone visiting New Zealand take the time to do it!

After our caving experience, we had a great meal at Curly’s Pub, then decided to drive on to Rotorua. It was pitch black, pouring rain, and the gps had decided that the best route to Rotorua was through winding, back-country roads. Every 3km or so we would take a left turn, then a right, then another left. I was damn near convinced we were going in circles. If you were to draw our route out on a map, I would imagine it would resemble something like you might see drawn with an ethca-sketch. Needless to say, this route took a lot longer than we had originally expected (the pouring rain and the fact that we were doing no more than 35mph the entire way only multiplied this). After about 3 hours of zig-zagging through the dark farmland, we finally came upon a town where I pulled over for a much needed cup of coffee. While in the gas-station, I had a chat with a very nice lady who confirmed that we had indeed taken “the back way” to Rotorua, and was kind enough to give me some rather detailed instructions for the rest of our trip. After about another 45m minutes we arrived in Rotorua, found a motel, and turned in for the night.

The next morning, I once again found myself up before the dawn. With time to kill, I decided to take a dip in the motels thermal spa. This was basically no more than a small tiled pool filled with water from the local hot springs. The water was warm, and smelled strongly of sulfur. There was a sign posted on the wall, instructing users “no dipping, diving, or splashing” to avoid getting some type of meningitis. It displayed a small wave with a smiley face above the water, and frowny face below. The whole thing was a bit comical, and I wish I had brought my camera to take a picture. I soaked for a while; the water felt good and helped ease my muscles a bit.

Christine and I enjoyed a nice breakfast at Capers cafe, then went for a stroll in the Kuirau park (a free thermal park near the city center). After exploring the parks bubbling springs and snapping a few photos, it was time for Christine and I to part ways so she could make her way back to Auckland where she would be catching a flight back to LA later in the afternoon. She dropped me at the Base hostel, and hit the road.

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I was officially on my own now, and the gravity of things were really starting to set in. To combat the initial feeling of loneliness, I played some Mumford and Sons on my iPod and set out to wander about town. I spent the rest of the afternoon poking around the city, picking up some groceries, and finally figuring out how the whole cellphone system works abroad. Later in the evening, I stopped at the Lava bar (part of the Base hostel in Rotorua) where I took advantage of a nightly special they offered: a huge plate of bangers and mash and a pint for only $10! After dinner, I contacted the Kiwi Experience and arranged to hop on the bus in the morning which would take me straight back to Waitomo, before heading on to Taupo. Tomorrow morning is my first day on the bus, and I’m looking forward to making some new friends…

Ordering coffee in NZ and AUS:

  • Filter Coffee: This is just a standard cup of coffee (what you would get if you ordered a cup of coffee in America).
  • Long Black: Double shot of Espresso with water (this is essentially like a cup of normal coffee).
  • Long White: Double shot of Espresso with Foam