Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kia Ora, Aoteorea

Hey everyone!! Well it's definitely been an exciting few days, as you can tell from our lack of posting... So I guess I'll start back a few days ago...

We left Auckland super early (partly because we wanted to beat the traffic, mostly because our bodies still have not adjusted and we've been waking up naturally at about 5:45 in the morning everyday) and drove to Rotorua, which is where all the Maori stuff is. We arrived and immediately noticed the sulphur springs... it was pouring down rain and so nasty (36 degrees!). We walked around the springs for a while and ended up soaked. We found a cute little lunch place, the Fat Dog, and warmed up with some tea and seriously the weirdest pizza I've ever eaten. It didn't even look like a pizza. It had no sauce, this super thick crust, and they put dried, peeled beets on top... yes, beets. It actually didn't taste bad and at that point we were so cold and hungry, you could have given us just about anything and it would have tasted good.

That afternoon the weather cleared a bit and we headed out to go luging... you ride a gondola up to the top of this mini-mountain and you get in this little sled with wheels that steers like a bike and then ride it down this track to the bottom. It was seriously HILARIOUS and SO MUCH FUN!! We bought 3 rides down so we got to do the intermediate track once and the advanced track twice. Lee was much more aggressive than I was and actually ran off the track once up on two wheels. I ended up getting passed many times, and once got totally rear-ended by a guy behind me. It was a really fun way to spend a gross afternoon. The picture is us about to go down the luge.

That night we went to the Maori Hangi. We got picked up on a big bus (so touristy!) at our hostel by our guide, Mark, who was obviously Maori. We got to the village site after picking our "chief", Allen (he plays rugby, which is why he was our chief) and watched all of the traditional Maori customs and dances, including the Haka, that the All Blacks do before every match. They fed us a traditional Maori feast, cooked underground... so good! Then we headed back to town.

The night was definitely educational, if not a bit cheesy, but I do have to say that one of the most impressive parts of the night was our bus ride there. Mark, the guide, taught us some words in Maori, Kia Ora being one of them, which means thank you, please, hello, welcome, to your good health, in Maori. He then proceeded to say, with pretty perfect accents, each of those words in 56 different languages!! He had French, German, Italian, and all that, plus some really obscure ones like Tahitian, Arabic, Catalon, etc... it was crazy!! On the ride back, he then led songs in about 10 different languages, mostly national anthems. We couldn't believe he knew all that! And he spoke with perfect accents! (Aoteorea means "land of the long white cloud" in Maori, or New Zealand!)

So yesterday we got up and immediately got in the car and drove the hour to Taupo, a little resort village on the biggest lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupo (duh!). It is absolutely gorgeous here (the picture on the right is the view from our hotel room)... the downtown is so charming with all the Kiwi outdoorsy shops and bars and restaurants. We love it here and are so glad that we are staying another day. I'll let Lee talk about our adventure yesterday.

I'm not sure what we're going to do today, some shops are closed because it's Sunday, but we may walk to the neighboring town, about 5 miles away, where we heard there are more cool restaurants and pubs.

We head to Wellington tomorrow, via the Tongariro National Park, although we have to take a roundabout route, because the Desert Road is closed for the winter. We'll be in Wellington, the capital, for 3 days. Write more then!

P.S. Scott and Jenny: this town is made for you two... anyone with a room dedicated to camping gear would love it here!!

P.S.S. Christy: Lee is definitely shuddering at the thought of 1L year... you will be awesome though!! We're thinking about you!

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