A Week Away, Part I

Hi Everybody, thanks for being patient while we were away for a week. There is so much to share, and we want to do a really good job, so this is the first of what will be several posts regarding our weeklong trip exploring the North Island of New Zealand. We will try to be as detailed as we can, but we got somewhere around 300 pictures, so some will just have to wait.

We started out last Tuesday morning, renting a car from the local Budget RentaCar from Wellington. We had run into a friend of ours, Ricky, at the first hostel we'd stayed at, who needed a ride up to Auckland in exchange for some tickets to Zorb and SkySwing he'd gotten but was unable to use. We jumped on this, as those were the two things we'd for sure wanted to do in Rotorua. Ricky is this wicked-cool guy from Rochester, NY who went to school in VT and is travelling while figuring out what do do with his life. He is a real sweetheart and was happy to blast "The Superbowl Shuffle" on the ride up with us, as he is a Bills fan, and was therefore also very happy the New England Patriots lost the day before. :)

We were given what is called a "ReLocation Rental". There are so many tourists that fly into Auckland and drive down to Wellington, that they're willing to give you a cheap car in exchange for driving it back up north for them. So we got a $20/day rental with the stipulation that we return it within 48 hours and we don't exceed 800km. That's why we were able to stop in Rotorua.

So the car they gave us was a brand-new Mitsubishi SUV. Dizzle joked with the woman at the counter that he wondered if she'd upgraded us to an SUV because we're American. She didn't get it. We'd asked for an automatic and were treated to a surprise when we started driving. Though there was no clutch PEDAL, and we didn't have to shift from first gear in the upper-left to fifth in the upper-right formation, we DID still manually have to shift. It was very strange and we'd never seen another car quite like it. When the RPMs were getting too noisy, we just pushed the stick up once and it would shift up once. Same to downshift. Ricky then said our car was a "Semi-Automatic", and so we knicknamed it "The Glock".

Baby G made sandwiches for the three of us, and we ate them on the desert road that the NZ Army trains on. It was very long, and very flat, and Baby G can tell you there's fabulous scenery there, but Dizzle couldn't because he was still getting used to driving on the left and therefore wasn't taking his eyes off the road too much.

We passed this on the way:

This is an actual CB3 that at one point flew real missions, and now is the "CookieTime Plane". Sort of puts U.S. tourism to shame, doesn't it?

One of the mountains we passed on the road north was this one:
This is Mount Tongariro, which we are sure is very cold and wet at the top.

After driving past Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, we made it far enough north to set up camp.

Lake Taupo

Our Campsite.

We set up shop well before dark, and knowing we had only one full day to explore Rotorua (Wednesday), we decided to take it easy and explore a little of downtown before getting some R&R for the next day.

This is Lake Rotorua. This is an area of the country that has such a high level of geothermal activity (volcanoes, geysers, etc.), that the water is always warm and the whole town smells like sulfur!

This is the inside of a McDonald's in Rotorua. We didn't eat here, we just thought it was artsy and decided to snap a shot of it.

From Left: Ricky, Dizzle, & Baby G at the Pig & Whistle, where Dizzle had a "Big Kahuna Burger". And it IS a tasty burger!

That night, before bed, we all got into our swimsuits (which Kiwi's call "Togs" and think "Swimsuit", "Swimmingsuit", "Trucks", "Swimshorts", and "Bathingsuit" are all weird words) and eased our way into a thermal pool that the campground had onsite. It was basically a hot tub without jets that was the size of a pool. It was very nice and relaxing and made us all smell like sulfur! We mean moreso than we normally do!

At 1:30am, we were awoken. Ricky was standing outside our tent asking if we were messing with him. "Huh?" we replied, and Diz went out to see what was up. Someone had taken Ricky's bag from his tent, complete with $200, his passport, and souvenirs. You'd think this would've put a damper on his trip, and by his admission, it should've, but it didn't.

The next day, we did something we promised all of you back home we'd do: We. Went. ZORBING.

...to be continued...

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