7.10.06 0 °F
This YHA was the most remote one I had stayed at and in many ways, had the least amenities. It did have a full restaurant, at which I had excellent pizza, salad and wine for dinner. Towels were only given to you if you had a YHA card, otherwise you had to rent them. Kitchen utensils were also doled out at the front desk. A little strange, but I was only going to be there one night.
The next morning, I left my luggage at the YHA for safekeeping and took my towel with me for black water rafting.
I had thirty minutes to spare before I started my tour so I found a little internet café. From behind me I heard the words, ‘I knew it was you by your hair” and it turned out to be Robert and Ron from Doubtful Sound. They had done the cave repelling the day before and thought I needed to do that. It was lovely to see them and I know that I will make sure to contact them when I am in Adelaide
Black water rafting/Glow worms caves – Sue Karutz was right, it was hysterical to watch and very fun to do. We were bused (8 of us, 3 from Japan, 3 from Aust, 1 from Wales and me) 15 minutes to the shed were we changed into our wet suits. Bottom layer, your swimsuit and socks. Next layer, a clammy, cold farmer john wet suit. Next layer, your wet suit top and your very fetching, white Wellington boots. Finally, your white helmet with headlamp. We had to walk down the “wee hill” to the staring point and they pointed out our exit point to our right. We went down a ladder into a black pit and the adventure began.
It was probably a good thing that they did not give detailed explanations of all the things we would have to do, because some of us would not have gone down into the hole. We began by walking in the dark down the river to the stop point. We had two guides, a Maori named Dee and Dangerous Dan. Eventually we were walking chest high in the water and holding on to the walls. We came up through a tight area and then they helped us up onto a rock on our stomachs. Since the rock was covered in mud, they pushed us and we slid down a slide of mud on our bellies. I ended up scrapping my hand as I landed, but not bad. Then we ended up crawling through a narrow muddy tunnel on our hands and knees to be surprised by Dee on the other side telling us to smile at the camera. The mud was light yellow. Dee said that there were eels in the water but if we painted our faces with mud, they would avoid us. We painted our faces. Then the guides told us how the wet suits work. You have to get a small amount of water between your skin and the wetsuit. You then close the wetsuit and your body heats the water and keeps you warm. In order to do this, we had to stand in a circle in three feet of water, open our jackets at least 8 inches from our neck, hold hands and then all squat completely into the water until our heads are covered. VERY CHILLY, but it worked. Once the water was there and the jackets were closed, we did feel warmer.
Then some more hiking in the dark until we came to a place where a glow worm was right above our heads. Glowworms are really fly larvae that do not have a butt and have bioluminescent poop. They weave webs like a spider, but they look like laundry lines with threads hanging down. The catch their dinner and eat for about 8 months. Then they cocoon, come to life a as a fly, breed like mad for three day, lay eggs and die. Hmmmm? I don’t think I will choose to come back as a glowworm.
At two points, our guides sent us up a track by ourselves, once with me in the lead, and we ended up turning around as we hit a dead end. After that, I became very wary of things that they encouraged us to do.
Finally it was time to see the glowworms we each grabbed an inner tube and lined up for launching lessons. Step one, climb up three steps with your inner tube. Step two, face the wall and put your inner tube on your butt with the thickest part on your back. Step three, bend down, stick out your butt, tuck your chin and jump backwards into the water at least 6 feet out to the avoid the ledge you just climbed up and land butt first in the river. It sounds harder than it was and we all made it no worry. I have the picture to prove it.
The guides wisely advise you to not wear your glasses, so knew that I would not get to see them very clearly. They were so high above my head, so it was a good thing that I got to see them up close earlier.
In our inner tubes and holding on the rope, they formed us up into a little train with me as the caboose. I put my feet on the inner tube in front of me and that person put her arms over my feet. We held on to the rope on our right and down the channel we went. It was like looking at constellations at night. It was beautiful.
Out of the inner tubes, we hiked a little more and then it was time to run the rapids. We could hear a little waterfall and they had us step down into a hole and at the bottom, we had to face our feet down the water and cross our arms over our chest and they pushed us feet first down the little water fall with very narrow rock walls on either side of us. Our next mission was to swim, without using our legs about 20 feet because it was too deep to walk. If you used your legs, you lost your boots and then had to dive down and get them. No one used their feet to kick.
A little more hiking, look at the huge Weta (large cricket type insect only found in NZ) then we were out in the rain. Again, just a “wee hill” to climb to get back to the shed. We took pictures to prove we had made it and then the bus ride back to Wiatomo.
Bottom line – the next time I am back to NZ, I want to see the other glowworm caves and see what they have to offer. It was fun, a little cool, a little scary at times, but I never felt in danger and had any of it had seemed like too much for me, I am sure they would have been able to offer me a less challenging alternative. IT WAS WAY GOOD FUN. DO IT AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CAMERA.
Because of my YHA member, my copies of the photos were free. YAAAH!
After the caves, I had a quick lunch of a curry meat pie and tea, did a quick gallop through the cave museum and learned all about the life cycle of the glowworms and then caught the shuttle to the town of Tirau where I would be picked up by another shuttle and taken to Auckland. Nice scenery, very hilly and lots of sheep.
When we stopped in Tirau, Pete of Guthrie’s Coaches met me and the buses name was Tilly. We would have a two-hour drive to Auckland so we took a dinner break. During the dinner break, I took pictures of the local architecture with buildings made out of corrugated sheet metal and made in the shapes of a sheep, sheep dog and Pukaku.
Pete was very talkative and kept up a commentary for most of the way. We hit dark a half hour into the drive, so not much to see. Pete was originally from England, had been in NZ for 30 years and was really a good egg. He said that when he makes the run by himself (8 hours between Auckland and Wellington) he never listens to the radio. He uses that time to think. He was good fun.
When I arrived, Bette had left the key under the mat, as she had a work engagement. I read and went to bed early.
Auckland with Bette
I woke up the next day and found I was pretty sore from my BW rafting. A good sore, not a devastating sore.
Rachel’s 40th at the Wiaheke Island Winery – I was invited and accompanied Bette with 13 other people to the ferry for the crossing to Wiaheke Island to celebrate Rachel’s 40th birthday. The weather was absolutely lovely, sunny, breezy and mild temperatures, very rare for this late in the fall for Auckland. The party had been arranged by Mandy and she carried a mysterious shopping bag with her. The winery was up on the hill and had beautiful gardens with lavender and overlooked the harbor. We were all at one table right next to the window and I had the prime view from my seat. Rachel is very vivacious, was given a beautiful pink maribou tiara to wear and as the wine flowed, the jokes and giggling got higher and higher. At one point, Rachel was lured away from the table and the shopping bag was opened. We were each given a fan on a stick and the fan was a life size color photo of Rachel smiling face and a similar pink tiara. She was a very good sport about being met with a sea of her face and the party continued. There were many jokes where the Rachel faces would talk to each other and by the end of the lunch, the shout to “Raise Your Rachel in the Air, As if you Didn’t Care”, would illicit 14 Rachel faces waving in the breeze. The food was wonderful. After lunch, we taxied back to the wharf to wait for the next ferry and ended up in a bar with the Reggae band that had shared our ferry across. By this time, I was getting late and several of the ladies had dates for the evening so we boarded the ferry. It was a fun time, but I admit, I was pleased to be home for a quiet evening.
Travel Dr - My Rabies titer came back elevated, but not enough to show protection. So, up went the sleeve for another rabies shot. I decided to do the doxy, as it was so much less expensive. I will just need to invest in lots of sun block when I am taking my malaria pills.
Today was a day where I had lots of errands and some last minute shopping. I went to the Apple store and bought a flash stick, screen cleaner and head set so that I can use SKYPE and talk to Bette for free. It is a free service where if both parties are signed up, on line at the same time and have a headset that has a mic, you can speak as you would on the phone for free. I also had to go to the post office and get the forms so that Bette could mail my three packages home. After those errands, I was up at the side of town were the Benediction, one of my favorite restaurants. As I sat eating my chicken salad sandwich, ginger crumble and latte trim, Mandy who had arranged Rachel’s fortieth B-day party, showed up. I have to admit, I love seeing people that I recognize along the trip.
On our last night together and my last dinner in NZ, I treated Bette to dinner at a restaurant very close to home. The food was great and we had a lovely evening. Before dinner, we were in the bar area having a wine and our diminutive waitress came out with 4 large glasses on her tray, 2 water and 2 wines. As she unloaded Bette’s wine, the tray slipped dangerously and down came the other three with a crash and a splash. We moved to another table and had a different waiter for the rest of our stay.
Bette is such a good friend. I loved her infectious laugh, her love of life, her zest for adventure and her lovely heart. She is also an excellent cook, knowledgeable vacation consultant and an excellent cool head and clear thinking when you become fuzzy. I look forward to our next time together.
New or Different New Zealand Vocabulary
Hotties – Hot water bottle, usually with a very colorful cover
Good as gold – it’s all right
- 8 Wire Technology – Similar to our reference of you can fix anything with bailing wire, means that Kiwi’s rise to any occasion and can fix anything with #8 Wire.
Stunties and Digities (Acties?) – there seem to be a pattern of using a diminutive ending on many things in NZ and Oz as well. These references were from my LOTRings Tour where stunt people were called stunties, digital wizes were called digities and therefore, I took a leap an assume actors would be called acties.
Gorgeous – Describing something that is delicious – the dinner was gorgeous
Cheers – Often a response when we would say Thank You.
Brilliant - a superlative - My interpretation is used when we might normally say fabulous or wonderful.
Misrepresentations commonly made by Kiwi’s –
1. It is only a wee hill – do not believe them – it is a huge hill!
2. It will only take 30 minutes – do not believe them – it will take longer!
What I know of myself after NZ
Nation of two people – While not a 100% all the time, this appears to be a nation where both races are in harmony and take/accept/understand what is the best of both and yet maintain their own identity. The European Kiwi’s know the Maori songs and do the haka (the Maori War chant). At the start of the sporting events, the national anthem is sung in both languages.
After three months of traveling in different countries, I needed a place where I could drink the water and understand the language. I also very much needed a break from the blog and just time to doodle around. I spent a lot of time reading, walking and looking at things. As Bette and I looked at my photos, I am generally more rested looking and relaxed in cooler climates. I guess I really am a cooler weather girl at heart.
I got pretty lonely one day, but had not been able to express it to myself or to anyone around me. I felt I was not being effective in my vacationing and felt I was wasting time. There wasn’t anyone I wanted to play with, but I was lonely. (I just realized, the night before that day I had dinner with Kirsty and it was so much fun, it put the next day at a supposed disadvantage). What I learned from this was that I should not to read my email when I am having a down day, or for heaven’s sake, don’t answer it! As soon as I had sent the disastrous emails and realized I really needed people around me, I went down stairs and booked myself on a LOTR tour of Wellington. I instantly felt better and then went to the theatre that was fabulous. What a difference a few hours and decision-put-into-action made and how much more balanced my email responses would have been. I am not sure why I continue to surprise myself when I find out that I thrive on a schedule and planning and get lost (emotionally) without it. My profound apologies for anyone who received a response to their email on the date of May????
ISites – still excellent information – vary on if services are free or if they charge for local brochures and booking. Some offer receipts and coupons, others just the voucher that you must surrender to the supplier. Bette explained that they are all funded differently and some struggle and that there is no overall umbrella organization that standardizes forms and procedures. Some of the larger shops had better and more in depth information on both islands, where most of the smaller ones had more experience with their locale or only their island. STILL YOUR BEST BET FOR INFORMATION AND BOOKING ASSISTANCE WHEN YOU ARE IN THE COUNTRY. They are a can-do group of people and everything they set up for me was seamless!
YHA Membership – Global lodgings available and definitely worth the price of admission $30 US annually. Discounted first night, $10 phone card and with due to the membership, I received free photos from my blackwater rafting adventure.
Rankings of the YHA’s I have used to date.
Queentown – best room with tv and in-room tea service, centrally located to everything that was fun to do in Qtown and very friendly/helpful staff – downside noisy Sat night
Wellington – best bed – very comfortable and best sleep, able to pick up small breakfast needs at front desk – resident cat Thomas, centrally located and very close to food store, downside – not evenhanded on who they suggest as options for tours.
Wiatomo – best on-site restaurant – pizza was marvelous, since it was remote, beautiful views and quiet for sleeping. Downside – squeaky bed, you had to collect your towel and dishes from the front desk, no soap in the room, and desk staff sort of vague and not incredibly helpful.
Let people help me – Man do I have a control complex! Bette very generously offered to assist me with getting my packages to the post office after I had already left the country. I spent the last day getting all the forms necessary and trying to see how much they would cost. Considering that I had three boxes and two that were heavy, it was a very nice offer and I gladly accepted.
Items that are no longer in my luggage as I get ready to go to OZ.
Nine items of clothing including my spare baseball cap and bandana, umbrella are being mailed home.
Bette is holding on to the additional supply of contact lens that I had brought with me, in case I need them later.
Items that are no longer in my possession (wash cloth that was left in Dunedin) include the outer coat I had brought. Although I will miss the 7 pockets, practicality indicated that it was unwise to continue to carry a coat that was not water repellent. My extra dental floss, extra MK EE night cream, emergenC and my Peruvian toilet paper are now in Bette’s possession.
Both pieces of checked luggage were then only 27 kilos together. Yaah.
I find I fight with myself a lot of the time on this trip, feeling I should be able to do my trip with only one medium size suitcase and alternately wanting to travel with steamer trunks of wonderful and multiple sets of clothes. Next trip, who can tell which it will be. As long as I don’t have to always travel one way, I know I will be fine and will enjoy the travels for years to come.
Kia Orana, NZ. You are still one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.