Where are We?

Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Rotorua: This Place Stinks

The guidebook describes Rotorua as a “geothermal paradise,” which makes it sound much more pleasant than it actually is. Because of all the active geysers and mineral pools, the whole town smells like sulfur/rotten eggs. The town itself feels like a tourist trap, really. It reminds me of the Wisconsin Dells.

This morning we went to Kuirau Park and wandered around between the fenced-in steaming mud pools.  In some areas the steam and fumes were so intense, it was hard to see and breathe. So basically, in one day we went from postcard-perfect beaches to literally taking pictures of gurgling mud pits.

Then we went for a walk around Lake Rotorua, which started pleasantly enough. The lake is quite large and had many black swans swimming around by us. But as we kept walking, we came upon the aptly named Sulfur Bay. The water there has so much sulfur and so little oxygen, it appears milky and yellowish. The shorelines were rocky with the occasional crater venting steam and noxious gases into the air. All we could hear was gurgling mud and all we could smell was sulfur. The whole thing was very apocalyptic.

However, we stuck to our mantra of, “Let’s give this place a chance,” so after lunch we decided to drive a few minutes out of town to Whakarewarewa Forest to see some California Redwood Trees. They were planted there in 1902 as part of an experiment to see which trees could live in New Zealand (apparently they can!). We had a very peaceful hike through the forest, then we drove to our next stop: zorbing.

Zorbing was invented here in Rotorua by two bored New Zealanders. It consists of getting into a human-sized hamster ball and rolling down a hill. We did the hydroride, meaning the ball was filled with water, so we didn’t tumble. Well, supposedly we didn’t tumble, but we slid all around the inside of the ball. We had fun, but I definitely won’t be doing it again! I keep saying we need to bring this to the Dells, because I know it would be very popular.

Overall, I suppose I wouldn’t highly recommend Rotorua, but our day was filled with lots of jokes and laughter. Here are some pictures of the fascinating mud pits! The one saving grace of this place has been our hostel, The Funky Green Voyager. It’s a really cool place and the owner has been fun to talk with. I’m hoping our next stop, Taupo, will be better. (Or at least smell better!)

Coromandel: Welcome to Godzone

Coromandel is gorgeous. I’ve never been to such a breathtaking place. We’ve been stopping about every fifteen minutes to take stunning pictures. Everywhere you look could be a picture. Basically, it’s a lush, green, mountainous peninsula with steep cliffs dropping off to the sparkling blue ocean and perfect sandy beaches. A lot of the area is farmland, so there are many sheep and cows grazing in the hills while you drive by. In fact, we’re staying on a farm.

The Colville Family Farm is-you guessed it-beautiful. We’re staying in a stained-wood cabin with a nice Japanese guy who has been biking around the country for a year. Looking out our window, we see towering green hills and cows. Yesterday we helped feed the lambs and hiked around the farm. They have 1,260 hectares of land here with many different trails, so you could hike for days and not see the same thing.

Today we drove on a harrowing, narrow gravel road with sheer drop-offs to our left and rock wall to our right. There were also many blind corners, one-lane bridges, steep ascents and descents and the occasional sheep in the road. We even had to drive through a small stream! It was all worth it, however, when we made it to Port Jackson at the top of the peninsula. Then we hiked (are you sensing a theme?) from Fletcher Bay to Poley Bay and didn’t see another soul the entire time. At the beginning of the hike, I felt like we were intruding on someone’s farm because we were literally walking through sheep grazing in the hills. Then we had a nice picnic on a deserted, rocky beach. So I would say the terrifying drive up was well worth it! (“Well worth it?” I’m starting to talk like a New Zealander.)

Tomorrow we’re getting an early start and driving to Cathedral Cove, a popular sight-seeing spot on the Coromandel, then back to the mainland and on to Rotorua.

Be sure to check out our other photos from Coromandel Peninsula!

The Ups and Downs of Auckland

AucklandOur time here in Auckland has had many ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. The city is very hilly, so we’re getting some good workouts just walking around. It reminds me of Seattle. The weather has also been both good and bad. There’s a common expression in Auckland, “If you don’t like the weather here, wait ten minutes.” And it’s true! It can be warm, chilly, sunny, windy, partly cloudy, misting and raining heavily all within an hour. We’ve been wearing layers, but it seems like every ten minutes we have to stop and either put on our jackets or take them off.

On Friday we took a daytrip to Whaiheke Island, a 45 minute ferry ride from the city. The views were beautiful. I’m already really impressed with how pretty New Zealand is and we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet! We had great weather for a hike along the coast for about an hour, but then it started raining so we turned back inland. Then we went to Rocky Bay, a tiny peninsula of rocks jutting out from the sea. Our plan was to hike along a path to see an alpaca (the cousin of the llama!) farm, but the weather thrwarted those plans. After that we were both so cold and wet we decided to head back. We did more walking in downtown Auckland, where lots of fun bars and restaurants overlook the shipping docks. Unfortunately, everything here is expensive, so we weren’t able to actually go in any of these fun bars and restaurants.

WhaihekeSaturday we got up early and took a bus over to Mt. Eden, an old, dormant volcano in the city. We hiked up it and were rewarded with awesome views of the city. On the way back down we found the Coast to Coast Trail, a path that goes to the different highlights in town (kind of like the Freedom Trail in Boston). It took us to some interesting places, including the Auckland Domain (a giant park in the city that puts Central Park to shame), a greenhouse, a forest and the University of Auckland. I was just thinking how this was our most fun day of the trip so far when disaster struck: suddenly, Brad’s camera stopped working. We found the public library and the nice librarian there gave us directions to a camera shop. Long story short, the camera is broken, we need a new one and it is not included in our traveler’s insurance. Bummer. 

Next up: Buying a new camera and driving on the left side of the road to the Coromandel Peninsula! Be sure to check out our photos of Auckland!